Post by Steve Nelson, Amicus Communications Director
“The world’s a much bigger place than you know and you’ve got choices as to how you choose to live in it.”
This theme resonates through the life of new Amicus Radius Program Director, Marjorie D. Grevious, and it is one she’d like to share with the adjudicated teen girls in the Amicus Radius Program.
Marjorie was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. The firstborn of a single mother who worked to get her college degree while raising four children. Marjorie remembers the struggles for her mom and siblings, but these were not allowed as excuses for limiting their futures.
“My mom taught me that the world was bigger than our circumstances,” Marjorie said.
Marjorie’s true heart’s desire was to dance in the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and she threw herself into training despite severe asthma. Marjorie recalls being taken to the emergency room weekly while in rehearsal for a show. Eventually, she needed to move on from that aspiration, but even as she recognized the physical limitations of her body she began to learn the limitless possibilities within herself.
Education was the most highly prized achievement in her family, and all four siblings eventually went to college. Marjorie originally began at a small private college in Kentucky with the goal of becoming a teacher. Later she would realize that teaching wasn’t her path. Not knowing what to do next, Marjorie announced she was “taking a break from school” – an announcement which she describes as causing a “generational uproar” in her family.
Shortly after, Marjorie began hearing regularly from her Aunt Laura in Minneapolis.
“I really didn’t know her that well, but she was a legend in our family for having moved way up north and becoming very successful as a social worker in her own right. She started sending me letters and a few checks to help out. Little did I know she was wooing me to move to Minnesota.”
She moved in the middle of winter and it was a tough adjustment for a southern girl who had never experienced more than a few inches of snow and temperature that never went below freezing.
Marjorie wanted to move back to Kentucky but her family insisted she earn her own money for moving expenses if that’s what she chose to do. She began working in financial institutions to earn a paycheck. She knew that field wasn’t her calling but she became educated about money matters.
Both her mom and her aunt Laura were involved in Social Work, but Marjorie didn’t seriously consider going into nonprofit work until volunteering with Chrysalis, a Center for Women, where she was trained as a support group facilitator.
Her volunteer work eventually led her to apply for a position as grants assistant at the McKnight Foundation. She learned about the business side of nonprofits and became energized by the inspiring work being done throughout the community.
“Wow, there’s this whole field of working with young people outside of school that I could do,” she recalls thinking.
She began working for a series of nonprofits as a counselor, becoming exposed to girls who were considered “at-risk.”
“What I saw was that these young women were so talented and strong and that they often had these adults around them who would create cycles of crisis and chaos. That’s when I learned about strengths-based approach. Everybody has strengths which have gotten them to where they are. Our job as counselors is to help young people find the answers and tools they need within themselves.”
One of her favorite activities while working with youth with limited experience outside their own communities in southern California was to take them on field trips outside their comfort zone. Girls who had never been more than 15 minutes from home took sailing lessons on the ocean, toured museums and even visited more upscale neighborhoods they thought were off-limits to them. In some cases, these areas weren’t very far from the tough neighborhood the girls knew so well – often just a short walk in a new direction.
Over the succeeding years Marjorie has had several positions in the field of youth development, and has traveled extensively. She recently served as Grants Manager for Youth Development at the Greater Twin Cities United Way, managing $11 million in grants supporting 60 youth programs in the metro area which worked with 25,000 youth. She left in 2010 to accept a volunteer position at the Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Upon her return she helped her mother through breast cancer treatments, while also helping her brother raise his 10-year-old son.
Yoga brought Marjorie back to working with girls, as she connected with the Amicus Radius program to teach classes and was inspired by the work, and especially by the girls themselves.
“This group of young women grew up in poverty and all the chaotic systems that come with that. As a result they have developed a certain level of maturity and survival skills that most of us don’t have to use until later in life. I want to help them understand that they are more powerful than a lot of their peers, but they need to learn how to focus their power more effectively.”
As the new Amicus Radius Director, Marjorie hopes that the girls Radius works with can see a possibility for their own future selves when they look at her.
“My mom was a single mom who really struggled to raise and care for four children on her own, but she taught me to live my own lessons and that I could make choices and have a different path. I am the other choice these girls can make. ”