Norwood Resource Group Rolls out Mentoring, STEM Education Opportunities with Technical Assistance from MENTOR Rhode Island


Norwood Resource Group (NRG) is an organization based out of Worcester, Massachusetts, that supports young mothers by providing mentoring and connecting them with STEM education opportunities, particularly focusing on computer science (CS) and information technology (IT). NRG’s founder, Shawna Curran, was herself a teen parent, whose career in IT helped her overcome the challenges of life as a young mother. Now, she aims to support other young mothers by providing them with professional guidance, support, and mentoring opportunities.

According to Curran, NRG grew out of her own experiences as a young mother. After experiencing firsthand the systemic challenges experienced by young parents, she knew she wanted to do more. “I was told that I could only get assistance paying for childcare if I went to a two-year college, instead of a four-year one,” she says. “And I figured it out, but I knew even then that sometime, in the future, I wanted to help young parents.”

NRGAfter achieving her degree and launching her own career, Shawna began working with other nonprofits. She knew, though, that she wanted to start her own. “About five years ago, I started thinking hard about how I wanted to help young moms.” So she began searching around for resources to help her do it.

In planning her nonprofit, Shawna knew that she needed to craft a theory of change. But she also knew that she didn’t have to do it alone. It was while searching for TA providers that she encountered the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC). She submitted a request for free no-cost TA through the NMRC.

The rest, as they say, is history. “Everything changed when I started working with MENTOR Rhode Island,” Shawna says. After receiving guidance from MENTOR RI in drafting her theory of change, Shawna submitted a request the following year for TA on mentor recruitment and management.

After drafting the theory of change, Shawna says, “I felt like this was actually something that could happen. So I applied for technical assistance again, to take it to the next step—to actually figure out how to make this work.” This most recent request, fulfilled by MENTOR RI’s Marc Mainville, brought NRG one step closer to opening its doors. “We worked on the programming, how we’re going to recruit mentors, mentees, how we’re going to measure success.”

“It was just great!” Shawna says. “Marc was so attentive, and so focused on helping me.” The TA, provided mostly offsite through teleconferences and emails, focused primarily on following Standards from the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™: Recruitment, Training, and Evaluation. Their work, Shawna says, helped realize the vision she had for NRG: “I knew I wanted to help young mothers, and now I not only know how, but also what my expected outcomes are and what change I should see.” As Marc Mainville puts it, “this request was about trying to “flesh it out” a bit, so operationally, Shawna could take those next steps.”

Shawna wants to roll out the NRG later this year or early next year. “I’m working now to lay that groundwork...I gave myself maybe six months, and then I’ll actually kick it off.” Marc and MENTOR RI were integral to achieving that timeline.

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 Norwood Resource Group here, and learn more about MENTOR RI here. Submit a request for no-cost technical assistance for your youth mentoring program here.

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