While few undergraduate students launch nonprofits, Lucas Metropulos PPS’15 has done it twice. Lend a Hand Bahamas, his second nonprofit, earned him the William J. Griffith University Service Award in April for outstanding contributions to the global community.
The nonprofit seeks to provide opportunities for disadvantaged children in the Bahamas, and grew out of Metropulos’ Duke Engage trip in the summer of 2012.
Metropulos had firsthand experience in responding to a community need. At age 14, he started Fish4Families in his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., teaching local kids about marine science and how to fish.
On the island of Nassau, he was struck by the contrast of poverty and luxury, where poor neighborhoods were just a half mile from beachfront resorts.
“I wanted to have a bigger impact there,” he said. There was a need for permanent youth programs, a community center to house them and other development efforts for the Hay Street area. So he started Lend a Hand Bahamas.
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Lend a Hand Bahamas
Lucas Metropulo PPS'15 (far left) with members of the nonprofit Lend a Hand Bahamas with a check for money raised to build a community center.
“Many of these kids had never been swimming, had never even been to the beach,” he said. Metropulos worked with kids from a local orphanage in the Hay Street community and created a three-week summer program, including fishing, swimming lessons and snorkeling.
He went back in the fall of 2013 to meet with parents, kids, community leaders, architects and a lawyer and work on plans for the center.
“I’ve watch it grow over the past three years, but it will take at least two more to build the center,” he said. The foundation now has 55 registered volunteers and a manager.
It has grown to include track and field events too. The organization was able to send 25 competitors to the IAAF/BTC World Relays held in Nassau on May 2. It has started a community garden, collected school supplies for 100 kids, and volunteers are now working on an entrepreneurship development program that pairs community members with mentors.
Several of his public policy classes have provided knowledge that he applies with both his foundations.
“My class with Kristin Goss during the Duke in DC program had a lot about civic engagement and lessons about different kinds of service. The core classes have made me a better manager,” he said.
“The most helpful was Ingrid Byerly’s class in public speaking. She constantly put us on the spot to stand up and talk about something we cared about,” he said. It made him a better speaker when he is out raising funds for his nonprofits.
After graduation, Metropulos plans to move back to south Florida. He will be running the foundation in the Bahamas, and looking to expand it to other islands. During the summer, he plans to develop a social entrepreneurship and community service database as a resource for high school and college students.
His younger brother, Nicholas, will be taking over the Fish4Families nonprofit. “I am already mentoring him now,” said Metropulos.