Thursday, February 18, 2010

There's No Place Like YMC

I have been sitting in front of my computer for a couple hours now trying to find an interesting article to write Thursday’s blog posting on but nothing has grabbed my attention. All the articles are either merely taking up space because they focus on issues that are extremely idiotic or useless. For example, why would I care what Kim Kardashian is twittering while on an airplane? So after getting over my initial frustration on the lack of relevant and pressing topics, I realized, why don’t I write about my experience so far working at Youth Mentoring Connection?

When I started working at YMC back in September of 2009 I had a vague understanding of what exactly the organization was about. I knew they had partnerships with corporations and also had community based mentoring programs but what I did not understand was how exactly they “changed lives.” Interestingly enough, if someone were to ask me now: “What is it that YMC does that allows them to say they change lives?” this is what I would respond:

I have never had the privilege to work with individuals who are so committed to what they do. They truly care about the well-being and growth of every mentee who is part of a program. All the programs take in youth from South Los Angeles who have to deal with so many things on top of a typical teenager’s life. Many have struggled with housing issues, income stability, gang related issues, and so many other things that overwhelm them. YMC provides them a space to learn about themselves, their mentors, and get away from all of life’s daily stresses. Every time I leave any mentoring session, whether it is Paramount, Warner Brothers, Rhino, HBO, etc. I feel so grateful to be able to be a part of the culture that YMC creates.

Until coming here, I had never been in a space where adults did not do most of the talking and actually listened to what youth had to say. The mentors in these programs take time out their days to be a part of our sessions and they are also very committed to making sure their mentees are doing well.

When I attended the girls initiation retreat back in October I was a bit overwhelmed with the intense and sacred space that was created up in the mountains. Many of the mentees were so willing to talk about their struggles in life and although it was difficult for everyone to hear some of the things these young woman have gone through it was an honor to know that they felt safe enough to share their stories. On the way back from the retreat, I carpooled with my manager and I told her how fortunate I felt to have been able to attend and also be a mentor. I had my own cabin with four or five mentees and I felt I made a connection with all of them in their own unique way. I was able to talk about college and higher education in general with several mentees and I kind of gave them an “applying to college: 101” course on the essentials on their decision making. I was angry to hear some of them say that their counselors had discouraged them from even considering college as an option. It's awesome to know that these young people feel comfortable to come to me or any of the individuals I work with for support.

Seeing the connections and trust that mentees have with people like Tony, Hoolie, Leslie, Jamie, and Derrion is amazing. I think that many adults fail to remember the power that we all have when we are a part of a young persons life. We can either positively or negatively effect them and if more people took the role that people at YMC do youth would be in a better place in our society.

As the months have gone by and I’ve been able to learn more about the organization, have been a part of more programs, and have heard first hand testimonials from parents who see the program working for their children, I feel that there is no other place I could be working at that would have taught me what I have learned here. They not only change the lives of young people by giving them resources and simply valuing their thoughts, experiences, and mere existence but they also allow adults to reflect and be critical of the way they interact with youth at large.

I recently became a mentor myself and although I will admit I am a bit nervous I am also excited and anxious to get to know my mentee and grow from this wonderful opportunity. I only wish such a thing was possible for the youth that live where I grew up, but maybe in the future such thing will exist for them. :)


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