Inside a Summit Academy School – Lorain classroom, Kyriece Brooks shares bits and pieces of his personal story with the school’s students. They open up, reciprocating with extracts of their own. Tears fall. Bonds of common ground and hope begin to form. Sharing his painful past from a place of empowerment, Brooks seemingly could not be better suited for his role as the school’s new culture coordinator.
“We all had the feeling we accomplished something and had each other when we walked out of there,” Brooks says, describing the classroom visit, one of many he has made since he began working at Summit Academy at the start of the school year.
Brooks hopes to help make life better for the school’s middle and high school students by empowering them to believe in themselves, teaching them that their opinions are valued, that their futures are important, that how they feel matters, that their lives matter. These same perspectives are those Brooks admits he long struggled to find in himself.
Growing up abused in a broken foster care system, Brooks suffered overwhelming challenges. He was unable to talk until age 7. He endured depression. He became homeless for two years after he aged out of foster care. “I felt very sad, worthless, that no one cared about me and that my voice didn’t matter,” says Brooks. A failed suicide attempt left him comatose for two weeks.
“No one thought I would come out of it, or they thought I would be in a vegetative state if I did but I beat the odds,” says Brooks. The death of his cousin by murder followed, diminishing the very thin safety net he felt he had.
With all lost and prompted by his cousin’s violent death, Brooks founded Stop the Violence in 2013. The Lorain-based nonprofit organization serves to support advocacy of citizens throughout the community. As the organization’s director, Brooks trains, supports and motivates citizens to create positive change and end violence.
“I started the nonprofit because no one could take it away,” says Brooks, explaining that the organization has helped him funnel his hurt and pain into a positive movement.
Advancing his education and desire to help others, Brooks became an ordained minister in 2015. He also adopted his 15-year-old son seven years ago, when he was an 8-year-old in foster care.
“I wanted to give back,” says 28-year-old Brooks, whose role as the school culture coordinator is helping him do just that. Brooks is tapping many of the resources he has supported through his involvement on boards of directors, organization committees and the like throughout Lorain and Ohio. Brooks has served as the president of the resident council at Kennedy Plaza, Lorain; as a Lorain City Schools sub/paraprofessional working with student scholars; as a NAMI (Lorain County) youth peer support and outreach coordinator; as a Guardian ad Litem Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for Voices for Children; and several other advocacy roles. In addition, Brooks is a recipient of the On the Move Award (from the City of Lorain, Ohio Senate and Ohio Secretary of State) for inspiring, motivating, uplifting and empowering young people to become highly qualified professional members of their communities.
One of Brooks’ top goals is to help 12th graders access the support they may need before graduating from high school, from submitting for financial aid for college to applying for housing.
“I don’t want them to go through what I went through,” says Brooks, referring to homelessness. “I will walk them through the processes and my nonprofit will be there for them.”
Brooks says he hopes to enhance the culture of the school, to make it feel like a second home for students and staff. He plans to work toward that end through staff sensitivity training, initiating student engagement through the formation of a student council and pep rallies, and building greater rapport throughout the school community.
Among his duties, Brooks is responsible for implementing Board policies and school regulations; recommending, designing and implementing programs to meet student and school needs; encouraging high standards of conduct and enforcing discipline; participating in intervention assistance; leading student mentoring; participating in school extracurricular activities with students; assisting with the supervision of school-sponsored and co-curricular activities; working hand-in-hand with the dean of students with community and parental involvement programs; participating in restorative circles and others.
In sync with the quote, ”I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become,” Brooks says, “I experienced so many hurdles and many children in our school are facing so many roadblocks. They come to school in a different mindset, they have to mentally fight the things they are going through. I’ve been through it and I’ve made it … I want to empower students to believe in themselves that they can too.”
See WKYC-TV 3 “Heartstrings” segment Lorain abuse survivor inspires students to believe in themselves