Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Aaron & Dennis

"I would like to thank Aaron for being here for me, having fun with me, and laughing. I would also like to thank him for helping me out with my interest in music, thanks Aaron. The one thing he did that let me know he cared was when he actually took me into his house and introduced me to his wife. Another event was when he came to see me perform in the play "Electricidad" in which I was a part of. In this program I learned that the world doesn’t accept shyness. That will always stay with me and I thank the Lord I’m not a shy a person".


Monday, March 29, 2010

Building the capacity to dream...

...in the face of a passive attitude towards life.

After a recent session a mentor wrote to me:

Hi Tony,
Last night's meeting was a true learning experience.
As a long time teacher I often thought that many of the youth have a passive attitude towards life- a sense of futility.
Last night when I asked one of the mentees what subjects he's interested in and what goals he has for the future, he really couldn't answer. He didn't know.
Finally he said: Whatever life brings me. This stunned me into silence. But I did reply:
"It's good to think in terms of -What can I bring to life?"
How should we deal with students who display this passive attitude of helplesness toward life?
Sincerely, Elsa

My response:
Thanks Elsa,
It is sometimes true that young people have been so wounded that they seem to have already given up on life at a tender age. However, it is more often true that they simply have never been asked what they want out of life and are dumbfounded by the question. Combine that with their natural resistance to our queries and distrust that we actually mean it, and you get the typical youth answers like, “whatever” or “I don’t know”. We call it the “youth Miranda rule”. They have learned that anything they say to an adult can and will be used against them at some later date. So, they say as little as possible.
So, what should we do? Let's send an invitation to their dreams.  We can look at this as our opportunity to show them something different. I love your question: “what can I bring to life?” But how can they answer that question if they have never been shown that they have something to offer? We need to slowly develop their ability to answer the question. We do it by continuing to show up for them so that they can first develop trust. Then we look for ways to validate them when they finally trust enough to give us a glimpse of the gifts they hold. This takes full commitment on our part as often the way they demonstrate their gift is by acting out. If you continue to show up and demonstrate what we call “unconditional positive regard” they will get the message that you mean it and that you see something in them that they may not even see. If you can take it a step further by seeing “their gift” (some call it the genius) within the behavior you really start to get them thinking. For example, the kid who cracks a joke at the wrong moment and makes everyone laugh should be helped to understand that his/her timing was not good, but can also be told how clever the joke was. I might find myself saying something like “That was funny, and when someone is as smart as you are, you should be careful about your timing because you have the power to disrupt everything.”   I noticed that you did this as a teacher when you write in your book about admiring the artistry in their graffiti writing skills.
On the other hand, if life, especially as it relates to their relationship with adults, continually brings them judgment and blame, they will not be in a position to offer anything back to their own life, let alone life in general.
Finally, we need to suspend expectations and trust that the process will work at whatever pace each young person needs. Some are more severely wounded than others and will take longer to respond.
More than anything else, the presence of a caring mentor can inspire a young person to see himself as someone who matters enough to have a dream.

You are building the capacity to dream!


Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis
Boarding House Mentors

Friday, March 26, 2010

Adams II Zenith - Fantasy Neighborhood

Adams I The Yabos - Poetry

Friday's Follow-Up

"Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake." Henry David Thoreau

Tony's Blog: How surfing leads to graduation and college
Tony talks about how Boarding House Mentors took a group of young folks from YMC/Urban Oasis to Ricon Surf Point for a contest hosted by Glenn Hening and Groundswell Society. The event brought everyone closer together.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Katrina & Areiona
Areiona thanks Katrina for being her mentor. Without Katrina, Areiona feels she would be on the wrong path.

Number One Supporter
Juliana shares how magical mentee Edwin is -- curls and all!

Free Health Clinic in L.A. April 27-May 3

Remote Area Medical is returning to LA to hold a public clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena near U.S.C.

Nice weather outside, have a great weekend!
La Judy

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Free Health Clinic in L.A. April-27- May3

The free health clinic is returning to Los Angeles!

“Remote Area Medical, a Tennessee-based nonprofit known by the acronym RAM, plans to hold a clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena near USC from April 27 to May 3.”

Great opportunity for those who may not have health insurance.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Number One Supporter

He was all ears, dimples and a mess of black curls. He couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, when he started peeking into my office. Shy but curious, he would just stand and stare trying to figure out who the short, loud lady was. I had to have him! I asked him if he wanted to be in our mentoring program, he nodded enthusiastically. There was no stopping him after that. He would bounce into my office, smelling like a wet puppy, and bursting with stories from his day. Always the first to arrive for our sessions and eager to help, I thanked him. "No worries, I am your number one supporter” he explained. After I picked myself off of the floor, I squeezed him until he turned a little purple. Wouldn’t you?

Edwin is 16 now, and just as magical. And this is him today:

I can be tagging a wall reppin’ my set,

But naw I’m skating

with my lucy

My sk8board, kicking and pushing

Past the gang bangers –

The drug dealers –

The tagged up walls –

The alters of the people who died from gang banging or some stupid shit

With my Lucy I’m passing all that

And going to those sexy ass stairs

Fuck all that shit

Skating is my drug

Me and skating is like a fat kid eating cake

Edwin Bonilla

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Katrina & Areiona

"Katrina, I would like to say thank you for being the best mentor that you could be. Without you I think I would be on the wrong path but thanks to you my life is on the right track. So thank you so much and I appreciate you in so many ways than you will ever know.

Always & forever, mentor & mentee Areiona & Katrina the best match!"

How surfing leads to graduation and college

On Sunday, Boarding House Mentors took a group of young folks from YMC/Urban Oasis to Rincon Surf Point for a contest hosted by Glenn Hening and the Groundswell Society. The contest is focused on “sharing the stoke” of surfing rather than seeing who could score the “sickest wave” or do the gnarliest tricks. There are two things about this event that resonate with what we do at YMC/Urban Oasis:

1) We were “invited”. Despite the fact that the other surfers in the contest were more skillful than our group, we have been welcomed for three years in a row with warmth and enthusiasm. The young people we bring come from a society that gives them messages every day that “you don’t belong here”. So, to be invited to this famous surf spot, three hours from home and welcomed in such a manner is a healing gesture. It is like this entire community was practicing our traditional program greeting “sawubona”, a Zulu word meaning “we see you”.

2) The event is intended to bring everyone closer together. By so doing everyone’s spirits are awakened. Walking around the beach everyone was friendly. Strangers greet each other and make real connections. This waking of one’s spirit goes so much further than remedial interventions to help young people advance their lives. This is why at YMC/Urban Oasis, even though we do no formal academic counseling our youth graduate at a rate of 96% compared to their counterparts whose graduation rate is well below 50%.
So, I’m sitting out in the water with Glenn and he asks me about our youth. While they are falling off their boards and wiping out in the waves, I point them out one by one: Daisy, graduated and going to CSUN; Creon graduated a full year early, is a team leader in City Year, headed to college; Davon will graduate, talking college with his mentor; Jovan graduated and working full time; Esteban, graduated and going to CSUN; Brian, graduated; Alvin, graduated; Floyd, graduated, studying to be a stunt man and evaluating colleges, Sidney, will graduate and go to college; Danny will graduate and go to college.

Thanks to Boarding House Mentors and Groundswell Society.  Thanks to our young people for stepping up to life.

peace and blessings,


Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis  

Boarding House Mentors

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up

"Anger always comes from frustrated expectations." Elliott Larson

Tony's Blog: Be a good role model-Get pissed off!
Tony talks about constructive anger. As he writes:"Justice occurs when people allow their anger to motivate them to action." Truer words were never spoken.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee--Liz and Angelina
Angelina thanks Liz for making her days remarkable.

Hopefully big changes on the horizon in a positive wonderful way!
Have a great weekend.
La Judy

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Liz & Angelina

"I thank my mentor for giving me the opportunity to meet someone like her and always making my days remarkable. I also thank Liz for being a really nice person and always being supportive. Thanks Liz for all those great times we had. I knew my mentor cared when she took me to her office and she showed me the things that she was into. She even gave me a grammy CD of 2008 even before it was released. I also remember when she took me horse back riding and telling me to be careful and teaching me how to ride a horse. Something that I learned and experienced in this program that made me grow was when we had to cover our eyes and let our mentors guide us. That showed me that I can trust someone and shouldn’t be scared. I also learned that if you have team work you can achieve something greater than if you work alone".

-Angelina Esteban

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tony’s Blog: Be a good role model-Get pissed off!

Many people today have an unhealthy relationship with anger. Now, I’m not talking about the ones who are quick to anger and go straight into destructive rage. I’m talking about the other side of the coin. Some forms of New Ageism try to teach us to “never let a negative thought enter your consciousness”. So, instead people repress their anger and let it roam around inside their body until it consumes their organs one by one, becomes expressed in passive aggressive outlets, or gathers its force until it becomes the Incredible Hulk of rage. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” should actually be changed to “you wouldn’t like me when I repress my anger so long that it turns into rage”. That’s when you get road rage or Columbine High.

Aristotle wrote, "The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised."

The expression of anger can be very intelligent. Think of anger as your body’s alarm system telling you something is out of order and that justice is needed to restore some kind of balance. Justice occurs when people allow their anger to motivate them to action. Entire social movements have been thusly inspired. Some people never come alive until they get angry at their current situation. The trick is not to allow your anger to consume you, but to express it intelligently by right action.

One of the vehicles we use to help us express anger in a healthy way is creative writing. Recently, our good friends at Street Poets paid a visit to our HBO Mentoring Program and conducted another powerful workshop. Here is what Courtney, one of our soulful mentors came up with in the moment:

I feel Anger- I know the anger only hurts me
I feel Anger- I know that only love can save me
I feel Anger- Don’t you know where we come from?
Don’t you know who we are?
When they came we fought when we had to
…but we survived
When they gave us scraps we made food
When they refused to teach us letters- we learned to read anyway
When we had no instruments - we still made music
When they told us we couldn’t…we did!
So why, tell me why, do you choose to pick up that Goddamned Gun?
I feel Anger! Why do I have run to from you? You my brother, my sister!
I feel anger! We are descended from kings and queens, healers and most of all survivors.
How many bore that whip
So that Obama could sit in a white house built for a white man?
A house built by black hands
That is where we come from.
That is who we are.
I know this anger will go away
But it is here now.
I want it gone- But I feel anger.

Thanks Courtney, for being yourself with us…for letting your anger inform the urgency of our mission…for being one who chooses to do something about the conditions that you see that upset you…for being an awesome, caring and loving mentor. We see you making a difference because you bring your full self (and your ancestors) to your mentoring.

Sincerely with peace,

Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up

"Any idiot can face a crisis--its day to day living that wears you out." Anton Chekhov

Tony's Blog: There is just on flesh we can wound
Tony writes about meeting John A Rich, M.D., author of "Wrong Place, Wrong Time". The book explores how little is done for young people who witness repeated violence.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Bert & Julius
Julius thanks Bert for helping him ever since Julius was a "young buck" teaching him the ropes of life. Bert would like for Julius to stay his mentor even away from HBO.

Thursday's Thoughts
Agueda talks about the financial importance of the census for each community.

Beautiful weekend, enjoy!
La Judy

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursdays Thoughts

Multimedia campaign urges Latino youth to participate in the U.S. Census

It’s time for the Census!!!

From a very basic perspective, the census provides a count of all the people who reside in the U.S. But one of the most important roles of the census is that it provides information that is used to determine funding and/or resource allocation for cities and states. The need to inform the people in our communities about the importance behind the census is crucial in getting them to participate.

There are many reasons why people may not see the need or importance of participating in the census. It can be anything from not being made aware of the significance of the census or living in fear of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). The latter issue is something that many individuals in communities such as South Los Angeles have to deal with. The constant fear of being “discovered” is something that needs to be addressed. Our people need to understand that the census is not conducted by ICE and that the individuals that are knocking at their door are not there to report them to immigration. These people have been conditioned to live in fear, therefore, it is not their fault. For that reason, it is crucial that community leaders and celebrities continue to promote the importance of the census.

Besides the critical role that it plays in allocating funding, it is also an opportunity for all the people in our communities to be counted and be given importance. The lives of all the immigrants in this country need to be accounted for because they play a crucial role in our economy and contribute their fair share into the capitalistic system we live in.

There have been many issues with the way in which those structuring the census have arbitrarily decided how to label certain ethnic groups or which groups have actually been included in those choices. In many ways the census is racial creation at its best but regardless of that, as a society we need to do a better job of informing our youth why they should care about the census. Many underserved communities need more resources and because of the lack of participation in the census many cities are allocated funds that only represent ¾ of their population or so; therefore, encouraging individuals to participate in the process is crucial!

So, be aware of what the census does for us and encourage and educate those around you, especially our youth to do that same. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Odyssey Plays LIFE

Last Wednesday, YMC's Game of LIFE was played for the first time by the Odyssey program. The activity was adapted from a popular board game. Mentors helped their mentee travel through LIFE as they made choices like starting with college or career and whether to buy new rims or new tires. With YMC paper money, mentors, who volunteered as bankers, helped the players move from station to station as they landed on various spaces. The activity also moved players through the unexpected possibilities in life and raised great discussion topics about school, careers, rent, family, children, money, and housing. Through its glitches of being the first YMC Game of LIFE played, the session was full of fun and group involvement.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Bert & Julius

"Yo’ Bert, you are really cool and I enjoyed you as my mentor. Even before this you were like a mentor to me and a big brother. You have helped me since I was a “young buck” teaching me the ropes of life. You are my mentor and brother from another mother. If anyone asked about being in the mentoring program I would tell them to look for a cool hip Belizean guy named Bert because you are the best of a friend. Also, I would love for you to continue to be my mentor away from HBO".

I love you Bro! Julius

HBO- Poetry

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tony’s Blog: There is just one flesh we can wound

If your child suffers a traumatic event, such as a beating, a stabbing, a rape, robbed at gunpoint, shot or witnessing any of these events you would expect any physical wounds to be treated with a reasonable stay in the hospital and then therapeutic intervention for the psychological wounds. You would encourage your family to offer support, understanding and a sense of safety and further evaluation and treatment as necessary.

You would be hard pressed to find a single young person that we work with from the inner city areas of Los Angeles that hasn’t suffered these traumas on multiple occasions. Many of our young people went to more funerals last year than I have been to in my entire life. Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American men between the ages of 15 and 34. Stories of shootings and stabbings are commonplace in our discussion circles. Yet, when the wounds are physical, about one in ten will be admitted to the hospital and the others will be patched up and sent back out. The healthcare system will allow doctors to treat the physical wounds, but provides no medicine for the psychological and spiritual ones.

So what does a young person do when they are repeatedly exposed to trauma without the care or counseling to help deal with it? Often they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. They may become violent themselves as this is what they see, or have been taught. They might buy a gun for protection. Or they may simply display the signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: hyper-vigilance and reactivity, dissociation, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, etc.. And how do we as a society respond. In his book “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”, John A. Rich M.D., M.P.H. puts it this way:

"…'wrong place' is a community abandoned and divested of the financial and human resources that are needed for community residents to remain safe. The 'wrong time' might reflect a political environment that can only see these young men as 'sick' or 'bad' rather than 'injured.' Or that can only see punishment, rather than healing, as the single remedy for violence.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rich Friday night at a presentation he gave at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). In his short presentation I was struck by how his stories (primarily of young African-American males admitted to hospitals on the east coast) paralleled the ones we see with our youth, and he shared the science and statistics behind the experiences that we engage every day. His empathy and compassion were obvious and he had a way of connecting with the audience that said “we’re in this together”.

On the national scene we are witnessing a protracted and ugly political debate about health insurance (not health care) when what we really need is an exploration of how we can finally find the medicine that our wounded souls need. Dr. Rich’s book promises to be a solid contribution to that exploration. He goes on to write:

“The stories recounted here convince me that there is a right place and a right time to understand how violence affects the lives of young men of color. The right place is the community, defined not simply by the neighborhoods where these men live but also the larger community of which all of us are residents. Now is the right time to hear the clear resonance of their voices and involve them as central participants in formulating the solutions.”

I would add that now is the time to understand that we all have a stake in this situation. In real financial terms: Estimates show that incarceration alone costs the states over $50 bil. per year (over 10 bil. In California). I don’t know the actual numbers, but I’m sure the costs of emergency room treatment, adjudication, victims’ costs, and the like multiply this number significantly. More importantly, what are the costs to our collective soul as a society? These children are our children. Their pain is our shared pain.

"I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from man's hands
even at the top of their arc of
anger because we have finally
realized there is just
one flesh we can wound."

Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up

"The only difference between stumbling blocks and
stepping stones is the way in which we use them."
~ Author Unknown ~

Tony's Blog: "If her daddy's rich take her out for a meal. If her daddy's poor...
Tony talks about the importance of each person contributing our fair share to help the general good.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Daisy & Odalid
Odalid thanks Daisy for taking him to the theater, the park and to surfing. From his program,Odalid has learned to respect older people.

Mentor-Mentee Snowboarding
Mentees share how much fun they had snowboarding with our new partnership with Stoked Mentorship (in collaboration with Boarding House Mentors). We are definitely planning to do more of this!

Out sick today, so I want to thank Sarah for helping me post this blog for YMC/Urban Oasis. Supposed to rain this weekend, so stay dry!

La Judy

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mentor-Mentee Snowboarding

Two of YMC's mentor-mentee matches joined Stoked Mentoring (in collaboration with Boarding House Mentors) for a snowboarding trip last weekend. Here's what they had to say:

"We ALLL had soooo much fun learning how to snowboard! Thank you so much for the invite AND we thanked STOKED several times for the invitation as well. They were so NICE and welcoming. I am definitely going back!!! It was my first time snowboarding, Tania's as well. Brenda and I loved it, Christy and Tania did have a bit of a rough patch in the beginning, since it was a bit tough getting the hang of it (with all the falling we did, they didn't enjoy that part). Tania enjoyed the snowboarding after the second go around. OVERALL, great trip and bonding with all the ladies! THANKS AGAIN!!!"
- Carol Diaz (Tania's Mentor)

"The Stoked members extended a very warm welcome to us and made us feel like part of the group. Cristy had a great time and I feel like it strengthened our relationship. Stoked incorporates action sports to help teens improve their self esteem and perservere and work through challenges and unfamiliar territory (first timers doing action sports). I'm glad we were able to participate and take advantage of such a great experience. "
- Brenda Felix (Cristy's Mentor)

Thank you to Stoked Mentoring and YMC's mentors for providing such a wonderful and challenging learning opportunity to our mentees.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Daisy & Odalid

"I would like to thank my mentor Daisy for taking me out to the theater and for taking me to the park. My mentor let me know she cared for me when she went surfing with me and helped me learn how to surf. From this program I learned to respect older people".


Monday, March 1, 2010

Tony’s Blog “If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal. If her daddy’s poor...

...you just do what you feel.”

We live in a plutonomy, a system that favors the wealthy and is designed to keep them that way.  We try to curry favor with them.  Those who can afford it the most, pay the least for necessities.  And when a wealthy American gives a large donation to a worthy cause we all stand up and applaud, as we should.  It is a good thing and people should be encouraged to do so.  God knows that YMC/Urban Oasis benefits from the generosity of wealthy (and kinda wealthy and not so wealthy) folks.  Yet, when we ask all wealthy Americans to do so we risk revolt.  It’s called taxes.  They aren’t evil.  Its how we get the roads we drive on and know that the meat we eat is not contaminated.  It is how we know that when we have a catastrophic earthquake dozens may die instead of thousands.  Someone has to pay those damn bureaucrats who make certain that building codes are enforced.  Yet, when it comes to the building blocks of a healthy society, we can’t seem to find the will to do it.  

Corporate America has taught us all to think quarterly and so any benefit beyond 3 or 6 months down the road is just too far out there to resonate.  Things like education and health care which pay off way down the road are just too long term to smite the bogey man of taxes.  So a few years ago when California had the chance to invest in early childhood education (prop 82) by imposing a tax hike of 1.7% on people making over $500,000 it went down in flames with our governor screaming the right wing cry of “they’re raising your taxes”.  Even though it was demonstrated that universal preschool programs would generate an estimated $2-$4 for every dollar spent.  

Just recently the senate gutted the provision for a small tax on “Cadillac Healthcare Plans” for the wealthy so that we could afford to reform our healthcare system and stem this burgeoning problem that keeps us all paying more and many without any coverage at all.  Our education and healthcare systems are fast becoming the worst in the industrialized world, but we can’t see far enough ahead to make the necessary changes.  We live in a “tea bagger”, all taxes are evil world.

Why is this coming up for me now?  Because President Obama just announced that he wants to commit 900 million dollars to fighting our epidemic dropout rates.  Hooray for us!  To keep our kids from failing we are willing to spend one tenth of one percent of the amount that we spent to keep our banks from failing.  Americans will all stand up and cheer as we should, then go back to spending the bulk of their time making the bosses richer.  All the incentives of our economy are designed to keep it that way.  The Supreme Court just voted to give corporations unlimited ability to influence our political process to make sure that never changes.

“If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal.  If her daddy’s poor, you just do what you feel…”  From the song “Summertime” by Mongo Jerry


Tony LoReFounder/CEO
Youth Mentoring Connection