In this episode Amanda is joined by Grenita Brooks, who doesn’t hold anything back in sharing how she started her not-for-profit for girls, how she then expanded and changed the not for profit to include all genders, how her community and school programs run, how her board of directors get funding and what she wished she knew when she was starting out.

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[00:00:00] Grenita Brooks: The other thing is don’t wait until things are perfect because I’m kind of a perfectionist.

[00:00:05] And if you wait until everything is, you know, perfect, and this is in place in this incident place, most times you’ll never get started as soon as you should have. So just do it. 

Generic Intro

[00:00:16] Amanda: Hello and welcome to the youth mentor podcast. This is your short burst of inspiration tips and research about teens for parents, educators, and mentors. I’m your host, Amanda Rootsey, founder of teen personal development school Shine From Within and coach to incredible youth mentors all over the world. Now I certainly don’t know it all.

[00:00:35] So I interview the experts about what’s going on for youth today. From psychological insights to really practical advice, this is your moment of inspiration, motivation, and a few laughs amidst the ever changing world of teens and tweens. 

Episode Intro 

[00:00:49] welcome to this episode with Grenita Brooks from the international mentoring society. This is a 25 minutes snippet of an hour long class, in our youth mentor training as is the case with quite a few of our episodes here on the youth mentor podcast. In this section, we cover Grenada, his background as a social worker, how she started a not-for-profit for girls, how she then expanded and changed the not-for-profit to include all genders and to be a much broader organization. 

[00:01:18] How her community and our school programs run, how her board of directors get funding. And what she wished she knew when she was starting out. It’s a really powerful 25 minutes. I’ll start with Grenita’s bio and we just go from there. Enjoy. 

[00:01:34] Amanda: Grenita is the founder of the International Mentoring Society her experience in the mentoring profession has prompted an urgency to create an umbrella of organizations that will serve youth from every walk of life at any age and stage of development. Grenita’s passion for underprivileged and underserved youth has encouraged her educational path. She has an Associates of Arts Degree with a focus on early childhood development. Grenita holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, a Children’s Services certification, and a nationally credentialed in nonprofit management.

[00:02:05] Additionally, she has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida. Grenita has a background in child welfare and case management, and she’s currently employed with Brevard Public Schools where she is a school-based social worker at McNair Magnet Middle School, the middle school she attended as a teenager.

[00:02:25] Grenita has spent the last several years developing IMS, which is the International Mentoring Society. 

[00:02:31] In her free time Mrs Brooks enjoys doing crafts, reading, and traveling to new places with her family. Her life’s mantra is to collect memories and not things. Ah, you have such a wealth of experience and knowledge. 

[00:02:45] Grenita Brooks: Well, thank you. I’ve been working hard at it, so it’s my life’s work, I would say. 

[00:02:53] Amanda: Yeah. Wow. And how did you start working with you then?

[00:02:56] Why did you decide to start the international mentoring society when you were already in quite prominent roles in, in that youth mentoring space? 

[00:03:05] Grenita Brooks: Well, um, one thing that you read on my bio is that, um, I have a passion for underrepresented and low income youth. And the main reason is because I was one of those.

[00:03:17] So, um, I was at Ronald McNair, middle school as a teenager, as you just stated before. And that was just a point in my life that I can remember where I needed a mentor. So I went on, I got my education, uh, finished my associates was kind of working with elementary school students. Um, I love students, I love kids and it just wasn’t really giving me the fulfillment I wanted.

[00:03:45] And so I thought back on my life and the times where I needed a mentor the most, and that was teenage years. And so I thought back on all those teachers and different people, professional women, things that I didn’t see a lot because I was in a very low economic area. Um, you know, they saw the potential in me that helped me along the way and I just can’t imagine where my life would be if it weren’t for those people seeding just a little bit into me, like ‘you can do this,’ like, you know, ‘why don’t you not do that and do this,’ you know? And so, so that really is where my passion comes from. I just want to give teenagers a lot of the little that I had, you know, in terms of mentoring when I was their age.

[00:04:33] So if everyone can experience that or the teenagers that we touch can experience that, then you know, my work would be, would be done. So that’s basically how IMS was birthed. It’s just basically a response to a need in my community. And it, you know, same problems at the middle school that I work at now.

[00:04:53] Same problems are there when I was a teenager. So yeah. Yeah. So that’s basically in a nutshell. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:05:06] Amanda: It’s amazing to hear it. I hear it so often, but it’s still so inspiring and encouraging and empowering, I think, to hear those, those little moments that you think that people have as a, as a teen and the way that it totally changes the direction of their life, or gives them that little boost that they needed right at that moment, it’s kind of the power of mentors hey?

[00:05:28] Grenita Brooks: Exactly. 

[00:05:29] And I was one of those middle of the road kids. No one would believe like the sneakiness that I was up to as a teenager, because my grades, because I was a straight a student, like it was so bad that I was …um here, I don’t know how your grades like go, but our middle school is like sixth year, seventh year, eighth year.

[00:05:49] And I was so smart that I went from sixth year; they moved me straight to eighth year because they felt that I was as mature, wasting time. I knew all of the, you know, work. And I was just there wasting time. I had surpassed what they were trying to teach me, but that’s the good part of me. So the other part was the, you know, voice that was a little boy crazy. And, um, I could have went either way, so I’m just thankful for a mentor that said, ‘let’s go this way.’ And so they pulled a little bit harder, which I’m so, so grateful for. So, you know. 

[00:06:29] Amanda: And so what, what is it that you offer and provide with IMS?

[00:06:33] Grenita Brooks: So IMS started out with, um, I was just Prosperity Bound and Prosperity Bound is my girl component.

[00:06:42] It’s a sister organization that mentors girls age 12 to 17. Um, we give them life skills. We do, uh, six to seven workshops. Now, seven workshops a year, we do college visits. Um, and so I was just that mentoring for girls only. And then there was just such a big need for boys in the same area. And so, um, two years after I was just Prosperity Bound, I decided to make the sister, the umbrella organization, which is now IMS.

[00:07:15] And so we’ve been IMS for seven years. Um, I started out with just prosperity bound. I only want it to reach a girls. So I thought, you know, because I’m a girl and you know, it was a hot mess in school. So, um, but then it just turned into people reaching out, ‘my son needs this and my son needs mentoring’ and ‘wow, I wish there were programs for boys’ and it just like there are for the girls. And so I started thinking and kind of partnering with males and my community and , Mount Up was birthed. So Mount up is the boy component to prosperity bound where we take boys and we do this kind of similar, but we focus on a lot more stem, science, technology, engineering, and math.

[00:08:04] Um, we do that with the girls as well, but we try to push the boys that way, because that’s just where the world is going with technologies and things like that. Um, and then under that is school-based. And so everyone’s not comfortable with, um, their teenager out in the community, one-on-one with mentors.

[00:08:25] So we have a school-based component where we have mentors, adults or high schoolers come to the middle schools and they provide an hour of an hour to two hours per week of mentoring. So it’s peer to peer mentoring. And so those are the programs. And then under that is also my mentor training. So I provide mentor training for individuals that feel like this is something that they want to do. And so we provide a training for them so that they can understand more of the development of the teenage brain. Um, you know, so that’s basically, yeah, yeah. 

[00:09:05] Amanda: Amazing. I’ve got so many questions just from hearing all of that.

[00:09:09] Grenita Brooks: No problem. 

[00:09:10] Amanda: Um, are all of the programs peer to peer mentoring or is it just the school-based program that’s linking 

[00:09:17] up? Yeah. 

[00:09:18] Grenita Brooks: Step up is our only peer to peer mentoring. And it’s also, I mean, we have an adult in the room, um, because it’s just a disaster waiting to happen in my opinion. So I always make sure that there’s, you know, an adult in the room.

[00:09:33] Um, but the high schooler has a set of goals, whether it’s academic, um, behavioral that they work on with the middle-schooler. So it’s always, goal-based, it’s not just, we put them in a room and they it’s just like a, let’s just chat. There’s always a goal that they’re working on and they receive a lot from a peer.

[00:09:54] Like I think that they can see that they’re closer in age and their parents are more comfortable with them receiving services at school. So it works out. 

[00:10:04] Amanda: Great. Is that a lot of organisation?

[00:10:08] Grenita Brooks: Yes. A lot of moving parts, a lot, a lot of moving parts. Uh, but it works out. There’s a question on here. I don’t know if I should say it now, but there’s a, um, about how do you get in the schools and some of those moving parts, if you partner with the principal, um, the person that’s over the school or that social worker or counselor that loves kids that helps with the organization, because they’re looking for something like they’ll have this student that needs some extra attention.

[00:10:41] And so you partner with them and you have a program, they’re all for it. And it’s like, yes, can you give them an extra hour or two hours after school with a peer? And so it kind of works out, seek those people out that, you know, have that love for kids and kind of go over and beyond. So here is the social workers. 

[00:11:01] We’re always, we’re very innovative. So we’re trying to always find what works and you know, what will cater to the whole student. Hmm. 

[00:11:11] Amanda: Yeah. Amazing. It must, um, being in that role yourself as a social worker in a school you must, um, you know, you must really know the ins and outs and the language to use and how to get in touch with them and find the times that they’re available and all those things.

[00:11:28] But I imagine if anyone approached you with support like this, you would be open to hearing about it. 

[00:11:33] Grenita Brooks: Absolutely. I will find a way, like, I will find the need in the school that’s basically, um, or find that population that needs whatever they’re trying to give me and figure out how to use it. So, yeah.

[00:11:47] Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:11:49] Amanda: Well, um, and then do you have a screening process for the peers and a matching process? Linking them up? 

[00:11:57] Grenita Brooks: For the peer-to-peer or the we’ll both say yes for both, but for the peer to peer, we have to have a letter of recommendation from two academic teachers. And then we also have to have a parent give permission to look through.

[00:12:12] We have a screen that shows us any like, um, negative behaviors. And so we have, , permission from the parent to look through that screen to make sure that their student hasn’t had any thing extreme, um, negatively happen in school. And so that’s basically, and then we look for someone that is kind of an expert in what the teenager or the middle schooler needs.

[00:12:39] So it usually works out like someone that is taking calculus and then a student that’s really needing help in math. So, you know, we kind of match them that way. 

[00:12:51] Amanda: Great. 

[00:12:53] And. And going back to prosperity bound and Mount up. So you started with prosperity bound and was that just a standalone kind of business until you decided to branch out and build it out under IMS?

[00:13:07] Grenita Brooks: Yeah. Prosperity bound was its own nonprofit. Um, I had tunnel vision, just girls, all I want. And so it was just, that was it. It was just prosperity bound. And, uh, I had to go through the process of getting the name changed because going through the nonprofit process, uh, could be kind of intimidating. I, um, I’m a firm believer in just finding an expert in it.

[00:13:32] So I didn’t get in the thick of it. I just found a consulting firm here that would help out and, you know, let them get in the thick of things, like figuring out how to get me that status. Um, and so I had to go through the process of changing Prosperity Bound to IMS. And it was simple because I enlisted an expert like, and they sent the form in and changed my name.

[00:13:56] And then I just built the umbrella organizations under it. 

[00:14:01] Amanda: Yeah. Great. That’s such a good thing to be reminded of: that we don’t have to do it all ourselves now to 

[00:14:07] find a way to budget for it or 

[00:14:10] Grenita Brooks: yeah. Right. If you can and it’ll be worth it, it’s worth it in the long run for me to not spend it probably would have taken me six months to figure it out and that’s with no mistakes, like sending it in and it took this person like 14 days.

[00:14:26] And so it was worth it. So, yeah. 

[00:14:31] Amanda: Great. So many of the mentors that come through our Youth Mentor Training have that similar tunnel vision of, of like wanting to work with girls and, um, more and more, we’re getting people coming through that want to work with all genders or they’re doing the girl stuff and they’re getting a lot of requests, like you said of, ‘well, what’s there for boys and I want my son to do it.’

[00:14:52] Um, and so you mentioned that it’s a similar program, but you enlisted some, some men in the local community to, to kind of run it. So, so are they, are they all facilitated by men? 

[00:15:04] Grenita Brooks: Yes. The Mount up is facilitated only by men. I pop in from time to time, uh, just to like maybe get pictures, but they have that delegated as well though.

[00:15:13] I have, um, people getting pictures that are part of the program, but yeah, I enlisted, um, uh, college fraternities. Uh, so I went to the universities or the colleges and also those that are in, uh, social services fields here. They’re looking to get involved and they kind of don’t know where to go. And so, you know, I have a chat with them to see how much involvement they’re wanting to have and, um, just kind of let them know what I’m doing, and out of that came a young man, that’s our director over Mount Up. He was looking to start like a mentoring program and he’s not that far from where my organization is housed and I’m a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. And I just kind of, you know, pitched to him that I’m not a micromanager.

[00:16:03] I do want to know, you know, the schedule and I’m all about strategic planning, like what you’re doing for the year. So we have the year mapped out. Um, but other than that, like it could be your program and you’ve run it the way that you want it run. As long as our visions are similar, like, it can’t be, you know, extreme, you know, but, um, and it just worked out.

[00:16:26] So it was just looking for people that are trying to do what you’re trying to accomplish and having enough, um, Trust or faith to just kind of let them have it and not feel like you have to be over every little part. So, yeah. And I’m finding that I like popping in on the boy activities, you know, a little bit, a little bit better.

[00:16:48] The girls are so chatty. I love them though. Like I really do. I really, really love the girls. Um, but yeah, boys are just seem to be a little bit easier. They, you know, you know, with the listening a little bit better and I’m like, wow, this is different. So not what you expected. It’s not what I expect. And I have teenagers, I must self disposed.

[00:17:07] I have 14 year old identical twin girls. Wow. Yeah. So the listening sometimes it’s just like, can you hear me

[00:17:18] Amanda: So you get that great insight from a parent going through it all right now too!

[00:17:23] Grenita Brooks: Exactly. Yeah. So it’s a refresher when I get to pop in on what the boys are doing, you know? Yeah. 

[00:17:30] Amanda: Are they like year-long programs one day a week or something like that, or? 

[00:17:35] Grenita Brooks: Um, well, how the director has structured it, we’ve trained several male mentors within a fraternity that I partnered with and they have their own cluster of boys.

[00:17:47] So like one mentor has six boys. One has five, the other has five and then all of the programming looks the same, but mentor one might meet with his boys on Tuesday and one meets with theirs on Thursday. And we have like a baseball clinic coming up. So within the baseball clinic, it’s a workshop. They’ll all come together and do the workshop.

[00:18:11] But yeah. So it’s based on that mentor’s availability and so, yeah. 

[00:18:18] Amanda: Yeah. Great. 

[00:18:20] And so, um, how does it work in terms of funding when it’s a not-for-profit and you’ve got people working under you and a lot of organization to happen and a lot of work, how do you get them money? How do you pay everyone? 

[00:18:33] Grenita Brooks: And it’s always a work in progress.

[00:18:36] So I’m a firm believer also in strategic planning. So we, we sat down, uh, my board and I’m a board of directors and I have a working board. So that means most of my board, um, are volunteers. And so they also work. So they take this on as a volunteer work. Um, they just have the passion for it and I’m so thankful, but we sat down and went over a strategic plan for two years.

[00:19:03] So our two year, um, strategic planning is to recruit more board members, uh, funding. And also I’m looking at my notes because I couldn’t remember and programming. So to make sure our programming is hashed out. So under that is objectives. And so we tackle one objective at a time and under our funding is to, um, make sure that we secure one grant and to make sure that that grant is a specific amount.

[00:19:33] And then we also want to partner with, um, five to 10 businesses for a specific amount. And so for the next 24 months, and that’s our focus, and this is like this strategic plan is about 12 months old. Um, so we’re already a year in and we’re a little bit over halfway there. So we’ve secured a grant. We have about four out of the five to 10, um, community partners that we want to partner with that are annual donors.

[00:20:04] So they’re, they’ve agreed to give us money. And so, um, and that’s basically how we do, you know, make sure that everybody’s paid and that our programming is taken care of all of our program expenses. So that, uh, training our phone bill, our website, those are taken care of by board member contributions. So in order to be on IMS as board, you have to contribute a certain amount every year.

[00:20:33] And so that takes care of all of our operating expenses. I 

[00:20:37] think I saw that, is it like $250 or something? Something, 

[00:20:41] yeah. Yeah. $250. Yeah. And we make sure you don’t have to get it out of your pocket. We have a, you can either go get it or you can give it, so if you want to fundraise for it or, you know, offer a business, I don’t know, um, like a spot on our website to give you an amount, you can raise it as well.

[00:21:02] So we try not to tax our board members, because they’re already volunteering, but that’s a stipulation and it makes sure that all of our in-house expenses are taken care of. So that’s one less expense that we have to try to raise money for. And when you’re going out for grants, people want to see that your board is they’re contributing.

[00:21:24] They want you most likely won’t get a grant if you don’t have 100% board contribution. So the people that govern the organization have to believe in it and how you believe in it is to make sure that you’re donating to it and help me make sure that it’s funded. So, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:21:44] Amanda: Wow. It makes it feel, um, possible.

[00:21:48] You know, like for me, not for profit, just in my, and in the conversation, the other conversations that I’ve had, it feels really big. It feels like 90% of your time is spent drumming up money. And, um, and that’s a constant thing. But to hear that plan, of you know, you’ve mapped out one grant, five to 10 businesses.

[00:22:06] You’ve got some time to get it. Yeah. 

[00:22:09] It feels doable. 

[00:22:10] Grenita Brooks: Yeah. And I think so just like budgeting and making sure that what your plan is that it will be covered. Like we knew halfway through, we have to make sure that our programming is not so astronomical that if we didn’t get that grant, that we can’t still do the programming.

[00:22:28] So, you know, you might have to cut back on programming, find more things that are, you know, not so costly and, you know, you just find a way. Yeah, yeah, 

[00:22:39] Amanda: Is there anything you wish that you knew in the beginning of starting your own program and developing your own program that you could share with mentors that are just starting? 

[00:22:49] Grenita Brooks: Uh, I think there’s so many things. One, one pitfall that I had to get away from was, um, looking for people that were just like me.

[00:23:00] Like they call, they called them PLU people like you. So I think you will find if you’re building a business, if you’re creating your own space, you can work it a little bit different, but if you’re building a business where you’re going to need, um, people to be objective, and you know, don’t always look for people that are like you, because you all kind of have the same mindset.

[00:23:24] So I kind of had to look for those people that kind of think outside the box, I’m kind of an introvert. And so I can just do behind the scenes work. And so naturally I was looking for people that are quiet, that wouldn’t really, you know, my nerves with like all the loud talking.

[00:23:43] And so that does not always work – you need those people. Like you need people that are okay with being out front and those people that’ll chase down, uh, funders and you need those kinds of people. And that’s not me. So I had to, now that I’ve learned to put more of those people around me, it’s less stress for me because I don’t have to be that person to chase down the funder. I don’t have to be the loudest person at the orientation or the event I have that kind of person around me. And so that’s one thing that I wish, um, I definitely learned early on don’t look for people like you, you gotta have a variety and also separate your family and friends from the business as much as you can.

[00:24:25] When I first started, because I needed, uh, I think three or four people to start my board of director, I had like my best friend. And then I had, um, a teacher that I worked with and I don’t manage people well that I have a relationship with. So if they were falling on something, you know, I’m kinda like, oh, should I say something?

[00:24:47] So it’s best to not deal with people that are like, you’re in a relationship with no family, no sisters. No aunts, you know, none of those people. So look for people that are mutual, like, you know, it’s okay if you make them mad, like you don’t have to see them at Sunday dinner. So, um, and that was a big lesson.

[00:25:10] So now my board consists of just community people, business partners in the community. Um, and I’m okay. I manage people like that very well because again, I don’t have to worry about the relationship and offending them. Um, then the other thing is don’t wait until things are perfect because I’m kind of a perfectionist.

[00:25:32] And if you wait until everything is, you know, perfect, and this is in place in this incident place, most times you’ll never get started as soon as you should have. So just do it. Like if you’re starting a space, just do it. You can start small two girls, three girls, And just do it and get a feel for it. And then you can perfect all of those other things, you know, later. Have a plan, but don’t worry about perfecting it right now. Yeah. 

[00:26:02] Amanda: So much changes once you are actually in relationship with the teens too, right? Like you can’t plan for that. 

[00:26:11] Grenita Brooks: No, there’s nothing you can do to plan for that. I remember my first outing with my prosperity bound girls.

[00:26:18] I don’t know why I think back on it now it’s so silly. I was so hung up on us having our t-shirts that they hadn’t come in yet. So I didn’t want to do the college visit until, you know, we had our t-shirts and they were like 12 and 13. So I wanted to make sure that if they got too far from me, I can identify them.

[00:26:35] We have to have, you know, our shirts and everything in place. And, um, I don’t know. I think it was my mom or my husband. He was like, ‘can’t you all just wear a purple shirt?’ Like you don’t have to have… And it was so simple, but that’s just how hung up I was on everything being so perfect. And it just gave me so much peace.

[00:26:58] I didn’t have to worry about the funding and the money where the money was coming from to get the prosperity bound shirts, like just wear a purple shirt and some denim shorts, and let’s go, no, I’m waiting for things to be perfect. That’s me, you know, getting better. I get better every day, every week at something I’m getting better.

[00:27:24] You’re welcome. 


[00:27:26] How great is Grenita? The rest of the chat in this guest expert class, from our youth mentor training, we then kind of went on to answer some questions from some of the mentors that were there live. And we expanded on a lot of this stuff. Gosh, I’m just, I’m so grateful that I got to have this chat with her. 

[00:27:44] I hope you enjoyed it too. You can find the international mentoring society online. It’s based in Florida, but check out their website, even if you’re not from there and find them on Instagram as well. Please share this episode with anyone you think might enjoy it. And let me know your takeaways from the episode too. 

[00:28:01] ARe you thinking about starting a not-for-profit yourself or do you run one already? Reach out and let me know. I’d love to know. You can always shoot me an email – Amanda@shinefromwithin.com.au. Or find me on Instagram too- @shinefromwithinhq or @amandarootsey. Um, what else can I tell you? We, we are well underway on our 13th round of the youth mentor training. Now we’ve, we’ve actually just started so well underway is a bit of a, an oversell. 

[00:28:30] Um, yeah, we’ve just started with module one where we dive into some of the inner work and, and look at why we want to be mentors and, and how we can be the best mentor possible. Within our scope and our unique experiences and lived experiences and passions and how we can bring. All of that together to be really, really great mentors. So that’s where we’re at in the youth mentor training. 

[00:28:55] And then we go into module two is coming up in a couple of weeks where we go into all of the duty of care staff. So the, the snippets that I share with you here on the podcast and not from the actual. Training videos. It’s more from all of the different guest experts that we have in there as well. So, uh, it’s such a rich experience and, and yeah, I love pulling out little snippets to give you a taste of, of what we do in there. 

[00:29:21] But, um, yeah, enjoy, enjoy your week. I hope you loved this episode and I, so look forward to connecting with you and sharing your, your time and your space with you in the next episode. See you. 

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