Doctorate is one more way youth homes CEO fulfills lofty goals
By Rick Vacek
GCU Today Magazine
A day in the life of Tom Granado starts like a space launch — early and with a burst of energy that takes it to new heights.
He and his wife, Wynn, get up at 4:30 a.m. and pray for a half-hour before she goes to work and he goes to work out. A few hours later, when the founder and CEO of New Horizon Youth Homes arrives in his Tempe, Ariz., office, his staff members say it’s impossible not to know he’s there, such is his considerable presence. They talk fondly about his “Tomisms,” about the way he gets excited about new ideas in staff meetings, and about how the family atmosphere he has created makes it like no other job they’ve had.
It takes passion and unflagging enthusiasm to run 14 Valley locations that provide residential and outpatient services to at-risk children, teens and adults. It takes an incredible work ethic to do all that while completing his doctorate at Grand Canyon University.
It takes someone like Tom Granado.
“Our role model is our CEO,” said Jason Kindred, program director of New Horizon.
“What I like,” added administrative director Mindy Leon, “is that we’re given so much by Tom, but if we have an idea, we’re able to go to Tom and he’ll usually say, ‘Try it.’”
Granado’s decision to pursue a doctorate came after a time in his life when he wasn’t feeling so great. While going through a divorce, he also was trying to figure out the next steps for New Horizon, which he established in 2001.
“I got lost for a year or two, but God used it to get my attention,” he said. “When I recommitted myself to God, things started going well. I dedicated the agency to God, and that’s what led me to GCU.”
Granado heard about the University on the radio and had seen it on billboards, so he applied. He remembers the exact time — 5:45 p.m. on a Friday — in the spring of 2013 when he got a call from a GCU enrollment counselor asking, “Are you ready to start your doctorate?”
And so it was that a man with so much on his plate added a full helping of work on a doctor of education in organizational leadership with an emphasis in organizational development.
“I had just been praying, asking God, ‘What’s next?’” he said. “I said to God, ‘I’ll do the homework, but you’ve got to help me run this agency.’
“I understand why God sent me back — because we needed to evolve. We’re doing this based on what I’ve learned at GCU. It’s exactly what I needed — to look at things in a new way.”
Granado, 47, met Wynn, who like him has three children, and they were married last June. On the job, he delegated to his program directors to give himself time to do the course work, which varies from five to 20 hours a week, and on his dissertation, “The Influence of Spirituality in a Human Service Agency and its Influence on Organizational Citizenship Behaviors.”
Watching Granado interact with a group of boys in one of New Horizon’s five Chandler, Ariz., homes is like a behavioral study — of both him and his young protégés. He is such a natural leader, asking pertinent questions with a warm, fatherly tone, and the boys are open and talkative.
Clinical Director AMee Vermeire remembers being struck by Granado’s confidence the first time she saw him in that environment, talking with the boys as easily as he played flag football with them.
“The way he speaks to people, it’s not arrogant, it’s just a level of confidence,” she said. “I thought, ‘How can I get to that?’”
Granado said New Horizon’s success rate, which is defined by a client graduating or making a transition to a home or a lower level of care, is about 60 percent, and he estimates that his agency has helped 1,500 clients. One of them is 19-year-old Jose Mendiola, who came to NHYH three years ago. He considers Granado “one of the coolest dudes ever” and said the agency has meant “everything” to him.
“Before New Horizon, I had nothing,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had a father. I didn’t feel like I had a family. I didn’t have an education. They gave me a set of tools that I can utilize to solve problems. They understood me.”
Granado’s rules are what he calls a “direct approach with old-fashioned values” — no piercings or clothing related to alcohol, drugs or gangs, and a focus on accomplishments, rewarding positive behavior and correcting negative actions. But within the care and discipline there is room for improvement and growth.
“We don’t bring in kids who don’t want to come,” Granado said. “We’re not overcontrolling. We want them to be willing to change.”
Said Kindred, “What we’re really big on is we let the kids make choices because we expect them to make mistakes.”
Mendiola said he made his share when he first got to the home, but now he’s working at Home Depot and considers himself one of his home’s leaders.
“The program works,” he said. “I feel like I’m a testimonial to that. I don’t have any negative impulses anymore. That’s gone.”
Mendiola hopes to go into the Marines, and his career goal is to work in behavioral health, preferably at New Horizon. He would be following in the footsteps of Granado, who joined the Marines when he was 17 because he wanted to escape his friends’ party lifestyle.
As a corporal who taught good habits to young Marines, he realized that he wanted to teach boys and men those same skills.
“Everybody is going to encounter difficulties,” Granado said. “God has a purpose for each one of us, and He has blessed us with the ability to achieve that purpose. We need to lean on Him when we’re feeling down or overwhelmed. We’re not doing what He wants if we don’t keep trying.”
His work ethic certainly is a testament to that as he perseveres through his doctorate with a goal of finishing up by next year. But being part of GCU has given him satisfaction, too.
“It makes me feel at home even though I’m not a 21-year-old bachelor’s student living on campus,” Granado said. “I still feel connected.”
This is one rocket ship that has its mission very much in control.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW HORIZON YOUTH HOMES BY THE NUMBERS
1,500 — clients served and discharged
175 — outpatient clients
120 — employees
60 — residential clients
6 — homes for boys
3 — outpatient care locations
2 — homes for girls
2 — adult residential facilities coming soon
1 — number of clients when Granado started New Horizon in 2001