Posted Tuesday November 6, 2018

Mental Health

Hiphop artist bringing positive message to BootCamp

By Brian Rodnick

It’s not easy being the leader of a non-profit organization, just ask Mike Prosserman.
For the past 15 years the 32-year-old competitive breakdancer, who has competed against many of the best dancers worldwide, was executive director and founder of UNITY Charity.

Unity is a non-profit he founded while still in high school that assists youths achieve better mental health and build stronger communities through the arts, including dancing, beatboxing, graffiti and spoken word.

But earlier this year Prosserman stepped away from the organization he founded to pursue a new venture called Epic Leadership Support which aims to provide non-profit leaders to reach greater potential and prevent them from burning out.

“Executive directors are often making it up as they go and keep putting on a smile,” he says. “It’s not healthy or sustainable.”

Prosserman, known in the hiphop world as ‘Bboy Piecez’, will share his journey and knowledge as the keynote speaker at Capacity Canada’s Manulife Board Governance BootCamp to be held Oct. 15 at The Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener.

Two hundred guests will be in attendance that night to help kick off the BootCamp, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary of assisting non-profit boards achieve greater impact.
Sharing the stage that night with Prosserman, who will also show off some his award-winning hiphop moves, will be spoken word and beatbox artists.

It’s through these forms of expressions that he will convey a message to BootCamp participants about the importance of supporting those responsible for board governance.

“It’s a vital role in society that they’ve taken on,” says Prosserman, referring to board chairs who volunteer their time to help non-profits.

He will also share his personal story surrounding his own mental health issues and his mother’s battle with schizophrenia.

In effort to channel his frustrations and energy, Prosserman turned to hiphop dance at a young age, taking top spot in more than 20 competitions worldwide.

He founded Unity Charity while still a teen and the organization quickly grew, and continues to grow, today.

But despite this success, Prosserman says he began to feel the stresses that can arise while working in the non-profit sector.

“I thrived on that stress level for a long time,” he says.

Earlier this year those stresses caught up with him and Prosserman says he toyed with the idea of taking a sabbatical. However, in the end he decided to leave Unity and focus on coaching non-profit leaders and mental health education.

Although it was a difficult decision, Prosserman says Unity was in a great place in terms of leadership and finances, so the timing was right.

“It’s important to acknowledge the past but you’ve got to know when it’s time to move on to the next phase,” he says. “I see so many founders leave, and the organization falls apart afterwards. We need to support leaders and organizations through these transitions.”

After leaving Unity, Prosserman continued to learn more about mental health issues and created Epic Leadership Support which is located in the GTA.

Through Epic he uses innovative methods to assist leaders to reach their full potential, both professionally and personally.

“I help them work through their challenges to the successes they deserve,” says Prosserman.
He also recently taught a continuing education course at the University of Toronto focussing on mental health issues in the workplace.

“I approach this as a former employer, not as a mental health expert. I’m still learning about mental health issues more and more,” he says, adding the non-profit sector can easily exhaust its workers.

“For some reason we think it’s OK to burn our staffing to the ground to provide more social good in our communities,” says Prosserman, who is using his past experience at Unity to build on his new venture.

“This is really a new chapter for me. It’s really exciting,” he says. “I feel energized again.”
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