Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday fun @ Warner Bros.

Mentees and Mentors gathered at WB studios for a fun activity we call
"White Elephant Gift exchange".  We began with a toast (from our fearless leader Tony LoRe)  to" cheating, lying, and stealing"! .If you have to cheat - cheat death, lie to protect a friend, and if your going to steal - steal someone's heart. This was the last time we would come together as a community at WB in 2012 and what a great way to end! Happy Holidays :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

From Thugs To Hugs

Manny was too hard core for someone so young. He was 12 years old, full of anger, flashing gang signs and defiant to all of our staff, especially Free Harris.  As a Latino male, Manny had been trained by his ‘hood’ to hate black people like Free. But Free didn’t see a rage-filled thug that others described (despite the fact that Manny called him a racial slur the first time they met).  Instead Free saw a young man, alive with the fire of youth who had never been given a chance, until he came to YMC.  Free kept showing up consistently, with love, to deliver the message “You have gifts to offer this world.”  “You were born with a purpose and together it’s our job to discover it.”  At YMC Manny was able to explore and understand the wounds that made him retreat behind the gangster image.  Eventually the real Manny began to emerge: a gentle, peaceful soul that found healing in our community.  One day in a group of young men Manny told the story of how this loving black man transformed his heart.  Then Manny got up, walked across the room and embraced Free with a deep, soulful hug.  It became Manny’s trademark.  He had a knack for sensing the perfect moment to step in and offer an embrace to another young man ready to make the same move towards life that Manny had made. Manny made the move from thugs to hugs.

The final tactic in our master plan was to give Manny one of the coolest mentors ever - radio and TV personality Chuey Martinez, who has been described as “the Latino Ryan Seacrest” and “the next big thing to hit Hollywood”.  Chuey approaches mentoring like he does everything else - he shows up big every time.  It’s a great relationship.  Manny lights up when he sees Chuey and they always greet each other with a big hug.  Yep, turns out they are both huggers.

Last night Manny showed up in my office to thank me for all he has received from YMC and for the person he has become.  He spoke with pride about his improving grades.  I could see a man emerging from the former gang member. When we first met him, Manny told us he was going to drop out.  Now, Manny is going to graduate, like 96% of our mentees.  Then he thanked me for teaching him to be a peacemaker.  He said he visited one of his ex-rival’s homes, submitted to a “pat-down” and, negotiated a peace agreement that ended in his bitter rival embracing him.  They had crossed over, from thugs to hugs

Just as Manny finished telling his story, Chuey showed up, almost on cue, and you can guess how they greeted each other!

So you can see why I shed a tear when Manny and Chuey left my office.  But what you can’t see is my heart breaking, because the program that Manny relied on for three years will shut down -- unless we can raise $160,000 in December and January.  Almost 160 mentees and mentors will be without the structure of YMC’s Odyssey and Hero’s Journey programs. 
Please give Manny back the program that changed his life and give others the same opportunity.  Anything you can do will help

Can you also identify just 5 friends and personally ask them to help us raise these funds?  Be a real and critical part of turning around and saving lives.  If we can raise these funds over the next couple of weeks, you will give troubled youths the greatest Christmas present  they could ever want – their lives.

Peace and blessings,

Tony LoRe
Founder, Youth Mentoring Connection

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