Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday's Follow Up

"If something comes to life in others because of you, then you have made an approach to immortality." Norman Cousins

This week on our blog:gives mentor's tips on how to help a mentee open up.
Tiffany talks of her gratitude that her mentor, Dina, was always there with constructive advice.
Juliana shares about the lack of quality services for teens in our community.
is about the Digital Network program in Chicago.

Waaayyy too hot this weekend. Stay cool and keep your pets inside. Have a great weekend.
La Judy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

"Mentoring to a new beat"

The Digital Youth Network is an innovative program that gives students from Chicago the "tools to be engaged, articulate, critical and collaborative... and facilitate the ability to become creators -designers, builders, and innovators-who can envision new possibilities". Students learn valuable skills in music composition, film making, and game design among others. This program has so much potential in creating a new wave of artists especially because it values connecting the instruction to student's passions and interests. Students are assigned projects in topics they can relate to and find common ground with the experience of others. A typical assignment might require them to use a creative expression of a book they read, and by doing this "the text becomes reality".
While this program offers students opportunities to explore various media outlets, they are also deconstructing the world around them with the help of program instructors who are more than instructors for their students. Their connection with each student allows them to earn their trust and help uncover their creativity. Instructors serve as role models that students can look up to, receive guidance from and become empowered to follow their dreams in the process. The Digital Youth Network seems to offer a great environment where students can use their talents to make a greater impact.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Righteous Indignation

Counseling is a crucial part of the support we offer our youth, and with limited resources, we are always excited at the prospect of working with other agencies who can provide these important services. So, last week two of YMC’s finest and I went to check out one of these agencies. It had great promise – on paper… Individual counseling, pick up and drop off, group work… everything we could possibly want! The location is a bit far away, but hey, they provide transportation so it’s all good! Filled with anticipation, we walk up the stairs to the front door, step inside and are greeted by an empty chair in the reception area. While we waited for the receptionist, I started to look around to get a feel for this oasis of well being. The first thing that caught my eye was a poster for the Marines. “Hmph,” I thought. Not exactly a message I am interested in passing on to my kids – “Hey, have issues? Run! And join the marines!” But OK, I will suspend judgment, and see what else they have to offer. Right next to the few, and the proud propaganda, was a poster warning against the effects of heroin. A message I can agree with, but I couldn’t get past the graphic carnage it not so subtly visibly displayed. As a needle hung from a young girls arm, it showed the internal destruction this drug caused, from the brain to her bowels… charming!
Finally, a young lady asked us how she could help us, and we told her we had an appointment to see Frank. A moment later, Frank was at the door inviting us to his office. But first he had to grab some chairs for us, he was only expecting one visitor. Apologetically he squeezes past the chairs to his desk and sits facing us with a smile. Leslie begins by explaining how we heard about this program and…. This is where it all gets a little hazy for me. I was transfixed by yet another poster that was folded in half taped crookedly to the corner of the office – you know where the two walls meet – and this time it was about the harmful effects of marijuana as represented by a 3 year old???????? Cut out pictures of the plant, sloppily stuck on a cardboard with some illegible markings in what I could swear were done in crayons. Focus, Juliana, focus!!! It’s not about what is on the walls, it’s about the quality of service! “So do you have psychologists that would be working with our youth on a one on one basis?” I ask. “Well, not exactly” Frank replies. “We do group work mainly”. “But you advertise individual counseling”… And as if I hadn’t said anything, Frank proceeds to ask if they would be picking up the kids in one place.
Apparently I had had enough, because the next thing I know, I am asking to see the rest of the facility as part of my exit strategy. We stumble out of Frank’s office and he leads us to the first of 3 or 4 group counseling rooms. Again, I was slapped with the state of deterioration of this facility. These tiny rooms were barren and cold, with stained broken chairs, tightly packed up against the wall, with more inspiring posters of how uncle sam wants you, and dissected teens with crack pipes and needles hanging off of them. The next thing I know Frank is leading us straight into the largest of the rooms where there was a group session being held… I was done.
As we left the building all I could say was “if I wasn’t suicidal before I went in, I certainly am now!” And I was angry. Angry that the people who worked there didn’t care enough to change their environment. Angry that anyone would accept the state of this facility as good enough. Angry that this is all too common place in under-served communities.
How can we expect our youth to want to ask for help, when the help that is being offered is insulting to their spirit? When it assaults them with messages of hopelessness? I know kids who would rather die than ask for help, so when they do, you can be sure I am going to make sure they get the BEST.
I am not sure what I am going to do about this… It is easy to rage with righteous indignation and preach from my soapbox. The truth of the matter is that at least this organization is doing something for the people in the community, so I will say thank you, and continue our search for a place to help heal our kids.


CHLA Getting to know each other and Kickball

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Surfing 8/23

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Dina and Tiffany

"I would like to thank my mentor for always giving me advice on my problems. I also want to thank her for always having a great time with me. My mentor showed me she cared for me by asking me how I was doing; she would also ask how my family was. I also new that she cared for me because sometimes she would call. She couldn't call all the time, though, because she was in school. One thing I learned in this program that would help me grow is to make good choices in life. For example, even though you are in the program and it ends in the night don't give you excuses for not doing your homework".

-Tiffany Gonzales

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday's Follow Up

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

Surf program on Sunday! Bring lots of lotion :)
La Judy

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

"L.A turns on the lights and takes back the nights"

We all know that the need is great to provide our youth with a space where they can enjoy outdoor activities and spend time with family and friends. Keeping parks open late at night through the Summer Night Lights Program has proven beneficial for countless families in Los Angeles, so I wonder, along with Ruben from the article, how we can continue this program all year long?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mentors in my Life

I have glimpses of happy moments in my childhood, and most of them involve being in the kitchen spending time with Silvia. Silvia was everything to me when my world felt unsafe. Picture a latina Florida Evans from Good Times… a fantastic cook, (no one makes carne asada con platano like she does), a deep raspy voice that was nothing but soothing to the soul, a laugh that came from her belly, and a love that made me forget all my fears. Silvia was my family’s “maid” and my first mentor…

Then there was my big brother... Growing up, he used to talk to me like I was his equal even though he is 6 years older. I was his friend, and he was my hero. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to climb a tree, and always called me when he was having girl trouble. He also made me laugh… a lot. He used to say that I was his best audience. Laughter was our refuge, and it’s still our way of connecting with each other.

Aunt Dola is my inspiration for being the cool, crazy auntie… Dola came to Colombia when my father was dying, and she made it ok to laugh when all we wanted to do was cry. She had no shame, whether she was streaking through the living room topless or telling us about some escapade she had teaching yoga to inmates, she kept it real! I am happy to say that today, I am the crazy cool aunt I always wanted to be.

When I came to LA, I met Debrah. Debrah opened her arms and showed me what true unconditional love was, and how powerful it can be. For the first time in my life, I did not feel judged. She promised me that there was nothing I had ever done that she hadn’t done herself. One of the first things she ever said to me was “Let me love you until you learn how to love yourself”. As the founder of A Place Called Home, Debrah knew that her ability to see the best in people and to love them without judgment was the key to changing the wounded youth of South Central. She saved my life more than once, and introduced me to my life. I humbly follow in her footsteps today.

I would seriously have no life today if it weren’t for two people: My best friend and my boss. On the day that I did not show up to work, because my alcoholism had finally won, Tony called the only person he knew would know where I was and that was my best friend Lizl. Together, they found the help I needed, and never left my side. Today, I still look at both of in awe, and continue to learn from them on a daily basis. Lizl is everything I want to be as a woman: strong, intelligent, powerful, beautiful, silly… and Tony inspires me to be a better person everyday and to want to change the world one relationship at a time.

And finally there is Derrion. My mentee… I can’t imagine my life without her. She is joy, pure and simple. She is, as Maya Angelou says “Phenomenal Woman”. You cannot contain her spirit, and her power. I feel blessed every day that I get to sit across from her and learn. Learn what it means to love, to laugh and to cry without shame.

These are the people who made me who I am today, and I thank and love all of them from the bottom of my heart for giving me such a rich and beautiful life.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Rahul & Renard

"Rahul, thanks for being there for me. Also, thank you for being concerned about me and my problems. I value the advice you can give me. Hopefully we can come back again next year and get to know each other better".


Monday, August 17, 2009

Shout! Haiku

Tony's Two Minute Mentor Tips

Mentor Tip: Something to think about...

A mentor writes: I am so frustrated because I see the struggles that my mentee is going through to try to become a man and I don’t know how to make it easier or less painful for him.

For this guy, and all of our mentors, here’s something to think about...

We can be here for our mentees; to confide; to advise; to support. But we’re not here to take away their pain… solve their problems…force their growth…

TRUST THE PROCESS. Life is a process by which we are molded. The pain and conflict in a kid’s life, indeed even in the mentoring process is the stuff that creates the necessary pressure for growth to occur. Consider the following story:

A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it

home so that he could watch the moth come out of the

cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat

and watched the moth for several hours as the moth

struggled to force the body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared

as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go

no farther. It just seemed to be stuck. Then the man,

in his kindness, decided to help the moth, so he took a

pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of

the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily. But it had a

swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man

continued to watch the moth because he expected that,

at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be

able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the little moth spent the

rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body

and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not

understand was that the restricting cocoon and the

struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny

opening was the way of forcing fluid from the body of

the moth into its wings so that it would be ready for

flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle.

By depriving the moth of a struggle, he deprived the

moth of health.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our

life. If we were to go through our life without any

obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as

strong as what we could have been.

Just know that without you, your mentee would still be going through the same struggles. With you they have someone to talk to, someone to encourage, and someone to believe in them. Don’t underestimate the value in that.

Tony LoRe

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's Follow-Up

"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded." Maya Angelou

This week was a busy week for the staff at Youth Mentoring, so alas, we do not have as many postings. But Juliana's blog U betta ax somebody really txt's it like it is! LOL, OMG and oh, no you didn't!!!!!!

The men will be off to a retreat next week...hmmm...while the cat's away...

Surfing will be on August 23rd and I'm off to a quick trip to Santa Cruz and back this weekend. Everyone have a fun and safe weekend.
La Judy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

U betta ax somebody....

Since starting my work with youth all those many years ago, I have been on a crusade to save the integrity of the English language from being massacred by ebonics, spanglish and now, text lingo. It is literally like fingernails on a blackboard to me…. As someone who was born in a different country, and who grew up with English as a second language, I understand how easy it is to get lazy, and “mix it up” at times. But when I started hearing words like “troca” – spanglish for truck, and “raite” (pronounced rah ee teh) a painful derivation of ride, as in “can you give me a raite to my house” I wanted to scream! As a matter of fact I think I did!
“Chilaxate huey!” is something I have been told on a few occasions, which loosely translated means “relax you donkey” I try, I really do, not to be too uptight. And actually I admire and even enjoy the evolution of our language through the creation of new slang. As a matter of fact one of our most popular sessions is “Slang Pictionary”, where mentees get to learn old school slang, and more importantly, mentors get to be educated on the latest and greatest meanings of today’s slang. I am all about staying current, otherwise how do you think I would be able to understand everything our kids are talking about? I love the creativity it takes to create new language, it’s only when words like “brung” and “aks” are confused for correct English that I get irate.
My greatest pet peeve nowadays, is text lingo. It is one thing to abbreviate words, so that it all fits in a text, another is changing the spelling of a word, just because it’s ….? I don’t get it! So instead of “I” you’re going to spell out “eye”, or “iz” instead of “is”, or “yuh” instead of “you”…. For real????? Or should I say “Four reeeel?”
What worries me most, is that our young people are beginning to accept this as proper English, and using some of this language on their school papers, and resumes! So please join me in the good fight, and when a young person asks you “Where you at?” you answer them, “Right behind that preposition”.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Shout! Scavenger Hunt

Friday's Follow-Up

"Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the 'right stuff' to turn our dreams into reality". James Womack

*Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Hillary & Ashley
Ashley tells about how her mentor Hillary is always caring and fun. Ashley feels
that she too would like to be a mentor because of Hillary's.

*What ever it takes...
Juliana shares how committed the Youth Mentoring Connection team is, day and

*Thursday's Thoughts
Crystals writes about an exciting organization, Youth Visionaries, that help youth
with services such as employment, mentoring, tutoring etc.

Sunday, August 9th is a surf day! Have a great weekend everyone!
La Judy

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

"Nonprofit Spotlight: Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy"

Young Visionaries was created by two men, previously in gangs, who provide youth with services such as employment assistance, mentoring, tutoring and encouraging gang youth to continue their education through their Corners for College program. This academy understands the complex issues youth face that they even have on-site mental health and substance abuse counselors. It is great to know there are other organizations addressing the needs of youth and understand their potential in this world. We need more people who have overcome their difficulties and have the desire to give youth guidance, especially in these hard times where many services are disappearing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What ever it takes...

Our youth support meetings are exhausting, and as I look around the table at the faces of the people I am privileged to work with, I see worry, bewilderment, fear, and…sometimes amusement. “He did what?”. We just have to laugh.

We go through each name, and check in.
“She is in the recovery home, every one loves her, and since no one has called me, I am going assume she is doing great. I will be seeing her on Thursday”
“He got arrested on the steps of the courthouse for vandalizing the window as he was going in to see the judge. When he gets out, we have to talk to his probation officer to let him go to the retreat”
“She agreed to go to counseling so we have to set up a pick up schedule to take her on a regular basis.”
“He is not dealing with his sister being in a coma, and he is going through a really hard time, so let’s bring him in, keep him close and reach out to his mentor”

We jokingly refer to ourselves as professional stalkers, because we have the most amazing and committed team of youth workers who will: call our kids incessantly, do “drive by’s” where they are known to hang out, pick up the phone at all hours of the night, and do what ever it takes to make sure that our kids have a fighting chance of knowing a life filled with freedom, peace and happiness.

I am so proud to know and work with these individuals. I know that I am a better person thanks to them, and the world is a better place because of them.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Hillary & Ashley

"I want to thank my mentor for always being there for me. I just want you to know that I really care about you. Like I said before, there is someone in the world who would be there for you. Also you are been an excellent mentor, I will always remember you. I hope you will remember me to. I will also remember all the good times and I love you with all her heart.
You showed me how mych you cared for me by making me happy when I was down. She always used to just tell me nice things. She took me to fun places. She is awesome. From this program I have also learned that I want to become a mentor just like my mentor and be awesome the way she was. Thank you Hillary".