Mentoring Summit 2018: Fellows in the Spotlight

Julie Babyatzky, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
November 14th, 2017
Posted In: Events, National Mentoring Summit, Recognition

As the only national convening of youth mentoring practitioners, researchers, philanthropic partners and leaders, the National Mentoring Summit provides attendees with an opportunity to engage in skill building, peer learning, advocacy and networking. Every year since the Summit’s founding, MENTOR has received requests from mentoring practitioners who want to attend and learn to improve their program quality, deepen their impact and scale their efforts but who, given their organization’s limited budget, require financial assistance.

In response to these requests and with the generous founding support of AT&T, MENTOR launched the Summit Fellowship Program in 2016 to provide scholarships to nine leaders from mentoring programs with limited resources. As many in the mentoring field know, this type of work requires unyielding passion and a selfless commitment to others, but unfortunately, on far too many occasions due to financial constraints, does not provide access to professional development opportunities. That is why this year we are thrilled to be able to increase the Fellows cohort and offer 15 Fellowships to mentoring practitioners across the country! This is made possible by the generous Fellows sponsors: Presenting Sponsor AT&T, and Supporters: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Doug Chamberlain, Lori and John Grayson, and Angus Worthing and Margaret Taylor.

Summit Fellows are selected based on their leadership potential and experience, eagerness to build their professional skills and networks, demonstrated financial need, and personal commitment to helping young people succeed. The 2018 Fellows represent a diverse group of dedicated practitioners whose mentoring programs are committed to quality and continuously innovating to make a greater impact on young people in their communities. Read about them below, and, if you are attending the Summit in January, make sure to say hello!

2018 Summit Fellows

Crystal Church
Executive Director, Youth Services of Kittias County (@YouthServicesKC)
Ellensburg, Washington

Crystal is the Director of Youth Services of Kittitas County Mentor Program located in the small community where she was born and raised. Youth Services Mentoring Program envisions a community in which every youth experiences nurturing one-to-one relationships and community support, which in turn allows each of them to develop into their full potential, capable of making informed, responsible decisions as involved members of our community. Crystal brings passion that comes from her own magnificent adversity to the table, and feels it is her life’s work to ensure mentoring programs are sustained in the community. She craves constant learning and finds that running a mentor program fills her up. She has three children who have been her greatest teachers in life, and loves them with all her heart.

Lana Gifas
Executive Director, Women’s Mentoring Network, Inc.
Stamford, Connecticut
Lana joined Women’s Mentoring Network as Executive Director in January 2015. Prior to this appointment, she served as Board President for the organization. Women’s Mentoring Network empowers low-income women to find better employment and educational opportunities. Lana earned her MBA in Management from Fordham’s Graduate School – The Gabelli School of Business. She received a B.S. degree from Fordham University’s undergraduate School of Business in International Finance, International Marketing and French. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of the Women’s Mentoring Network, Lana worked at various investment banking institutions and was an accomplished corporate loan portfolio manager and manager of corporate loan closings. Lana’s prior volunteer experience includes serving on the Steering Committee of the women’s group at an investment bank. Lana is also an active volunteer for The Westchester Children’s Museum, mainly focusing on the fundraising efforts for the Museum.

Danella Hicks
Executive Director, All THAT – Teens Hopeful About Tomorrow
Columbus, Ohio
Danella, Founder & Executive Director of All THAT, was born in Chicago, IL and spent most of her childhood in Gary, IN. She experienced first-hand the type of hardship shared by many youth today. Recalling the impact of mentors in her own life who helped her overcome difficult times, she implemented a program that fosters the same kind of support she received. She started All THAT in 2009 with the goal of helping high-school teens graduate and develop the life and social skills needed to succeed. As a result of her passion and hard work on behalf of Ohio’s youth, she received the 2009 Pinwheels for Prevention Award from Franklin County Children’s Services. Danella received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from DePaul University in 1990 and has served as the full-time Executive Director of All THAT since August 2014.

Monette Leyva 
Program Coordinator, Girls Rising
San Diego, California
Monette graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in psychology. Since then she has served underserved communities primarily through her work with Girls Rising, which offers mentoring services to girls who want and need a mentor. She also volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego and has been matched with her Little Sister for over seven years. She is also a graduate student, currently enrolled in the Master of Social Work Program at San Diego State University. Long-term, she aims to make contributions to the mentoring field as a researcher or mentoring professional with hopes that every young person grows up with a caring and consistent adult in his or her corner.

Michael Marion
Executive Director, Rise Up for Kids
Johnson City, Tennessee
Michael was raised in “Snake Holler” during the sixties – a product of one room schools, moonshiners, and outdoor plumbing. Because of the courage of an outside northern lady, he became the first college graduate from the Holler. Through her he learned to dream big, trust God, and read a lot. After graduating, he thought he would be a missionary but then met his girlfriend of 35 years. After spending 10 years in group homes with over 100 teenage boys, they started a small group/mentoring program called Boys to Men, based upon sports, education, mentoring, and the church. In 2010, it became Rise Up for Kids. Michael believes every kid should have their own champion, cheerleader, and coach. Because of that, over 1,000 youth and their families know him fondly as “Coach Marion.” In the midst of all the recruiting, fundraising, and coaching, his favorite joy is hanging out with his grandson and sidekick Isaac.

Jacquelyn Martin
Founder & Executive Director, Just Us Girls, Inc.
East Point, Georgia
Jackie is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with over 40 years in the medical field, including 18 years as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Eight of her years as a nurse practitioner were spent in the practice of pediatrics. Jackie graduated from what was then the North Carolina Baptist Hospital School of Nursing and later received her Master’s Degree from Georgia State University. In her pediatrics practice Jackie saw a need for programs for at-risk children which would address the obstacles they face and help them broaden the possibilities in their lives. Out of this need came the vision for the Just Us Girls Mentoring Program, which started as a yearly workshop in 2003 and became an ongoing 501(c)3 in 2008 with Jackie as its Founder and Executive Director. Jackie is the mother of 3 grown sons and has been married for 38 years.

Buta Muzuri
Client Advancement Resource Advocate, Catholic Charities of Idaho (@CCIdaho)
Boise, ID
Buta has been employed as a Client Advancement Resources Advocates at Catholic Charities of Idaho since January, 2017. In this capacity, he primarily advocates on behalf of individuals from various refugee populations, facilitates parenting classes in English, French and Swahili, recruits and provides orientation for mentors and mentees, seeks partnerships to identify youth, and works as a community liaison while connecting Catholic Charities of Idaho with local resources, government and private entities. Buta was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and moved to the United States in 1996 as a refugee. He has a Master’s Degree in Social Work, Management, Administration and Community Development from Northwest Nazarene University and is fluent in five languages: English, French, Swahili, Lingala and Ebembe. He is married and the father of five children. In his free time, he likes to read world news magazines and attend church with his family.

Marvin Pierre
Program Director, 8 Million Stories
Houston, Texas
Marvin is a native New Yorker from South Jamaica, Queens. He was recently selected to be a Bridge Fellow with The New Teacher Project (TNTP). Marvin will focus his fellowship on developing 8 Million Stories, an alternative education program that seeks to upend the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting previously incarcerated boys of color as they re-enter school and curbing unnecessary referrals from schools to the justice system in Houston. Before this, he served as the Assistant Principal at KIPP Polaris Academy for Boys in Houston. Marvin holds a B.A. in Economics from Trinity College and a Master’s in Education Administration and Supervision from the University of Houston. Before joining KIPP Polaris, he served as the Dean of Students at Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, an Assistant Dean of Students at Summit Academy Charter School, and as Director of Student Life at Achievement First Endeavor Middle School in Brooklyn.

Dawn Price
Executive Director, The Sophia Project, Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri
Dawn is the founder of The Sophia Project, Inc., a mentoring program for at-risk young women. The program’s focus includes creative venues to engage, educate and transform young women through workshops and leadership retreats. Dawn’s education, imagination and personal experiences combine for a compelling curriculum that empowers students to manage contemporary concerns. As program manager for the Regional Council of Churches of Atlanta, Dawn conceived and managed Temple Testimonies, a program used to empower teenage girls to embrace healthy lifestyles. As a social justice intern for the RCC of Atlanta, Dawn connected outreach agencies with faith communities, facilitated clergy management of social issues and coordinated citywide faith based events on social justice issues. As liaison to the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago, she organized a summit that convened more than 400 community partners to address community concerns. Dawn’s studies include graduate work at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta and a Bachelor’s in Mass Media Communications from Wilberforce University.

Wanda Rogers
Executive Director, Uinta County Business Leadership Network & MentorABILITY 

Evanston, Wyoming
As Executive Director of the Uinta County Business Leadership Network (UCBLN), Wanda oversees the strategic direction of the organization and provides guidance on a state and local level. Under her direction, the UCBLN was recognized as the United States Business Leadership Network 2015 Affiliate of the Year. She was instrumental in establishing the state-wide youth initiative, MentorABILITY, through which youth with disabilities spend time with employers, shadow jobs, explore a variety of careers and hold summer internships. Wanda has worked in the field of disability and diversity for more than 25 years as a result of having a child with Down syndrome. She has devoted herself to advocating for people with disabilities, providing them education and skills to move forward, and serving on local and statewide boards. Wanda is not only dedicated to the UCBLN, but also her family and community. She resides in Evanston, WY with her husband and enjoys Wyoming outdoor adventures.

Jowharah Sanders
Executive Director, National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment 

Miami, Florida
Jowharah has dedicated the past decade of her life to mentoring children and families impacted by bullying and suicide. As a bullying survivor herself, Jowhara’s vision and drive launched the first of its kind community organization aimed at preventing bullying, suicide and school violence through direct service mentoring and prevention education: National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE). The organization, now in it’s 7th year of operation has supported nearly 20,000 teens and families throughout the United States, has been recognized by Congress, and has been featured on segments through national media outlets. As the Executive Director of NVEEE, Jowharah has successfully developed a research-based school-wide bullying prevention program called “Be Upstanding™”, whose innovative model of change has student bystanders take a direct role in reducing bullying at their schools. Jowharah is a fierce advocate for today’s youth, coaching them on the importance of confronting hard realities, locating their voice, having difficult conversations, and taking control of their lives.

Dawn Shannon
 Program Coordinator, C.H.O.I.C.E. Inc (Children Have Options in Choosing Experiences) (@ChoiceIncLou)
Louisville, Kentucky
Dawn is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and a DuPont Manual High School graduate. She is an emerging highly motivated, enthusiastic, persistent, empathic, and goal-oriented leader. With her passion to understand and help her communities, she matriculated at Huston-Tilloston University, Austin, Texas, and received her B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Pre-Law in 2009. She received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Cincinnati in 2011. In an effort to live out her passion she reconnected with the agency C.H.O.I.C.E., who gave her a foundation in the social service industry with internship opportunities. Dawn is currently the Program Coordinator for C.H.O.I.C.E and a doctoral candidate for the Advancement of Learning and Service at Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI. Dawn is presently working on research involving cross age peer mentoring program effectiveness on mentors’ development and their concepts of the future.

Donna Shines
Executive Director & CEO, The Mentoring Network, Inc.
Nampa, Idaho
Donna is the Executive Director & CEO of the Mentoring Network, Inc., which provides school-based, direct-to-youth mentoring that improves life outcomes for vulnerable and disengaged children by developing resilience skills, supporting the development of personal strengths, and increasing self-sufficiency. Donna grew up in a small town in Idaho, encouraged to play, be inclusive, take risks, focus on strength, seek out wise people to learn from, and give back to her community. She is a community member, a learner, a teacher, a listener, a friend, and mentor, but most of all a human BEing. She believes nothing great happens without healthy relationships built on trust and knows that communities are great when everyone is a valued community member and when communities and businesses value real ‘face time.’ She knows that we have collective enough-ness to build communities that are safe, healthy, and humane for all members. Donna’s life is dedicated to connecting people by asking “Who else cares about this?”

Jace Smith
Y Achievers Director, McGaw YMCA (@McGawYMCA)
Evanston, Illinois
Jace is an emerging leader from Chicago, IL. His youth development career began at the very young age of 16 when he started volunteering for a local Y on Chicago’s south side. Jace has served in various leadership capacities through his tenure with the YMCA as a health and wellness professional, sports enthusiast, director of operations, philanthropist and mentor. Jace is a passionate leader who is committed to the development of others and is currently serving as the Program Manager for the national Y Achievers program. It aims to help students master high school, gain acceptance into college, and support them through their college experience. When he is not serving youth, Jace is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer who is currently working on his latest project “The 7th Day”. Jace is an avid reader, a distance runner, and a part-time Chef.

Mike Weddle
Program Coordinator, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (@AASK)
Phoenix, Arizona
Mike is the Program Coordinator in the mentoring department for Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) for 10 years. AASK recruits, trains, certifies, and supports volunteers in the community who mentor youth and young adults in or aged out of the state’s foster care system. Volunteers with the AASK mentoring program are matched with children and youth from two age groups (8-15 and 16-21), based on their personal interests and mentoring skills. Originally from Canton, OH Mike and his family moved to Phoenix, AZ in 1963. He and his wife have three children and two grandchildren.


One Comment

  • Peggy Miller-Parrett says:

    I am a member of the Ellensburg community. Shortly after moving here 3 years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Crystal Church. The mentorship program has made a wonderful impact upon my grandson who lives with me full time. He has been blessed with a mentor for the past 2 and a half years. Crystal and her team go above and beyond for our children. All that know her simply love her. Great job Crystal.

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