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.
“Dare to be right!” Nikkia Rowe, Principal of Renaissance Academy High School in Baltimore, Maryland, finished her remarks with these words to thunderous applause and forever changed how I would view my role as a mentoring advocate. In speaking about the inventive steps being taken at her school and challenging her listeners to take a chance on new ideas, Ms. Rowe was one of the many presenters during the 2017 National Mentoring Summit who spoke about relationships, collaboration, and innovation in mentoring.
Professionally, I work to serve youth in the Wisconsin child welfare system as the Teen Pals Program Coordinator and Out of Home Care Liaison for Brown County Health & Human Services in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Our agency provides mentors to children, teens, and parents who are involved with Wisconsin child welfare systems. My work throughout the past year involved implementing programming to help teens in foster care identify long-term connections with volunteer mentors. I quickly realized the benefits of mentoring as well as the intricacies and challenges to providing support and good services.
My experience at the Summit helped reinforce the importance of relationships. I was able to connect with my Fellows cohort and learn about amazing work being done across the country to serve young people through the power of mentoring. I participated in Capitol Hill Day and met with the House and Senate legislative offices from Wisconsin. It was a busy day, and I was thrilled to see the engagement and excitement from the representatives we met. Though these conversations varied in length and outcome, as a team of mentoring practitioners, we truly enjoyed speaking about our agencies and the importance of support for mentoring services in our state.
Relationships built at the Summit have helped in the development of important collaborations. In addition to connections with our representative offices on Capitol Hill, I was able to build a number of connections with service providers throughout the country. Each new conversation led to fruitful ideas and unique projects I had not previously considered.
Finally, the collaborations stemming from the Summit continue to allow for innovation in my work. I am currently collaborating with our Congressman’s office to develop initiatives in our area that can raise awareness for mentoring services and foster care. Additionally, I am looking into ways to create peer to peer mentoring services for foster youth by collaborating with evidence informed programs throughout the country. These innovative developments would not have been possible without the relationships and collaboration promoted at the Summit. The progress that I am seeing at my own agency proves the efficacy of the idea espoused so eloquently by Ms. Rowe. Why can’t we do things differently? Why not try something new? What may be possible if we focus not on our barriers but on ways to work through and around them? I am confident that continued support for relationships, collaboration, and innovation through mentoring can and will make this difference.
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