Tameka Brown: Founder of H.E.A.R.T.S.

Leadership Triangle
5 min readApr 11

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Tameka Brown, Founder of H.E.A.R.T.S.

Tameka Brown is the Founder of H.E.A.R.T.S. and part of the 2021–2022 cohort of 10 to Watch. In this conversation, Tameka tells us the story of what inspired her to start H.E.A.R.T.S. She also tells us about her experience in Transforming Leaders and the impact of Transforming Teams on how she leads her staff. Tameka is a 2021 Leadership Triangle Goodmon Fellow.

Owen Jordan: What’s the story of H.E.A.R.T.S.?

Tameka Brown: H.E.A.R.T.S. stands for Helping Each Adolescent Reach Their Spark. We impact the lives of young parents - moms and dads who’ve become pregnant between the ages of 13 to 20. When I was a student in high school as well as when I was a teacher, I saw the direct effect of young parents in the classroom. So in my experience, the trend was not getting any better and I felt teen pregnancy was an ongoing cycle. After experiencing my own best friend becoming pregnant when we were 15 and 16 years old, as well as other close friends, I felt compelled to help. I vowed that no teen parent should have to drop out of school because of their current situation and circumstance. I believe that these young people can still live the life that they want to live for themselves, and I believe that living their lives helps them be the parent that they want or need to be for their child.

Students and staff gathered in outdoor photo

Owen Jordan: That’s a great story. Thank you. You completed the Transforming Leaders program with Leadership Triangle in 2021. What was the primary impact of the program for you?

Tameka Brown: Transforming Leaders allowed me to show up authentically in a space where I felt like myself. Sometimes I feel like we have to put on this facade to show up in atmospheres and places in order to be valued, accepted, and to have a seat at the table. I didn’t have to put on that front or facade in Transforming Leaders. The program actually gave me permission — on day one- to be authentically me. I came in with my laughs and my smiles and my jokes and I was not judged. I am joyful and I valued being able to have a good time in that atmosphere while we were learning.

Young women holding Angel Hope Scholarship checks

Owen Jordan: You also completed our Transforming Teams Program. How did it impact the work that you and your team members do?

Tameka Brown: Oh, man. Transforming Teams allowed me an opportunity to process. It allowed me the opportunity to learn and then implement. A lot of the cohorts that we are involved in are just, “Do this, do this, do this, do this, do this.” But their is never an opportunity for us to implement what we’ve learned and we’re never actually given the time to practice in the room. A lot of my team members are hands-on learners, and if I’m going to implement it, then I need to implement it right then and there on the spot, or talk to me for 30 minutes and then give me an assignment to complete so I retain it. And that’s what I loved the most because I was able to learn what we should be doing or given a thought or a question, and then I was able to implement it and apply it right there on the spot.

Tameka Brown: For example, we learned about retrospectives in Transforming Teams and I still use them — and that was from the first day of the cohort! I use retrospectives with everybody in my organization, including my teen moms and my teen dads. We use it as our new evaluation tool at the end of group sessions and at the end of our one-on-ones. Not only do I use it with participants, but I also use it with board members and staff during our staff meetings, as well. I like it and it works! So, now I’ve been using it ever since. It was cool that I was able to learn about it in Transforming Teams and then immediately implement in my organization.

Owen Jordan: Did you make any meaningful connections during or after the programs?

Tameka Brown: Absolutely. I made a meaningful connection with Kristine, with you, Chimi, Mark and the other participants! It was worth it.

Young mothers with their children

Owen Jordan: How can people best support you in your work with H.E.A.R.T.S.?

Tameka Brown: People can best support H.E.A.R.T.S. by first understanding the population that we serve. It is very important to know who we are and what we do, but more importantly to understand our population. Our adolescents, they are teenagers from 13 to 22 with adult responsibilities and are trying to navigate the world while raising their child. Then you can support us by sharing the word about our events. If you see a young mom that’s in need, share that or share our organization with them. If you know somebody that may have been teen parents themselves growing up, or a product of a teen mom, please share our organization with them. And if you know somebody giving away a million dollars that wants to help young moms — share our organization with them! The best way to support us is just being there for us and showing up for us when we need engagement in our online giving campaigns as well as our everyday programming. Come sit in on one of our group sessions and actually see the impact that the organization has on the teens’ lives. Come and observe a one-on-one. You know, get to know us for who we are and not just by what you see on social media and on the website.

If you’d like to support the work of Tameka and H.E.A.R.T.S., visit their website at https://www.heartsnc.org/.

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Leadership Triangle

Leadership Triangle builds leadership capacity and promotes regionalism across the separate communities of the Triangle (Chatham, Durham, Orange, Wake County).