MENTOR Washington brings Critical Perspective to Community for Youth

Community for Youth

Community for Youth (CfY), a Seattle-based mentoring organization, inspires and supports the social, emotional, and academic development of students through mentoring, learning experiences, and a powerful community. After learning about the innovative practices of Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan’s Critical Mentoring methodology, CfY’s director of programs, Stephen Song, and the CfY staff wanted to find a way to bring that knowledge to his program.  

To accomplish this goal, Song reached out to the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) and was connected with Pamila Gant of MENTOR Washington. Gant, a long-time NMRC technical assistance (TA) provider and no stranger to Critical Mentoring and critical perspective, immediately set out working to meet the program’s needs.

“About 60% of our mentors are mentors of color, but almost 100% of our students are youth of color,” Song says. “We wanted to help our mentors understand the lives their mentees are living, help our mentors to be allies.” Gant developed and used a training curriculum, “Mentoring in the 21st Century and in the context of Black Lives Matter,” to allow CfY’s mentors to critically evaluate their own mentoring practices and better understand their students. This training combined presentations, activities, and group work to teach mentors how best to serve their students with a critical perspective.

Gant also used this training when working with CfY’s student LeaderCorps. As Stephen Song describes it, “our LeaderCorps is made up of students who have been leaders in our program this year who have helped us guide, plan, and execute our program year.” Since CfY’s program model emphasizes youth voice and leadership, it was critical that the training reached the whole array of program participants, not just youth.

Community for YouthThis emphasis on youth voice also meant that the program’s youth participants had a role in the trainings for adult members. “We worked with the young people first to look at their thoughts about the world, and what they wanted from their mentors,” Gant says. This youth input was incorporated into the trainings that she prepared, and ultimately informed the learning of the program’s adults.

The overall outcome was improvement in program quality across the board. “Our mentors really felt connected,” Song says. “They got a “level-up,” in terms of knowing what our students are faced with.” As a result, CfY’s mentors are better equipped to understand their students, and to serve them.

As Song puts it, the NMRC TA provided by Pamila Gant “took our mentors on a journey of understanding our students and the complex environment in which they exist and what that means for their mentoring relationship.” Gant describes the learning as continuous – ““I think [our relationship with CFY] is an ongoing training,” because of its resonance. “A lot of the training resonated with mentors there.”

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) partners with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to deliver the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) to the mentoring field. In addition to convening a Research Board which develops evidence-based reviews about mentoring topics, and offering a comprehensive mentoring resource center website, the NMRC provides mentoring programs nationwide with the opportunity to request and receive no-cost technical assistance to help them more deeply incorporate evidence-based practices into their programming. Once a mentoring program requests technical assistance, their request is assigned to a local or regional technical assistance provider within MENTOR's network of state and local affiliates and TA providers. New and emerging mentoring programs may benefit from technical assistance to help them design and implement programs that meet quality standards as outlined in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, while existing or established programs may utilize TA to improve operations, assess impact, or adapt their program to changing or emerging community needs.

Learn more about Community for Youth here, and MENTOR Washington here. To find out more about the work of Dr. Weiston-Serdan, click here. Submit a request for no-cost technical assistance for your youth mentoring program here.

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