Monthly Archives: October 2011

Supporting male mentees

On Columbus Day weekend in Chicago, I joined participants from across the country to learn from experts in male mentoring at the “Forum on the Effectiveness of School-Based Male Mentoring,” co-hosted by the DePaul University Center for Access and Attainment and the Kenwood Academy Brotherhood.

We explored the critical issues of academic achievement and personal and social development of young males. The research suggests that there is an enormous need for targeted interventions for males:

  • 80% of high school dropouts are males
  • 50% of fourth and eighth-grade minority males in most urban districts and nationwide scored below basic levels
  • In college and career preparedness, minority males are twice as likely to drop out of high schools as Caucasian males

Zeeba Khalili attended the Forum on the Effectiveness of School-Based Male Mentoring

Clearly, it isn’t an achievement gap we’re looking at, it’s a chasm and because of that, the creation or scaling up of quality programs specifically serving boys is urgent. Throughout my work with Boston Public Schools, I have heard repeatedly that more mentoring programs serving boys are a great need. This research demonstrated to me that the issue is a national one.

The Long Beach California School District has come together to try to change those statistics for its own district and has been remarkably successful. They created the Male Academy Program. Quentin Brown, the program administrator, talked about the initial creation of the program as a club, and its eventual integration district-wide because of its success. The Male Academy program, serving more than 300 students in high school and middle school, has seen increases in GPAs, significant decreases in campus tension between African-American and Latino male students, higher graduation rates, and higher participation in school leadership.

One of my favorite things that the Male Academy does is take photos of each young man in a graduation cap and gown. Those photos are posted in their program space so that the goal of graduating high school is not only a constant reminder but a visual reality.

It would be great to see a district-wide initiative like that in Boston, involving the higher education institutions in the city and impacting the high school and middle school students. The students have the potential for academic and social growth; now we need to provide them with a vehicle to attain it.

Guest author Zeeba Khalili is the school partnership associate at MMP

Meet the match: Christian and Noam

For the eighth consecutive year, New England’s World Champion Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork and The Safety Insurance 98.5 The Sports Hub New England Patriots Radio Network have teamed up with Mass Mentoring Partnership, to ensure that more young people are connected to caring adult mentors who will listen to them, stand by them and guide them. As a part of this initiative, Wilfork and 98.5 have extended invitations to mentor/mentee matches in the MMP network to attend a home game, and MMP chooses a match for each game based on the most compelling stories submitted. On game day, chosen matches are met by Bianca Wilfork and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

This is a highlight of the match that attended a home game this season.

Christian Vaczy, age 15, and his mentor, Noam Ron, have been matched for more than three years through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. They attended the Pats versus Jets game in October, thanks to the generosity of Vince Wilfork, his wife Bianca, and The Safety Insurance 98.5 The Sports Hub New England Patriots Radio Network as Wilfork’s “Match of the Game” coordinated through Mass Mentoring Partnership.

Noam and Christian, with Bianca Wilfork, before the Pats/Jets game on Oct. 9

Noam has been a source of stability for Christian, and says that despite Christian navigating the transition from childhood to adulthood through some shaky times, “Chris is mature beyond his years” and it helps him to know that his “Big Brother” will always be around.

The pair often talk about his future, and his goal of being the first in his family to attend college.

Says Noam, “I think having a mentor has shown Chris a way of life that he is not always exposed to at home or at school.”

They’re sure to make plenty of time for fun activities, and particularly enjoy sports, discussing football and the latest games. But as Christian gets older, Noam says their time together is increasingly about enjoying each other’s company.

“Christian is infinitely curious, and we often spend hours talking about traveling, politics, or his goal of joining the military,” Noam says.

The pair was particularly excited about seeing a Pats game since neither one of them had been to one. And fittingly, this year is Christian’s first of playing football as a high-school student.

Noam has high hopes for the pair’s future: “As a mentor, I’m excited to help Christian see his goals through.”

As one of the largest adult-to-child mentoring organizations in the nation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay currently serves over 1,200 youth in one-to-one relationships, with a service area encompassing 155 cities and towns throughout the Massachusetts Bay area. For more information: www.bbbsmb.org.

Meet the match: Haley and Nicole

For the eighth consecutive year, New England’s World Champion Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork and The Safety Insurance 98.5 The Sports Hub New England Patriots Radio Network have teamed up with Mass Mentoring Partnership, to ensure that more young people are connected to caring adult mentors who will listen to them, stand by them and guide them. As a part of this initiative, Wilfork and 98.5 have extended invitations to mentor/mentee matches in the MMP network to attend a home game, and MMP chooses a match for each game based on the most compelling stories submitted. On game day, chosen matches are met by Bianca Wilfork and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

This is a highlight of the match that attended the first home game this season.

Haley and Nicole, with Bianca Wilfork, before the Pats/Chargers game on Sept. 18

Haley, age 10, and her mentor Nicole have been matched for almost three years through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County. They attended the Pats versus San Diego Chargers game in September, thanks to the generosity of Vince Wilfork, his wife Bianca, and The Safety Insurance 98.5 The Sports Hub New England Patriots Radio Network as Wilfork’s “Match of the Game” coordinated through Mass Mentoring Partnership.

The pair bonded quickly after they started hanging out.

“Haley is the most thoughtful, caring and funny child I know,” says Nicole. “Every time I see her I spend the rest of my day sharing ‘Haley stories’ with anyone that will listen. I have learned what a great impact I can make in someone’s life and enjoy all the time we spend together.”

The two enjoy a wide range of activities when they spend time together: watching movies, ice skating, attending sporting events, and playing tennis – which Haley took up after Nicole took her to a tennis lesson.

Nicole looks forward to a lasting relationship with Haley: “I explain to her that even though we won’t always be in the program, she will always be a part of my life.”

For more than 40 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County has been the area’s leader in one-to-one mentoring of children. For more information: http://www.bigbrothers-sisters.org.

A “Social Capitalist” take on mentoring

The business world is abuzz these days with the terms “social capital” and “social networks.” Much of this buzz might focus on the latest features of a given social networking website, or which company is going to hit it big next. But the underlying premise of social capital is that relationships have significant value that can help individuals and communities. Of course, mentoring is all about relationships, so let’s explore how a “Social Capitalist” perspective can help us as mentors.

Social Capital, Inc. President & Founder David Crowley

Accessing new networks: While having a lot of friends is generally a good thing, educational and economic success is often based on “the strength of weak ties.” If you are a college-educated professional mentoring a young person who doesn’t have family or neighbors who went to college, you can create a bridge to circles your mentee wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. This can have tangible benefits such as connections to job or scholarship opportunities, and has significance in terms of transmitting norms and values that support success. Many youth in need of mentors have a lot of negative influences around them – providing mentees opportunities to interact with our own family and friends can provide alternative examples.

Teaching social norms: I recall a teen mentoring program I worked with where the teens decided they wanted to organize a Thanksgiving dinner for isolated seniors. They were excited about the idea, so I was wondering why they were stumbling in carrying out their assigned tasks. I came to realize they were very intimidated by the basics of making a business phone call, and we needed to provide them training to increase their comfort level on this unfamiliar task. Young people will learn some norms and skills they need through simple observation, but we can also explicitly teach them skills like professional etiquette, appropriate attire for various situations and other behaviors that we might take for granted. The struggles of first generation college students from urban schools are now well-documented; I suspect mentors could help address this by helping youth develop effective study skills and other habits that lead to success.

Building social capital: Social capital is created in relationships where there is a reciprocal feeling of trust. As anyone who has been a mentor knows, trust with our mentee must be earned over time. At Social Capital Inc., we train Social Capitalists to think in terms of how to make social capital “deposits” that strengthen our relationships, and this thinking can definitely help us as mentors.

Probably the most important thing we can do is make agreements to do things with our mentees, and take care to stick to the commitments we make. Also, listening empathetically to problems without being judgmental is another vital way we build social capital with them. Explicitly working to build our social capital with our mentees will help our success with them, and it also models effective relationship building skills that healthy youth need to develop.

Now if you’ve read this far you have some perspective on how a Social Capitalist approach can help young people we serve. But the social capital benefits of mentoring aren’t just for the young people! Volunteering with a mentoring program is a great way to build your own social capital. Other volunteers you meet can expand your base of professional contacts—and the commitment to youth you share with these volunteers provides a good foundation of social capital with them. As noted in a recent study by LinkedIn, volunteer experience can differentiate you from other candidates when seeking a job.

We mentor to enrich our own lives and that of others. This wealth we create is social capital.

Guest author David Crowley is the founder and president of Social Capital, Inc.

Mentoring youth in foster care

The 2011 Northeast Regional Mentoring Conference, Oct. 13-14 in Framingham, MA, will bring together more than 250 practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders in the mentoring field. The conference’s numerous workshops, covering various themes, will ultimately connect the outcomes and power of mentoring.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting the conference with previews to some of the workshops. This post is courtesy of Adoption and Foster Care (AFC) Mentoring’s Executive Director Colby Berger and Program Director Melissa Chu, conference presenters.

At first glance, youth in foster care represent a population that arguably most needs and could most benefit from mentoring. Frequent transitions in living situation force youth in care to continually sever important connections and relationships.

Adoption and Foster Care (AFC) Mentoring believes that providing a consistent, caring adult mentor can positively impact the world of a youth in foster care.

While more mentoring programs are now serving youth in care, offering population-specific programs remains a challenge. Too many well-intentioned mentoring programs fail to recognize that young people in foster care have different needs than their peers, and unknowingly use a one-size-fits-all mentoring model which has the potential to do more harm than good for foster youth.

Melissa Chu and Colby Berger, AFC Mentoring

This workshop will focus on the unique strengths and challenges faced by young people in foster care and work with participants to identify and enact the types of mentoring practices that can help foster youth to flourish.

Participants in this workshop, whether or not they are directly serving foster youth, can benefit by gaining insight and understanding to the needs of special populations. The workshop will use interactive methods to teach the risks that “best practices” can sometimes add to mentoring with targeted populations, and specifically to youth in care.

Applying best practices correctly could be the difference between creating a positive impact and adding unnecessary harm in the life of a foster youth. Discussion, activities, and video will allow participants to actively engage in assessing their organization’s ability to serve this population or refer youth to programs more specifically addressing their needs.

Foster and adopted youth are in special need of mentors; a committed adult can provide the support and stabilization so needed in a life of transition.

However, the benefit of such a program lies in tailoring training and practice to the needs of these youth. This session will utilize lessons from the field to offer insight to mentoring programs of all kinds. Through this inviting and engaging workshop, we hope to provide the tools which will allow organizations to provide careful and intentional mentoring to foster youth.

Join us at the Northeast Regional Mentoring Conference; let’s team up to better serve youth in care!