Don Wells, Executive Director
Don often felt like an outsider growing up in St. Louis during the 50’s and 60’s, a difficult time of racial tension and transition in St. Louis. One of his early memories was being denied access to a “Whites Only” bathroom. In a time of contentious school integration, the March on Washington, historic assassinations and seismic societal shifts, he was not only a witness to the power of change but often the only African-American in the room at school and on the job.
Fortunately, he had a strong, consistent foundation. Don’s father started out each day with an inspirational “Thought For The Day” on local radio as the family of 8 had breakfast together. The Wells’ home was actually a refuge where, in the midst of uncertainty and troubled families, Mr. and Mrs. Wells became the surrogate father and mother for the neighborhood, and every child on the block was welcome and respected. They were also active participants in local efforts for voting, employment and housing rights.
The family values of responsibility, learning and a purpose-driven life fueled Don’s determination to build his capacity to serve. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in Psychology, History and Political Science and certification to teach secondary education. In 2004, Don also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Beginning as a high school history and psychology teacher, his path included an award-winning media career spanning three decades as an artist/ animator, writer-producer, news director, project manager, and communications consultant.
The one constant throughout the years has been his commitment to use his talents and influence to serve the community. While Don was winning 18 St. Louis Emmy’s and a Peabody award for his animated political cartoons, and building a successful career in television broadcasting, his focus was always on bringing the community together to solve significant issues, just as his parents had done.
It was when he conducted a KGTV/ABC10 San Diego drive to recruit 1,000 male mentors that he became a mentor himself – for a young boy and his sister who ended up in foster care. Seeing first-hand the formidable challenges that foster youth face, Don became engaged with the mission of Just in Time for Foster Youth, assisting transition age youth when they leave foster care without family support.
Don’s deep understanding of the importance of family and community led to his recognition that the biggest gap facing foster youth was connection – connection to resources and to people who genuinely care about you, just as a family would. As Executive Director of Just in Time, Don has devoted the past six years to creating a community of success and, as a result, his innovative approach has helped thousands of young people to become capable, confident and connected.