Meet Memphis Allies: Life Coach Florence Brooks
A member of the Lifeline to Success SWITCH team in Raleigh/Frayser
Life Coach Florence “Flo” Brooks brings some much-needed light and support to participants in the Memphis Allies SWITCH program in Raleigh/Frayser.
Developed by Youth Villages in consultation with local grassroots leaders and national experts, the SWITCH program model identifies, connects and serves individuals aged 17 to 35 at highest risk for involvement with gun violence. The goal: help people achieve and sustain long-term change.
Memphis Allies life coaches like Flo are part of the powerful team making a difference in the lives of high-risk youth and adults because they have navigated the same dangerous roads.
“Just because you’ve taken a left, doesn’t mean you can’t turn to go right now,” Flo said. “But you have to be willing to fight for what you want and come out of this situation.”
Flo strives, she says, to make participants feel comfortable and seen. It’s what fuels her passion.
I want to reach as many people as I can reach and help as many people as I can help and being exposed to gun and gang affiliation is common.
“People go to gangs most of the time for support, acceptance and the love you feel you’re not getting with your loved ones”, Flo said.
Flo uses her life experience to help others. Married at 18, Flo found the courage to leave her abusive husband. However, like many of those she mentors, she did not receive support from her family. So, she went back to the abuse.
Drugs and alcohol became an alternative method to numb the physical and mental pain she endured. Flo found herself turning to crimes, such as fraud and forgery, eventually getting arrested.
She was separated from her young children for two federal prison sentences that took 10 years of her life. During that time, she had a change of heart.
“I had to find who Florence was, you know… really find who I was,” Flo said. “Because it was only me locked in that old cell.”
Her metamorphosis began.
She got her GED and took business administration classes. Flo was first introduced to mentoring through a federal probation program. It struck a chord. When she learned about the Memphis Allies SWITCH program, she knew she wanted to be a part of the team.
She had received help from Lifeline to Success and is now a life coach on the organization’s SWITCH team, helping others.
“I was just trying to do something to stay positive and get involved.”
So, how has a female life coach fared with her male participants?
Quite well, she said, because the young men let down their wall down for her and are willing to be more open.
It’s also helpful that she is always available, ready to give support and show concern for her SWITCH participants.
She tells them: “Call me if there’s something going on… night and morning.” And, then she shows up for them.