Mentoring in the News: Children and Youth Issues Briefing

February 29, 2016

Mentoring in the News

On Thursday, February 18, three MPM staff attended the 2016 Children and Youth Issues Briefing hosted by the Start Early Funders Coalition.  The event brought together advocates, thought leaders and nonprofits from across that state to highlight the progress that has been made in the realms of early education, children and youth policy as well as legislative proposals being put forward during this year’s legislative session. The event strived to feature frank conversation about the need for racial equity to be a central tenant in education efforts.

There were several moments throughout the event where I found myself taking frantic notes…I wanted to capture and take with me the passion, the practical strategies, the challenging words, and the calls to action. There were other moments where I dropped my pen and was captivated and moved by the personal reflections and experiences of the presenters. Other instances brought frustration…at the acoustics in the room that prevented the presenters from being able to fully hear the critical thoughts and questions of audience members who spoke from mics around the room…at the overwhelming sense of how far we still have to go in this work.

I thought I’d share a few of those underlined and starred notes from my experience at the event that have particular relevance to our work in the mentoring field…they resonated with me and I hope that they do with you as well.

The event was framed by Lulete Mola, Policy & Community Engagement Manager/McKinley Fellow, Greater Twin Cities United Way, with a simple yet powerful reminder on the difference between equity and equality. She urged us to use an equity approach in how we make decisions, in our interactions with others and to keep this concept in mind throughout the discussions of the day. She presented this image that I hope to keep imprinted in my mind in my decisions and interactions:


Anthony Galloway, Student Program Lead from the West Metro Education Program moderated the panel discussion on “K-12 Education and Out of School Time: Through a Racial Equity Lens” and asked his panelists to reflect what they heard before offering their response, by saying “what I heard you say was… .” Again, a simple but often overlooked exercise that dramatically transforms our interactions with others. It acknowledges listening and ensures the message was conveyed correctly. That, in itself, is powerful. This was impactful modeling for me, something that I plan on carrying forward in my conversations.

One of the panelists in the aforementioned panel was Klever Ortiz-Sinchi, Social Studies Content Lead for Minneapolis Public Schools, who stated that we need students to help define what a good education should be…and felt that perspective could be more about relationships and less about using technology. He asserted the need to address the human needs of our students. Perhaps it’s my mentoring or social work background, but (internally) I was shouting, “YES!!!” My stars and underlines continued as he talked about how we need to give some people more opportunities because they have been taken away for a long time (a reminder that historical context matters)…and that equity is for all students, not just students at risk or students of color. Again, “YES!!!” In that same conversation, Dr. Matier, Executive Director of West Metro Education Program, stressed the need for stakeholders to understand what racial equity is, to change our perspective from deficits to strengths, and to see opportunities for system redesign where all communities participate. Another “YES!!!”

I greatly appreciated being a part of this event and conversation, and I hope to uphold these themes in my work and interactions.

I encourage you to check the Start Early  webpage for more information about the event (the PP slides, agenda and panelists).