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Making Positive Life Changes at Friends of Guest House

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Friends of Guest House is a safe place in Northern Virginia for women to successfully re-enter the community after incarceration. While residing at Friends of Guest House the women have the opportunity to secure employment, obtain mental health and medical services, build community connections, and attain stable housing.

Each day we strive to challenge our clients to make positive life changes while also challenging the local community to disregard the stigma of ex-offenders. One of our former residents expressed her goals and the challenges of the preconceived opinion society has of her through a poem:

What do you see when you look at me?
Do you see a project to help you learn something?
or at first do you see a person going through things?
Do you imagine yourself to be better than me?

Oh enlighten me on what you see.
Do you see all the potential that I am trying to unleash?
Or maybe you just see the number that was given to me.

Oh ma’am, oh sir, tell me that you see a better life for me.

Well let me discuss what I see.
I see getting it by any and all means,
a growth that the eye cannot see.
Look into the future and that?s all I need
and maybe then you will be asking me
What do you see?

Our program has demonstrated that re-entry support is essential to breaking the cycle of crime and repeated incarceration. Without support, when returning to the community 70% of ex-offenders re-offend within two years. These numbers change drastically for Friends of Guest House graduates: fewer than 10% re-offend. With this in mind, our program offers three levels of support: Residential, Aftercare, and Outreach.

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Residential Program:

  • 90-day program allowing clients to reside in one of our two residential facilities.
  • Food, utilities, and personal needs paid for and met by the program.
  • Residents work with case managers towards achieving their goals each and every day.

Aftercare Program:

  • Focuses on providing case management services while clients are adjusting to complete independence in the community.
  • Connects clients to additional local agencies for resources and support.

Outreach Program:

  • Provides community based case management services.
  • Clientele: women that were unable to participate in the residential program for any reason, including a history of violent crime, unable to leave family, lack of bed availability.
  • Opportunity to work with a case manager that works specifically with families to ensure that the mothers are given the support to succeed personally while still providing and caring for their family.

Our Executive Director, Kari Galloway, works tirelessly to ensure that the organization offers full support to the women we serve. She recently reached her 12-year anniversary with Friends of Guest House. Without her, the program would not be as strong and successful as it currently is. She inspires the staff to work hard and, more importantly, she inspires the women to succeed. Not only does she provide the encouragement and support to each client but she holds them accountable for their actions and offers the constructive criticism they need.

One of the biggest challenges for our clients is securing safe and affordable housing in the DMV. In order to afford the housing opportunities in the local area, our clients need to be able to find job opportunities that offer advancement and growth. Currently clients typically secure minimum wage positions and struggle to afford the local cost of living. Unfortunately, these women will typically decide to return home to unhealthy environments that challenge their sobriety and success.
We hope to address both the need for affordable housing and career oriented jobs through our most recent initiatives. The Workforce Development Program is a six-week program that allows clients to develop their resume, learn interviewing techniques, and obtain an internship and eventually a career. We are also piloting a subsidized transitional house for Aftercare and Outreach clients scheduled to open later this month.

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Come see our beautiful clients in action on April 4th at Sara Campbell’s Boutique 320 Prince Street – in Old Town, Alexandria from 6-8pm for a Friends of Guest House fashion show featuring current clients! It’ll be a fun evening to learn more about partnering with our organization while pampering our clients and giving them some time in the spotlight!

Friends of Guest House always welcomes volunteers, donations, and questions. Please visit us at www.friendsofguesthouse.org for contact information!

A Safe, Nurturing Place for Girls

The Washington School for Girls – By Kelley Lockard

Kelley Lockard and WSG Students (Class of 2016)

Before 1997, there were few quality educational options or services for girls in Southeast DC. And there was no place where a girl on the verge of womanhood could find mentorship or learn in a safe environment that values her as an individual. That is why the Washington School for Girls (WSG) was founded: to provide a safe, nurturing place for girls to not only learn and grow, but to thrive.

Of course, a lot has changed since the school was founded 20 years ago. More people have started to take an interest in Southeast neighborhoods. There are more resources, more options for education. The community itself is changing. However, through all of these changes there continues to be a strong need for a school that works for and with the community. That’s why WSG is so important, and why our students succeed: we educate the whole child.

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We pride ourselves on providing a holistic model of education, one that accepts not just students, but also families. A student’s experiences at home are just as important as her experience in the classroom. We work with parents to engage them in the educational process and help them access the resources they need to support their daughters as learners.

As an administrator and former teacher, I feel I am most attuned to a student’s needs when I have developed a close relationship with her family. I know that if I can build a long-term, reciprocal relationship with a family then I can truly help a child reach her full potential. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing a girl come into her own after entering the school with nearly every aspect of her life in disarray. That kind of transformation does not happen overnight, and it’s impossible without the support of the family.

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Luckily for me, I’ve witnessed that transformation innumerable times in my years at WSG. It’s what motivates me to do the work that I do. My desk is full of photos of the young women I have helped to transform, and every day I am fortified by their smiles and the knowledge of their achievement. I look at them and know that they will make a positive difference in their communities.

WSG was built on the beliefs and values of extraordinary, courageous women. As we enter Women’s History Month and approach the 20th Anniversary of the school this spring, I am increasingly reflecting on that fact. In the classroom, our students are learning about women who have changed the course of history, but they are also learning leadership skills, whether it’s helping their teachers hand out assignments, leading an after-school club, or mentoring younger students.

I recognize the ability to lead and the determination to do so in many of our students. It is something I have worked hard to incorporate into the curriculum at WSG because I believe that leadership builds confidence and allows students to become more actively engaged in the classroom. Seeing the lightbulb come on over a student’s head is the best feeling the world, and it only happens when that student knows she is capable of more.

My hope for the future is that our students take the lessons they learn at WSG, both in and out of the classroom, to heart. There are many challenges ahead for our country and the world, especially in terms of equality and justice. The most daunting task in my job as an administrator is to ensure that our students are prepared to face those challenges, to navigate a world that does not always value them. I know that they will not be able to do it alone, but I hope that we can give them the knowledge, skills, and courage to overcome adversity.

Posted on my door is a daily affirmation known as the Serenity Prayer. It’s a very popular prayer and my mother’s favorite prayer, but I never appreciated it until I became a teacher. I look at it every day, sometimes several times (depending on the day), because it reminds me to be myself and accept the things I cannot change. Superwoman is not at all a part of my name, but I find strength in accepting that fact and courage to try anyway. If my students walk away from WSG accepting of who they are and still ready to change the world, then I know I will have succeeded.

When Women Have a Chance in Tech

By Elizabeth Lindsey, Executive Director of Byte Back

women in techWomen make up only 25 percent of the computing workforce in the United States. For women of color, this drops drastically, with just 3 percent of the workforce made up of African American women and 1 percent Latina women.

March is Women’s History Month: a time to celebrate progress, recognize deficits, and act for equality. Now is the perfect time to give a woman her start in tech.

In Byte Back’s 20 years, our demographics have never reflected the outside tech world. That’s kind of the point. In 2016, 417 women, or 61 percent of Byte Back’s student body, found empowering tech skills for free at Byte Back.

Byte Back offers a pathway of practical tech training and career services for DC-area residents, leading to professional careers and economic opportunity.
When women are offered the chance to learn and use technology the same as men, women access vital life opportunities, including high-paying jobs, healthcare, sexual and gender violence services, family care, and more.

Underserved, marginalized women who have never thought a career in tech was possible find it at Byte Back:

  • Betty faced years of unemployment and age discrimination. When she got computer training and earned a Microsoft specialist certification, she found a high-paying administrative job at the District of Columbia Superior Courts.
  • Jewel was a teen mother, surviving on government assistance and a job at a supermarket. She earned a certification and found her path as a tech administrator.
  • Lark struggled as a single teen mother and a runaway youth, and felt lost in her career and in life. She found direction and a career thanks to the education and care she received at Byte Back.
  • Olivia had unsteady jobs as a security guard and hairdresser and was homeless, sleeping in her car. Since she earned her CompTIA A+ certification, she has not only found a job but a stable career that allows her to have her own apartment and not just survive but thrive.
  • Lashaun, a current A+ student, works all night and shows up to her class in the morning. She is on her way to becoming certified and landing a job that doesn’t require night shifts.
  • Fatoumata was a recent immigrant from Senegal and a new mother. She got computer training and a certification to start her career and now confidently supports her son as a single mother.

Society told these women a career in tech wasn’t an option. But once they entered Byte Back’s doors, they found confidence and people who believed in their success.
These amazing women are not only changing the face of tech or changing statistics, they are part of a bigger change that’s needed. With technology, women can connect to the world and build connections to employers, friends, and family. With technology, women can move into jobs to support their families – tech jobs, white collar jobs, medical jobs. With technology, women can help their families teach their children, communicate with teachers, open up a world of knowledge.

Aleta computer 2 cropIt doesn’t have to be expensive, or complicated. So much can be solved by teaching women how to use technology. With a small investment in women’s lives, we can have a huge impact on social change.

Today, we urge you to find a way to support women, whether it’s as a mentor, a volunteer, or a supporter of a community organization. Byte Back is opening opportunities for women to cross the digital divide and to advance in IT careers. Groups like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Lesbians Who Tech are making sure that women are not alone in tech online and in real life.
If we all work together, we can make sure women have the power to use technology to change lives. Please help us continue to bridge digital gaps and gender gaps in tech – email me today at elindsey@byteback.org to become a mentor or hire a Byte Back graduate.
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Byte Back improves economic opportunity by providing computer training and career preparation to underserved Washington, DC metro area residents.
Through free computer and advanced IT certification classes, Byte Back helps graduates gain invaluable skills, experience higher rates of self-confidence, and launch successful new careers. Byte Back’s programs have provided a pathway to technology skill development and fulfilling living-wage careers for thousands of individuals who have struggled with underemployment, unemployment, and poverty.

 

Walk into the world a new woman with OMID Foundation

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OMID took me in during the hardest times of my life. The loving care that I received alongside the skills I learned made me want to give something back after finishing the program, when I was ready to walk into the world a new woman.

OMID mends the pieces of broken lives by restoring and empowering marginalized young women in Iran.

Empowering Young Women in Need

OMID Foundation helps disadvantaged young women, who have been discarded and undervalued by society, to transform their lives and work toward a better future for themselves and other women in Iran.

Since 2004 we have worked with women between the ages of 15 and 25 who are survivors of abuse, trauma, neglect and persecution. Our aim is to support and provide tools to these vulnerable young women in their journey toward self-empowerment social, economic and emotional.

This is one of those organizations where the support you give really has an impact on changing lives.

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Caring for the Whole Person

The complex mental and emotional strains on the women in our care can only be addressed by looking at all of their needs.

So to start, we create a warm, secure and nonjudgmental environment in which they begin often for the first time in their lives to feel valued, have their lives affirmed, and be treated with respect, kindness and dignity.

OMID believed in me and became my family. I felt safe for the first time in my life. People who grow up in the safety of a caring family cannot understand that safety is a privilege. Everything is possible now.

OMID Classroom scene

Our holistic program offers:

  • psychological and personal development through trauma-informed workshops and interventions
  • social and recreational activities to facilitate social integration and readjustment
  • structured education and vocational training

Through this integrated approach, we help the women find resilience, self-efficacy and a sense of future. Employing the best teachers and social workers, our three-year program opens up a full range of life options for these young women, encouraging independent thinking and a view of the world from different perspectives.

All interventions are gender sensitive, rights-based and family- and community-centered, a crucial framework for helping them heal from and process their traumatic experiences, while equipping them with skills for a successful future.

Empowerment workshops foster their understanding of the role of individual and human rights, the law and gender identity in society, while the education program strengthens their computer, language and critical-thinking skills. Over 200 young women at any one time take part in these programs.

At the end of three years, the women choose whether to continue their education at the university level or to pursue one of the vocational training options offered at OMID. Those who complete their vocational training are placed in well-paying jobs or start their own businesses under OMID’s guidance.

In addition to furthering their studies or training, some graduates help deepen OMID’s impact to include marginalized young women not currently under our care. Trained as peer educators, these leaders ably run our extensive outreach program and deliver our message of self-empowerment to the wider community.

 

Goosebumps with Girls on the Run – DC

by Kristen Komlosy – Executive Director, Girls on the Run DC

Moten Elem Team pic Fall 2016 5K

When a volunteer coach shares with us, “Girls on the Run allows me to provide a positive space in the school community to help girls to learn and love physical activity and themselves” I get goosebumps and blink twice about how grateful I am to work for an incredible organization.

We have 1,600 amazing volunteers (per year) and that inspires me!

Everyday, I wake up in awe of how many people want to give back to our girls across all eight wards of DC! They are the lifeline of the organization. They have a real passion to empower young girls to become confident women, and our whole team is very grateful for them.

We’re looking forward to continuing the expansion of our circles in the DC community! We have a goal to serve 22,000 girls by 2020 so they all know their limitless potential. On June 4th, we will move our end of season 5K to a more visible venue for our community at Freedom Plaza (14th St and Pennsylvania Ave NW). We want the DC community to join us as we run for our girls – running or walking through the heart of the city. Everyone can support the future of Girl Power by running alongside girls from every corner of DC.

10 years ago we started by serving 13 girls in one school and today we are serving over 2,000 girls a year. 13,000 amazing, strong, and brave young girls have completed this life-changing program. We have watched girls complete the program from every corner of Washington, DC. We have seen thousands of girls cross the 5K finish line, a finish line that does not discriminate by skin color, background, or religion. Girls on the Run brings people together from all walks of life, and that in and of itself is a powerful lesson.

Washington, DC is well known as a center of political power and influence. But this context masks a troubling reality: DC’s children and youth face disproportionately high rates of at-risk conditions, with child poverty, childhood obesity and teen pregnancy that are at or near the highest in the nation. Body image issues among girls escalates quickly in elementary school and by middle school, 70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body, and body satisfaction hits rock bottom between the ages of 12 and 15.

We know that girls who have a strong sense of self-worth, confidence and personal agency and who have been exposed to consistent, positive messages about the benefits of avoiding risky behaviors are shown to make better decisions throughout adolescence than their peers who lack these attributes.

Girls on the Run can make a big difference in a girl’s life. It is a place where pivotal “aha” moments of change can happen. We are ensuring that the next generation of girls in DC will know their limitless potential. Families, relationships, communities, governments all will be strengthened by the confident women that these girls will grow up to become!

To Volunteer or learn more about Girls on the Run DC contact: (202) 607-2288 or email INFO@GOTRDC.ORG

Suited for Change: Celebrating Women’s Success

By Suellen Lazarus, Acting Co-Executive Director of Suited for Change

Suited 4At Suited for Change, we know that a well dressed woman is a powerful woman. We serve women who have overcome tremendous obstacles on their way to self sufficiency and are ready to re-enter the workforce. Suited for Change addresses barriers unaccounted for by other workforce programs. We provide professional attire, personalized style mentoring and job-readiness skills to women seeking financial independence. Along with professional clothing, the women who come to Suited for Change gain a renewed sense of power and confidence. Our clothing and mentoring sessions help women enter job interviews with the capacity to succeed.

The women who come to the Suited for Change boutique each day are an inspiration. They arrive at the boutique nervous, often with little confidence, and without appropriate work clothing. Some have been victims of domestic violence. Others have been incarcerated. They are single parents with young children. But all of our clients have been through job training programs and are ready for their first interview. With the help of our volunteer stylists, they are transformed to professional women ready for the workforce. To see this transformation and hear their stories, to know the path that they have traveled, that is an inspiration.

Suited 3A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of helping “suit” a group of women who were completing the culinary training program at DC Central Kitchen. They were about to graduate from the program and came to Suited for Change for interview clothing. I was lucky to attend their graduation breakfast and hear their stories and their extraordinary journeys. One of the women who had been through the suiting program had never held a job. She was a single parent and shy. She emerged from the boutique beautifully dressed in a black suit with a white silk blouse and pearls. At the graduation, I was delighted to learn that she had been hired at the Ritz Carlton as a pastry chef. This is just one story of many each day.

We celebrate everyday by giving women the opportunity to tell their stories, to make sure that others hear them and gain strength from them. Our goal is to share their stories so others can have optimism, hope and success.

For women preparing for interviews, and those returning after having secured a job, we would love to have greater accessibility to our programs. Many of our clients are single parents juggling beginning a new career, some find visiting our boutique during regular hours a significant barrier. We are located in an office building downtown. This has its advantages in accessibility for some but for others it can be challenging to get to. To provide our clients with additional appointment times and increase capacity, Suited for Change has begun offering weekend suiting hours and we hope to also add evening hours in 2017.

Suited for Change welcomes donations of gently used, current, pressed, clean, interview-ready clothing and accessories. Their boutique is located at 1010 Vermont Ave. NW Suite 450 Washington, DC 20005 Phone (202) 293-0351.

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Celebrate Black History Month with CASA Prince George’s County

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“Make Justice a Reality for all Children,”… Including Foster Children

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said at his “March on Washington” on Aug. 28, 1963, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” If he were alive today, he may have even rallied support for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA’s) who stand up for boys and girls. CASA’s are volunteers sworn-in by a judge to investigate a foster child’s needs and challenges – from academics to emotional well-being – and then report back their findings and recommendations.

At CASA/Prince George’s County, we celebrate Black History Month and thank Dr. King, and other veterans of the civil rights movement, for marching our nation forward towards a more just reality. In their spirit, we recruit, train and supervise CASA’s in Prince George’s County.

PG County is the wealthiest, predominately African-American county, in the nation. Unfortunately, many parts of the county and its residents suffer from high crime, high poverty rates, and a troubled school system.

Consider this: More than half of foster children nationwide drop out of high school, increasing the chances that they will slip into poverty, homelessness and possibly even jail. Today, foster children often begin their lives impoverished, are abused and neglected, abandoned and even traumatized. None of this is the fault of the children, they were simply born to parents unable to care for them.

Upwards of 70 percent of foster children who have been assigned to one of our CASA’s graduate, increasing the chances that they will enjoy a full and productive life.

We opened our doors in 2001 and, like other CASA’s nationwide, have made a real difference in the community we serve. We now have about 150 CASA’s in a county with more than 400 foster children. Our goal is to have one CASA for each child in foster care.

Studies show that foster children with CASA’s are more likely to thrive. With the help of a CASA, a foster child is more apt to graduate from high school, escape poverty and live a longer life.

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Celebrate Black History Month by?becoming a CASA, or learning more about CASA’s, please call: (301) 209-0491 or email volunteer@pgcasa.org.

Also, see: www.pgcasa.org

2nd Celebration of Catalogue Reviewers & Charities

On Tuesday, June 17th the Catalogue celebrated our 2014 reviewers and newest class of charities at a reception in the Clarendon Ballroom. With a warm welcome to all from Catalogue Board Treasurer, Tom Raffa — who makes the financial review possible year after year — this event recognized the incredible dedication of our 120+ person review team and welcomed the charities they selected for the upcoming 2014/15 Catalogue, 26 of whom are brand new to the Catalogue network.

In a special presentation, President & Editor Barbara Harman honored several long-standing reviewers who have given over a decade of service to the Catalogue — including Oramenta Newsome (LISC DC), who has participated in all 12 years of the Catalogue’s review since our inception in 2003! Reviewers Bob Wittig (Jovid Foundation), Julia Baer Cooper (Lois & Richard England Family Foundation) and Silvana Straw (Community Foundation for the National Capital Region) were recognized for 11 years of service, and Suzanne Martin (formerly of the Fowler Foundation) received the “above and beyond” award in recognition of the quality & quantity of her thoughtful reviews over the past six years. The Catalogue is made possible by our program and financial reviewers and we were so pleased to have so many join us and meet the Class of 2014/15!

A huge thanks to our host and long time friend Sandra Hoehne at the Clarendon Ballroom, our nonprofit representatives, our reviewers, the Catalogue Board and special friends of the Catalogue from the Meyer Foundation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Cohen Foundation and the Otto Whalley Foundation. Thanks to everyone in attendance for making this our best celebration yet, and stay tuned for updates as our production process leads us to the release of the Catalogue on November 1st!

President Barbara Harman presents awards to Bob Wittig, Silvana Straw, and Julia Baer Cooper for 11 years of Service

 

President Barbara Harman with 12-year reviewer Oramenta Newsome

Thinking Beyond Barbie: Empowering Girls in Greater Washington

Michelle Obama.

Sheryl Sandberg.

Oprah Winfrey.

Mrs. Potato Head?

This unlikely combination of women has more in common than meets the eye: Each plays a role (whether consciously or not) in inspiring confidence in young girls to pursue their career ambitions, no matter how big. There are dozens of other female leaders who do so much each day to empower young women, yet according to a recent study, one pop culture icon is not likely to make the cut: Barbie.

A recent study coming out of Oregon State University suggests that little girls playing with Barbie “believe there are more careers for boys than for themselves” — a contrast from girls playing with Mrs. Potato Head, who see an equal range of career opportunities for girls and boys.

Of course, more research on this topic is needed in order fully to understand the impact of dolls on girls’ aspirations, but one key takeaway is that we must inspire confidence in girls so they don’t hesitate to think “big” and think beyond the stereotypes that hold them back. We can do this not only through the toys we buy for our children, but also through the stories we tell, and the activities in which we participate.

For several Catalogue for Philanthropy charities, such as Girls on the Run (DC and Montgomery County) and The Washington School for Girls, inspiring confidence in girls is a central part of their mission. Find out below how you can show your support, and stay tuned to the Catalogue for Philanthropy blog this month as we celebrate Women’s History Month by highlighting other important women’s issues that are a key focus for some of our charities.

Girls on the Run

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is proud to have two local Girls on the Run Councils in our network of charities. Using the sport of running as basis for inspiration and motivation, GOTR program participants meet twice per week in small teams where they learn life skills while celebrating the joy of movement. At each season’s conclusion, participants complete a 5k running event, giving them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.

Girls on the Run — DC: GOTR-DC has a variety of volunteer opportunities available, from one-time volunteer opportunities to coaching for a 10-week season. GOTR-DC is currently looking for volunteers for the GW Classic 10 Miler on April 13th, and is also taking names for those interested in coaching for the Fall 2014 season.

Interested in supporting with a donation? For $185, you can cover a full scholarship for 1 runner; $750: running shoes for an entire team; $3,000: a full scholarship for a full team next season (great idea for a corporate fundraiser!)

Girls on the Run of Montgomery County is also looking for coaches and one-time volunteers. Check out the volunteer page for more detail on specific needs.

Interested in supporting with a donation? $100 will cover a full scholarship for 1 season; $500: running shoes for one team of 15 girls; $1000: race fees for 75 parents to run alongside their daughters. Also, don’t forget about SoleMates, which lets you run a marathon or a triathlon while raising money for MoCo’s Girls on the Run Council.

The Washington School for Girls

The Washington School for Girls is an all-girl, grades 4-8, Catholic school located in Anacostia. Its mission is to offer a solid and holistic education to young girls, and it is committed to believing in their gifts, talents and potential. WSG offers a range of volunteer opportunities: from one-time visits – where volunteers participate in a career fair, leadership series presentation or fundraising event – to weekly tutoring, hosting student clubs during Extended Day and office support.

Interested in supporting with a donation? $100 covers 10 books for the Reading Circle; $500: 1 laptop for a WMSG teacher; $1000: transportation for 3 field trips for 1 class.

We hope you’ll support these wonderful organizations and their missions to empower girls in our region!

Guest Post: Mentoring Today

As Mentoring Month draws to a close, we’re excited for today’s guest post from Mentoring Today! Since 2005, Mentoring Today has served DC youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Advocates and mentors from the Washington College of Law help youth with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing as they enter adulthood. Through these comprehensive, client-centered services, Mentoring Today strives to improve the juvenile justice system and empowers our young people to recognize their dreams and realize their aspirations.

About the Author: Sasha Garcon is a third year law student at American University’s Washington College of Law. Sasha is currently interning with Mentoring Today and hopes to pursue a career in juvenile defense.

A Mentor, An Advocate, And All That Is In Between

by Sasha Garcon

I have been a mentor in the past. And as a law student, I am developing skills to become a better advocate. But rarely have these two roles merged, until I started working with Mentoring Today. Mentoring Today is a DC-based organization that serves youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Mentoring Today, through a partnership with Students United, a student organization at American University Washington College of Law, sends mentors to meet weekly with incarcerated youth at New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, Maryland. Once the youth are released, mentors continue working with the youth in the community by maintaining a mentoring relationship and by helping with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing.

“What is a mentor?” I asked my mentee on the first day we met. He explained to me that he had had a mentor before and that this individual gave him advice on life and staying out of trouble. I thought about this a little more and thought about how I wanted to define my role and my relationship with him. I knew that I was not there to tell him what to do and what not to do. My role, as I saw it, was to be a support to my mentee — to help him define goals and to help him in accomplishing those goals. While I wanted to provide emotional support and advice on how my mentee could grow as an individual, I also wanted to make sure that I fought for things that my mentee wanted or needed to grow as an individual. I wanted to be more than a mentor; I wanted to also be his advocate.

The idea of being both a mentor and an advocate may seem foreign but they work quite well together. I could see change in our relationship the first time I shifted from my role as a mentor to being an advocate for my mentee. My mentee had what is called a “Youth Family Team Meeting” (YFTM) meeting scheduled. At this meeting, New Beginnings staff members, service providers, and family members came together to prepare for my mentee’s release and to discuss what services needed to be set in place once he was in the community. In preparation for the meeting, I discussed with my mentee what to expect. We talked about his goals, what he hoped to accomplish in the meeting, and any issues that he wanted to raise. I reassured him that I would also be there at the meeting on his behalf to help make sure his goals were met and that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. As I said this, he stopped and looked at me with a look that I can only describe as pure shock. “What? You didn’t expect me to come?” I asked. His answer, “No.”

After this meeting, I could see how my role as a mentor-advocate shaped and defined my relationship with my mentee. It was encouraging to see that he was not only comfortable sharing his goals with me but also wanted to include me in his pursuit of accomplishing those goals. I had the ability to not only advocate on his behalf, but also to help him learn to advocate for himself. One cannot truly advocate for someone, if they do not teach them to advocate for themselves. It is the assurance that I will not only advocate for him as best I can, but that I will also provide him with the confidence to advocate for his own needs that I believe will truly make a difference in my mentee’s life.

Learn more about Mentoring Today at: www.mentoringtoday.org, or check out their Catalogue webpage for more ways to get involved.