Strengthening Lives and Communities Through Transformative Mentoring

15 February 2017

Last year, Barack Obama acknowledged mentoring's efficacy in declaring January as National Mentoring Month. Led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation, National Mentoring Month is an opportunity to share resources and increase awareness around the importance of connecting young people to mentoring relationships. The theme, "Mentor in Real Life," highlighted the ways mentoring is critical to the development of young people. On social media, mentoring organizations and individuals shared resources and stories of mentoring success using the hashtags #MentorIRL and #NationalMentoringMonth. For this year's National Mentoring Month, MENTOR partnered with Nike to launch the EQUALITY campaign "to spread the message of equality, encourage support for the mentoring field, and inspire their customers to become mentors 'In Real Life.'"

Mentoring’s ability to improve academic, social, and economic opportunity and outcomes is well documented and indicates the promise of mentoring programs to strengthen communities. Osborne continues to grow the elements of mentoring in our work. Our mentors offer mentees companionship and confidence-building, support with educational, employment, relationship/family, and leadership goals, and create specific and measurable plans to achieve their goals. In response to National Mentoring Month, we wanted to share the activities our young adults have participated in recently to strengthen their local and national communities.


We Shall Not Be Moved March


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On MLK weekend, young people in our transformative mentoring programs traveled to Washington, D.C. for this year’s #WeShallNotBeMoved march on the National Mall. The National Action Network partnered with organizations including the NAACP, The National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza to organize this year’s march around voting rights, economic empowerment, criminal justice reform, and affordable healthcare.

Participants and staff shared their thoughts on the experience. One participant shared, "It was a good experience being my first time doing something like that. I like how people of all color and race came together to support something they believe in."

Mentoring Program Coordinator Mia Legaspi-Cavin, who helped organize the trip, said, "I personally felt honored to take the young people on this trip. It's clear that the young people want to learn about the world, and are engaged civically. I asked them to meet me at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to make the bus and not one of them was late. We had to be at the bus at 4:00 a.m. to catch the bus. No one complained, all were in good spirits. When we returned many asked about other upcoming opportunities in our programs. I felt proud to offer them this opportunity. I could see their camaraderie, and this affected their interactions with other marchers. They spoke with adults and challenged some of their preconceived notions of youth behavior. I look forward to supporting them in these types of ventures again."


Chapter & Verse Film Screening 


Earlier this month, young people from our transformative mentoring programs attended a screening of Chapter and Verse - The Film, a new film by Daniel Beatty that tells the story of a man returning to his community after 8 years in prison, the world he encountered, and the difference he made in the lives of the people around him. The screening included a talkback with the cast and crew who shared about their experience and motivation for making the film. Our young people and staff alike were touched by this powerful story and give the film a wholehearted recommendation. One participant, Stephen Mumford responded to the message he took away from the film, "The experience of Chapter and Verse was very influential because I learned to just be myself, be a leader, and to not get involved with the gang life. Be who you are, and in the end you will see who are your real friends or family." Osborne staff member, Jacqueline Oliva related, "I thought it was amazing how easy it was to connect to the movie. The two main characters exhibited a level of understanding and compassion that resonated with our youth. I left with a feeling of hope." 


Alternatives to Violence Project:


T Haywood and Dominic working through the Community Agreements before an AVP class. 

Osborne mentor T Haywood first learned about the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) while incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. According to Haywood, AVP is "a transformative experience anchored in the principles of self-respect, caring about others, finding good in yourself and others, and building healthy communities." Since returning home to the South Bronx, he has faciltated AVP classes at Osborne and trained mentees to become facilitators themselves. Haywood met mentee Dominic, now a program intern, last spring. He completed the AVP training under T and is learning to be a facilitator. Dominic spoke so highly of the project and is seeing the impact it is having in his community. “I have been in gangs since I was 11. Two people I am affiliated with are now a part of Osborne’s programs and have jobs. I take what I learn from the AVP training on how to come up with alternatives—positive solutions to disagreements—and practice what I learn with my friends and family at home. I try to encourage them to take their current mentality and put it towards something positive.”


StoryCorps Partnership:


Samantha Robinson and T Haywood after their StoryCorps interview

In September, Osborne partnered with StoryCorps for their Justice Project, capturing the stories of people who spent time incarcerated as a youth and archiving them in the Library of Congress to ensure that first-person accounts from the current era of mass incarceration are preserved in this nation’s historical record for generations to come. Former participant and Mentor Samantha Robinson interviewed T Haywood about their relationship, how proud they are of each other, and how their childhood shaped them.

T encouraged Samantha, "I've watched you develop as a young lady, I've watched you develop as a mother, I've watched you find your way here at Osborne. You're very caring, considerate, empathetic. You have a soft side, but you have a hard side too, which is good because you are able to balance it well. And the mentees love you for it. You have big things ahead of you."

Many of the mentees showed interest in the project and will hopefully be participating in our next recording day with StoryCorps. 

Read more on our youth mentors and mentoring programs:

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