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Up with People names Vernon Grigg as its President, CEO

In his new role, Grigg seeks to inspire the next generation of Denver youth to be global citizens


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Vernon Grigg, Up with People's new president and CEO, helps with a service project at Food Bank of the Rockies.

At the most recent board meeting, Up with People appointed Vernon C. Grigg III as its new president and CEO. Under Grigg's leadership, Up with People plans to expand its mission of spreading the values of equity, respect and understanding and the importance of dialogue within diversity around the world.  

Up with People (UWP) is a global nonprofit, education organization based in Denver. The organization was founded on the principle that young people are distinctly capable of looking beyond borders or political affiliations, seeing beyond race and building bridges of understanding in a way that governments and other institutions have struggled to achieve.  For 50 years, Up with People has used music, service and international travel to help young adults become global citizens and leaders.  

With his lifelong commitment to service, equality and social justice, Grigg is well-poised to further the organization's mission.  From humble beginnings moving from one military base to another, Grigg's parents instilled in him the importance of hard work, public service and education.  After high school, he joined Up with People and traveled with an international cast of young people for a year, making rich personal connections with them as they worked hand in hand at community service projects and stayed together with host families. These personal experiences solidified the foundation for Grigg's global career. 

Grigg went on to earn economics degrees from the University of Michigan and the London School of Economics as well as a law degree from Yale Law School.   After law school, Grigg served as the first black law clerk to the Supreme Court of South Africa during the country's transition out of apartheid. He also served as a law clerk in Israel and San Francisco.  He later returned to South Africa to build the electoral court that heard challenges during that country's first free election. 

These experiences cemented Grigg's commitment to equity and inclusion.  Grigg founded a law firm, where he specialized in civil rights issues for two decades.  Ultimately, Grigg turned his energy to public service; he served on the boards of local government agencies and nonprofits focused on art and education, including the Up with People board.  Grigg also served as the executive director of the Bayview Opera House in San Francisco, CA where he led the revival of a historic community theater, which provides arts education programs to disadvantaged youth.

“Almost forty years ago, my UWP cast-mates and I learned first-hand the power of authentic service, inclusion, and building human connections across borders and cultures. I am thrilled to lead UWP as we expand our efforts to build a community of leaders for tomorrow,” says Grigg. 

Grigg plans to support the international college-age UWP cast of about 100 youth during various community service projects planned along the Front Range the week of February 24, as well as at their public stage shows scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Lafayette preceding their world tour. The community service projects vary but include visits to area schools to spark global tolerance to elementary and high-school students.  The schools hosting the UWP cast are: Burlington Elementary School, Centaurus High School, Mountain Range High School and Escuela Bilingüe. 

About Up with People

Up with People is a global education organization that empowers young people to be positive agents of change in their communities and the world. Through its unique blend of music, social action and international travel, the organization impacts communities for the better while providing youth the knowledge and experience they need for today's complex global environment.  For more than 50 years Up with People has been breaking down cultural barriers and enhancing understanding to help create a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world.

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