Photo of Karen Cruise

Karen Cruise

Karen was encouraged by Flo Awolaja to share her story. She says: “From an early age, as a consequence of the voices of others as well as the stories I told myself, I believed I was unworthy, lacking intelligence and had no confidence. I grew up in Chapeltown in Leeds, where back in the 70s you were written off as soon as you mentioned where you lived.

As a qualified life coach, I now own my business, Cruise Coaching Consultancy. I have a degree and have successfully held down very senior positions in the corporate world. I’ve been a school governor, lectured at Leeds Metropolitan University and have travelled the country lecturing for the Chartered Institute of Housing. I’m also a charity Trustee and achieved a black belt in karate at the age of 52. I’m a mum, a wife and I’m proud of who I have become!

Despite these successes, my life has been tinged with intense challenges. I watched and cared for my beautiful mum as she suffered from, lost herself and eventually died from Alzhiemers (a crippling and cruel disease). She was my role model, a strong and principled woman and I owe her all that I am. My husband and I endured years of miscarriages and the stillbirth of our son. I watched our world spiral into darkness when we received my husband’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. Yet still, I rise.”

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

Karen’s vision is to touch the lives of thousands of young people with her story.

She says “I want to help them realise the importance of self talk, to realise their gifts and talents, to rise to be whatever and whoever they want to be. I also want to help them understand that failure is integral with success and not the end of dreams – and that mindset is the key to having a fulfilled life.

My main focus has been with schools working with young people aged 10–18. I’ve shared aspects of my story, inspiring children to realise that if I can do it anyone can. Life is there for the taking and they should let nothing hold them back.

I’ve become an Ambassador for the amazing charity Child Friendly Leeds who support young people leaving care – offering them hope and the ability to flourish as they become independent.

I have, however, also worked with adults who are struggling with self belief and confidence. This makes me even more determined to work with our youth. I strongly believe if we can offer support with self esteem and self belief at early age, it catapults our achievements as adults.

I now volunteer as a mentor in a local school as a member of their pastoral team. And as part of my own Corporate Social Responsibility, I offer free time to schools for every business contract I secure to enable me to reach as many children as possible.”

What’s worked?

“I have been told that what I offer is impactful. Children see me as a ‘normal’ person who has been faced with many challenges but kept going and succeeded. That’s a powerful message for young people.

I don’t see this as a ‘race’ issue as such but I think its important that our BME children can see someone who ‘looks like them’ and has succeeded. I feel there’s a lack of role models for some of our youth. I want my company to fill that gap, whilst giving every child regardless of race the support to shine and become the amazing person they are meant to be.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

“One of the biggest challenges I’m seeing is lack of funding for schools to be able to incorporate the support I offer. Every school I have spoken to confirms that giving attention to a child’s well being, self belief etc is important but that budget restrictions make this prohibitive. That saddens me.”

What’s next?

“My plan is to continue to raise the need for the value that the goals and ethics of my business can bring to our youth.  My ultimate aim is to open a series of schools where mindfulness, self esteem, growth mindset, entrepreneurism, money management, self worth is part of the curriculum and accessible to all.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

“I’d love to get some support in connecting with the right people to access funding on behalf of the schools. It will help to enable ALL children to tap into their greatness, their talents, throw off self limiting beliefs and realise just how amazing they are.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in our region!

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