Volunteer, mentor gives back to the community

Dawn Brooks

Dawn Brooks

April 29, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

Helping out just comes naturally to Dawn Brooks.

Always has.

Born in Frederick, Md., Brooks grew up in Boston. A graduate of Leslie University, Brooks worked as a fundraiser for several nonprofit agencies in the Boston area before moving to Hagerstown in 2003. One of those agencies was the St. Mary's Women and Infant Center. She volunteered at the center in her "off" time, and created a part-time position for the teenagers there, so they could learn what it was like to work.

She also developed a seminar "geared around what's expected in the workplace," she said.

About 70 percent of the young clients at the center were African-American, she said. "Some of them had a chip on their shoulder," she said. But "certain teens and women really took to me."

Recently honored as one of the Hagerstown YMCA 2007 Black Achievers, Brooks was chosen for being a role model and mentor to black youths. Her message to them is simple.


"If you're willing to work hard for it, anything is possible," she said.

And she has proof.

In the mid-1990s, Brooks answered an ad for women - preferably minority - to work with pregnant teenagers at a shelter in Somerville, Mass. After a six-week training course, she was matched with a teen for mentoring.

"I was the only black woman in my orientation group," Brooks said, but 80 percent of the teens at the shelter were minorities.

The young woman she mentored was a middle school student named Chloe, pregnant by an older partner with whom she was still involved.

By her sophomore year, Chloe had moved out of the shelter and into her own apartment. Throughout Chloe's high school years, Brooks was one of her biggest fans - always a proud supporter of her extracurricular activities as well as her academic achievements.

"I was always there for dances and plays," Brooks said.

"I was her friend; I helped her enroll in nursing school - I helped her keep on track."

Now, Chloe is in her last year of nursing school.

In addition to Chloe and the other teens she mentored in Boston, Brooks has evidence a little closer to home.

"I was also a teen parent," she said. Her son, now 22, is scheduled to graduate this year from Salem State College in Massachusetts.

It's her own experience that drives her to help other young women.

Succeeding in spite of circumstances, she said, "has a lot to do with your drive and your perseverance."

In 2004, Brooks went to work for First Data Merchant Services, where she now is a manager in the Merchant Activations Group. This past winter, she organized a group of co-workers to adopt a family - a single mom and her four children - for Christmas.

Now, she said, she wants to see how she can get more involved in the YMCA's achievers program.


Name: Dawn Brooks

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: Manager in the Activation Services Group at First Data

What was your proudest moment?: "Seeing the impact that I had on someone else; watching my son and Chloe graduate high school."

Whom do you most admire, and why?: Judy Beckler, executive director at St. Mary's Women and Infant Center in Boston. "She was so caring and so genuine. It was the first place I had ever worked where I felt that people were really genuine. I admired the effect that she had on people - she was so calm and soothing."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "That I was important and I could be and do anything. That came from my dad. It had a lot to do with my success now."

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: "To be on the fast track careerwise, to be successful. I give 110 percent in everything that I do."

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