York College student hopes to launch nonprofit that serves transgender community
When James Fuchs ’22 moved from Arizona to York County, Pennsylvania, in 2017, he sought a fresh start and hoped to find a community that would give him the same support he wanted to give to others. “I knew I had something I could offer people,” Fuchs says.
Growing up in Arizona was tough for Fuchs. He didn’t even learn the term “transgender” until he was in his mid-20s, and it was when he began to make his own transition that he realized he wasn’t alone. “It didn’t feel right that I didn’t know there was language out there that described who I was,” he says. “I don’t want other young folks to have to go through that.”
After settling in York, Fuchs decided he could use his own experience to help others. He needed the knowledge and tools to get his venture started, and he found them at York College of Pennsylvania.
A major that supports a mission
Fuchs enrolled in the College’s Business Administration major with a concentration in Social Enterprise and Not-for-Profit Management, while adding minors in Psychology and Neuroscience. It was tough to find a bachelor’s degree that focused on nonprofit work, he says, but York College’s program checked off a lot of boxes for him.
While he started working on his courses, Fuchs decided he wanted to start giving back as soon as possible. He landed a position as a resident counselor with the YWCA York’s ACCESS-York complex trauma center, which offers transitional housing for victim survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. “I like positions where I feel like everyone has value and where I can make an impact and continue to grow,” Fuchs says. “That’s something the nonprofit space offers.”
Through his job, Fuchs has seen how empowering people and supporting them on their journey toward healing brings him joy. There’s no room for shame when working with people who have experienced trauma, he says. Instead, the focus of the work is on giving them the tools they need to succeed and reach their goals.
More recently, Fuchs has accepted a position as a Direct Support Professional with Community Services Group and will be working with individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Starting his own nonprofit
Fuchs never had someone he could go to for advice as a young transgender person. That lack of mentorship in his life left him searching for more. Following the models of Big Brothers Big Sisters and other mentor-based organizations, Fuchs hopes he can help other people feel supported instead of alone.
As he learns the various skills needed for operating a nonprofit—from entrepreneurship to grant writing and management—Fuchs has also seen how his professors at York College care deeply for their students. “That became even more visible during COVID-19,” he says. “They continued to provide instruction, but they also check in on us. They wanted to work hard to ensure we got the best education despite the pandemic.”
That personal investment in students coupled with a degree that will empower Fuchs to pursue his nonprofit goals has made York College “the best place for me to be,” he says. “I know they’re setting me up to do big things.”