This week's featured Memphian is Mendell Grinter, founder of Campaign for School Equity and recent Forbes 30 under 30 honoree. Here's a Q&A session I had the privilege of doing with this outstanding Memphian!

Mendell Grinter

You were recently named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list. How did that happen and how do you feel about it?

Each year Forbes receives thousands of nominations for its under 30 list. I’m not entirely sure who nominated me, but I know this year’s list selection was pretty competitive and I feel honored to have been chosen along with such esteemed young leaders from across the Country. I also had the pleasure of placing runner up in the Forbes Under 30 $1 Million Dollar Nonprofit Competition this past October. It was a chance for me to pitch my organization on stage in front of thousands. Overall, the experience with Forbes was amazing, humbling and unforgettable.

You Founded Campaign for School for Equity. How did that decision come about?

Prior to founding CSE, I was  serving as State Director for the local chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). In early 2016 the national organization announced that it was going through some transition, and the potential for our work ending in Tennessee was strong. Knowing that our work here was essential, I just felt that my team and I could advance our efforts to promote and advocate for high quality school options in Memphis. I immediately began working on plans for a new local organization that would be focused specifically on improving school equity in Memphis and TN.

Tell me more about Campaign for School Equity and how it will affect kids in the city?

Our mission aims to ensure that all children, especially those of color, and families in Tennessee have access to high quality schools by working with communities of clergy, parents, and students to raise their voice for change. We are hoping to build a base of advocates who are empowered to speak out and work together to ensure our students have the best education possible. 

You’re from Kentucky. How did you end up in Memphis? Which city do you prefer?

I left Kentucky in 2012 to work on President Obama’s re-election campaign in Washington State. After such an incredible experience I wasn’t prepared to go back home just yet, I wanted to keep working. I moved to New York City and spent a couple years working on education reform efforts for New York City students. In the summer of 2016 I was asked to lead work here in Memphis with TNBAEO, and made the move. For me nothing compares to New York City. It will always be my favorite city, but I do enjoy living in Memphis and am excited about our city’s future. 

What’s your favorite thing about Memphis?
If there was something you could change about the city, what would it be?

My favorite thing about Memphis is the food. I love eating, and with Memphis I find so many delicious and endless options to choose from. 

I think Memphis has a ton of potential to be a world class city. The thing I would like to see different for the city is younger people having the opportunity to take leadership roles and have a stake in moving the city forward. I love politics, so I’m looking forward to the next set of elections. I think young people will be the catalyst this city needs to progress and advance.

If you could meet one person, who would it be and why?

This is a tough one, but I’d have to say Oprah. I am inspired by her life’s work, commitment to excellence and feel that I could learn so much from her.

Who inspires you?

Young people in general inspire me. My recent experience with Forbes opened my eyes so much to the ability that we all posses to change the world, starting in our own communities. I truly believe that now is our time and that we are the ones we have been waiting for! I’m also currently serving as a mentor and am inspired by how driven my mentees are to succeed.

Advice for anyone wanting to start a business. Challenges to look out for.

My advice would be to believe in yourself, and get out there and start it. Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting started. It’s going to be a process, but just go for it. It’s also important to establish and rely on a support network that will encourage you to continue on even when you have doubts.

Best advice you’ve ever received.

The best advice I’ve received was to trust myself and go after what I want.

Lightning Round!!

Random fact about you? Something weird about yourself.

One year I was a pregnant Beyonce for Halloween. I did the single ladies dance routine and won free Chipotle.

Coke Or Pepsi?

Dr. Pepper

Tigers or Grizzlies?

Kentucky Wildcats!

Secret talent

I can play the Saxophone and also dance really well.

What do you do to relax and unwind?

I like to listen to music. 

Favorite IG account?

I don’t have a favorite but I like to watch comedy videos, and look at the Shaderoom often. 

Favorite recording artist?

I love music so it’s hard to pick one. 

Kanye West  or Beyonce(Destinys Child) 

Favorite cartoon?

Hey Arnold

Netflix and chill or go out?

Netflix and chill

Favorite quote?

A quote by myself which was features as Forbes Quote of the day back in October“If you believe in yourself first, you’re unstoppable.”

Favorite Memphis spot?

I love downtown Memphis!

Favorite Memphis restaurant?

The Four Way Grille

 

Mendell is definitely making a major difference in Memphis and has proven to be a great addition. For more information about Campaign for School Equity, please visit the site by clicking HERE.  

 

Life is for Living, 

Michael B.  

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