With the generous support of AT&T, State Street Corporation, and an anonymous donor, MENTOR launched the 2017 Summit Fellowship Program to provide a select number of scholarships to dedicated leaders from mentoring programs operating with a budget of $150,000 or less. In the Summit Fellows Spotlight series, the 2017 Fellows reflect on their experiences at the Summit and the lessons they’ve brought back to their local communities and programs.
Every Sunday, a group of boys and girls aged 10 – 16 from diverse backgrounds, make their way to the college side of town. They are looking forward to the two hours they will have with each other and with their mentors who will ask about their week and if they worked on the personal goals they drafted at the start of the program. Side by side they will tend a community garden for a season, visit museums, play team sports, have conversations about concerns and issues they face, explore technology and much more. Every weekend they will close their visit with some snacks and time to relax. Most importantly, every weekend they will gain greater confidence and ease, and will confirm to themselves that they are seen and heard and accepted for who they are.
One day something will happen that will shake them but they will not collapse or drown in fear. That is because throughout these weeks they will have found a trusted friend. This magic would not happen without the mentors who devote themselves to the difficult task of guiding another human being or the excellent training and constant support they receive. First response team — that is what we call our mentors at IYDE, and, as such, we ensure they are equipped with the best tools to support youth. The excellence with which they approach each child mirrors the care a bonsai gardener takes in pruning to achieve balance and beauty.
While at the National Mentoring Summit this February, I was revitalized, surrounded by brothers and sisters who understand the challenges and realities of working with a population at risk to the weight of the world: our youth. Experts shared important data and strategies and I had the opportunity to find people already working on programs that address the same issues we are ready to launch programs for. I came back invigorated and filled with hope and new ideas. Why is this important you ask? Because the most important ongoing gift that we, as program managers and directors, bring to the table is inspiration, hope, and an unwavering sense that together we will find a way. We do this in an arid environment, an environment where the “commodity” we offer is not in demand, but the population we serve needs us the most, now more than ever.
I hope I can continue to attend the Summit every year, as I felt like a child in a candy store running from session to session gaining insights, jotting down notes and taking contact numbers. The best part? I finally felt the ease of not having to explain the importance of what I dedicate my life to, because everyone there understands and lives it just as I do.
# # #