Passion drives Mallory, GRO Community

Aaron Mallory and GRO Community
Aaron Mallory (second from left) and the GRO Community team at the Saluki Ball.

By Jeff Wilson

Aaron Mallory is implementing the skills he learned at Southern Illinois University to advance the mission of his organization, GRO Community.

A mental health service provider, GRO Community specializes in trauma-informed treatment for boys and men from low socio-economic groups and/or Black and Brown communities. One of its keys focuses is curbing gun violence among these groups in Chicago and beyond.

A 2010 graduate of SIU’s College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, Mallory favors a proactive, process-driven approach to combating these issues.

“We are supporting marginalized communities from a different approach,” he said. “We want to use economics and systems to create change. We want to solve the gun violence issue, which greatly affects Black youth and is heavily intertwined with mental health.”

Mallory came to SIU from Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in Chicago, and he had to prove himself to stay enrolled.

“I wasn’t the best student in high school, but I wasn’t the worst either,” he said. “Getting into SIU was one of the best things that happened to me. I took University 101 and was able to ground myself in the college experience. I learned life skills and lessons and finished my first year with a 3.7 GPA.”

He joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, took part in the Saluki Summer Bridge program, and the Success in Engineering Through Excellence in Diversity program. He eventually became the vice president of Kappa Alpha Psi and received internships with John Deere and Boeing.

“SIU really gave me my foundation. I learned how to navigate business and people,” Mallory said. “My experience at SIU was love. It’s a very diverse environment. It really cultivated the passion within me.”

Returning to Chicago after graduation in 2010, Mallory knew he wanted to be involved in mentoring kids. He earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago.

“I had a job, but it wasn’t my passion,” he said. “I started working on GRO Community full time on March 13, 2020. It grew like crazy. Within a year, we had 10 staff members. Now we have 80, and we’re aggressively hiring now. I am trying to create a pipeline of students from SIU to come work for us. Currently, there are nine Salukis on the staff.”

It was that SIU connection that led GRO Community to become the Cocktail Reception Sponsor for the second annual Saluki Ball in Chicago. With a $10,000 donation to the ball, which raises funds that bridge the financial gap for SIU students, Mallory and GRO Community were among the event’s most notable backers.

“Originally, I was going to buy a table, but then I went online and saw testimonials from students impacted by these funds, and I knew we could do something bigger than that,” Mallory said. “SIU has been really good to me, and I wanted to show appreciation.”

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