Friday, April 30, 2010

WB - Mentee Summit



At this Warner Brothers mentoring session, the young people had the opportunity to voice their opinions, emotions, and experiences on heavy issues such as racism, gangs, law enforcement, etc. It was a space for mentors to listen to the mentees speak about their daily realities.

Friday's Follow-Up


"All the people like us are we, and everyone else is They." Rudyard Kipling

TMI
Juliana writes about her social networking journey, realizing by the end how important it is to: "peel ourselves away from the glossy screen and look into each other's eyes and talk."

SB1070:A New Name For An Old History
Agueda is right. Whoever wrote the law SB1070, whoever signed the law and whoever is implementing this law... where are your ancestors from? As far as I know, only Native Americans are true Americans. Perhaps they should be the ones deporting the citizens of Arizona?

Gonna be a real nice weekend! Go out and have fun.
La Judy

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SB1070: A New Name For An Old History

On SB1070 And What Happens When "Brown"Means "Illegal"

I am a proud Chicana. I also identify as brown, raza, Mexican-American, a person of color or Latina. I’m not Hispanic, a colored person or a minority. But under the law how does that play out? When filling out the census “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish Speaking” has its own section. If a person comes from a “Spanish speaking” background, that also begs the question: are they an “illegal alien?” Being an “illegal alien,” or “undocumented” as I prefer, not only effects a person when applying for a job or when trying to get financial aid for college but it also plays roll when buying a home, opening up a bank account, or getting a cell phone plan. They face a constant fear of being deported or being “discovered.” People of all ages experience these things; parents, youth, adults, seniors, etc. The emotional and psychological trauma that the undocumented community is burdened with is clearly not enough for the state of Arizona. The governor of the state feels that a person should be questioned for merely “looking” like an “illegal.” Apparently, getting rid of all the undocumented people in the state of Arizona will help the state in some way. But what do the provisions of the law mean?

Requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.

How does law enforcement determine, just by looking at someone, whether they fit the description of an undocumented person? Is their clothes soaking wet from just having crossed the Rio Grande? Does going to Home Depot “prove” a person is in the United States illegally? Or, does the color of a person’s skin simply demonstrate how much melanin is in their skin? How can this law be logically enforced without discriminating someone based on a racial profile that the government of Arizona is now calling acceptable?

There are so-called “equal opportunity” laws that prevent employers, schools, government, etc from discriminating someone based on their ethnic/racial background yet the state of Arizona feels that it has the right to stop anyone who they THINK may be undocumented?

The fear of immigrants that has been increasing over the past decade is nothing new. Irish immigrants were targeted in the 1840’s, Chinese immigrants were targeted around the 1880s, in the 1920s the Japanese were targeted, and the list goes on. Latina/os have been targeted multiple times throughout history with such things as Operation Wetback, Proposition 227, HR4437, etc. The only new information this time around is the name of the law: “SB1070.” Some say that Latina/os are target more often because we share a border with Mexico, but the last time I checked we also border Canada.

Communities everywhere are hoping that SB1070 is overturned. If such a law is allowed to continue, what will it say about our country, the country that has given so much to immigrants from many countries for hundreds of years?

Agueda Rivas

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TMI

(TOO MUCH INFORMATION)

I really did fight becoming a part of the avalanche of social media for as long as I possibly could. I had heard and seen the outrageous things our teens were posting on this thing called My Space, and I wanted none of it! I already knew enough thank you very much, and I was going to hold on to that tiny little life boat floating down my favorite river – denial. But, I was coerced by a certain Irish geek, that it would benefit YMC in the long run – so I did it. I hung the cattle bell around my na├»ve neck and plunged into the Facebook abyss. It was fun at first. As a matter of fact I became pretty obsessed. Finding friends from long ago, checking out what my nephews were up to 3, 000 miles away in Colombia, and fulfilling a voyeuristic need I never knew I had. I posted my status like a duty to humanity. I hoarded friends to validate that “you like me, you really like me!” And oh yeah, I promoted this phenomenal organization I am privileged to work with.

It was a good run for a while, until it happened. My “babies” started to “friend” me. Past and present mentees found me and wanted me as their friend! I loved it! My ego was being nicely stroked – I was cool. In the throws of my infatuation, I checked for people’s status throughout the day – I have always admitted to being nosy so this was heaven! Harmless right? NOT!!!! Suddenly my “pure as the driven snow” kids were posting all their business. What they did the night before, with whom and how much, pictures of themselves that could only qualify as soft porn, and of course all and any criminal activity they partook in. FOR REAL????? ARE YOU KIDDING????? This is exactly why I avoided that other website! Now I have to gouge my eyes out, and get a lobotomy. Thanks!

Seriously though, it is imperative that our youth learn that not only is it unnecessary to post how many time they are going to the bathroom, but that colleges, employers and law enforcement use these sites to evaluate, verify, or indict our young people and their activities.
Our society is loosing touch with each other – let’s peel ourselves away from that glossy screen and look into each other eyes and talk. And let’s go by this general rule – if you wouldn’t show it to your mom, don’t post it!

Juliana

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up


"A jug fills drop by drop." The Buddha

Tony's Blog: OMG Daisy is Happy!
Tony reveals his joy and happiness about mentee Daisy. Daisy came to YMC a shy and scared young girl. She has blossomed over the years through the mentoring process. She is now a happy, thriving young woman. Daisy so "gets" the importance of mentoring that she too has become a mentor. As Tony states: "You (Daisy) are the answer to so many questions about what makes this work fulfilling."

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Tina & Noe
Noe admits that having an older person to talk to helps out a lot. To Noe, Tina is the mother he never had.

I love us!
Juliana talks about an incident between two young men. The YMC staff acted quickly to prevent anything negative from happening and helped to heal the emotional effects.

Beautiful weekend! Get outside!
La Judy

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I love us!


“That was my favorite part of the day!” Tony exclaimed talking about how he and our staff jumped into action when two of our young men were about to throw down at one of our sessions. He beams as he recall how he and Free, our youth support staff, instinctively foresaw when Juan had had enough of Jose’s goading and were on him before he could actually land a punch, while Monk took over facilitation seamlessly. “I love it because, we can’t do anything about it until it shows up – and it showed up!” 

This is why I love us… because we welcome our youth to show up with their wounds, because we run towards what is scary, when most would run. Because we go there – yeah, I said it, we go there. We create the space where our young people can access their emotions not matter how much it may frighten them. Where we challenge them to write their “Last Words”, and for the first time Graciela silently weeps and talks about her shame at never having expressed love towards her brother, or where Alicia talks about how the scar she got in a car accident makes her feel ugly, or when they finally find their voice during our poetry session like Jonathan did on Tuesday at our Paramount session. He wrote:

In my dreams I see myself helping my mom, and getting her worries out.

Showing her I lover her and thanking her for working hard for my brother and me.

In the night I wish I had a father who would help m and play soccer with me.

I cry and cry when I see kids having fun with their father.

I pray to God that one day I become a man with money to help my mother

And help those who need help.

I am so thankful to God for the family and friends I have,

But when I wake up, I wonder if these are just dreams.

As Jonathan wept speaking about his longing for a father, he knew he was surrounded by a community that would not judge him because he had heard mentors and mentees speak about the scars that still stung them.

“Our gifts lie next to our wounds” – and oh the gifts they have brought us. So here is to our wounds! Celebrate them, explore them, accept them and then welcome the beauty that hid behind the pain.


Juliana

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adams I - Slang Pictionary




In this session the mentors and the mentees from Adams Middle School had the opportunity to engage in a fun game of Slang Pictionary. They were given a variety of old slang words. Each person in a team through drawings and gestures had to help their teammates figure out the meaning of the word.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Tina & Noe

"Tina, well I have to say that you mean a lot to me. We use to talk about all of our problems that we have gone through in our life. I believe that having an older person to talk to about your problems helps you out a lot. You are friendly and if I return to mentoring next year I would choose you again. If I don’t come back next year I would like to be in communication with you. You’re like a mother I never had!"

-Noe

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tony’s Blog: OMG Daisy is Happy!

This work that we do with a population of wounded and neglected young people can be filled with heartache and tragedy. Often people ask me “how do you do it? How do you see so much pain and handle so much grief without getting depressed?” I usually answer in a philosophical way. Today my answer is “Daisy”.

Daisy came to us a severely wounded, shy and scared little girl. The old phrase “quiet as a church mouse” comes to mind. The past that she endured had left her with almost no self-esteem and clearly no reason to trust adults. However, something inside convinced her that she needed a mentor. I remember asking her early on why she wanted to have a mentor and she sat silent, unable to answer. Eventually I got an almost inaudible “I don’t know” (the most common phrase uttered by teenagers). I asked her if she really wanted to be in the program and with eyes unable to make contact she managed to respond with a barely perceptable affirmative nod. So the adventure begins.

Daisy’s experiences in mentoring had their highs and lows. Through it all I saw this young lady begin to break out of her shell and blossom. As time went on I was fortunate enough to witness the transformation of Daisy as she went through many difficult initiations, each time calling on an undefeatable soul to come back stronger than before. (Maybe someday I’ll be free to tell the whole story.)
I saw this young lady find herself and develop a strength that is hard to imagine, but wonderful to behold. She sacrificed for her family, putting many of her dreams on hold to work to help support the family so that her younger siblings could start to develop their dreams. It wasn’t easy and we had many a tearful session in my office. But she endured and continued to blossom into a powerful young woman. She learned to trust and allowed her present mentor, Suzanne Rico, a strong role model and successful television personality to take her under her wing and help her shine even more. Now she wants to become a news anchor at Univision, inspired by her mentor, but doing it her way. She stopped putting her dreams on hold and is creating a career for herself in TV news while attending Cal State University at Northridge. Recently Daisy participated in a surf contest with us at Rincon Point. Miss “quiet as a church mouse” now finds herself a spokesperson for our mentoring programs, often speaking in front of groups numbering in the hundreds. She has given back by becoming a mentor and jokes about the irony of ending up with a painfully shy, quiet and untrusting mentee. Payback is a ‘you know what’.

Today, many years of “Tony, I don’t know if I can take it any more” are replaced by the e-mail that I just received with the subject titled “Happy Friday”:

HI TONY!!

oh my gosh! I am having such a great month....i am extremely happy regardless of all the cuts that have been done at work doesn’t affect me anyway. I can't even explain how happy i am i should be stressing with school deadlines I’m not...my trip to davis was great! and im going back this weekend. my birthday was great...So one of my friends is throwing a party at the W Hotel in hollywood on sunset. I'll email you the info. Im so excited to go to davis this weekend. i get to see liliana again...she is doing GREAT!!! yeah my co workers are tripping out on me cuz "im too happy and im smiling way too much" lol i cant help it i have no reason besides the fact that this month is the month of my bday and i've decided to embrace it and enjoy it just like im feeding off this high from suzanne she is soo happy and im happy for her just like she is with me. im high on happiness! lots of hugs and kisses i love you so much and i hope i get to see you soon!!!

Daisy

Thank you Daisy for bringing so much love and joy into my life. You are the answer to so many questions about what makes this work fulfilling.

Humbly,

Tony

Tony LoRe
Founder/CEO
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis

Founder
Boarding House Mentors

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up


"Independence is happiness." Susan B. Anthony

Tony's Blog: Griselda-1, Racism 0
Tony shares about his trip to S.F. State College with mentee Griselda. His feelings of pride turn to anger when he thinks about how our society has failed the vast majority of inner city kids who are not going to college.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - David & Angel
Angel has learned that in this program everyone needs a push, help to grow and someone to care for them. David did this for Angel.

And I will never leave you alone
Sarah shares the joy of helping the 13 year olds in the Adams Middle School program. She wants everyone to know that we are not going anywhere, we are there for them!

Nice weather, have a great time!

La Judy

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And I will never leave you alone.

As a slightly OCD program coordinator, I'm always elated when kids are responsive, mentors are consistent, and everything goes according to plan. But for better or worse, the core work really happens when things get messy.

Case in point: two months ago we began a Tuesday evening cohort with Adams Middle School. All the kids were new to mentoring - they were deferential, engaged, and had 100% attendance at several sessions. I thought it was a dream come true! It turns out, it was just a honeymoon period. Now that they're comfortable with us, the fun has started.

I've learned that we have a trio of boys who are neighbors, and need to spend every waking moment together - much like middle school girls heading to the bathroom in a pack. They are way too cool for school. They are alternately angry and wiltingly shy. Two out of the three are being hit up by gangbangers on a regular basis. They will literally turn sideways to avoid eye contact when I try to talk to them. They like to do things like run away as soon as their mentors arrive.

I love them so much.

I had the following exchange with their pack leader yesterday after I'd been talking to them for a few minutes:
B: Man, can't you just leave us alone?
Me: I will never leave you alone.
B: No, I mean like, right now!!!!!!!

You know what's so great about taking crap from tough little 13-year-olds? That they're engaging with me. That somewhere, deep down inside, I imagine they really like the adult attention. That I've seen kids like this crack open, three years later. I'm keeping the faith that they will too, if we can keep them with us.

So, I say, dish it out, little man. We're not going anywhere. And now, I get to hustle to support these mentoring relationships, which have gotten that much more complicated, but that much more real.

Sarah

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- David & Angel


"I would like to thank my mentor David for being there for me. He always made me laugh and I will always remember everything. My mentor let me know he cared when he helped me when I had problems. In this program I learned that everyone needs a push. Everyone needs some help to grow and needs someone to care for them".


-Angel

Monday, April 12, 2010

Griselda - 1, Racism 0

This weekend I had the distinct privilege (hmm, there’s that word) of accompanying Griselda, our brilliant and courageous young woman up to San Francisco State University for an orientation to her chosen college. I couldn’t help but reflect upon the first time I met this determined, yet angry and brooding young lady in our mentoring program at Rhino Entertainment. Over the past few years I have been given many opportunities to marvel at her resilience as her story unfolded.  This is a remarkably conscientous, thoughtful and intelligent young woman.  But like many of our young people she grew up in a household rife with the struggles of poverty and alcoholism and a neighborhood with gangs, drugs and other forms of violence. She battled and defeated these challenges, as well as a school system that crowds too many kids in classes that are too short of the proper resources.

I permitted myself to be present in the joy of the moment, to feel the pride I imagine a father feels and the excitement as his daughter transitions into a new phase of life. Plus, I always love the feel of a college campus and the exhilaration of young minds in pursuit of knowledge (and all the other trappings of the college experience).

But now my mood changes to one of righteous anger as I think about how relatively few young people from the inner city of Los Angeles will accomplish what Griselda has, not because they don’t have the inherent ability, but because they have not been able to summon up the heroic qualities that she has found. It shouldn’t take that. We as a society have failed them, and the vast majority of ‘them’ are “black” or “brown” students. If you are buying the myth that we are gradually desegregating and bringing equal opportunities to all, return that purchase to the counter for your money back. We have resegregated big time. The schools we work with at Urban Oasis YMC are well over 90% African American and Latino and the conditions for learning are deplorable. The evidence is in. This is a national phenomenon.

We have replaced legally enforced segregation of the 50’s with economic and social apartheid today, replete with a quality gap in education reminiscent of Jim Crow days. Despite the fact that desegregation efforts were working (graduation rates increased amongst African American and Latino students and test score gaps narrowed substantially) the dismantling of these efforts starting with Reagan and resurfacing with zeal under Bush (and the failed policy cynically titled “no child left behind”) have reversed the gains. Is this racially motivated? Hard to say. Is this nonetheless a form of racism? You’re damn right it is. Is it wrong, duplicitous and self-defeating to the concept of democracy?

Jonathan Kozol writes in his book “The Shame of the Nation”:

“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner city child (only eight years old) accountable for performance on a high stakes standardized exam, but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids 6 or 7 years ago.”

This must change. Charter or magnet schools are not the answer. We don’t need magnets to draw the best and brightest out of our public schools, leaving behind those children who are too wounded to know how to motivate themselves. ALL children in a humane society should be entitled to an equal quality education, regardless of their place of birth. We need to fix the public schools if we are ever to have a true democracy where those less advantaged get a fair shot at a better future.
In the meantime those of us in the trenches will continue to try to inspire heroic efforts on the parts of young minority students to overcome the disadvantages of this culture. Our bright and beautiful Griselda will be a shining example to them and a source of pride and inspiration to those of us who love her.
sincerely,

Tony

Tony LoRe
Founder/CEO
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis

Founder
Boarding House Mentors

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up


"At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. " Plato

Warner Brothers - Superhero
Matches from Warner Brothers program had the opportunity to create their own superheroes. See what they did!

Stepping Out From Behind My Own Shadow
Juliana shares her experience, strengths and hopes. She says that she is grateful from the bottom of her heart...so too are we grateful for Hoolie being at YMC from the bottom of our hearts!

Weekend should be beautiful even if it might be a little cold.......
Have a good one!
La Judy

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stepping out from behind my own shadow


Tomorrow, Thursday April 8th, I will have two years of sobriety – crazy right? I was what you would call “a high functioning drunk”. I had most people fooled, while all the while I was dying inside. Looking out from the veil of pain, wondering “how do they do it?”. The simplest things baffled me – shopping for groceries, having lunch with a friend, paying rent. Somehow I did it… I managed to act as if I knew exactly what I was doing, hoping to God no one would call my bluff.

The one thing I knew I could always count on was my ability to reach the young people I work with. I could identify and access their wounds as easily as I could access my own. Derry and the kids say “don’t let her close the door, cause she’ll make you cry”. Not in a bad way though… I swear!

As the fog has been lifting and my role in this amazing organization has been developing, the committee decided to hold court in an unusually loud and abusive way, making me question everything about who I thought I was. I had been acting for so long that I wasn’t sure who I was, or am today. Am I really the “Velvet Hammer” or just a wanna be mama? Who am I to pretend to know what these beautiful young people need? Or how to work with them? Do I deserve the love and respect of my kids, co-workers, family and friends?

I was used to living in panic and self loathing. I knew how to take care of it. I self medicated. I knew I wasn’t worthy, so I didn’t have to live up to anybody’s expectations. If I let you down, oh well, I told you I wasn’t worthy…

When you live in a lie long enough you believe that lie, so now I am trying to figure out what the truth about me is, because I am determined to live in my truth today. I am not hiding any more, and sometimes it isn’t pretty. It’s full of weird dreams , (like taking mud baths (not like spa mud, but nasty, dirty mud) and then trying to sneak into a hotel to get clean in their pool, and then losing the cash deposit I was supposed to take to the bank because I left it near the mud bath – seriously that was my dream last night) chest pounding moments of self doubt, screaming matches with my committee, breakdowns watching commercials, and facing the wreckage of my past. I want to be able to live the rest of my life being able to look at my self in the mirror and like who I see.

So I really had to check in with my self – Do I truly have a gift? Am I meant to help our youth heal from their wounds, while healing mine? The answer is a resounding YES!!!! Whew! My truth is that the bliss that I found 18 years ago, still stirs my soul. The love that held me in the darkest moments is the love that awakens my spirit every day.

There are still days that I fear and uncertainty creeps in, and that is when the universe smiles and shows me once again why I am exactly where and who I need to be. In the past couple of weeks, without invitation or notice, on separate times, I had some of my “og” babies (ha! They are all in their 30s) come to visit me. The first visitors were Black (Kerstan), Dez and Intro (Cory). These were my crew of boys that protected me fiercely, made me laugh til my stomach hurt and who not matter what always told me they loved me…. As they did when they left. The following week, Dez’s brother Vern came with his wife Martha and their beautiful daughter Giselle. They were all teens when I met them!

A couple of days ago I received this email from Martha:

Hoolie,

On our way out of your office, Vern & I looked at each other

and both said, "Man, it feels good to see her." " I missed her"

I told him, "I know exactly what you mean."

For some reason, you seem to fill our hearts

with joy "like a motherly warmth". I know, it sounds corny.

I just had to say it...

Love you, Hoolie Boo

Vern & tita & Giselle

By the way, you looked fabulous!

I guess I still got it! And I get to know it! And remember it! Life is good.

From the bottom of my very grateful heart –

Thank you to all of you who loved me before I could feel it, to those who still love my in spite of me, and who will love me for always.

Juliana