Headshot of Karen Cruise

Karen Cruise

Karen Cruise has been nominated by fellow IWC member Josie Armitage. Karen is the Founder and Director of Flourished Minds.  Josie says “Karen set up Flourished Minds to provide children and young people of colour from deprived areas of Leeds and Bradford with affordable coaching and mentoring services to support and empower them to have increased self-esteem and make positive decisions to improve their life chances.

Karen was born and grew up in Chapeltown, Leeds in the 60s and 70s when the population was predominantly black Caribbean. Stereotypical views, overt racism, and low expectations of her abilities contributed to her being written off at school, leaving her with no qualifications.

She lived in this community for 30 years. Through hard work and determination, Karen built a very successful career in social housing, and became a senior manager for one of the largest housing associations in West Yorkshire, providing rented accommodation to residents of the local community. She now owns two businesses.”

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Who has she helped/who will she help?

Karen says “My first business, Cruise Coaching Consultancy, is where my work with young people began but I soon discovered that the people I really wanted to help were people from disadvantaged backgrounds, children, and parents of colour who could not afford our services. Schools also struggled due to funding being restricted.

Josie says “I have had the pleasure of working as part of the Flourished Minds team since April, supporting Karen to access grant funding for their great work.  She always has a smile for everyone, is positive, passionate, and enthusiastic about what she does, drawing you in to share her passion.

Karen and her coaches have a strong track record of successfully working with young people to make them feel better about themselves, recognise their talents, and improve their confidence. Communities and schools they have worked with have witnessed different aspects of improvement with their students such as improved attendance and well-being.

Karen says “We discovered that a child with ADHD had fantastic make-up skills and we have supported them (with their parents’ involvement) to consider and plan their own business. Recently we also helped a very depressed student to recognise their artistic skills.

They’re now planning to attend art college to qualify as an art therapist and use this in schools to help children and young people who are suffering from anxiety/depression. We have provisionally offered them a placement with our company when they qualify.”

What’s worked?

Karen says “Our approach is to work with Headteachers to raise the wellbeing, confidence, self-worth, educational and personal attainment of their students. Uniquely, we use coaching as a method to help young people work through the barriers that are holding them back from being their best selves.”

Josie says “Flourished Minds works in partnership with primary and secondary schools, particularly where the cohort of Black and Asian children is high. Karen likes to give back to the community and was until recently a non-executive director of the Ujima Project in Chapeltown, set up to support students of colour with their educational attainment. Flourished Minds has recently secured funding to deliver individual coaching sessions to the children supported by the Project.”

What has she learned? Any challenges?

Karen says “Unfortunately, we cannot help everyone though we would like to. In the current climate, there have been two very important issues: Covid-19 affecting people of colour disproportionately and the issues of institutional racism affecting this same population of young people. We want to undertake targeted group work with specific aims for this group.”

What’s next?

Josie says “Flourished Minds wants to continue to coach and mentor as many children and young people to be their best selves.  They hope to grow the model and extend this across the country over the next few years.

In addition, Flourished Minds has set up the SMILE project so they can provide children and young people with basic essentials like books, crayons, paper, stationery as well as contribute to school uniforms.”

Karen says “It makes us sad that many of the children we work with are living in absolute poverty.  This affects their social and emotional wellbeing and confidence and prevents them from learning.  We care about all the children and young people we work with and want them all to have an equal chance in life, enhancing their lives and their communities.”

What advice, contacts, or resources would help her?

Josie says “Flourished Minds wants to help as many children and young people as possible to overcome their barriers and be inspired to recognise that they are great, have talents, and can move forward in the world. If you know any children or young people who need our help, or anyone would like to make an individual or company donation to our SMILE project, please contact Karen.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

Each year, an individual or organisation from each of our five categories plus one exceptional judges’ choice individual is recognised at our annual Igniting Inspiration celebration event.

We publish each and every nomination to raise awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North. While, this year, our physical event had to be deferred, our campaign to spread stories of positive social impact continues – good news is needed!