Getting to know: Victor McKenzie Jr. with SAARA of Virginia

Richmond Times-Dispatch
March 6, 2021

Title: Executive director of SAARA of Virginia. SAARA stands for Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit that works to empower those struggling with substance use disorder, their loved ones and their community to seek recovery and healing.

Born: 1992 in New York City

Education: Old Dominion University, 2014

Career: Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond, game room director, 2010-2012; YWCA Norfolk, program coordinator, 2012–2014; Pepe’s Pizzeria, 2014-2015; Capital One, senior operations coordinator, 2016-2017; Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton, program director/acting executive director, 2017-2020; SAARA, executive director, 2020-present

Where in the metro area do you live?: Chesterfield

Best business decision: “In 2017, feeling a bit jaded, I left a secure and stable job at Capital One to take a part-time role as financial coach at a small nonprofit. At the time, it was a risky move, but it proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and has led me on a career path that has given

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me a sense of fulfillment and allowed for me to make a positive impact on the lives of my community.”

Worst business decision: “Not trusting my instinct, I’ve learned my gut feeling is often intuitive of the direction I should take.”

Mistake you learned the most from: “Overextending myself. The ability to say ‘no’ has been a growing skill set.”

What is the biggest challenge/opportunity in the next two to five years: “The COVID pandemic exposed what many of us already knew, that socioeconomic inequalities plagued communities of color and created vast gaps in wealth and quality of life. Our biggest challenge and opportunity is pushing forth measures that balance the scales at a systemic level across sectors.”

First job after college: Pepe’s Pizza. “I did just about everything from serving and cooking to marketing and the daily books. I learned a lot about running a small business; a lot like running a nonprofit.”

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “I’ve found that each of my experiences though seemingly unconnected has always, prepared me for the next phase in life. Sometimes favorable, sometimes not, but still a lesson.”

Movie or book that inspired you the most, and why?: “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda. “This book has been profound in my life and has helped guide me in exploring eastern philosophy and meditation. I often revisit and reflect on Yogananda’s life as a reminder that we all have an extraordinary self-realization journey.”

Favorite and least favorite subject in school: “History is the subject I most looked forward to in school; a mentor once told me the study of history is the blueprint for how we move forward. I was the ‘fun fact kid.’ Biology was undoubtedly my least favorite: It just never did it for me.”

Originally Published Here.