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Open Heart Leaders









What they do

April Laster founded Open Heart Leaders in 2015 when she moved back home and realized that a lot of programming she grew up with wasn’t around anymore, like mentorship, youth services, education, and mental health services. Moreover, she didn’t see them offered by people who looked like her.

As an advocate for human rights, mental health, and social justice, April wanted to offer accessible mental health services to children of color provided by people who look like them.

Open Heart Leaders is a Black woman-led community-based mental health agency in San Diego that offers culturally adaptive services in mental health, education, and wraparound services that expand assistance from a trauma lens.

On the Open Heart Leaders website, April shares that growing up was tough, and ultimately she asked herself this core question, “What would April have needed?”

The agency strives to help “align the head and heart” to create and maintain a healthy connection between one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional self, particularly for and with marginalized communities throughout San Diego County heavily impacted by systemic trauma and people of all ages from diverse backgrounds. The community-based agency is expanding its services to Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

Open Heart Leaders collaborates with local businesses and agencies to funnel lost resources and networks back into the communities. Open Heart Leaders works to rebuild, restore, and empower people and neighborhoods.

Why we invested

Open Heart Leaders was awarded over $300,000 in grant awards for fiscal year 2024, with an expectation to increase that total the following fiscal year.

Open Heart Leaders will use this loan to front costs of expenses related to materials, supplies, and labor while awaiting reimbursement from the CalVIP grant, which can take 45 to 90 days. The intention of the grant is for Open Heart Leaders to provide wraparound services, intensive behavioral treatment, and cognitive behavioral therapy counseling to youth and adults.

Impact Segment

Social determinants of health

Skills training & workforce development

Impact Vehicle

Advance Strategy

Date of Investment

October 2023

Impact Geography

San Diego, CA


April Laster
CEO & founder

Year Founded