Dennis Beale is a familiar face to many in the Chippewa Valley — especially to its minority youth populations — thanks to his extensive advocacy and mentorship.
Founder and CEO of Power of Perception Inc.; operator of his own consulting business, Beale Consultant; and a member of the Pablo Foundation Board, Dennis is practically a jack of all trades. Arguably most impactful, though, is his sheer presence: Dennis a vital force in the growing advocacy in and diversity of the Valley. As he makes sure to point out to others, though, it didn’t come easy and the grind doesn’t stop.
Originally from inner-city Chicago, Dennis made his way to our slice of the Midwest back in 2009 when he came to study at UW-Eau Claire. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he was excited to finally move back to the city he’d grown up in, now with a completed college education. However, it was there that Dennis realized how much he’d changed, and he remembers those first few months out of school as a turnout point.
“I wanted to be back home and around my people, around what I knew and was comfortable with,” he recalled. “But having a different mindset after getting my degree, being around people that were successful and taught me the different ropes. … I just remember going back home and losing everything after being there for about six months. That was one of the hardest times of my life.”
After returning to Chicago he went out with one of his friends and had a gun pulled on him. His life flashed before his eyes at that moment. Dennis remembers looking to God, his family at home, and the family he’d made back in Eau Claire, for guidance.
“I remember calling my old coach in Eau Claire and just telling him, ‘Look, I feel like I’m either gonna end up dead or in jail.’ Chicago is different than Eau Claire, and obviously, you hear the stories, but it’s real out there,” he said. “My coach was like, ‘I will always look out for you; Come back to Eau Claire, come get into grad school and take your education to the next level.’ So, that’s what I did.”
Dennis had worked at the Menards Distribution Center through his undergraduate years, and when he moved back to Eau Claire to attend graduate school at UWEC, they readily offered him his position back, something that reminded him to never burn bridges and stick to the grind.
“Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all peaches and cream after that,” he recalled, laughing. “The grind got real when I got back.”
“In order to create change, you must create opportunity.”
Dennis graduated with his master’s degree from UWEC and worked for the university that helped shift and nurture his outlook on the life and world ahead of him, working in the recruitment and retention of minority students. It was through that position Dennis would found the Black Male Empowerment organization at the school, igniting his passion for connecting with youth who just needed someone in their corner, the way Dennis’ mentors at UWEC had been for him.
Working for years at the university only deepened the roots he had begun putting down in the Chippewa Valley. His career, too, continued to grow and after four years working at UWEC, he moved to Minnesota. That chapter of his life overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the growing conflicts across the nation and in Minnesota.
“I’ll be honest with you: Eau Claire has been a good place to raise children. I’ve got three babies — a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a 10-month-old — I just wanted a safe place for them.”
“When I moved to Minnesota, I was there at the heart of everything that was going on with COVID and George Floyd,” Dennis recalled. “I’ll be honest with you: Eau Claire has been a good place to raise children. I’ve got three babies — a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a 10-month-old — I just wanted a safe place for them.”
“I remember telling my wife, ‘I think I gotta get back, I just don’t think my time in Eau Claire is done yet. I feel like I still got more to give,’” he said.
“My life motto is, ‘to change lives daily,’ and that’s what I live by.”
Since moving back to the Chippewa Valley with his wife and children, Dennis has been full-steam ahead, creating and opening more and more doors of opportunity for the youth part of Power of Perception and throughout the community. He isn’t the type of person who relies on a kick of caffeine in the morning or afternoon or needs to reach for motivation. His reason for “why” is simple: to change lives.
“My life motto is, ‘to change lives daily,’ and that’s what I live by,” he said. “I do it through conversation, through my presence, my advice; I love to help people and see people get to where they’re trying to go. One of the biggest things, and one of the other things I live by — especially through Power of Perception — is that in order to create change, you must create opportunity.”
And creating opportunity is what he continues to do. He recently solidified one of his biggest dreams for Power of Perception — taking some of the mentee youth on an out-of-country trip. Now, that trip has been funded thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Pablo Foundation. Next summer, Power of Perception will be taking 15 of the mentoring group’s youth on a two-week trip to South Africa. For many of the kids, it will be there their first time traveling out of the country.
“I want my legacy to be about this hard work; my dedication and passion for our world,” Dennis said. “If I was to die tomorrow, I just want people to understand how much effort, dedication, and passion I put behind every single day.”