Mentoring in the News / Staff Spotlight

February 4, 2016

Happy February!  Last week, most of the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota (MPM) staff was traveling for the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, D.C.  As a result, we are giving you two blog posts instead of one!  #score!


Mentoring in the News

As you may have heard, January was National Mentoring Month (NMM). January is the month we (mentoring programs and partnerships) focus national attention on the need for mentors.  NMM celebrates mentoring by highlighting the positive effect it can have on youth’s lives.  This year, MENTOR launched the “Mentor in Real Life” campaign to talk about the real life benefits of mentoring–for mentors and mentees.  The messaging strategy was to position mentoring as a critical component in young people’s lives, helping them make the decisions that ultimately lead to improved opportunities, which has an impact in real life.

Here at MPM, we utilized our social media presence to share the word on “Mentor in Real Life”.  We utilized the hashtags (#MentorIRL, #NationalMentoringMonth) and saw a spike in interactions on various social media platforms.  On our Twitter account, we saw 3x as many profile visits and nearly 2x as many impressions compared to December.  We also accrued 2x as many new followers and had 1.5x as many mentions compared to other months.  (In fact, MPR News just started following us during NMM!!!)  On Facebook during the last week of NMM, we saw a 932% increase in post reach and a 44% increase in engagement!  Utilizing social media to reach a wide audience helped MPM share the great stories of mentoring happening in Minnesota.  Nationally, MENTOR received over 10,000 inquiries on the Mentoring Connector (the only national database of mentoring programs)–that’s nearly 2x the amount of inquiries they received last January!

Finding the whole social media business overwhelming or unsure of how to use it or what to even use? MPM will be launching a new collaborative training opportunity in March. Our first topic is all about social media. We’ll hear from mentoring programs successfully using social media in a variety of ways and work with programs that wish to implement these platforms in their programs. Stay tuned for more information next week!


Staff Spotlight

As we mentioned earlier, MPM recently returned from Washington, D.C. and the National Mentoring Summit, put on by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.  The Summit is designed to bring together individuals who represent the mentoring movement—this includes practitioners, researchers, mentoring partnership staff (part of MENTOR’s network of affiliates), corporate partners, and government and civic leaders.  The Summit featured more than 60 workshops and plenary sessions that focused on the theme of “Connection | Growth | Opportunity”.  Here are some of the ways we capitalized on this year’s theme:

Connection

One of the biggest highlights for MPM staff was the opportunity to meet with the offices of 9 of our 10 legislators from Minnesota as part of Capitol Hill Day.  As you may have heard, the D.C. area accumulated a lot of snow that kept federal offices from being open or running regular schedules.  The House declared a “snow week” prompting many legislators to stay home in their districts.  Fortunately, we were able to meet with members of their offices to share the great story of mentoring in Minnesota.  We talked to their staff about some important mentoring legislation, asked for their support, and shared information about mentoring programs in each district.  We were joined for a majority of our meetings with programs from across the state, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities, Duluth Area Family YMCA (Mentor Duluth and Rise & Reach), and Fond du Lac Reservation Native Youth 4-H Mentor Program.  Here are some photos from our Hill Day:

Growth

A common theme I noticed at the Summit was workshops and plenary sessions

plenary 2

Baltimore City Council Member, Brandon Scott, addressing the crowd

discussing racial equity and opportunity gaps within our communities.  Each session we heard sparked great conversations amongst our team and peers.

On Thursday, I participated in a fantastic workshop called “A Mentoring Initiative Poised to Address Equity in Education” presented by Pamila Gant (Mentoring Works Washington) and Cyndi Shepard (Western Washington University [WWU]-Compass 2 Campus [C2C]).  In the session, the presenters talked about the conversations happening in Washington State around racial equity in education and mentoring.   Pamila shared how racial equity has become a central component to the work she and their mentoring partnership are doing with their programs.  Cyndie, the founder of one of their programs, shared about her mission to develop access to higher education through mentoring for traditionally underrepresented, often marginalized, 5-12th graders in Washington.  She was inspired to start her mentoring program after meeting with a 10-yr old who didn’t see a future for himself other than to end up in prison, like his father.  Heartbroken by the hopelessness she saw in this boy, she made it her mission to engage college students as mentors to youth in their communities.  If youth saw another option for their future, their hope could potentially be restored.

In this workshop, Cyndie and Pamila led a simulation called “Opportunity Town” developed by Dr. John Korsmo at WWU meant to develop awareness and critical consciousness about privilege and opportunity.  The audience was divided into four groups representing a spectrum of classes—ranging from the Highlights (the top class) to the Oh No’s (the bottom of the bottom).  I was in the Oh No’s group for the simulation.  I can tell you, I’ve attended many culture competency/racial equity/diversity workshops and classes in my education and career.  I can honestly say: I have never been as fully submerged in the feelings and activities of this 6-7min simulation than I have been in any other training or exercise in my career.  Cyndie and Pamila successfully implemented a simulation that captivated the room and produced an honest conversation about racial equity amongst participants.  I had to check my privilege and what I thought I knew about racial equity and empathy to answer questions and speak openly about my experience.  I felt anger, hurt, fear, confusion…and hopelessness–something I had never truly and authentically felt before that workshop.  I didn’t understand the level of despair, the feeling of hopelessness, the sense of feeling the odds were stacked against me from the start without understanding why or if there was anything I could do to change my situation.

I texted my colleagues in and after the session to tell them about the workshop.  “We HAVE to figure out how we can implement this in our training for mentors and mentoring programs,” I said to them.  In just 75 minutes, my understanding of racial equity dramatically grew to help me see that I need to learn more.  I need to continue growing so that I can serve and live in an authentic way, to admit that I don’t have all the answers, and to know that that is okay.  Equity and equality are not the same thing.  It’s not enough to have an “equal playing field” if we all aren’t equipped with the tools to stand up and compete fairly.  Not having the right tools doesn’t equate to failure.  We can give everyone all the tools in the world to help them.  If we don’t acknowledge why one may not have the tools to begin with or may not have the ability or desire to have and use the tools or think about how we have the tools we have to begin with, we may not succeed.   Until we begin to think or understand these thoughts, we can’t fully commit to equitable work.

Opportunity

For Carolyn, Maria, Wendy, and I, this was our first time attending the Summit.  I

plenary

NBA Legend, Bob Lanier, and WNBA Champion, Tamika Catchings, share their experiences with mentoring

know I speak for all of us by saying how grateful we were to have had the opportunity to connect with our peers and grow through this unique professional development opportunity.  We all left the Summit feeling inspired to bring national themes and topics back to Minnesota!  As we continue to plan our trainings and conferences in the future, we’ll be mindful of how we can connect local voices and stories to national news stories and mentoring best practices to further enrich the work we all are doing.