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.
Q: What is your program’s mission and how are you providing opportunities for youth through mentoring?
A: The mission of Cobb Mentoring Matters is to empower at-risk youth in our community to make positive life choices that enable them to maximize their personal potential. By providing mentors who serve as a prevention and intervention strategy, we reduce the risk factors that come between children and their ability to learn – both in the classroom and at home.
Since our inception in 2012, we have sought tirelessly to accomplish this through a number of initiatives district wide and in various partner schools. Additionally, we have developed key relationships in the community that have supported and sustained us over the years.
Q: What did you hope to get out of your Summit experience?
A: Attending the National Mentoring Summit is one of the best ways to ensure that, as the only staff member, I develop and grow to keep pace with the ever changing challenges that face our youth today. Listening to and being in an environment with other innovative mentoring programs allowed me to learn new information that can help strengthen and build the capacity of our program.
Attending the Summit allowed me to look further into the future and not get bogged down on the day to day routine. It directed me to other opportunities to explore and develop new community relationships and partnerships. For example, we launched a wonderful partnership with our police department through a grant they received from the Police Athletic League. We now have 24 police officers in one middle and one elementary school. They meet twice per month with 40 students.
Q: What was your favorite part of the Summit?
A: There were several areas of the Summit that were especially rewarding, particularly Capitol Hill Day and meeting with Congressman John Lewis! The fact that he took the time to talk with us and allowed us to share with him some of the legislative challenges facing mentoring programs across the county was inspiring. When we left his office after 45 minutes, we felt confident that he is now a greater advocate for mentoring and would support the bills presented to him.
Q: What learnings from the Summit have you brought back to your organization?
A: A major challenge of our organization is the need for district leadership to see Cobb Mentoring Matters as a viable and relevant resource that can have a tremendous impact on short and long term goals that the district has in place in its 5-year strategic plan. Given this challenge, there were a number of learnings and strategies I immediately brought back to the program. We have stepped up our efforts to work intentionally with our local business community and, as a result of the Philanthropic Partnership events Fellows were invited to attend, I began to approach funders and grant writing through a different lens.
Q: Why do you feel it is important to support and provide mentoring practitioners with professional development and peer networking opportunities?
A: Professional development is so critical to keep pace with the ongoing research and new findings that reflect what is happening in our communities and schools. In addition to allowing staff to recharge their batteries, these opportunities help keep the momentum moving forward and encourages us to take risks and explore other alternatives.
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