Damion Grasso, PhD
I launched the Youth Excellence Project in 2014 to create an outlet for youth to connect with the outdoors, develop positive relationships, and work together to overcome life challenges. Growing up I was lucky to be part of a family that valued the outdoors and frequently took my brother and I on outdoor adventures into the woods or on the water. I’ve been an outdoor enthusiast ever since. I want to share this with youth who may not have the same opportunities. I also value mentorship. I have benefited from many mentors in my life. They have helped shape who I have become. I have also had the fortune of being a mentor to many youth through the years. I have seen the huge difference a mentor can make. I have worked professionally and personally with youth and families who have struggled with significant challenges, including loss, adversity, and trauma. For these individuals, being in nature with supportive peers and mentors can be an opportunity to heal and grow. I am thrilled that the Youth Excellence Project has become a place where that can happen. Professionally, I am a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at UCONN where I do a lot of research and work in our outpatient clinic. Personally, I live with my wife and two daughters who are 8 and 10 and also love being outdoors – as do our two dogs. When I’m not adventuring, I am staying fit and dabbling in art.
I grew up in foster and group homes most of my life. As a teen, I had the chance to participate in the Youth Excellence Project as part of its first cohort. Looking back, the leaders and all the adventures we had really had a positive impact on my life. Now, as a young adult, I am serving as a leader to other youth who may be in the same place I was. I hope that what I have to offer can make a positive impact on their lives. I want every youth in the program to know that they have purpose, and I want to help them to realize what that purpose is. I currently work as a CAC Coordinator and serve in the United States Marine Corps Infantry Reserves unit. In my free time I enjoy physical fitness, such as lifting, hiking, swimming, and kayaking. I also enjoy just being outdoors around a fire listening to nature.