PRESS RELEASE - Emotional Mentee/Mentor Panel Strikes at the Heart of Mentoring
Beverly Bond of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Helps Bring the Room to Tears with a Session Dedicated to Hope
January 25, 2012
WASHINGTON D.C. – Beverly Bond, one of the world’s premier DJs and founder of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! , moderated a panel comprised of a diverse range of youth, along with their mentors, who shared stories of turning around their lives and achieving many great things in school and life as a result of the power of mentoring. The mentee/mentor panel took place on January 25, the second day of the second annual National Mentoring Summit, hosted by MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Office of Juvenile and Justice Prevention and United Way Worldwide.
Bond was introduced to the approximately 500 Summit participants by Joellen Gonder-Spacek, CEO of the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, an affiliate of MENTOR’s. Ms. Spacek began her introduction of this memorable panel by stating: “This session is to refill the heart - hearing from our young people - the reason we do what we do.” The audience contained national youth mentoring organizations, administration officials, civic leaders, corporate executives and the country’s foremost mentoring researchers.
Bond kicked off the panel by describing how she founded her mentoring program, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! a non-profit youth empowerment mentoring organization that inspires inner-city girls ages 12 to 17 through the arts. She stated: “I chose my assignment in life because of the constant media barrage that devalues women as whole beings. I was compelled to do something. Speaking out as an artist was not popular, but it was needed. I couldn’t act as if I didn’t see how it affects them and their resulting behaviors. Girls can be more than the media images they see. They can become productive members of society. Their physical selves is the icing, but not the cake.”
Bond then began a series of questions to the panelists – made up of mentees and their mentors. She started with Tianie (19) and asked her where she would be without the College Bound mentoring program where she was enrolled. Tianie started to cry as she was speaking about how, without her mentor, she probably would be pregnant or even dead. “Joy saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I just needed that extra push.”
Tianie’s mentor, Joy, has three jobs. When Bond asked how she had time to mentor she answered: “It’s about prioritizing. Tianie has become my family. You make time. You’re investing into the future. I’m not perfect, but I’m glad that one person has been inspired to make something of their life. I’m really proud.”
Another mentee, Jimmy (19), was born and raised in Montgomery County after his parents immigrated from South Vietnam. Because of a disruptive family situation, Jimmy was placed in a group home. “The YMCA Youth and Family Services mentoring program gives me motivation to work for something,” he noted. Jimmy’s mentor Fred, a long-time educator and school principal, has been with Jimmy for six years. He said, “When Jimmy was in the eighth grade, the perception was that he wouldn’t get his high school diploma. Jimmy ended up passing all classes and the state assessment. So it becomes very rewarding.”
Jonathan (14) was in a gang and got out. “I thought about how my mom and family would react if something happened to me. I saw an old friend yesterday in the street, and I wish they could help him out, too. But, (the old friends) don’t want to listen.” John Sanchez, director of Montgomery County Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, represented Jonathan’s mentor Ron, a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Sanchez revealed: Ron has always been there for Jonathon unconditionally. He encouraged his determination in life.” Then, John read a short and poignant note that Ron sent to the Summit from Afghanistan.
The youngest mentee on the panel, Chad (12), said his mom and dad are not together anymore so his mother thought it would be good for him to have a male role model in his life. His mentor, David, “helps me study, talk through problems … gives me helpful advice.”
David signed up with Concerned Black Men after hearing a radio public service announcement. “I work in public policy. The Concerned Black Men PSA just hit me: Don’t just want something to happen; BE that difference. It is Chad who has enhanced MY life. Chad had a 2.4 grade point average, and now he has a 4.0 GPA.” The pair then received a standing ovation.
DeVondre (22) was the final mentee to speak. He was shot in Richmond, California and was supposed to be paralyzed permanently. While in jail in a wheelchair, he learned to walk again, and he said he had a lot of time to think. He now works in a youth center. “I see myself, and I take those kids aside and say, ‘The road you are going down is not what you think it is. It is a lie. You can turn it around while you’re 14 and not wait until you’re 19.” DeVondre and his mentor Kevin were guests of Congressman George Miller (D, CA) at the State of the Union address on January 24. Kevin concluded the panel by speaking directly to the mentors in the room: “You never know the potential of a young person until you spend time with them in a healthy, meaningful relationship. Sometimes, it is like marble; you have to chisel away. After you finish chiseling, you see these young people are shining stars who just need an opportunity.” DeVondre and Kevin are part of the City of Richmond, California's Office of Neighborhood Safety Peacemaker Fellowship Program.
“I am speechless, and that never happens, “ concluded David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR. “I hope you all are inspired and proud. There is no stronger or more solid evidence than these young people that mentoring works and can change lives and a generation.”
The National Mentoring Summit was held Tuesday, January 24, and Wednesday, January 25, at The Fairmont in Washington, D.C. The Summit’s Presenting Sponsor was Viacom. Bank of America and BNY Mellon were Supporting Sponsors for the events. For more information, please contact Ellen Christman at (703)224-2255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.