Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Waiting Game

Federal Judge Blocks Key Parts of Arizona Immigration Law

People all over the country had been anticipating the decision that was made today by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on SB1070. Bolton prevented the implementation of two controversial elements of the bill: one which allowed police officers in Arizona to stop individuals who they believe to be undocumented and the other which would allow the state to charge individuals who failed to possess proper immigration documents. In her decision, the Judge wrote that the federal government’s effort to enforce immigration laws would be compromised with such measures like SB1070.

One of the main arguments for the bill is that each state should have the liberty to implement their own laws that deal with issues for which the federal government is not doing an adequate job of addressing. Such a statement is extremely controversial because it begs the question of: “How much control should the federal government have of each state?”

In this country, the federal government and state governments both have separate and shared responsibilities it is difficult to side with either. Our constitution mandates and sets the divisions between state and federal government therefore it imposable to demand a more central government. In theory, it would be contradictory to what a “Democratic” government should look like but maybe in my ideal America, the federal government would have more regulation of the laws that are passed by each state.

When I think of some of the most controversial and sensitive propositions that have been passed in California like Proposition 209, 227, and 187, I cannot help but think about all the negative repercussions on our immigrant population. I value the importance behind having individuals vote on matters they care about but what if the issues they are voting on effect a group of people who does not have the right to vote? It is a fact that so long as you are not a citizen of this country you do not have the right to vote but I struggle with processing how the fates of these individuals are left in the hand of people who do not understand their circumstances and many times do not care to learn about them.

Not only does SB1070 deal with a national matter but it sets the premise for other states to follow such discriminatory steps. It is causing as much confusion, debate and conflict like many propositions have in California. The key question is, will the bill be found unconstitutional?


It's time for our annual campaign drive! Partner with us to mentor our youth from the threats of gang violence, drugs, and dropping out of school. Everyone who donates will be entered to win two tickets to our benefit concert with Jackson Browne in October.

YOUR DONATION WILL CHANGE LIVES! Donate here: Youth Mentoring Connection Annual Campaign

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surfing 7/25

On Sunday, July 25, we invited mentees from all over Los Angeles to join us for surfing at Will Rogers State Beach. We opened up the session with Back to Back, followed by the "initiation". We witnessed several mentees pop up for the first time and others who rode the waves courageously. It was a great day to be at the beach!

Join us for the next surf session on August 8th! If you're interested, contact Crystal Cedillo at

It's time for our annual campaign drive! Partner with us to mentor our youth from the threats of gang violence, drugs, and dropping out of school. Everyone who donates will be entered to win two tickets to our benefit concert with Jackson Browne in October.

YOUR DONATION WILL CHANGE LIVES! Donate here: Youth Mentoring Connection Annual Campaign

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up

Maybe Fighting IS the Answer
Tony talks about one of our young men who has discovered a new activity to funnel his energy into reiterating the idea that a lot of our young people just need more options and activities to fuel their soul.

Tuesday With Mentor and Mentee - Joanna and Markeshia
Markeshia thanks her mentor Joanna for offering her unconditional love and support.

Shout! Factory- Mentee Summit
Check out the pictures from one of our mentoring sessions.

Who do you know?
Juliana shares her story and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people and in this case, the people you surround yourself with can potentially serve as donors in our Annual Campaign! :)

Enjoy your weekend!


It's time for our annual campaign drive! Partner with us to mentor our youth from the threats of gang violence, drugs, and dropping out of school. Everyone who donates will be entered to win two tickets to our benefit concert with Jackson Browne in October.

YOUR DONATION WILL CHANGE LIVES! Donate here: Youth Mentoring Connection Annual Campaign

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who do you know?

There is a theory that the five closest people to you are a reflection of who you are. I am not talking about family. We don’t get a choice about having them in our lives. I am talking about the people whom we have chosen to be in our inner circles.

When I first got sober, I heard that I had to be ready to let go of my “lower companions.” These are the people who fed my addiction and dysfunction. And honestly there was only one. Even through my disease I have managed to surround myself with the phenomenal people. People who are inspirational , funny, loving, compassionate, intelligent, down to earth, righteous, powerful, and above all - men and women that challenge me to be a better person. When I fall down, they are there to see the best in me, and love me until I can love myself again. They hold me and lift me up until I can walk on my own. When I am living in my truth and filled with a sense of purpose and feeling at my best, they are there to celebrate and share in the joy.

I have a lofty goal. I want to change the world. I want to touch enough lives, hearts, and minds, which shift consciousness – allowing others to experience the unknown with openness and a willingness to put judgment aside.

That is why I have to tell my story. To make it okay for those who know me, to tell me their story, and then create a domino effect. Everyone has a story, whether you are from Bel Air or from South Central. It is a Human story. And that is how we change culture. When we see each other for ALL our humanity, and our mentors and our mentees are as human as they get - full of wounds and flaws and beauty and light, and the power to change the world.

So I ask you: What do the 5 closest people in your life say about you? What lofty goals do you have for your life, and are those people part of the solution, or are they part of the problem? Do they inspire you to be a better person? Do you inspire them to contribute to their own lives?

If you are reading this, I am willing to bet that you are already part of the answer. And for that I am eternally grateful. I have often said that I am the luckiest person in the world to do what I do because not only do I get to love for a living, but I get to do it with the cream of the crop of humanity. Which means that you must know some pretty amazing people… And now is your chance to give them the opportunity to be part of the revolution that is Youth Mentoring Connection.

We are launching our viral annual campaign and if you contact those 5 people who you know also want to make a difference, and they contact their 5 people, and so on and so on… Before we know it we will all be surrounded by light. Wow, how amazing would that be?

It's time for our annual campaign drive! Partner with us to mentor our youth from the threats of gang violence, drugs, and dropping out of school. Everyone who donates will be entered to win two tickets to our benefit concert with Jackson Browne in October.
YOUR DONATION WILL CHANGE LIVES! Donate here: Youth Mentoring Connection Annual Campaign

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shout! Factory - Mentee Summit

At this Shout! Factory 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.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Joanna & Markeshia

"One thing I would thank Joanna for is for being patient with me whenever I didn’t show up. I would also like to thank her for her personality. She always made me laugh and I love her for that. She was sweet and generous and I just hope that we could have spent more time together.
One thing that Joanna did that made me feel like she cared for me was when she talked to me when I was going through problems with my mother. She made me feel better at the end of the day. She was sincere and gentle with me. The thing that I learned in the program that I can take with me is having the ability to be as successful as I can in life".


Monday, July 19, 2010

Maybe fighting IS the answer

Edgar is kicked out of school for constant fighting. So, he sits in my office and tells me how his mentor has helped him see himself differently and he doesn’t start as many fights as he used to (progress, not perfection)

   ”but they come at me, and I have to defend myself”. 

   “Who comes at you?” I ask. 

   “My enemies. I’m in a crew (gang). “Yeah, it’s hard to get out. We protect each other and they all know I can fight.”

   “How’s that working for you?”

   “I try to stop fighting because I’m getting in too much trouble and I want to graduate…and it’s hurting my mom. But the fight keeps coming to me.”

He’s a very smart young man. So, I throw a metaphor at him. There’s an old legend about Ghandi confronting a Cobra on his epic salt march. He was sitting amongst his followers when a cobra slithered into their midst. Everyone scrambled to avoid this creature with the lethal venom, but Ghandi simply sat there in the lotus position as the snake crawled across his legs and then exited the clearing. When the people asked him why he wasn’t afraid of the cobra’s bite, Ghandi replied that “I simply gave him nothing to fight against”.

   He gets it. “Because I walk around with fighting inside of me, fights find me.”

"Yeah", I say “you’re a fight magnet”.

   We talk awhile longer. He knows that something has to change. So, I try our 5 question process:

“So, what are you doing that brings these fights to you?”

   His answer ranges from his involvement in the crew to old rivalries and his reputation as a fighter.

“When does it usually happen?”

   We talk about time and place and triggers to fighting.

“What negative shit happens because of all this fighting?”

   He talks about getting kicked out of school, his mom and dad, fear about his future prospects. Interestingly, he never mentions the cuts, black eyes, swollen fists, etc.

“What benefit do you get out of it?”

   “I love to fight!”

This statement will be the key to our solution. He loves the challenge. He loves the physical exhilaration. He feels alive.

“What could you do to get all of those benefits without the negative stuff like getting kicked out of school and upsetting your mom?”

He explores his options; discusses joining the marines (I resist lecturing or interrupting and just let him work through it); football (but they don’t have a team in the only school we can get him into now); and boxing. Boxing, that’s it.

We make an agreement. Edgar promises not to instigate any fights and if a fight comes to him he will try to walk away two times before he defends himself by fighting back (progress, not perfection). In return I’ll get him into a boxing program.

So, I call Shelly, an ex-employee of YMC who has connections to a boxing gym in South Central LA. She has seen what a great outlet boxing can be for young men from the hood and agrees to make the introduction. We meet Edgar at the gym, and the old gentleman who will be his trainer greets him and tells him “I look at you walk in here and I can tell you are a fight magnet…” Edgar looks at me and smiles. We’re all on the same page.

I see how respectfully Edgar listens to the seasoned trainer. I see him soak up the energy of the gym. He’s at home here. And he can’t wait to get started.

Later that night I get a text from his mom, thanking me, Hoolie and all of the people at YMC with phrases that I don’t have to translate even though I don’t speak Spanish:

   “Muchas, muchas gracias”
   “Corazon gracias”
   “Y a todos su personal”

The following night I get the text from Edgar that will make Hoolie cry:

   Hey man…I just wanted 2 know if u were gonna show up at the gym 2morow and let u know that I’m no longer 4rm the crew…I’m out.

He asks me for his mentors number (he lost his phone and thus her number) so that he can text her too.

I love my life,


Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis

Boarding House Mentors

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's Follow Up

Fremont High: Will it perform?
Fremont High School was closed due to low-academic performance and re-opened with some old and new teachers. This blog talks potential educational reforms that are needed.

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Kameron and Stephanie

Stephanie thanks her mentor Kameron for always being there for her and she is also glad that the program taught her how to be more outgoing.

Also, check out the pictures from out last surfing session.

Stay cool in this heat and enjoy the amazing summer nights that are upon us.


It's time our annual campaign drive! Partner with us to mentor our youth from the threats of gang violence, drugs, and dropping out of school. Everyone who donates will be entered to win two tickets to our benefit concert with Jackson Browne in October.

YOUR DONATION WILL CHANGE LIVES! Donate here: Youth Mentoring Connection Annual Campaign

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fremont High: Will it perform?

Fremont High's grand experiment begins

It is officially time to see if Mayor Villaraigosa’s grandiose plan of shutting down Fremont High School, due to low-academic performance, and re-hiring new and old teachers will work. The school re-opened July 7, 2010 with new and returning teachers.

Many of the experienced and caring teachers chose not to re-apply for their positions. It is not surprising that some of these teachers are missed by many of the students. The thing is that the educational system cannot punish all teachers at one school for low-academic performance when not all of them are to blame. There are many external factors that lead a student to perform low. Societal issues such as poor neighborhoods, gang violence, lack of employment, etc all play factors in a young person’s educational experience.

The school system needs to properly implement evaluations. Once a teacher reaches tenure the amount of times that they are reviewed decreases over time. It is obvious to me in my educational experience and from talking to actual teachers that such practices may not be the most reasonable considering that some tenured teachers are not the best teachers. The accountability of some teachers needs to increase as well as the evaluation methods and practices.

I know that some of the best learning I did from K-12 was in classes in which the teachers really cared about the progress of the students. Recently, I had a conversation with my 8th grade science teacher about the status of the California education system. I wanted to get insider perspective on it, especially from a woman who was by far the best, most dedicated and caring teacher I had in my youth. I voiced my thoughts about how teachers should have a passion for their career and not look at it as a job; they should care about the learning and progress of their students because that gives a space for students to reach their full potential. She replied, “The thing is, teachers are not paid to care, their paid to teach.” It suddenly struck me that she did not have to constantly remind kids to do their homework or provide extra tutoring and counseling when needed, she did that all on her own. Even though she wasn’t paid to care she still did. The reality is though that some students do not have the opportunity to have teachers who truly value their growth and as a society, how do we solve that? How do we address the teachers who simply have a job and not a calling? How do we measure each teachers commitment to their students when they are not paid based on those standards?

I feel that until something is done to address such issue as well as all the other societal issues that effect a student learning, simply shutting down and re-opening a school with some new staff will not bring the reform our education system needs.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Kameron and Stephanie

"I would like to thank my mentor for being there for me whenever I needed her. I know she will always be there. She showed me she cared when she talked to me and told me she would always be there. From this program I learned to become more outgoing. This is helpful for when I grow up so I won’t be a shy person".


One Sunday, July 11, mentees from our Adams Middle School, Odyssey, Shout! Factory and Rhino Entertainment learned how surf.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Justice For Who?

Oscar Grant Verdict: Involuntary Manslaughter; 2-4 Years Jail

Thousands of us have seen the shocking video of the shooting of Oscar Grant at a BART station on New Year’s Day in Oakland, Ca. Anyone watching the video can clearly see that Grant was handcuffed, on his knees, and surrounded by cops. The murderer, or officer, was Johannes Mehserle a BART cop who alleged that he meant to reach for his taser instead of his gun. Today, at 4p, the jury announced Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, for which he will face 2-4 years in prison.

Whether he serves those 2-4 years in prison or petitions for probation it is appalling that he was not charged with murder, or at least voluntary manslaughter. The defense argued that Mehserle intended to tase Grant and was shocked when he shot Grant instead. This argument is coming from a man who had been an active duty cop for 3 years, had been trained to use a taser, and whose taser was on the opposite side of his gun.

It is obvious that Mehserle allowed his emotions to dictate his actions. If his argument is true, it means that he was not able to think clearly enough to distinguish between a yellow taser and a black handgun that weighs twice as much. Those in law enforcement are trained on how to properly shoot guns and use tasers yet this cop argued he made a mistake in distinguishing the two. Such argument evidently makes him unsuitable to be a cop but does it excuse him of killing a 22-year old? Apparently, the judge agrees he is not guilty of murder.

In order for someone to be charged with murder, the key factor that must be proved without any reasonable doubt is intent. Did Mehserle intend on killing Grant? Many say he did not. Several witnesses reported that prior to shooting his gun Mehserle announce he was going to tase Grant. The key detail that directly influences the charges that Mehserle faced is the fact that he was a cop. Because he was a cop who was apparently apprehending a suspect who was resisting arrest, under the law, he is given the benefit of the doubt that he did NOT intend to kill Grant.

This case touches on so many issues that is difficult for me to even write about without being tempted to cover everything. The fact the Mehserle is white and Grant was black brings up the racial tensions in our communities especially when the white individual is the one with “legal” power. Police brutality becomes an issue if we consider the fact that Grant was handcuffed and did not appear to be resisting arrest at the time he was shot. I can go on for days about the details of this case but the fats are: Mehserle resigned from the force a week after the shooting, Oscar Grant a 22-year-old man is dead, Mehserle faces 2-4 years in prison for which he can petition for probation instead, and a whole community cries over the injustice that has occurred.
The INjustice system provided Mehserle with the conviction that benefits him and it leaves the Grant family along with a whole community angry, confused, and disillusioned yet again, with our legal system.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Rosalind & Azucena

"I would like to thank my mentor for listening to what I had to say. Yes, she might have had problems with getting a hold of me but overall I wouldn’t trade my relationship with her for anything. By listening, being there for me, and making me laugh she showed me that she really cared for me. I have learned not to give up and stay standing because I want to succeed".


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Obama's Speech on Immigration Reform

Obama's Speech on Immigration Reform

Today, President Obama addressed American University and the nation on the topic of Immigration Reform. In his 35min long speech, the President covered a lot of old ground, offered very little new information to the masses and no real solutions.

It was nice to hear him cover the necessity and history of immigrant waives. It was nice for him to show gratitude to the hundreds and thousands of immigrants who have done something to shape this country. He briefly covered the SB1070 law in Arizona, the DREAM Act, and of course negated amnesty as a possible solution. Overall, it was “nice” speech. Yet in this “nice” speech he covered no real ground and provided no substantive solutions to the issue of immigration.
President Obama talked about the struggles that immigrants have when applying for legal status and how even that process is broken. He mentioned that closing off our borders completely was also not option.

There’s an argument that as a nation we need to secure our borders and increase vigilance in the southwest yet Obama stated that there are “more boots on the ground” in the southwest border than ever; personnel along the border has been doubled and the number of intelligence analysts has tripled. Obama’s immigration plan calls for $600 million, 1,000 agents, 7 gunrunner teams, 5 FBI tasks forces, and more prosecutors and immigration judges. Having dealt with the immigration legal process myself, I do understand that more immigration judges are needed to speed up the process for those waiting to have their cases heard but overall, what do these random facts do for undocumented individuals? They provide hope that a solution is pending but no real answer as to what type of reform they should expect.

I am glad to know that President Obama is taking this issue seriously by speaking about it and not being shy to really address what is needed. Yet I struggle with the fact that every time a President addresses such a sensitive and important issue their stance and potential solutions are never directly covered.

The DREAM Act is one solution that would help so many young people around the country pursue their dreams of getting a higher education. It would allow them to really reach their full potential in this country. Many of the youth that YMC works with would be able to made post high school education an option. Yes, Obama restated his support for the DREAM Act yet offered no comprehensive solution.

It is a fact that many political candidates stray away from such sensitive issues like immigration because of the repercussions that come along with it. Like past presidents, Obama said that undocumented individuals living in this country need to register and say they broke the law, pay taxes and fines, learn English, and “be right with the law before they get in line.” What this statement entails is that these individuals pay hefty fines and legal fees to get their legal process started, not considering the fact that many are paid below minimum wage and already struggle to make ends meet.

Overall, his speech was informative to those who may not know random facts about past immigrant waives and the current immigration issue. Obama said he is “ready” to do something about it, and although I am glad to hear that, our people have BEEN ready for years.


Surfing 6/27