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Meet Derrick Tarver, whose youth mental health platform TCBMe won Well City Challenge 2.0

Tarver founded the nonprofit that uses a tech platform to connects young people to creative outlets to support behavioral and mental health.

(L to R) Erica Dixon, Derrick Tarver, Kernika Gupta and Jeff Hornstein. (Courtesy Well City Challenge)
Derrick Tarver’s work with young people started over 20 years ago. That’s when he began collaborating with nonprofits to provide permanent supportive housing for youth with behavioral health issues.

At the time, he had just started investing in real estate and was approached by Brooke Lipscomb, who was running a felony mental health court diversion program. Tarver offered one of his properties as housing to young people graduating from Lipscomb’s program.

Those two decades of commitment have culminated in the That Could Be Me Foundation (TCBMe), a nonprofit that created a social self care platform to empower youth. Tarver, the founder and executive director, continues to work with Lipscomb, who is TCBMe’s director of partnerships.

Tarver and his team won $50,000 and were named the Well City Challenge 2.0 grand prize recipients on Tuesday evening for their organization

Through the TCBMe platform, young people have access to technology that helps them write music, create art, write stories and other creative outlets. The platform also connects them to wellness content and professional resources.

“It’s really about providing them access to tools and skills that they might not normally have access to, to allow them to really express themselves, to define who they are, what they want to be and what their vision is for their neighborhoods and communities that they live in,” Tarver told Technical.ly.

Fairmount-based Tarver said he came up with the idea for TCBMe during the pandemic. He was mentoring kids at the time and talking to them about how they were faring through the pandemic and political climate in 2020. Tarver was inspired by these conversations to start TCBMe in 2021.

Derrick Tarver with his mother, Margaret Tarver, at the Well City Challenge 2.0 event in September 2023. (Courtesy Well City Challenge)

This is the second iteration of the Well City Challenge, an initiative from the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross and Accelerate Health Equity, focused on equitable care for Black and brown communities in Philadelphia. The first edition awarded first prize to Hey Auntie! founded by Nicole Kenney.

The process started with a call for applications in January. The Economy League looked for ventures related to one of these three themes: creating safe spaces, equitable access to nutrition and care, and supporting community connections.

Fifteen teams went through an incubator program that culminated in a pitch competition in May. Six finalists from that competition moved on to an accelerator portion of the challenge. That portion of the program culminated at the Well City Challenge Community Showcase this week, where the finalists all pitched their ideas.

“We’re very excited to see TCBMe and our other teams usher in a new wave of healthcare solutions to jumpstart generational wellness amongst Philadelphians,” said Jeff Hornstein, executive director of the Economy League, in a written statement. “One of our goals at the Economy League is to lift up and empower our city’s promising entrepreneurs. For so many, just some encouragement and a bit of guidance is all they need to be successful and make an impact, and we could not be prouder of the teams that we have worked with this year.”

During the incubation phase, Tarver said, he received mentorship and resources to refine his ideas. The accelerator phase included support from startup studio Launch Point Labs as founders refined their ideas.

TCBMe hasn’t officially launched yet, but the organization has a beta product that it’s been testing with young people its leaders connected with through community partners, such as the NoMo Foundation.

“Talking with the kids, I mean, they’re just full of so many amazing ideas and they just want to be seen and heard,” Tarver said. “I walk away from those focus group sessions with the kids just energized.” For example, the focus groups provided feedback about the type of skills development young people want to see.

Right now, the only way to access the platform is by signing up through one of TCBMe’s partner organizations. To make sure users aren’t just staring at a screen, TCBMe also hosts opportunities for them to gather in person through these community partners.

The next steps for the org are fine-tuning user experience and the platform’s features.

“We want the product to be something that the kids are not just going to use today, but they’re going to find value in and want to continue to use,” Tarver said.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Economy League of Greater Philadelphia / Independence Blue Cross

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