A nonprofit created by a Daniels student is collecting donations for people experiencing homelessness

Radical Changes logoAfter Aleko Pieratos finished his undergraduate degree in sociology and business, he began touring the country by van, documenting the stories of people he met along the way. His goal was to use digital advocacy to amplify voices, particularly for people experiencing homelessness. Soon, these videos began bringing in consistent ad revenue, which Pieratos used to start his own nonprofit, Radical Changes.

With Radical Changes, Pieratos, who is pursuing an MBA at the Daniels College of Business and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from University College, hopes to continue to grow a sustainable source of funding that can directly help unhoused individuals in Colorado and beyond. Through video revenues, an online clothing shop, monthly donations and partnerships, Pieratos and the Radical Changes team hold weekly outreach events, where they provide meals, hygiene products, sleeping bags, tents and other important resources directly to people across Denver. The team even built a partnership with a wireless service provider, TruConnect, to offer free phones and tablets with unlimited service to people who need them.

“When I first started Radical Changes, I wasn’t really expecting a lot of revenue to come in, but it has actually increased over time,” said Pieratos, who is enrolled in the part-time Professional MBA program. “I think long-term, it’s definitely [allowed us to be] a lot more impactful. So, I plan to stick to what we’re doing, and hopefully it will just keep growing.”

Pieratos attributes this steady growth to diverse sources of funding and increasing local partnerships. He says his time at the University of Denver has been another important element of the equation.

Students in aprons in a kitchen at the Delores Project.

The Daniels DEI Graduate Student Council and president Jason Craymer, center, volunteer in the community to make the greater DU area more equitable and more inclusive. (Photo courtesy of Jason Craymer)

Recently, he joined the Daniels College of Business’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Graduate Student Council, where he connected with the organization’s president, Jason Craymer. Craymer, who plans to graduate with his MBA this spring, worked with Pieratos and Radical Changes to organize a supply drive, which has already yielded a significant number of resources for people experiencing homelessness in Denver. Each item that students contribute and every donation they send goes directly back into the community, providing much-needed supplies at outreach events. Craymer says this work is part of the foundation of the DEI council’s work and will continue after his graduation.

“We focus on making Daniels and the greater DU area more equitable and more inclusive for everybody, and we also give back to the community by partnering with nonprofits like Aleko’s,” Craymer said. “It’s nice to see my classmates getting involved in giving back and seeing the impact that we’ve had.”

The drive, which lasts through the end of spring quarter, is just the first of a number of projects Pieratos hopes to organize alongside the DEI council. That’s because this kind of support is critical for a small, grassroots organization like Radical Changes, where every donation has the potential to make a big difference.

“Just having DU to lean on has been a huge asset,” he said. “Everyone in my cohort knows what I’m doing, and I’ve gotten a lot of donations and support within the DU community. I’ve even had people offer to volunteer and help out.”

Aleko Pieratos

Aleko Pieratos

Pieratos says that in addition to building a caring and supportive network at the University, he’s been able to directly apply what he’s learned in class to his work. Just last year, he used lessons in building a personal brand to improve the Radical Changes clothing shop. From that work alone, he saw a rapid spike in sales and revenue.

And while revenue is important in helping Radical Changes push toward its mission, the heart of its work is people. The phones the organization provides help people connect with loved ones and job opportunities. The meals, shelter and cold weather gear the team shares literally save lives. And the videos Pieratos creates shine a light on a perspective that’s often left out of conversations about crucial topics, such as Denver’s infamous camping ban and homeless encampment sweeps.

“A lot of the work we do is just trying to raise awareness about these issues that people really need to know about,” Pieratos says. “I just really want people to, you know, hear the voices of those who are actually experiencing these issues and just kind of try to take that into consideration.”

The Radical Changes and DEI Graduate Student Council supply drive runs through the end of spring quarter. Donations can be made on the first floor of the graduate student lounge in the Daniels College of Business.

If you would like to get involved with the DEI graduate student council and learn more about volunteer opportunities, please email daniels.deigraduate@du.edu.