"It's actually turned out to be more than I could have imagined. Beechwood Brainery was born because I took opportunities that were presented to me." – Janet Greener ‘04/’20
By Jenna Yeomans ‘19
Lifelong student Janet Greener ‘04, the founder of Beechwood Brainery, didn't let the challenges of the last year get in the way of pursuing her mission to make a difference - instead, she worked even harder to build a space to help people in her community.
Beechwood Brainery is both an alternative private school and an education centre, priced accessibly to make it a realistic option for families. Its purpose is to provide support to children with disabilities through smaller class sizes, providing guidance, and addressing learning and academic gaps. Before opening the school, she worked with private clients, offering a variety of homeschooling supports.
One family found incredible value in the work she was doing and provided funding to make Beechwood Brainery, a reality so Janet could reach more families.
Janet is both a Mohawk alum and a current student. She graduated with a diploma in Recreation and Leisure Services in 2004, and later completed the Mental Health and Disabilities Management program in 2020. Today, she is nearly finished the Social Service Worker diploma, also through Mohawk.
After graduation in 2004, she worked in therapeutic recreation with children, youth, and adults with disabilities. Through this work, she realized mental health issues, while prominent, weren’t being addressed. After doing some research, she found the Mental Health and Disabilities Management program at Mohawk, which was everything she was looking for.
Early in her career, Janet did not want to pursue this field of work. But her sister was born with Down Syndrome and she grew up watching her parents navigate the systems to support her, as a result Janet was drawn back to it. “I realized the skills, morals and values that were engrained in me, make me good at this. I feel passionate about it and behind everything I do, I’m trying to make a better world for other people’s little sisters,” shares Janet. “I know the ups and downs, the stress and the trauma, and I want to help relieve that for other families.”
As many others persevered through challenges in 2020, so did Janet and her organization. Beechwood Brainery was set to open in January of last year, but with delays and an eventual lockdown, their doors didn't open until July of 2020. A fellow Mental Health and Disabilities Management graduate, Brenna along with another employee both worked with Janet throughout the lockdown. They did as much background planning and policy work as they could to prepare, and did their best with virtual programming.
Sticking to the mission of Beechwood Brainery is incredibly important to Janet as she works to grow the business. She and her team prioritize community, networking, and collaboration rather than competing with other organizations that offer complementary supports. A new site is set to open in Waterloo this fall.
When reflecting on the challenges the past year brought, she says, “It's been a year of trying to breakeven, but I feel okay at the end of the day because everything I'm doing is authentic. I'm empowering other people to be themselves. I'm breaking down stigmas. I'm creating this safe environment. I walk away every day feeling grateful because I get to do what I'm good at and help other people.”
Janet continues to focus on her mission, passion, and skill set creating an incredible impact on those around her and the community at large.
Her final piece of advice? “Keep learning, be authentic and be kind.”