Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee - Pat & Kimberly

"I would like to thank you for always being there for me when I needed someone. I’d also like to thank you for offering your advice and perspectives for me to put into action. Not everything is at it seems.
The fact that you listened to what I had to say was enough to prove to me that you cared about me. In this program I learned that I don’t have to face everything alone; its’ okay to have someone there to help you or to just stand by your side".


Hawaiian Gardens 2011

The start of Hawaiian Gardens 2011 mentoring program year. Mentors and mentees went bowling on their first mentoring session.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You Know that cousin you loaned money to, who is now robbing your house?

His initials are B of A !

Just received a notice from Bank of America that they will raise my interest rate to 30% if I fall behind on my payments. I won’t (I pay my card off monthly), but it leaves me wondering about the poor souls who have lost their jobs because of Bank of America and other financial institution’s fraud upon our nation, destroying our economy, or the families of our young people who were given credit cards at already predatory rates. We the taxpayers gave BofA almost 200 billion dollars to bail them out, and this is how they thank us. We were told that if we didn’t bail them out the entire economy would collapse, but that if we did they would loosen up credit restrictions and get the economy flowing again, thus creating jobs and relieving the housing crises. It didn’t happen. Instead, credit was tightened and they have increased penalties on the very people that saved them when those people get in trouble. Let’s recount:

1. They ruin our economy and we bail them out

2. We lose our jobs because they ruined our economy

3. We can’t keep up our payments, because we lost our jobs because they ruined our economy

4. They raise our interest rates to make it even worse for us, because we can’t keep up our payments, because we lost our jobs because they ruined our economy

Someone has to pay for the huge bonuses given to those whose practices ruined our economy. B of A paid out $96 billion in bonuses and compensation, including $9 million to CEO Brian Moynihan in 2010.  Bank of America received $199 billion in taxpayer bailouts and other assistance, stuck us with the bill and then paid no taxes from 2008 to 2010, receiving instead a $16 billion refund, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Why do they do this? Because they can.
respectfully with a bit of anger,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adams Grande Game of Life

Mentees and Mentors experience a life size version of the game of life! This game was created to give the mentees a little taste of life and how to use money wisely.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"With My Victim in the Room"

Too much clothing for a warm day, hiding tattoos that mark his claim to a few blocks in South Central Los Angeles. Fresh out of juvenile hall for activities dictated by his gang, the young man who appears older than his years, has been sitting sullenly but attentively in the corner of the room at our annual retreat in the Big Bear Mountains. He is watching, listening for a sign that acceptance into a healthy community that has eluded him all his life might finally be forthcoming.

I recite the Half Boy Story that I learned from Michael Meade.  Something in that telling stands him up and his own story must be revealed. He is shaking and his voice quivers.

“You tell that story and you tell my life” he says.

He recounts the beatings at an angry father’s hands. He peals back the sleeves of his coat to reveal the green of inked tattoos mingled with the black scars of cigarette burns from a father’s sadism. He recounts how he sought refuge in the streets only to find more violence and confusion.

“I became a monster” he proclaims.

He pleads with the other boys in the room not to follow his ways, not to get caught up in gang-banging.

“You think you are going to get protection from your homies, but what you get is a target on your back.”

Finally he says: “I never thought I would find this kind of place. I never thought I would find men that would welcome me and show me love and acceptance like this…and I never thought I would be telling my story with one of my victims in the same room.”

He can’t get himself to make eye contact. So, the young man, identified as the victim, stands up and walks across the room. They embrace. The tears flow. 

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

We stopped a gang that day.  Help us keep this experience alive for youth who need us.  Donate to our annual campaign.  Click here. Even a little helps alot.


Tony LoRe, CEO/Founder

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

1 Year +

About 1 year ago I met Daylajane at my first YMC bowling event through my company, Shout Factory. It’s easy for me to say, we clicked instantly. I’ll admit I was nervous, feeling much like a kid myself at 22, but if she was nervous, she never showed it. We paired up from the start and rented our bowling shoes, joking about how large my feet are and how bowling shoes only accentuate this (they are and they do). I found listening and talking to her easy. Not your average 16 year old, Daylajane was mature beyond my expectations. She was very forthcoming and I found our personalities to be similar, making it easier in the beginning to form a connection based on the things in life that we both value; honesty, communication, trust, and personal relationships.    

Now, a year later, when I look at these two pictures of us, the first on our match day and the second taken recently at a group session, I see four different people. The two kids who started this adventure in YMC and the two adults who are now really ready to own it.  (I also realized that we both change our hairstyles a lot.) Just over a year later, I am now 24 and Daylajane is just weeks away from turning 18, going to her senior prom and graduating high school. I can hardly contain my excitement for this coming year with Daylajane. She has so much ahead of her in the next few months and I am so excited to share some of her journey with her. My final semester of high school was HUGE – scary, exciting and so much to take in - and graduation day being one of the best days of my life and I wish the same for her. I never could have imagined Daylajane in my life at that time, but now, I can't imagine it without her.  Sounds cliché? Sure, but it's true.

Thank you Daylajane, YMC and Shout! Factory for an enriching and wonderful year (and many more) of mentoring.

-Samantha Pennacchio
YMC Mentor & Leadership Board Member

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Scott & Jose

I would like to thank my mentor for being there for me and for being a friend that I can count on. He was always there when I need him. He gave me advice to have a better relationship with my mom and listened to how I felt about my mom. The one thing I learned in this program that will help me grow and make a better life is to be communicative to others, to be able to be understood when someone doesn’t know me, to be respectful, and how to work as a team.


CHLA Senior I Family Night

Mentors meet their mentees families and families learn more about what YMC is all about.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lack of sleep coupled with physical exertion breaks down the defenses

This Spring we have been privileged to participate in Stoked Mentoring’s snowboarding trips. These wonderful experiences got us reminiscing about our first ever trip to the snow with YMC youth. It was a weekend affair with seven teenage boys and the same number of girls. When we arrived we discovered that (contrary to our requests) our accommodations had them staying in two rooms of the same cabin, separated by only a living room in between. Guess where staff decided to sleep at night?

This was the first time to the snow for almost every one of our 14 young people. So, you can imagine that they were a little keyed up. I remember going into the boys’ room three times to settle them down to get some sleep. Finally, on the fourth trip to their shared room at about 2am I decided to try a different tactic. I walked into the room without saying a word, shut off the light and sat silently on the floor in the middle of the room flanked by 4 sets of bunk beds hosting 7 young men. The boys became immediately silent. After a few moments some anxious giggling showed up, followed by “shhhh, Tony’s right here.” An attempt at a whispered joke, which engendered a whispered command “hey, respect!”

After awhile they were all settled down. Even though few were yet asleep, my boy Jose Luis decided that my little mission had been accomplished and says “you can go now Tony”.

The following day was glorious. Spring conditions. Fresh snow had fallen at night while we were engaged in our cabin capers. Sun shining down on excited youngsters who show no signs of operating on only 3 hours of sleep. They learn well and have fun.

That evening’s fireside conversation would be deep and evocative. Lack of sleep coupled with physical exertion breaks down the defenses, rendering our young people more open to sharing things they otherwise might hold back. Wounds are shared and cared for. Flashes of insight share the space with expressions of support and vows to change. After the meeting weary adults slip off to get some much needed shut eye, while stalwart youth hang out by the fire, not wanting to give up the collegiality found in this special evening.

This time when they finally get to their room sleep comes quickly.

In peace,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why do white people...

As I'm sure is true for everyone that has signed up to do this thing we call mentoring, I've definitely learned more and benefitted much more than my mentee.  When I first met Israel, he was just a 4th grader and I think he may have been the youngest kid to ever be paired into YMC.  In the two years since, we've been on an amazing journey, which is best summed up in three words: Candid, Contradiction, and Play.

Let's start with the first verb: Candid, which brings us to the title of the story. Certainly one of the best part's of hanging with Israel is that he has no filter and he never means any harm, so what comes out of his mouth is simply his perception of what is happening in the world through his eyes.  If you ever wanted to prepare yourself for thinking on your feet, an afternoon with him would do you wonders.  Here's a sample of questions and thoughts that are shot out of his brain:
•    What do white people always wear flip flops?
•    Do you believe in God? Are you afraid you’re going to hell?
•    Where'd you get those White Boy shoes?
•    Why do White People drink so much milk?
•    Why aren't you married?
•    Why don't you buy a Camaro? All black with yellow rims.

The second word that always comes to mind when I think of our friendship is contradiction.  Israel is the perfect storm of contradiction: nurturing but street tough, curious but knows it all, childlike but independent, confident but in need of affirmation. Israel watches out for his 4 year old sister like a hawk, but he embraces fighting like he was a professional boxer (though he's made amazing strides in the number of fights he gets in over the last few months).  He'll walk into any place like he owns it and there is no stranger that he won't talk to, but he always wants to explore something new and it's the simplest things that boggle his mind.  When we made our first trip to a restaurant with linen napkins, he couldn't fathom that we would wipe our hands on them and he was ready to take his home with him.  The first time I took him to a cartoon movie, he was as mad as ever about being taken to a “kid movie.” He was 10 at the time, but after the first two previews, he requested that we see those “kid movies” as well.

Finally, the best part about mentoring is the “play.”  When I picked up Israel from his after school program this week, his reaction to my question about what we should do was “Let's Go Play!”  Every time I hang out with the kid, I realize how short life is and how much we forget to just go enjoy it sometimes.  Israel and I mix up our activities as much as we can, but everywhere we go, we have fun.  I don't know how many friends you have that you can say you have fun with every time you hang with them, but that's the story of Israel.  Whether it’s a big trip to a Lakers game or hanging out with him at the local community center playing table tennis, I drive home from dropping him off and just remember what it's like to be a kid.

When I look at my newfound friend, I find that I admire him as much as anyone I've ever met and he'll probably never know it.  The kid walks through life like he's the mayor (which is my nickname for him), greeting everyone he meets or interacts with from the fireman at Chipotle to the librarians he's trying to talk into giving him more internet time.  He has a swagger that says I'm pretty damn cool and friendly, but I won't back down if you disrespect me.  But most importantly, he accepts what he has been given in his life and makes the most of it from day to day. I've never once heard him complain and he takes the bad no differently than the good.

If you haven't given it a shot, consider trying out this mentoring thing.  You too might meet your idol, staring back at you in a 4'10” body asking for a cheeseburger and a couple of quarters to play that video game over there.  

-- Kevin Gigax
YMC Mentor & Leadership Board Chair

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Adams Grande Fantasy Neighborhood

Mentors and Mentees draw their ideal neighborhood that they would like to live in.