Award-winning designer at CUMAR Marble and Granite + Over My Shoulder Foundation’s Co-Founder/Executive Director Dawn Carroll

The Similarities Between a Designer and a Mentor 

As designers we recognize potential the second we enter a new space. With confidence we understand exactly what we can make a room…become. “What do you see that I can be?” is what a spiritless space will ask us. “What am I missing that will make me be complete?” is the question it begs us to answer. I’ve come to understand the many similarities between a designer and a mentor.

Design for Wholesome Living

We mentor rooms to become the essential ingredient to happy and healthy homes – custom tailored nurturing spaces that weave old-fashioned goodness back into our modern lives while instilling hope and promise into our futures. Each of us, in all walks of life, has this capability for design. It can be for beautiful rooms, flashy fashion, brilliant technology or perhaps most importantly, designing flourishing people.

Design for Mentorology

On behalf of the Over My Shoulder Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit designed to increase mentoring, I would like to introduce to you Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring.

When we meet a new person that has the same vision and imagination that we use in our design careers, the art of mentoring teaches us to instinctively engage and ask: “How can I help design this person to be high-performance? How can I help design this person to become solid enough to last a lifetime?” We should ask ourselves, “What do I see that this person can be?”

This is Mentorology, the art of mentoring. Mentorology designs the next generation by recognizing there is something special about every individual we encounter. It is our job, or, as a wise woman once said to me, “It’s our rent in this life to monitor, mentor and design smart minded individuals. Our job in this life is to assist, advise, and solve challenges to help create healthy people.”

Mentorology’s Return

When we mentor we get something mind-blowing in return, something that offers a lifetime of satisfaction. That something is a privileged and prideful glow that comes from knowing we’ve made a difference in another person’s life. That one thing we might say or do could awaken a spirit, inject some wisdom, breed some self-worth and offer nutritional value to our well-being.

The Mentoring Palette

A mentoring palette looks something like this: wisdom, esteem, confidence, worth and knowledge.

Mentorology destroys the myth that mentoring is complicated when, in fact, it is primitive. Once upon a time we were people who belonged to a close-knit village. We were members of a productive loving tribe. Once upon a time the elders all took a mentoring role and each child became their own. Each child was an apprentice and learned essential life skills as well as a trade and as that child grew the elders knew that these same children would become their caregivers. This natural cross-generational mentoring was the norm.

Today our lives are often dictated by text messages, e-mails and conference calls. It is easy to feel unraveled and with our insane schedules, it is easy to slip through the cracks. The honest-to-goodness fact is that we will always need to give just as much as we need to receive.

We CAN Design Thriving, Interwoven Lives Together

We can design the next generation. You can design the next you. We can design healthy and productive people just like we do every day for our clients as designers.

Mentorology asks you to look over your shoulder and become the key to someone’s success. There is indeed a golden opportunity knocking on your door.

Mentoring knows no age. Whether older to younger or the other way around, mentoring returns all involved to a place of hope, simplicity and accomplishment through teamwork. Without support and emotional substance, without a positive influence in our lives, we become lost, disconnected and unstable, as individuals and as a society.

 

June was an exciting month for the Over My Shoulder Foundation, the non-profit that I  co-founded, with Dawn Carroll to help inspire more people to mentor others.

Ted Fujimoto of The Right to Succeed Foundation, Patti Austin, Stephen Powell of Mentoring USA, Governor Michael Dukakis, Attorney Rick Dyer, and Gary Greenberg of GreenbergTraurig.

First, the foundation held a stellar evening at Boston’s Liberty Hotel for more than 300 people where we honored Governor Michael Dukakis, opened the call for entries for the Mentors in Design Award (also called The MIDDIES), and celebrated the 20th anniversary of Cumar Marble & Granite. It was a tremendous evening that we called “Designing the Next Generation.”

One of my favorite things about the Over My Shoulder Foundation is that I am both mentor AND mentee everday. My partner in this mentoring mission, Dawn Carroll is also an award winning stone designer: Her company Cumar Marble and Granite works with the finest architects, builders and interior designers world wide. Every time I am in Boston I get to meet and work with all these amazing interior designers and the graciously mentor me so that I can finally fulfill a life–long, passionate dream of Interior Design.

Dawn Carroll, Patti Austin, and Carlotta Cubi of Cumar Marble & Granite

The night after the Liberty Hotel event, designer Leslie Fine of Leslie Fine Interiors,  held a smaller gathering at the stunning Poggenpohl  showroom on Boston’s Newbury Street. If you’ve never been to Newbury Street, it is a mile-long stretch in the Back Bay neighborhood that has loads of great clothing shops, restaurants, art galleries, and shops. It’s one of those places you could easily spend a whole day…or more!

Poggenpohl and their amazing designer (my other dynamic mentoring friend) Rosemary Porto, create sleek, contemporary kitchens for their clients. They are based in Germany, but their Boston location is at 135 Newbury Street and they have showrooms and dealers across the US. The showroom was filled with beautiful guests and was a perfect location for a cozy “mentor-centric” event.  I was able to meet many new friends and talk to everyone about life, mentoring, Designing the Next Generation….and we enjoyed some delicious food.

Executive Chef Kurt von Kahle, Attorney David Fine, and Susan Benjamin.

One of my other great passions is cooking and I got to cook mouth-watering delights along with Executive Chef Kurt von Kahle. This entire night was organized by my friends, my mentors Leslie Fine, Rosemary Porto and Dawn Carroll.

The special evening brought together people from a wide variety of industries and  for me, it reinforces the whole idea of mentoring and how much we need each other, because you learn so much, but sometimes I think we take it for granted how much each of us knows that you can share with others to help future generations.

Jessica Theiss of Baypoint Builders, Patti Austin, and Jim Catlin of Herrick and White

We want the Over My Shoulder Foundation to inspire more people to mentor…across generation and across cultures. With an increase of people’s interdependency, the foundation hopes to foster respect, diversity, culture, and individuality.

TR Productions put together a terrific, four and a half minute video about the evening. You can see that on YouTube. –Patti Austin

 

[box] 300+ leaders from sectors of Design, Architecture, Construction, Music, Law, and Education throughout Boston and New England attended the first annual Over My Shoulder Foundation event, Designing the Next Generation. It was an incredible evening with a packed audience mesmerized by speakers and musicians sharing their mentoring experiences.

In case you missed this year’s event, I wanted to share the contents of our program, including the people that spoke at the event and the sponsors that made it possible. At the end of the post there is a link where you can download the program to see its entirety. Help us keep up the momentum and spread the mentoring magic that happened at Designing the Next Generation. Become a mentor today!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]

The People Who Made DESIGNING THE NEXT GENERATION Possible

This event would not have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors, including: Cumar, Inc; Greenberg Traurig; VossFoundation (Read the OMSF Interview with Kara Gerson, Executive Director); Design New England, HRO, Hemenway & Barnes; Leslie Fine Interiors, Inc.; Kenneth Vona Construction, Inc.; Consentino Center; SWANK Audio Visuals; and Suffolk Construction.

Now, on the people who dedicated so much time and energy into organizing and shaping Designing the Next Generation into the mentoring celebration it was…

 

Dave Connor, General Manager, CUMAR Marble & Granite

Dave Connor assumed the reigns as General Manager of CUMAR Marble & Granite in July 2009. He embraced the multi-generational mentoring culture at CUMAR and created a client centric TEAM focused approach to the Stone Fabrication & Supply business. CUMAR is New England’s Stone company of choice to discerning architects, designers, general contractors, and owners. He joined the Board of Over My Shoulder in 2010 to create the MIDDIE awards and mentoring initiatives. As a career business executive and change agent in manufacturing, fabrication, construction, and distribution, Dave spent the previous seven years in landscape construction on the Big Dig and residential home construction and remodeling. From 1991–2002 he worked as a VP in the Graphic Arts/Printing industry as a Merger/Acquisition specialist and Manufacturing/Operations executive. Dave is a graduate of UMASS/Amherst and resides in Marshfield, MA with his wife Kristen and 2 young children, where he is involved in his community church, youth sports, scouting, music, and theater.

 

 

 

Carlotta Cubi, Executive Vice President, CUMAR Marble & Granite

Carlotta Cubi’s background in the stone business begins at her childhood where she spent hours leaning over her father’s blueprints highlighting all the countertops and tile floors. During her countless visits to her father’s stone shop she wandered the showroom and warehouse looking over all the stones trying to decide if they were granites or marbles. She went on to obtain a business degree from Northeastern University and began her formal employment at Cumar Inc. working in sales and account management. Over the next 7 years she was mentored closely by her father and worked through the various aspects of the business ending up in her current position 2nd in command to her father as Executive Vice President.

 

 

 

 

Gail Ravgiala Editor, Design New England

Gail Ravgiala joined Design New England as editor in November 2007. She had been the home design editor for the Sunday Boston Globe Magazine, where she edited and produced the six-times-a-year Your Home issues. Her magazine experience began in 1990 when she was named content editor for the Globe’s Your Home, Your Health, Travel, and Fashion magazines. “Design New England’s editorial goal,” she says, “is to bring to our readers the best in design, while introducing them to the professionals behind these splendid homes and gardens.” She lives in a neighborhood of 19th-century Victorian homes in Boston, where she nurtures her appreciation of architecture and solid building techniques.

 

 

 

 

Patti Austin, Grammy® Award-winning recording artist + Co-Founder of Over My Shoulder Foundation

Renowned global performer and Grammy® Award-winning recording artist Patti Austin has earned the respect and admiration of peers and audiences the world over. Celebrating an incredible five decades of music, the native New Yorker has created an amazing legacy of work that covers close to twenty albums. A dedicated humanitarian who has devoted considerable time to performing for AIDS-related organizations over the years, Patti’s “Blue Movement” is her personal crusade to bring awareness and new insights into the domestic violence crisis in the USA and around the world. Patti was one of a host of artists on the 2010 single, “We Are the World: 25 For Haiti” and she also co-created the Over My Shoulder Foundation with Dawn Carroll.

Watch Patti perform the song that started Over My Shoulder Foundation

 

 

Dawn Carroll, award-winning stone designer at CUMAR Marble & Granite + Executive Director of Over My Shoulder Foundation

The Over My Shoulder Foundation started with a song called “Over My Shoulder,” with lyrics written by Dawn as a duet to be performed by legendary Patti Austin and one of her mentees, Lianna Guiterrrez. Dawn’s vision was to musically weave together her message: that without support and emotional sustenance we can become lost, disconnected, and unstable—as individuals and as a society. As the Executive Director of OMSF, Dawn has inspired programs like the MIDDIES, which ask people to stop and pay tribute to those who helped navigate them to success. As Dawn states, “The dream behind the OMSF is to celebrate, nominate, and reward mentors and mentees: a new cadre of creative talent which will have the leadership skills to amend many of our social and economic crises.”

 

 

 

Stephen Powell, Executive Director at Mentoring USA

An alumnus of the Institute for Not-for-Profit Management Executive Education Program at Columbia University’s Graduate Business School, Stephen remains driven to lead program expansion and technical assistance efforts for Mentoring USA across the nation in major cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and also in Newark, NJ. Prior to joining Mentoring USA in 2005, Stephen worked in program development and management for local and national non-profits such as: Family and Child Services of Washington, DC, VSA arts/Kennedy Center, Youth for Understanding, and the Harlem Educational Activities Fund.

Stephen has appeared on the Over My Shoulder Foundation blog before as the author of posts about Mentoring on Martin Luther King Day.

 

 

 

Ted Fujimoto, Founder of The Right to Succeed Foundation

Ted Fujimoto helps communities and school districts create and support 21st-century schools. As an entrepreneur and consultant, he has helped develop business strategies for Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools, Big Picture Learning, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Partnership for Uplifting Communities, Linking Education & Economic Development, California Charter Schools Association and the New York Charter Schools Association. Ted has toured over 500 public schools in the nation, his work represents more than $150 million in funding. He was instrumental in designing and founding Napa New Technology High School and the New Technology Foundation that now comprises 85+ schools nationwide. He has served on the California Education Technology Advisory Committee and received the 2002 Center for Digital Government “In the Arena” award for education leadership in transforming vision to reality. In Converge Magazines “1999 Year in Review”, Ted was named one of “Educations Dreamers, Leaders and Innovators.” He is pioneer of the “Right to Succeed” movement and believes every child should have the opportunity to succeed.

 

 

 

Gary Greenberg, Co-Managing Shareholder at GreenbergTraurig

Gary Greenberg, a senior trial attorney with more than 25 years of experience throughout the United States and other parts of the world, including Switzerland, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus and the Isle of Man, has represented clients in a wide variety of complex matters, at trials and in state and federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, including international fraud recovery, patent infringement and intellectual property disputes; securities litigation; class actions; money laundering actions; civil forfeiture proceedings; Petroleum Marketing Practices Act litigation; mail and wire fraud criminal proceedings; employment and labor disputes; shareholder derivative actions; franchisor disputes with franchisees; lender-borrower disputes; telecommunications litigation; public bid procurement disputes; land-use disputes; litigation concerning regulations promulgated by state and federal agencies; complex personal injury; binding and non-binding mediation; death action claims; and contract, tort and statutory claims. Gary also appears before several state and federal administrative agencies. He has lectured, conducted workshops, and served as a public commentator for print and radio commentary on a variety of litigation issues.

 

 

Rick Dyer, Attorney

Rick is a passionate advocate. He has practiced law for 25 years in the areas of Criminal Defense, Juvenile/Child Welfare, Family Law, and Commutation and Parole, with special concentrations in addiction and sentencing mitigation. He believes that justice should be administered with passion, integrity, and a deep understanding of its impact on the individual and community. In representing clients, he brings to bear a broad spectrum of personal and professional experience. Rick is an holistic advocate, bringing to the Court a zealous representation and whole-person picture of his clients with tact, strategy, and dignity. Rick is a member of the Federal Bar, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Juvenile Bar Association, as well as a panel member of the pro bono group Suffolk Lawyers for Justice.

Read our Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with Rick about One Less Hopeless Person and his inspiring life story.

 

 

Michael Dukakis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Northeastern University

Governor of Massachusetts (1975-1979, 1983-1991)

1988 Democratic Nominee for President of the United States

Michael Stanley Dukakis was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on November 3, 1933. His parents, Panos and Euterpe (Boukis) Dukakis both emigrated from Greece to the mill cities of Lowell and Haverhill, Massachusetts before marrying and settling in the town of Brookline, just outside Boston. Dukakis graduated from Brookline High School (1951), Swarthmore College (1955), and Harvard Law School (1960). He served for two years in the United States Army, sixteen months of which he spent with the support group to the United Nations delegation of the Military Armistice Commission in Munsan, Korea.

Dukakis began his political career as an elected Town Meeting Member in the town of Brookline. He was elected chairman of his town’s Democratic organization in 1960 and won a seat in the Massachusetts Legislature in 1962. He served four terms as a legislator, winning reelection by an increasing margin each time he ran. In 1970 he was the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s nominee for Lieutenant Governor and the running mate of Boston Mayor Kevin White in the year’s gubernatorial race which they lost to Republicans Frank Sargent and Donald Dwight.

Dukakis won his party’s nomination for Governor in 1974 and beat Sargent decisively in November of that year. He inherited a record deficit and record high unemployment and is generally credited with digging Massachusetts out of one of its worst financial and economic crises in history. But the effort took its toll, and Dukakis was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1978 by Edward King. Dukakis came back to defeat King in 1982 and was reelected to an unprecedented third four-year term in 1986 by one of the largest margins in history. In 1986, his colleagues in the National Governors’ Association voted him the most effective governor in the nation.

Dukakis won the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States in 1988 but was defeated by George Bush. Soon thereafter, he announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection as governor. After leaving office in January 1991, Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, spent three months at the University of Hawaii where Dukakis was a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of Public Health. While at the University of Hawaii, he taught courses in political leadership and health policy and led a series of public forums on the reform of the nation’s health-care system. There has been increasing public interest in Hawaii’s first-in-the-nation universal health insurance system and the lessons that can be learned from it as the nation debates the future of health care in America.

Since June 1991, Dukakis has been a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy at UCLA. His research has focused on national health care policy reform and the lessons that national policy makers can learn from state reform efforts. Recently, he and former U.S. Senator Paul Simon authored a book entitled How to Get Into Politics-and Why which is designed to encourage young people to think seriously about politics and public service as a career.

Dukakis was nominated by President Clinton for a five-year term as a member of the Board of Directors of Amtrak, The National Railroad Passenger Corporation on May 21, 1998 and was confirmed by the Senate on June 25, 1998. He served a full five-year term on the Amtrak Board as Vice-Chairman. Mike and Kitty Dukakis have three children: John, Andrea, and Kara, and are the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.

 

Charlie Farren, Musician

Charlie Farren emerged onto the national scene in the early ‘80s as lead singer and guitarist with The Joe Perry Project. In that band Charlie established himself as one of the hottest young singers to emerge from the Boston music scene, writing the hits ‘Listen To The Rock’ and ‘East Coast, West Coast’ and ‘I’ve Got The Rock And Rolls Again’.

In 1986 Charlie, along with Dave Hull (Joe Perry Project) and John Muzzy, formed FARRENHEIT and released a self-titled debut album on Warner Brothers. Three singles from that album, ‘Fool in Love’, ‘Bad Habit’, and ‘Lost in Loveland’, as well as video exposure on MTV, established FARRENHEIT as one of the premier new rock acts and receiving awards, media attention and new fans across the country.

Released in 1999, ‘Deja Blue’ established the Farren brand in earnest, this through masterful songwriting, soulful vocals and keen instincts for musical re-invention. Charlie subsequently released ‘World Gone Wild’, ‘Four Letter Word’, and ‘Live at Club Passim’ as a solo artist, along with a new live FARRENHEIT CD ‘FARRENHEIT Live at The Roxy – Boston MA’.

In 2009, Farren released a live DVD and CD double set, ‘Charlie Farren: Retrospective – Live at The Regent Theatre’ , a tour-de-force that exhibits sophistication and musical depth most recording artists never achieve. Charlie’s exquisitely soulful voice confirms him as one of the world’s most easily identifiable and gifted singer/ songwriters.

Charlie is currently working on a project with partner and fellow singer/songwriter Jon Butcher, FARREN BUTCHER, INC. Their most recent release, “FBI” has been well received, and their live performances across New England. Both Charlie and Jon are members of the cast of judges in the Emmy award winning television program, Community Auditions, and both were included on the bill of the 2011 Boston Legends New England tour.

 

Robin Lane, Musician

Robin Lane was born into a musical family in the city of Los Angeles. Her father was a songwriter and musical director for Dean Martin who wrote the hit “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.” Robin began her career singing with Neil Young on the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album. She then went on to form her renowned band Robin Lane & The Chartbusters. RL & The Busters had the eleventh video broadcast on the debut day of MTV with their hit song “When Things Go Wrong” and performed for audiences worldwide.

Robin Lane is certified as Teaching Partner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Cultural Council. Ms. Lane’s industry experience includes a three decade long recording and performance career (Warner Bros.: Robin Lane & The Chartbusters) and songwriting for musicians including Susannah Hoffs (The Bangles), independent film soundtracks, and recording with Neil Young.

Robin has a lengthy record of providing therapeutic music programming to at-risk youth Giving Youth A Voice and trauma survivors A Woman’s Voice. She has taught workshops on creativity and The Artist’s Way at various locations. Robin has been a presenter at the Dare to Act Conference in Baltimore and Break The Silence Conference at Rowe, MA, as well presenting workshops and conferences for youth and women trauma survivors. Robin Says, “There is empowerment in the arts. Those participating will come to see that they do not have to go back to the lives they once lived. They will learn to have faith in their creative abilities and will realize the power contained in their own voice. This isn’t a cure but for those who have survived trauma, for those who are incarcerated, it is a powerful step in the healing transformation.” Santana Roberts, a young musician mentored by Patti Austin, conducted an Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with Robin Lane on National “Thank Your Mentor Day.”

 

Hal Lebeaux Boudreau, Musician

Hal Lebeaux is a founding member of the successful rock band Extreme, which formed in Malden, MA in 1985. Hal is a personal friend of the Over My Shoulder Foundation’s Co-Founder and Executive Director Dawn Carroll. At the core of the Over My Shoulder project, mentoring through music allows individuals to explore a creative outlet enabling them to express themselves and their ideas. Foundations like Over My Shoulder have become increasingly valuable to not only educate aspiring artists but to also act as primary sources for sharing musical interests.

When asked by his personal friend, Dawn Carroll, to help with lyrics and melodies for another song specifically for the Over My Shoulder Project, Hal Lebeaux Boudreau was happy to oblige. Today, 53 year old music veteran Boudreau wholeheartedly attributes his rekindled passion for music to Carroll’s infectious positivity, thanking his friend for not only her personal support but her professional confidence in him to include him in such a key project.

Hal says, “My friend Dawn Carroll called me one day asking me to ‘mentor’ her and help her complete some new songs for her Over My Shoulder project. Her request had a surprising impact on me personally and before I knew it, I developed an additional eighteen songs for my own first album. Drawing on personal vision as well as Dawn’s writing, Dawn and her Over My Shoulder project unknowingly set the wheels in motion for a rebirth of my artistic creativity. Although I have worked throughout my life in music, it was not until this project have I been so motivated. I’d like to take a moment to thank my friend and musical colleague Dawn Carroll for re-igniting the fire in me to be creative and write, sing and play my own original music. Without the magical mentoring spirit of Over My Shoulder, I doubt my new album would have happened.”

 

Julie Silver, Musician

Julie is one of the most celebrated and beloved performers in the world of contemporary Jewish music today. She tours throughout the world, and has been engaging audiences with her lyrical guitar playing, her dynamic stage presence, and her megawatt smile for nearly twenty years.

Although she resides in Southern California, Julie’s roots are deep in New England. She was raised in Newton, Massachusetts and by the time she was 18, she was leading raucous song sessions throughout the Reform Jewish movement and playing coffeehouses in and around Boston. Without backing from a major label, Julie has sold more than 80,000 copies of her CDs. Between 1992 and 2000 she released some of the highest selling, successful albums of original Jewish music (Together, From Strength to Strength, Walk With Me, and Beyond Tomorrow) Her songs have become so tightly woven into the fabric of American Judaism that they have become “standards” in worship, camp, and academic settings.

In 2002 Julie released Notes from Montana, a collection of original folk/rock songs that featured a duet with the Academy Award winning actress Helen Hunt. Julie’s children’s CD, For Love to Grow, was released in spring 2005 and quickly honored as a Parents’ Choice Blue Ribbon Recommended work. The honor is especially sweet for Julie, who recorded this beautiful CD as a tribute to her childhood music teacher, the prolific Boston-based composer, Aline Shader. She even granted Over My Shoulder Foundation an exclusive interview about blossoming as a musician Under the Wings of Aline Shader.

It’s Chanukah Time, was recorded in 2007, and was the first Jewish holiday CD produced exclusively for the Barnes and Noble bookstore chain. It was also the only Jewish album to ever be recognized on Billboard, peaking at #5 in 2009. Julie’s 2009 release, Reunion, is a collection of twelve “songs from a faithful heart” that reflect Julie’s journey over the last ten years. These days, Silver is focused on traveling the world, mentoring up-and-coming singer-songwriters, participating in Social Justice projects and making the Jewish experience more meaningful. “I try to enhance the way people experience Judaism by adding my own take on our sacred texts” Silver says. “I also want people who have historically been marginalized to feel included in the Jewish community or in any community and to be encouraged to tell their stories and live their lives openly. Our tradition compels us to express ourselves…our joys, our hopes, our faith and our fears. The only path to healing is through sharing our stories with one another. As a songwriter, I just write and sing what I feel and hope it resonates with people.”

Please click the link below to see the entire program and our event sponsors

OMSF & CUMAR_PGRM – 6-18-12 Liberty Hotel

 

(to download the program, please click the link above or go to http://s3.amazonaws.com/overmyshoulderfoundation/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/13235622/OMSF-CUMAR_PGRM-6-18-12-Liberty-Hotel.pdf)

 

 [box]If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too.[/box]

The First Annual Over My Shoulder Foundation flagship event, Designing the Next Generation, was an incredible evening with a packed audience mesmerized by speakers and musicians explaining their mentoring experiences and how their lives were changed by mentoring. Justin Locke, who wrote an Over My Shoulder Foundation story about Mentoring in the Boston Pops Orchestra, attended Designing the Next Generation on June 18 and shares his thoughts here. Soon we’ll give you even more details about the amazing evening!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director

When I was first introduced to Dawn Carroll and her “Over My Shoulder” mentoring foundation, I confess I was somewhat underwhelmed. As near as I could tell, the message and mission was something like “mentoring is good.” Well, duh, I said. Isn’t that obvious?

 

Well, actually. . . it isn’t.

 

While we all understand and agree that mentoring is a good thing, what is not so obvious is just how much anti-mentoring is going on out there. In the early 20th century, universal compulsory education meant that most kids were taken out of their family and social environments, to be taught generic skills in large groups, taught by government employees. The concept of apprenticeships virtually disappeared, at least during the day. Later on, as more families became single parent or 2-income, kids were again left on their own or in large supervised groups.

 

Numerous studies have demonstrated that no matter how good or bad a school or a teacher is, the number one factor in determining academic success is the presence or absence of an interested parental figure. Kids who are supported by interested adult always do better than those who are not, at every socio-economic level. This is what mentoring is. It’s putting “interested parental figures” back into a system that tends to systematically remove them. And the evening featured several speakers who shared amazing stories of doing just that.

 

One featured speaker was Stephen Powell, the Executive Director of Mentoring USA. He has that extraordinarily charismatic presence, of someone who truly loves their work. I am very glad he is not a used car salesman, because I would have driven out of the event in a 97 Buick. One thing he talked about in his organization is “on-site mentoring,” where adults from a community come to a given location to share their wisdom and experience. He pointed out that many volunteer mentors come in to do it “just for today” and then quickly become regular mentors. As he put it so succinctly, “We don’t recruit. We remind.” He told stories of men teaching boys basic items like how to tie a necktie. Not something you’ll find on the SAT, but just as essential to success in life.

Another guest speaker was Ted Fujimoto, Founder of The Right to Succeed Foundation http://www.righttosucceed.org/. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this guy may be one of the most influential people in the United States today. I talk a lot about how public education should be changed, but this guy is actually doing it. He carries an Ipad with a complete powerpoint presentation of his program, where he has, in 500 schools no less, completely altered the educational system. The numbers are astonishing: 150% improvement in test scores, 90% graduation rates (these, in previously “failed” institutions). This is all done, not by training the teachers or by “raising standards,” but by challenging the kids to do real world projects, in which they must acquire both academic skills and “people skills” . . . On the job training as it were. And of course, it invites community involvement . . . “mentoring” . . . rather than turning it away. The numbers are just a small part of the bigger picture of true fundamental change.

As part of his new approach, Ted talked about developing “social capital.” This is a pragmatic, common sense approach to success in life, of understanding that who ya know is just as important as what ya know. His program placed tremendous emphasis on “mentoring” in terms of kids networking with future employers, as well as development of managerial skills, something that is actually suppressed in the standard industrial-era educational model. Keep your eye on this guy, he’s going places.

 

The main speaker for the evening was Attorney Richard Dyer, an astonishing story  of individual triumph over difficult circumstance. One could not help but be struck by the odd circumstance, that there we were in the super posh Liberty Hotel in Downtown Boston, converted from the old condemned Charles Street prison, and we were listening to a guest speaker who was once an inmate therein. He told an amazing story of someone who transcended “the system,” of finding individuals (including guest of honor Gov. Michael Dukakis) who bucked the bureaucratic red tape, taking a convicted felon and turning him into a successful attorney . . . one who can now advocate for clients with a rare depth of perspective on the juvenile justice system. It would be hard to not be inspired by someone who was able to overcome so many obstacles.

Throughout the evening the point was repeatedly made: Individuals, even those who seem to be totally lost, can be transformed and remade by the efforts of other individuals, even when large institutions have failed them. If that weren’t enough, the evening included the star presence and singing of the great Patti Austin, with additional performances by Robin Lane, Julie Silver, and Charlie Farren.

 

-Written by Justin Locke: Author, Speaker and Over My Shoulder Foundation Mentorologist!

(L-R) Justin Locke, Marnie Hall, Robin Lane

 

[box]Among the national leaders in mentoring we think of all the nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations giving back to communities that lack basic requirements of life, like water. While philanthropic arms of multinational brands like VOSS Water don’t explicitly use the word “mentoring”, Over My Shoulder Foundation sees mentorology written loud and clear all over their work. Today we are pleased to offer you an insider’s glimpse into the life and work of Voss Foundation’s Executive Director Kara Gerson. By sharing her personal experiences and reflections we hope that you are inspired to make a difference in your community today – through mentoring, or simply just doing good.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director [/box]

 

Hi Kara, Thanks for joining us today. I think it’s fair to say that, in America, we often forget to be truly grateful for the simple luxury of having our basic needs met. Yet, around the world, these basic needs are lacking in many communities. Voss Foundation was established in 2008 to provide clean water access to rural Sub-Saharan African communities. Since then it has helped to build 36 water access points in five countries, changing the lives of over 100,000 people.

Directly, Voss Foundation helps communities meet their water needs, but the work doesn’t stop there. Clean water changes a community’s relationship to women, the environment, the economy and hunger. You call it the “Ripple Effect”. What are some of the most memorable ripples you’ve seen?

Thank you so much for this opportunity – it’s an honor to be interviewed here. I’m such a fan of the Over My Shoulder Foundation!

To answer your question, we’ve seen the most amazing ripple effects of our water projects, as we’ve watched our wells and water systems empower communities to grow in previously impossible ways. The first Voss Foundation site, Latakwen, Kenya, has grown from a small rural settlement to a real bustling town in three years. The school has doubled in size and they’ve just added a nursery school. The government built a health center and the economy is booming – it’s becoming quite a trade center. All of this is because of access to clean water. As more children are surviving and thriving, they can go to school (especially girls). Their health center was nothing more than a shack until there was clean water on-site. In another project site, in Pel, Mali, we doubled women’s average income by freeing them from the water-carrying cycle and installing an irrigation scheme in the women’s cooperative garden. In the DR Congo, our well allowed bricks to be made – and built the first girls’ school in the region. Now it serves the school, the toilets and sinks, the kitchen, the health center, the garden. I could go on forever.

Our founder says that water is an engine for growth and he is absolutely spot-on. It’s just incredible to see how something so seemingly small affects all aspects of development from health, to education, to empowerment, politics, the economy; it’s so much more than merely clean water versus dirty water.  Water truly is the basis of life and development. Honestly, it’s the ripple effect that really makes me passionate about the water issue in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

This picture is from the village of Ndonyo Nasipa in Samburuland, Kenya. Voss Foundation partnered with Milgis Trust to provide clean water to the village. After the tribe blessed the water, you were the first to turn on the tap. What were you thinking at that moment?

 

Kara Gerson (Executive Director, Voss Foundation) in Ndonyo Nasipa

Well, to be honest, I was hoping that it would work! About 20 minutes earlier I had switched on the solar pump and I was so nervous and excited! We built the well down by the lugga (the dried riverbed), and then pumped the water up over the rise to a tank, and then down into the village. This picture was taken after we had just come from blessing the well with the village elders on the other side of the ridge. I was there with about eight other women – donors plus our staff, and then our partners on the ground, and a whole host of Samburu people from all around who had come to see this miracle of water from a tap right in town. We hiked up and over from the lugga, just as all the women of Ndonyo Nasipa used to have to do every day to fetch water from a hand-dug ditch. So now we had built them a secured and covered well and were delivering the water practically to their doorsteps. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, as I always am opening a new water project, and getting so excited for the community, especially the women and the girls, for how this is going to change their lives. But there’s also always that second – ­between when you turn the tap – and before the water starts flowing, where you think ‘Oh gosh, I hope it works!’

 

When Voss Foundation builds a new water system for a community in need, everyone in the village participates. Have you noticed community dynamics at work in those villages that would benefit our own communities here in the US if we adopted their attitudes and viewpoints?

It is really difficult to compare the situation of a community without clean water, which is so desperate for access, with most communities in the States who are so fortunate. It’s incredible when all the community members pitch in, and it makes me so happy to see, but part of that is, I think, human nature. We do hear that, in times of crises, American communities like Joplin, Missouri after the tornado, really do come together and remember what is important – they count their blessings and help their neighbors rebuild. What makes it an unequal comparison is that the communities in Africa to whom the Voss Foundation is bringing clean water access have, by definition, always been in a state of crisis because they’ve always lacked clean water. Once these African communities where we work have clean water and are living healthy and productive lives, they start to focus on the same things we do in the US – providing more for their families, helping their children get ahead in school, succeeding in business, finding happiness.

 

Here’s another mentoring lesson. Voss Foundation expands its ability to transform communities by providing access to clean water with numerous partners like A Glimmer of HopeFACE AfricaGeorges Malaika FoundationMilgis Trust and Water.org. Can you talk about how partnerships, either personal or professional, empower your cause(s)?

Yes! I think Voss Foundation is in a really special situation that differentiates us from many other water organizations, in that we partner with groups large and small and try to be totally transparent in sharing information. We learn so much from organizations of varying sizes and situations that we can share with others. Our larger partners have budgets for research and can help teach us about new findings and best practices learned on a grand scale. On the other hand, our smaller partners have to be very resourceful and tend to be more dynamic – they show us how seemingly complicated issues can be dealt with simply and directly. I love educating our smaller partners with development and water sector news from our larger partners and, conversely, demonstrating to our larger partners that things can be accomplished faster and less expensively than they are used to. It’s like a great mentoring feedback loop and Voss Foundation gets to be the conduit!

 

Women are often responsible for gathering water. In a recent [USA Today] supplement about investing in women and girls, you explain how access to clean water provides transformational experiences for those women. They can use time previously spent on water acquisition for empowering activities such as education and enterprise. Women are often our first mentors, pillars of strength and community innovators. Can you tell us about a woman (or women) who invested in, and mentored you?

I had the most wonderful advisor when I was an undergrad, who was so much more than an academic advisor! She had an incredible knack for getting right to the heart of a problem, rather bluntly if necessary, but never stridently. I always left meetings with her with more confidence, because I really felt she had equipped me with tools to tackle what was ahead, whether it was school-related or personal.

Being a good mentor can be challenging – you have to strike the right balance between being sensitive and providing strong guidance. You have to listen and give thoughtful advice – you can’t just nurse an ego or, alternatively, bark orders dismissively. You have to mentor based on your own experiences without making it about yourself. As a mentee you have to be picky. Your challenge is double: you need a mentor whom you admire – whose advice you’ll take – but also who is devoted to helping you find success in a meaningful way on your own terms.

I have also had some great male mentors in my career, men who have cared about both my personal and professional accomplishment. I am fortunate to have such men as bosses in my current job and have had in previous positions as well. I don’t think women necessarily need female mentors or that men need male mentors – I think it’s most important for the relationship to work for all parties.

 

Voss Foundation is hosting its 2nd annual Women Helping Women event in Boston on June 20th. Women Helping Women has brought together more than 400 champions of clean water in eight countries to raise nearly 200,000 dollars for water projects. The focus of the celebration is on global female cooperation. Can you speak about what you envision for the world in an ideal scenario of global female cooperation?

Studies have shown that gender inequity is a lead indicator for a host of other societal problems like terrorism, endemic poverty, depressed educational attainment and so forth. In developed countries, we are extraordinarily fortunate that the women before us made such strides and opened so many doors for us – it is now our responsibility to help women around the world achieve such parity as a matter both of personal interest and of global security.

I guess what I envision is a world in which women are neither silently simmering in oppression, nor competing to be the token quota-fillers. I would like to see women show each other how gender is not a barrier to achievement and to stand up for each other when that is called into question. Because women know about the specific challenges other women face, it is our responsibility to both be an example and to help. That’s why Women Helping Women is so important – it addresses the need of clean water access, which helps the women in our beneficiary communities, as it shows the women we are helping what is possible with female cooperation and empowerment.

 

Leadership puts individuals in powerful positions where they are able to influence the thoughts, motivations and aspirations of their teams. In a sense, leaders mentor their teams and their causes to greatness. What empowers and mentors you as a leader as you fulfill your role as the Executive Director of Voss Foundation?

I am so inspired by the women in the communities where we work. If I ever feel overwhelmed or face a tough situation, I think about how amazing the women are who we work with, how they spend their time carrying water and firewood and raising their families, and livestock and crops, all in such adverse conditions, and yet they still achieve so much. Thinking about that reminds me how privileged I am, and helps put things in perspective.

Additionally, as I said, I am fortunate to work for a real visionary in our Founder and President, and have the support of our wonderful Treasurer. They help me chart the course for the Voss Foundation, planning for the long term so that everyone involved is on the same page, working towards the same goals. Their leadership really helps me to lead – they set an excellent example and provide great encouragement. I am also lucky to have a fantastic staff to work with in New York and Oslo with our European representatives, to whom I am able to give a great deal of free rein. It’s a wonderful feeling to be supported by both your bosses and staff!

 Thanks again, Kara, for joining us to talk about your work with Voss Foundation and mentoring.

Kara Gerson, Voss Foundation Executive Director

[box] Everybody loves the Boston Pops Orchestra. Today we are proud to present a story by Justin Locke (a former Pops bassist). Coincidentally, our Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder Patti Austin will perform with the legendary orchestra in just a few days. Get your tickets soon because June 14-16 is a 3-day extravaganza called “Visions of America.” It is a mentor-centric musical performance at Symphony Hall featuring striking photographic portraits of American life by Joseph Sohm, music by Roger Kellaway and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. With Keith Lockhart conducting, guest artist Steve Tyrell, and our favorite vocalist Patti Austin – the show will be one to remember for sure!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]

As you can well imagine, for a young musician, playing in the Boston Pops Orchestra for the first time is a truly unforgettable experience.

I will never forget the first time I stepped onto the stage of Symphony Hall to play my first “big gig.” I was all of nineteen years old.  Next me were two veteran bass players I had never seen before, Frank and Tony.

Tony looked at me for a moment and said, “can I give you some advice?” “Sure,” I said.  I was ever so grateful that these veterans would even acknowledge my presence.  I readied myself to absorb their lofty wisdom.  What would they say?  Some insight as to delicate elements of phrasing?  Perhaps advice on some subtle issue of vibrato?  Or maybe some rare scholarly knowledge as to how to balance equal temperament tuning with the resonance of the upper harmonics?  As I eagerly waited, Tony looked at me and, rather matter-of-factly, said…

“Don’t be a hero.”

This may sound flippant or cynical. But what he was really saying was, “Right now you’re in over your head, so balance your eagerness with humility. Despite the press office hype, all of us here on stage are just mere mortals. Don’t try to impress anybody, you’re here and that’s impressive enough. Silly mistakes make everyone look bad, not just you. Playing ‘no note’ is way better than playing a ‘wrong note.’ So lay low for a while. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.”

As is so often the case with a mentoring situation, this was more than just good advice. I suddenly felt safe and accepted. This infusion of confidence improved my playing instantly (in fact, it is this culture of mutual support and confidence that makes the whole orchestra sound so good).

I went on to play in the Pops for 18 years, but if not for Frank and Tony, I would not have lasted a week.  At Pops, there is no “indoctrination day” for new hires, no pamphlet on how things work. Frank and Tony just took it upon themselves to show me everything, including the best place to buy a used white tuxedo jacket, how to locate and properly pack a bass trunk, and how to order food when on tour in Tokyo.


Locke with Henry Mancini in 1981 on Boston Pops tour

When it came to actually playing the music, well, to rise to the next level in life, this requires giving up the pleasant myths and dogmas as you find out how life really works. This sharing of “how it’s really done” is quietly passed from one expert practitioner to another. No classroom in the world teaches certain aspects of performance. You have to be a member of the guild to get certain training. Without connection to a mentor who is willing to bring you along, you’ll never get it.

Just one example, on a Pops tour bus ride I found myself sitting next to Fred Buda. Fred was the Pops’ star set drummer in the Arthur Fielder era. Fred is normally a very quiet person offstage, but on that bus, for that two hours, he was just in the mood to talk, and here was one of the “greats” giving me the lowdown on how he practiced his craft. He shared his personal approach to managing rhythm, and many subtle shadings of emotional color that one can create via simple microscopic variations from the core metronomic beat.

with Arthur Fiedler conducting 1976 bicentennial concert

If one lacks the benefit of a mentor relationship, it is common to fill that vacuum with an unbending system of rules. When that happens, you are necessarily  limited by that system, and it far less likely that you will manifest your own unique potential. When Fred explained his approach, he admitted that he was essentially “breaking the rules.”  Once I understood that, I suddenly had that same permission– or you might say, artistic freedom– to break the rules as well.

There is much to know about performing, so much that one can never hope to figure it all out from scratch. Very little of it is written down anywhere.  For example. when I wrote my Pops memoir, “Real Men Don’t Rehearse,” I did a whole chapter on the intricate rules of the “seating” hierarchy of a professional orchestra (e.g., the duties of second chair players, third chair players, and so on). Before publishing it, I decided I should check my facts.  I was amazed to discover that even though this protocol is known and practiced in every single professional orchestra on the planet, I was the first person to ever write it down. For the previous 500 years of orchestra culture, it was learned entirely through mentoring within the culture.

in the audience seats in 1991.

Organizations like the Boston Pops are an unfamiliar kind of entity in our modern world of here today, gone tomorrow. There is an amazing cultural tapestry in place. When I started playing Pops, I was the youngest person on the stage, and I was standing next to some people who had been playing in the orchestra for 60 years or more. The six degrees of separation quickly shrink in such a world. For example, I knew someone who knew someone . . . who knew Brahms. I even knew a guy, who once knew a guy  who knew Beethoven. I once owned a few “78” records of the Boston Symphony from the Koussevitzky era, and one day, standing there next to me on the same stage where those recordings had been made, were two guys who had played on those recordings. It was almost like getting into a time machine.

Of course now there are youngsters who sit around listening to me tell stories of what it was like to work with legends like Arthur Fiedler and Leonard Bernstein. It’s all part of the tribal culture that is the Boston Symphony and Pops.

The culture of the Pops goes back, well, centuries. Every player in that orchestra can tell you their “pedigree,” i.e., how their teacher studied with this famous teacher, who studied with this famous player, in an unbroken chain of mentoring that goes back 300 years to the guy who invented the technique and wrote the beginner method book we are still using today. And most of the string instruments we had were all used hand-me-downs, with their own stories of being owned by a legendary player before it came to you.  (In my case, another mentor gave me my first real Italian instrument to use.) And you know that the day will come when you will have to hand it down to someone else.

on Boston Pops tour with John Williams.

Here in the United States we spend a trillion dollars a year putting people into classroom learning environments. This method of learning has its points, but the most effective learning I have ever experienced has always been done on a one-to-one basis, with someone I respected imparting to me, not just the textbook bullet points, but a whole construct of personal connection, perspective, and hard experience.

The human spirit longs for connection, and the mind is most open when it is in that state. This is the power of mentoring. You learn everything so much faster, not because it’s important to you, but because it’s important . . . to us.

© Justin Locke

Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass with the Boston Pops before becoming an author and speaker. In his books and presentations he talks about the confluence of education, history, and  the performing arts, and how this affects current issues of organizational dynamics and management.

His books include “Real Men Don’t Rehearse” (his humorous Pops memoir) and  “Principles of Applied Stupidity” (or, the benefits of going against conventional wisdom). His upcoming book is titled “The Emotions of Money: Undoing the Effects of Poverty Thinking.”

Justin has been featured on Chronicle HD, CBS Radio, WGBH’s Greater Boston, and in the Boston Globe, and he recently appeared as an “author@google.” Justin’s plays for family orchestra concerts are performed all over the world, and he writes a monthly article of managerial “people skills” for the American Institute of CPAs.  Justin appears regularly as an entertaining and inspirational speaker.

[box] Through the stories on this Over My Shoulder Foundation blog, we hope that you are inspired to think of mentoring as a dynamic experience. Mentorology, what we define as the art and science of mentoring, transcends any typified definition. Mentorology is, in fact, a living and ever-changing experiential phenomenon that can be applied anytime or anywhere.

From a budding spoken word poet and a cutting edge Boston fashion designer to leaders of international non-profits — the subjects of our stories and interviews have continued to amaze and inspire us in our work. We continue in that manner with today’s story by Sarah Binning, who was actually so empowered by her mentees at Teen Voices, an intensive journalism mentoring and leadership development program for teen girls in Boston, that she is now a full-time staff member! Her story is especially relevant now as graduation time makes us all think a little bit more about what’s ahead, or what has passed.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder & Executive Director[/box]

Story by Sarah Binning

The spring of 2009, I found myself in a whirlwind. My junior year of college was coming to a close, and the illusive senior year was now just months away. People either batted their eyes sympathetically while wishing you luck during your final year, or they annoyingly ask “So what are you going to do with your life?” Senior year meant it was time to start thinking of the future.

I stared at myself in the mirror as asked, “What job would truly make you happy?” The answer came easily: Writing, editing or working for a magazine. The next question was a little more challenging: “How are you going to reach this goal? Where do you need to be?”

Could I, country bumpkin Sarah, leave the safe arms of Ohio? Did I have what it takes to survive life in the city? Life in a place where the sounds of cricket’s chirping was replaced by cars and trains?

That’s when I found Teen Voices, an organization that allowed me to combine my love for writing with my feminist voice. This magazine is creating social change through media. And not just with any media: girl-generated media. Suddenly, the idea of moving to a city wasn’t quite so scary. I packed up my bags, loaded the car and headed to Boston. But what I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t return home the same person.

Just a Few of the Many Girls Involved in Teen Voices

Teen Voices changed my life. More specifically, my mentees changed my life. While I truly loved every aspect of my internship, my favorite part was mentoring two fabulous teens, Anna-Cat and Malisa, through the process of writing a magazine feature article. Working with young women who have so much creativity, passion, and love to offer the world was truly inspiring.

Mentoring is more than just investing time in someone else’s life. Mentoring is more than just shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Mentoring is a learning opportunity that allows you to grow in ways you never dreamed possible. I mentor because the teen editors at Teen Voices have so much to teach me. And yeah, I’m sure that I’ve taught them some things along the way (or at least I hope I did), but these girls challenged me to learn new things.

In just six short weeks, here are some things my mentees taught me:

  1. How to walk from The Commons to Faneuil Hall without following the Freedom Trail. When I first moved here, I had no idea how to get anywhere. The Freedom Trail and T stations were the only ways I knew how to find places. If it wasn’t off one of those lines, forget it. Not happening. The girls challenged me to be adventurous and explore Boston.
  2. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I remember the time I treated my mentees to ice cream. Balancing my cone while trying to find my wallet, plus the summer heat was just more than I could handle. My ice cream fell onto my foot and down inside my flats. I was so embarrassed. But as the girls tried to help me clean the stickiness off my foot, all we could do was laugh.
  3. The simple things are what matter most. Say, “Thank you.” Give credit wherever credit is due. Let those you care about know how you feel. Take fifteen minutes to ask how their day is going. It’s important to listen and recognize your mentee outside of the realm of work/business. This may seem like a no brainer. But sometime people just get too busy, or too caught up in their own world or the project at hand.
  4. There’s a difference between having a job you like and a job you love. I loved my time here so much that I came back as an AmeriCorps VISTA to serve at Teen Voices. And since then, I’ve been hired on staff. Seriously, I love my job. I want to go to work almost each and every day. I know the articles the teen editors are writing are making an impact on people’s lives. I know that their work, and inherently my work, is worthwhile!

To learn more about Teen Voices, please visit www.teenvoices.com

To apply to become an editorial mentor, visit http://www.teenvoices.com/2009/12/24/volunteer/

 

Today we are pleased to present an exclusive Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with Denise Hajjar, Boston-based fashion designer, philanthropist and Designer-in-Residence at Fairmont Copley Plaza HotelFashion New England calls Denise “a favorite of the chic ladies in downtown Boston”. Denise was gracious enough to lend her talents to a benefit fashion show for the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston earlier this year in April. Here she reveals her inspirations, mentors and ideas about mentorology – the art and science of mentoring.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

 

Hi Denise. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today about mentoring, fashion and inspiration. You’ve certainly made a name for yourself, especially in Boston. What drives you to accomplish all that you have accomplished in the world of fashion and design?

My drive came from the fact I was given a talent from my grandmother who was a designer and taught me how to sew. Also believe it or not all the years of classical ballet training. I trained for 12 years 7 days a week as I thought I would be a dancer. This I feel is what gave me the discipline I needed to do what I do now. In the ballet world there is no room for wasting time. I had to grow up very fast and be very focused. I truly love what I do every day. And for that fact I always want to do better and be better. I get great joy in making women look and feel beautiful.

 

Denise Hajjar - Mentor, Designer, Fashion Icon
Denise Hajjar – Mentor, Designer, Fashion Icon

 

We love how early influences mold us into the people we are today. Do you credit certain individuals as mentors who have helped you really take advantage of the key qualities you picked up early on from your ballet practice and your grandmother?

I have several people who have helped me greatly and I still can go to. First, always my family and closest friends who never give up on me and are my main support in the good and bad times. Chuck Albert, who was the manager of Bonwit Tellers back in the 80’s. I sold to four Bonwit stores back then. VG Di Geronimo who owned a boutique on Newbury Street called Adornments Creative Clothing. I got to sell my pieces and it just grew from there. Today I would have to say Jon Crellin who was, at the time, the general manager of this Fairmont. He asked me to be their “designer-in-residence” 6 years ago! The rest is history. It has opened so many doors being here. Also I have to say, Amalie Canna, this incredible women whose knowledge of clothing construction is amazing. Whenever I am stuck on something I go to her. I am still learning after 30 years. So blessed to have her in my life!

 

On your website you write that your designs are a “reflection of the world…a combination of strength, sensitivity and imagination”. Strength, sensitivity and imagination are qualities that we think make mentors effective and successful. Can you think of some other qualities that befit an effective and successful mentor?  

Well one must never forget who they are and where they started. Because at a moment’s notice, it can all be taken away. You must love what you do, almost to a fault. You have to want to keep learning from everyone around you. Helping along the way only will make you better at what you do, because you have to constantly be thinking outside the box. You never know who you will inspire OR who will inspire you!!!!

 

At Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF), we are convinced about the truth of our favorite Jimi Hendrix quote “If there is something to be changed in this world…then it can only be done through music”. Are you inspired by any music in particular? Do you listen to music when you work?

I ALWAYS listen to music, all kinds of music. It helps my creative juices going along with my fabrics that I work with. I think music and beautiful fabrics go hand in hand

 

How about you? Have you found yourself mentoring others? We’re thinking about Big Dreams Start Small benefit event for St. Jude’s Hospital and your philosophy “Giving back should be the rule, not the exception”. In these instances, do you think of yourself as a mentor?

I always have believed in mentoring. I have done it for so many years now. I get so excited when I see a student from the past or a young person who shadowed me come to me years later to say how I inspired them, how I motivated them to do what they went on to do. Or how a parent will come up to me to tell me their child was changed by what they saw and did when they were with me. You don’t realize the impact you make at the time.

 

Now let’s talk about the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston fashion show. How did the idea for the benefit fashion show come about? What made you decide to do it?

Well it’s not so much helping “Big Sisters” as it is helping women whether young or grown. To give them motivation and confidence to be or to do whatever you want. Not everyone has the support or skills in the beginning given to them like I did. So it is our job to give them a little help in getting started. In the fall I do my show for “Dress for Success”. This helps women who want to get back on their own. DFS helps them in many ways including providing job interview clothes.

 

Do you have any advice for youngsters out there yearning for a fashion career?

Advice? Be willing to do your due-diligence and work hard, very hard. Fashion and the world of design is not about making a lot of money BUT the love of doing your craft well. In this field we have to think the glass is half full always! Do not give up if you REALLY believe you are good and know you have something to offer. Go to school and take the classes needed to understand what you are going to do. Do internships. Volunteer to help out at shows or fashion events. Be happy at what you decide to do. If not, you will fail for sure.

 

Denise, thanks again for talking with us at Over My Shoulder Foundation about your fashion career and mentoring. It’s really clear that you LOVE what you do – and that is an inspiration to us all. We look forward to seeing what great things you’re going to do next!!!


 

Share your time, expertise and wisdom with the upcoming generation by sending us your ideas about what Mentorology means to you. At Over My Shoulder Foundation we think of Mentorology as the art and science of mentoring. Please help us raise awareness of the impact of mentoring by sharing your own ideas and stories like Meghan C (age 12) did in today’s post.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

DO THE RIGHT THING

MENTOROLOGY what does it mean?   

-By Meghan C  age 12

Some may say a mentor is a  role model or someone you look up to.  This is true for some but for me mentoring  also means to show  people the right directions and to teach them to reach for their dreams.

If you are a really good mentor to someone you are like their personal driver that steers them in the right directions making sure that even when there are some bumps and potholes in the road you try to make sure that person doesn’t get thrown under the bus.

But you also have to try real hard not to do bad things either because when you are a mentor the person who looks up to you will basically do whatever you do – just like a puppy dog.

Think of it as all the kindergarteners at a school: They all look up to the older kids and try to do what ever they do so if these older kids frequently are doing wrong, young kids will copy them.

So you always have to remember to try and DO THE RIGHT THING!

Because you never know who is watching or who looks up to you.

Everyone has a glass heart and its fragile and you have to be careful not to break someones heart

And that is what a mentor and Mentorology is to me!

 

 
 

Today we are pleased to present an exclusive Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with the two talented ladies from the UK who run the L Project, an anti-LGBT bullying campaign. This interview touches on a hot topic. Bullying. There is too much of it and not enough mentors speaking out against it.

Georgey Payne and Sofia Antonia Milone are currently promoting the release of the hit single “It Does Get Better” to raise awareness about the effects of LGBT bullying, to give hope to those suffering from it, and to raise money to help combat it.

We love the slogan on the L Project Facebook Page, “Because you don’t have to be a minority to support equality and reject discrimination.”

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. At Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF), our mentoring organization uses the Jimi Hendrix quote “If there is something to be changed in this world…then it can only be done through music”. “It Does Get Better” is proof that music CAN change the world – its impact is much more than you’d anticipated, and you got Seventeen of the UK’s leading lesbian music artists appear on the track. How did you do it?

Sofia – Put simply, a lot of hard work and determination, coupled with passion and talent. Essentially the kernel of the first project all came from Georgey and the song she penned. The artists were approached, a recording studio was found at a great special rate, and then we had to convince some sponsors to fund it.

The creative part was the easiest in many ways, because every participant was a consummate professional. No time was wasted, and within a weekend the music and vocals were recorded.

By far the hardest part was marketing the project pre-release. What really helped with that was having a professional campaign and a great product, but what actually propelled us was the resulting backing from the gay press and some amazing online social media pages.

As people became aware of us they passed on the message, and trust was built with those big online pages like Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook. Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Once the press and related people became interested we secretly let them hear the song, and they too knew we had a great product, and so the sharing continued.

We also had exclusive pre-release listening days for all those who had joined the L Project Facebook page, it made them feel a real part of the project – and I’m confident that it was hearing the song that drove them all to share us like mad. Social Media has truly been the method of this campaign.

Sofia Antonia Milone
Sofia Antonia Milone, Photography by Katie Lamb

Can you talk a little about how you’ve noticed your music become a change-making catalyst? Is there fan feedback that really made an impact, or a time when you had your a-ha moment of realization that what you created was making the world a better place?

Sofia – We knew the message of the song would unite people, but it was only after its release when people came pouring to the page, that we started seeing just how personally affecting the song, and the supportive project page environment, was to people.

We started receiving fanmail, and each and every person had a significant story to tell. Some are very hard to read, but all of them end well in that they tell us that the song has renewed their strength, and given them the boost they needed when times were hard.

Music and words are certainly powerful, but I think it’s giving people a place to come and feel included after they’ve heard our message, a place where they can share things, even if that is just a page on Facebook, that has become just as important. And that place is molded by those who frequent it.

Georgey, you wrote “It Does Get Better” in an attempt to cheer up a young friend who had confided in you that he had been the subject of homophobic bullying in school. The attempt has cheered up many, and inspired us all. How did the idea for the song come to you? What was your inspiration?

Georgey – The idea for the song was born simply because I wanted to cheer my friend up, make him feel happy about being gay and not feel like it was something he needed to fear. Because when you’re being beaten up all the time as he was, I can imagine that being gay quickly becomes something you learn to dislike about yourself.

The tune for the song was buzzing around in my head, and when I write it’s always the music and feel of the song that comes first. So when I got in from work that day I started on it straight away. It took me about an hour from start to finish. Whilst I was writing I changed the second verse to appeal to the whole LGBT community, hoping to empower them to feel good about being LGBT as well.
 

Georgey Payne
Georgey Payne

 

And how about the L Project. That grew out of the song? Can you tell us about that process?

Sofia – It quickly became clear that the attention we had garnered for the song was greater than we thought possible, and we had a choice: Either The L Project was just about this song, or it was something bigger.

Georgey and I are highly driven people, and this caught us at a time when we both really wanted to get our teeth into something. Georgey did that by getting the ball rolling, I did it by joining it full force, and together we decided that we make a great team.

We barely see one another, but the internet has allowed us to create a campaign bigger and better than anything either of us could have dreamed. Why leave it there? So many people were asking ‘what next?’ that we had ask ourselves the same thing. The answer to that question is as boundless as this project hopes to be.

Another project, new charities to donate to, more artists to gather, and fantastically supportive community to help us move forward. That’s what this project is, the community that has stood behind it. The fact that they’re not merely fans, they have somehow been empowered, they have taken our song and shared it with the world, shouted about it everywhere. The L Project stopped being about just one song almost as soon as the song came out.

Instead it started being about a community filled with like-minded individuals, from all over the globe. It started inspiring people. And in turn, we too have been inspired.

 

At OMSF, we stake our foundations on our concept of Mentorology (the art and science of mentoring). Mentoring can move us all toward a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value. Mentoring also helps us get across messages that might otherwise go unheard. Can you tell us what mentoring is to you? And how it has affected your life?

Sofia – This idea, or concept, of mentoring is new to me. Obviously I understand what a mentor is, but it is not something I have consciously taken note of before. I have had many inspiring people in my life, people I have looked up to, who have undoubtedly guided my moral compass. Most of those people have been family members, most notably my mother who is sadly no longer with us.

I can’t honestly say as an adult I have anyone I would term a ‘mentor’ specifically, I am driven and supported by my peers and colleagues. I think in this respect we are all mentors to one another.


Are you currently a mentor? If not, do you have plans in the future to become a mentor yourself?

 Sofia – I suppose the idea of a ‘mentor’ is not dissimilar to that of a ‘role model’ (a term I’m more familiar with personally) and if it means to be a good person, doing good things, to give advice, information and support when it is requested, and maybe instill hope or inspiration in others, then I’d say that’s exactly what I try to do and be on a daily basis.

I would also say that being a ‘mentor’ to an individual is not something you can decide to become, rather individuals decide to treat you as their mentor. I merely hope that what I do, and what I achieve in life is something people can aspire to. If I can help them, of course I will. And I think on a larger scale, that’s what The L Project is about – setting a good example, and encouraging others to do the same.

 

Thank you, again, Georgey and Sofia for the time you took to talk with us about the L Project, your music, and your experiences of Mentorology.

You’re welcome, we wish you lots of luck!

Sofia Antonia Milone (L) and Georgey Payne (R)
Sofia Antonia Milone (L) and Georgey Payne (R). Photography by Katie Lamb.

 

In this post Steve Cox, creator of Still Living, talks about the keys he sees to mentoring. Still Living is an inspirational portal where Steve shares valuable tool of empowerment and recommendations based on his own life experiences, studies and mentors who helped him get on the right path. In this post Steve discusses openness, listening, relationship development, self-discovery and relaxed confidence as the concepts relate to mentoring. Enjoy his wisdom.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

Steve Cox, Creator of Still Living, Atop Mt. Everest

Mentors Share Information

Knowledge and information have for centuries been used to control and influence people yet when we think and act for others we naturally share information and knowledge so all can prosper.

So who is a mentor? A mentor is someone who is willing to help others by sharing information and experiences to guide others in their own development. So for me the majority of us are both a mentor and mentored. Taking myself as an example I am a Sales Director by profession, a writer of thoughts for the day and I am learning Tai Chi. In each case I work as a mentor to others helping them develop and I am also mentored especially in Tai Chi where my teacher also guides me towards books that will further develop my philosophy.

How can we develop ourselves to mentor?

When we start thinking and acting for others rather than for “me”, we naturally become open to building relationships where all will prosper. It is the quality of these relationships that allows for natural progression of people. As a mentor we guide people along a path where it is their choice to follow. It is in the openness of these relationships that the path forward becomes apparent.

When we first meet people we speak to the label society has given them. In most cases we wear many labels such as for me Sales Director, writer, Tai Chi player, brother and husband. When first met I am talked to based on the label I am wearing. We are however all like onions with many layers and it is only by asking questions that speak to the person and the willingness to listen that we can actually learn about others.

The first two elements of mentoring for me are openness and listening.

My starting point with people is to start to understand their values and goals in life. For many people they have never sat and thought about what they value, yet if you know your values they act as a compass to your thoughts and actions. Goals can help give us a purpose for life and create passion for it where we start to live life rather than to survive it. This works with my fundamental thought that everybody deserves to be happy.

Goals however do have to be based on the skills and abilities of the person otherwise they remain a dream. Example: I would have loved to have been a great Soccer player like David Beckham but I have not been born with those gifts. I am like everyone else born with my own unique gifts and qualities. So my personal aim and that of mentoring others is to develop unique skills and abilities to create the individual who through their life can help all to prosper.

This is not about how much money we can earn or how famous we can become but creating a life where we have a great sense of purpose, well-being and happiness, for what more could we want?

The sum of a man’s life is in the acts of kindness he has shown to others.

Development is a long term process and personally I look to learn every day as it keeps us inquisitive for life. A young child asks around 200 questions a day to learn yet how many do we ask in a day? It seems sad that the older we get the less we want to learn or believe we having nothing more to learn. Again this development is about our openness to life and wanting to fulfill our own potential.

The Still Living Way to Development and Mentoring.

When we discover relaxed confidence and allow life to flow we achieve our life goals without force and when we start thinking and acting for others we build relationships where all will prosper.

The starting point for building relaxed confidence is to discover our calm centre. This can be achieved in many ways but has the effect of stilling the mind and allowing the clutter of day to day thoughts to be replaced with clarity. Achieving this allows the mind to work on a level uncluttered by emotions resulting in thinking with greater clarity and calmness. In a short blog it is difficult to detail ways to find calmness but it can be through just sitting in a quiet room, or walking in the countryside and connecting with the world. There are also specific techniques such as meditation, Tai Chi or Yoga. Whichever route you choose to find your calm centre and allow for free thinking will have a great benefit to your life.

Combining Stillness, free thinking and openness to the world culminates in a greater awareness of our lives and surroundings.

So the first element to Still Living is Stillness and the second is flow

Water is a soft substance that moves from source to destination flowing around obstacles and filling up wells of opportunity with flexibility, yet it has the power to shape mountains.

This analogy we can apply to how we live. Many people get highly stressed by trying to control all elements of life even if they have no power over them. When we flow with life we do not try to control and only act when we can add benefit to a situation. Look at a great 100 metre athlete run and they do so relaxed, if their muscles were tight there would be no flexibility and spring to run. Likewise when we live life with flow we have the flexibility to flow around the obstacles, make the most of opportunities and adapt to change naturally.

By thinking from a calm centre we can look at the situation from all perspectives allowing for a clear picture. The actions we take are soft so not to force situations and people but allow for all prosper. When we praise and discipline it is with equal measure so the action is fair.

The final element is the power to shape mountains. When we flow and act with softness we can shape ours and others lives naturally being a mentor and mentored.

Get to Know Steve Cox, the Author of this Post

Steve Cox was born in London and his formal education at Nene University finished with his studies in business and finance.

His career in business has been as a sales and marketing professional working from a sales office through to Sales Director. Companies have included both start up and turn around companies that have developed skills in team development and mentoring. Having worked for UK, Swiss and Korean multinational companies, Steve has developed a desire to foster understanding of different cultures and how we need to embrace the basic human nature of all; whatever the race, creed or color.

Ten years ago Steve started writing thoughts for the day for Sales Teams and in recent years due to the rise of social media he has promoted these thoughts through Facebook and Twitter. In the last six years, Steve’s studies of Tai Chi and early Chinese philosophy have led him on a path of applying those ancient wisdoms to modern-day life. He focuses especially on finding the stillness and awareness in life that leads to natural thoughts and actions that flow. This approach is preferred to forced personal and community development.

Since 2011 Steve has started to work on programmes to help others develop a philosophy of Relaxed Confidence that creates results naturally. 2012 will see the release of the Still Living app workbook for personal development through core values and Still Selling e book for people who need to present ideas and solutions to others.

Philosophy: When we discover relaxed confidence and allow life to flow we achieve goals and well-being without force.

[box] “Bully” is a documentary by Lee Hirsch, produced by Harvey Weinstein. On March 30 it will have a limited release. The movie was Rated R even after the heartfelt and widespread campaigning by middle schoolers and celebrities alike to rate the film PG-13 so it could be shown in schools. 13 million kids will be bullied every year in schools. This problem needs to stop. Please tell everyone you know about this film, and start mentoring our kids today, inspired by the thoughts and words of our Over My Shoulder intern Sarah Gross as she reflects on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) and “Bully”.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder[/box]

Lady Gaga, one of society’s strong female mentors, recently celebrated the launching of the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) at Harvard University. This foundation aims to foster hope and inspiration by mentoring youths within a community that embraces individuality. Important goals of BTWF are to nurture individuality and educate about the problem of bullying.

People can confront bullies at any age, and at any stage in life, but the bullying epidemic is most prevalent in middle schools and high schools. Youths are most susceptible to threats, putdowns, and other forms of mistreatment during these school years. Students judge one another in an environment that fosters competitive behavior, particularly in the social construction of popular versus unpopular kids. Once a student starts behaving like a bully (a popular kid talking to an unpopular kid, for example), the mean streak can spread through the school like wildfire.

Many students are victims of bullying behavior, which can range from being ignored by the popular group, to being gossiped about and threatened, to being subjected to physical violence. The degree of bullying that a student may face is irrelevant; bullying in any form damages a student’s self-esteem and can lead to severe depression.

Lady Gaga hopes to bring attention to bullying with her anti-bullying campaign as part of BTWF. At the same time, The Weinstein Company is bringing middle school/high school bullying to the forefront in Lee Hirsch’s new documentary titled, “Bully.” Coupled with BTWF, “Bully” is an astute way of educating society at large about the bullying problem and encouraging people to take action against it.

Here’s the trailer for “Bully”.

“Bully” tells the remarkable stories of five brave families that will challenge viewers to move from shock to resignation about bullying to action, transforming schools and communities into places where empathy and respect are valued and bullying is unacceptable…

Media is a valuable tool for distributing information and campaigning for good causes across a broad audience. “Bully,” as a film that will be shown in theaters nationwide starting March 30, 2012, is expected to use its power as a form of media to reach as wide an audience as possible. It is part of what is called “The Bully Project”:

The Bully Project is a collaborative effect that brings together partner organizations that share a commitment to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society.

This anti-bullying campaign promises to foster greater awareness in society—to even “transform” society by “transforming” the way schools address mean-spirited behavior among students. The Bully Project may reach these goals, provided that schools (including faculty and students) view and learn from the film. The problem in all of this is the film’s initial “R” rating, which precluded individuals under the age of 17 from viewing the film. This rating meant that the film could not be shown in schools, where it is most needed and could make the greatest impact.

The website for The Bully Project currently states that the film is not yet rated, and the production notes for the film indicate that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rates the film PG-13. These changes are due in part to an effort to change the rating. Katy Butler, a Michigan high school student, started a petition to change the rating to PG-13 to allow the film to be shown in schools. The petition now has over 200,000 signatures, so the film may well be on its way to transforming schools and instigating a solution to the bullying problem. Ellen DeGeneres (one of the star female mentors highlighted in my previous post) has taken part in the anti-bully campaign by promoting the film as an important social movement that can “change lives”.

As a result, the film has garnered a great deal of media attention. This is wonderful for the campaign, as it continues to reach wide audiences and encourage people like Lady Gaga and Ellen to become mentors for a loving, tolerant society.

The anti-bullying campaign is one branch of mentorology, where people who are passionate about a good cause can educate one another to create a solution to a problem and thus encourage a safer, more tolerant society. Many individuals have experienced bullying firsthand, and know how harmful it can be.

Be a mentor and take part in the campaign to stop bullying once and for all.

Over My Shoulder Foundation intern Sarah Gross writes to you again this National Women’s History Month. She dissects the essence of Ellen and Lady Gaga, two strong female mentors who are transforming the world of female mentoring. As such successful figures emphasize the importance of genuine expression, they inspire girls and women all over the world to express themselves also. Now THAT is a mentoring message I will celebrate!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

Strong female mentors and social figures of empowerment are helping women embrace their potential. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and pop music phenomenon Lady Gaga are two of among many female mentors who inspired me through outreach and activism.

Ellen DeGeneres – Encouraging Entertainer, Altruistic Optimist

Ellen DeGeneres, a long-standing celebrity, uses her public persona to bring light to her struggles as a homosexual woman while simultaneously helping and caring for others. Her daytime talk show recognizes individuals who have made a difference in the world, be it through artistic talent, philanthropy, or charity work. Ellen brings awareness to positive actions, applauding those who do good work and encouraging her audiences to carry on the trend of good karma.

Her public image of positive energy is enhanced through her comedy: each show begins with dance and comedic interaction with the audience, and this cheerful mood lasts throughout the show. Her role as comedian factors into her role as caretaker, as mentor. She mentors people every day and demonstrates altruism when she supports those who need encouragement. Her selflessness is apparent as she gives back to the community and supports charities, helping people and animals who require love and attention.

Ellen’s eagerness to be a mentor, and subsequent success as a mentor, helps others immensely but is also a form of self-help. She embraces the mentoring philosophy in her life even as she strives against discrimination by those who disapprove of her personal choices. Her sexual orientation, a most personal part of who she is, has led her to confront discrimination. Her talk show and other forms of outreach (website and books, for example) use love, comedy, and charity to combat discrimination and negative energy in the world.

Lady Gaga – Fearless Achiever, Empowering Trend-Setter

Lady Gaga has similarly faced negativity in the form of bullying. Struggling to gain acceptance in a society that did not understand and belittled her, she turned to music to complete her cycle of self-development while her status as a mentor burgeoned. Perceived by some as outlandish, Lady Gaga has established a unique public image. Her music is mainstream and immediately recognizable, as is her appearance. She dons bizarre outfits and her stage performances are nothing short of spectacles. This image projects a personality onto her, of someone who is wild and fearless, and thus succeeds in making her a marketable celebrity. This image, however, disguises the difficulties she has had to overcome in rising to fame.

Lady Gaga’s recent album, Born This Way, remedies the conflict of female caring as she fosters a stronger relationship with her fans while addressing problems she sees in society relating to identity and individuality. Tracks like “Born This Way” and “Marry the Night” convey a tumultuous relationship with society but ultimately promote self-empowerment by confronting fears and accepting oneself. Using music as a source of strength—as artistic expression without personal and/or social criticism—Lady Gaga cares for her own needs and inspires others to find their source of strength in overcoming personal battles. She has expanded the empowerment effort, and truly shows herself to live as a mentor through her foundation which launches in February 2012. The foundation is named after her successful album, and the mission statement explains its goals in this way:

Lady Gaga proudly announces the launch of the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), which will support programs and initiatives that deal with all aspects of empowering youth. The non-profit charitable organization will lead youth into a braver new society where each individual is accepted and loved as the person they were born to be. BTWF will focus on youth empowerment and equality by addressing issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development and will utilize digital mobilization as one of the means to create positive change.

Strong mentoring organizations like BTWF and OMSF can bring about the positive change that Ellen DeGeneres and Lady Gaga advocate. Ellen and Lady Gaga use comedy and celebrity, respectively, as a way to deal with negativity and to nurture mentoring. Ellen and Lady Gaga make their voices resonate as they become beacons of female empowerment and renews the strength of female mentorology.

 

<blockquote>Today’s post is brought to you by freelance writer Catherine Apitz. After a career in the office, Catherine is going public with her writing talents as a freelancer.  She currently works as a staff writer for “<a href=”http://www.circlesofseven.org/”>Circles of Seven</a>”, an intercultural online magazine. She holds a BA in English. Catherine counts Robert Hoffman, her 8th grade English teacher, as the mentor who recognized and inspired her writing creativity. She writes here about mentoring, and 8 steps to finding a career mentor. Enjoy!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder</blockquote>
In any culture anywhere in the world, mentors are special people playing important and influential roles that inspire and improve the careers of other people.  An excellent mentor frequently makes a lasting impression that is treasured and remembered for a life time.  Famous TV talk show facilitator, Oprah Winfrey remembers her third and fifth grade teachers for their influence on her education. Decades later, she has opened her own leadership academy for girls in a disadvantaged area of South Africa.

Anyone qualified can serve as mentor such as a parent, relative or neighbor. He or she can be a friend, a co-worker or a stranger interested in mentoring. One can have an older, experienced mentor or a peer, newly experienced in a career such as a college graduate mentoring an undergraduate student. People can recruit mentors from a qualified mentorship program in one’s local high school, college or work place.  Students, interns, and first time employees can select a long term mentor or a series of short term people that mentor one after the other. In sum, mentors come in a wide variety of choices, each with the ability to meet a majority of people’s needs.

People most in need of mentors are generally college students who lack career direction following enrollment or graduation.  Others in need of mentorship can be struggling high school students who need motivation and encouragement to stay in school instead of dropping out when they turn 16.  Elementary students who struggle from severe distractions in their home life may benefit from a mentor to help them stay on track with their studies.  An inexperienced intern may also be spared his or her job by benefiting from a skilled, experienced mentor qualified to help in the work place.

Mentors volunteer their time for free, but those who specifically tutor or teach subject matter will be paid for their services. Suppose one is a struggling, inexperienced employee, an intern or an unfocused college student who lack the benefit of a mentorship program in their local college or work place. Below is a list of guidelines for finding a mentor to launch one’s career and help a worthy person build today for a better future:
<ol>
<li>Find a mentor who will exercise good judgement, is easy to communicate with, one whom confidences are kept and who is a good listener.  People seeking a mentor ought to feel free to discuss concerns and issues that turn up in a career or work place.</li>
<li>Select a mentor who is upbeat and positive in his or her attitude, who will be encouraging with a good sense of humor and has the ability to discuss a wide variety of issues.</li>
<li>An excellent mentor is a person, intern or employee who admires and respects the seeker and whom the seeker can provide respect for in return, someone who can provide a long term commitment and deep investment in an employee, intern or student’s future.  (Note: The only exception would be a short term series of mentors who can remain committed and deeply invested in the seeker’s future for the duration of their short terms.)</li>
<li>Find a mentor who can fairly access an employee’s, intern’s or student’s skills for success and help them develop a long range career plan.</li>
<li>Select a mentor who will help establish goals and who can provide the seeker with constructive criticism and honest feedback.  This mentor will encourage one’s goals with a desire to bring about change.</li>
<li>Find a mentor who helps the student, employee or intern develop self-awareness, grow beyond perceived limitations and introduce the student, employee or intern to people of leadership and management qualities who will make a difference in one’s career.</li>
<li>Select a mentor who will motivate the student, intern or employee to join organizations to assist in one’s advancement.</li>
<li>Above all, find a mentor who will fully invest in and celebrate a student’s, intern’s or employee’s success.</li>
</ol>
Copyright (C) Catherine Apitz, all rights reserved.

We’ve all had a woman as a mentor at some point in our lives, yet maybe we didn’t recognize her for her influential caring and compassionate guidance. This March is recognized as National Women’s History Month. It is an opportunity to honor the value of our female mentors. In today’s post Over My Shoulder Foundation Intern, Sarah Gross, explores the unique capacity women have to foster love and compassion. Let’s look this month to the strong female mentors who help us all to blossom. Let’s remember enormous contributions women have made to our lives and our history. In their spirit of caring, let’s all become mentors.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

A mentor is someone who embodies the virtues of caring, compassion, and selflessness to guide and give hope to others. Carol Gilligan, scholar of feminist studies and ethics, explains the mentoring philosophy in terms of the “ethic of care.” The unique ability of women to be mentors, to live by the mentoring philosophy, is the result of feminine psychology:

Care as a feminine ethic is an ethic of special obligations and interpersonal relationships. Selflessness or self-sacrifice is built into the very definition of care when caring is premised on an opposition between relationships and self-development.

The feminine ethic of caring that Gilligan describes here includes a tendency towards self-sacrifice. Women, in building and maintaining relationships, place the needs of others before their own. This “selflessness” contributes to women excelling in caring roles, such as mentoring, but it may also hamper their ability to find their place in the world as individuals. Female mentors—including mothers, nurses, and teachers—often embrace their role as caretakers without first taking care of their own needs. The double-edged quality of caring can have consequences for women who want to be mentors while still struggling to self-develop.

Carol Gilligan notes that caring and becoming “selfless means to lose relationship or to lose one’s voice in relationships.” Rather than losing their voice, female mentors in my life have become spokespersons for female empowerment. Though the female ethic of care exposes conflicts between self and society, it does not dispirit women. Rather, it renews the strength of female mentorship. Women are outstanding mentors because they can live by the caring ethic, empowering themselves and empowering others.

This March, I’ll be thinking of National Women’s History Month in terms of how I can care for myself and others while appreciating other women who do the same. I’ll also be writing about strong female mentors like Ellen DeGeneres and Lady Gaga later this month so don’t forget to come back and see what mentoring stories we’ve got for you next!

Sarah Gross, Over My Shoulder Intern

 


Carol Gilligan, “Hearing the Difference: Theorizing Connection.” Hypatia, Vol. 10. No. 2, Spring 1995. pp. 120-27

 

[box] Today let’s celebrate the idea of “let’s get together and feel alright.” In our world, I’ve seen this happen as rarely as a leap year. Today, let’s do it. Let’s get together and feel alright. Let’s get together with our mentors, and find someone to mentor so that we can achieve “One Love, One Heart.” These Bob Marley song lyrics exemplify part of what we at Over My Shoulder Foundation strive for by spreading the mentoring message. Read on to discover another great Sarah Gross Story about Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder [/box]

In my last post, I spoke about musician Lenny Kravitz and the social/cultural effect of his music in spreading inspirational messages to a broad audience. Musicians possess a unique mode of communication where the song is a common ground that unifies otherwise disparate individuals. Musicians, however, are not the sole individuals who can speak effectively through song.

 

Persons who may not be musicians themselves can revive the spirit of a song in order to spread their own inspirational message to the world. Cedella Marley, daughter of English/Afro-Jamaican artist Bob Marley, is one such person. Through her artistic endeavors, she keeps the spirit of her father alive, and therein, she keeps the spirit of his music eternal.

 

Cedella has worked to protect her father’s legacy for many years. As C.E.O. of Tuff Gong International (Bob Marley’s audio production studio), she memorializes her father’s passion for inspiring unity and peace through music. Cedella also carries the power of Bob Marley through her design company, One Love, and her own brand, Catch a Fire, both named after music that encourages the world to embrace peace, love, and to “feel all right.”

 

The songs “One Love” and “Three Little Birds” inspired Cedella to pursue another avenue of creative expression in keeping her father’s message alive: writing. Cedella has written several children’s books, two of which are titled One Love (released in 2011) and Three Little Birds. The books are an adaption of Marley’s cherished songs. The wholesome stories complemented with beautiful artwork and vivid colors capture Cedella’s passion for “brightness” in the world, and also renew the feel-good aura of Bob Marley’s songs. The repetition of “One Love, One Heart” encourages feelings of peace, love, and wellbeing that cancel out the cause of our worry as we begin to realize that “every little thing gonna be all right.”

One Love, A Children's Book by Cedella Marley

The calming effect of these songs, enhanced and perpetuated through Cedella’s books and designs, sends out a message of hope to the many people who value the promise of something good in a world that is often filled with strife. In a time of racism and cultural tension, Bob Marley produced songs of peace and power to hearten the disheartened, to motivate the unmotivated. The essence of his work, and subsequently the work of Cedella, is to transform negatives to positives.

 

Fighting fire with water, Bob Marley strived against injustice with the peace tactics of his music. As social tensions arise today, Cedella reminds us of the effectiveness of positive energy to counteract negativity. Channeling vibrant, creative expression into works that have a broad effect on society, Cedella shows us how art can serve as a vehicle for communication and change.

 

Through her many accomplishments, both in preserving her father’s legacy and in making her own mark, Cedella establishes herself as a mentor for inspiring positive change. If we change the way we think about the world and express our thoughts in positive terms, we come to live the philosophy that “One Love” and “Three Little Birds” advocate. We place faith in love and the strength of relationships in creating a better world.

 

The Marleys, through the spirit of music and creativity, encourage us to pursue the best by letting go of the negative and embracing the positive. We can look to mentors for hope, but ultimately we ourselves have the ability to become mentors for a new generation of those who need a little more peace and love in their lives.

This guest post comes courtesy of an up-and-coming spoken word superstar Alexis Marie. Alexis writes about discovering the power of repetition at a young age, and embracing her talents as a spoken word poet while being mentored indirectly by the power and the strength of Dr. Martin Luther King’s oratory legacy. Spoken word poetry is the bridge between word and music. It is a powerful thing to experience a spoken word performance. It is music, it is poetry. It is word in motion. Spoken word performances reveal to us the magic of music in its ability to move, to inspire, to incite change, and to create lasting and powerful ideas. Enjoy the post. I know I did.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

If someone were to ask my mother when I began writing poetry, at some point in her answering of the question she would eventually climb into the attic and unearth a thin, Crayola-covered book. The title, “Poems, Poems, Poems”, is smeared across the face of the hard cover in my eight-year-old hand writing. That collection of poems is my earliest memory of wanting to become a writer; meaning—keeping in mind that I believe that writers are born, not made—I wanted to cultivate my talents and pursue my passion for writing in a way that I would one day be able to use my art to support myself.

 

As a young child I understood the power of repetition as a literary device: so much so that each poem, as well as the title of the collection itself, continually reflected that knowledge: one poem titled “Teardops” reads, “Teardrops, teardrops, teardrops, falling, falling from my eyes. // Teardrops, teardrops, teardrops, they don’t care if I cry…”

 

Although my use of repetition is certainly laughable, looking back, I believe that I was unknowingly tapping into and harnessing the power of a rich tradition rooted in the art of oration. This oratory spirit continued to manifest itself in me and at the age of thirteen I began writing spoken word poetry. Spoken word is an art form which combines the literary aspects of written poetry and the theatrical aspects of the performing arts; it takes poetry off of the page and places it onto the stage. Two of the main facets of spoken word artistry are repetition and recitation.

 

As a spoken word artist one must continually recite their work until it becomes learned to the body. Only through repetition can one begin living the words that are written, eventually embodying and becoming the poem itself. This, I believe, is the most important distinguishing feature between poetry which is written for and exists on the page, and poetry which is written to be spoken and exists on the stage.

 

Expressing myself through spoken word has been one of the most empowering experiences of my entire life. It has afforded me the opportunity to experience human connection in a multitude of ways. Through my art I have assumed the great responsibility of writing, not only for my own cathartic release, but in the spirit of human connection, learning and change. There is truly something to be said about the feeling of opening yourself up to a room full of strangers, telling them your story, sharing a moment, being joined in feeling, being inspired, and sharing your love and light with the world. There is even more to be said about daring to speak out, and having your words be embraced and internalized by people who are inspired to the point that they are called to action.

 

With this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was reminded of the power of the word and all of its wonders. When I think of Dr. King, I think of poetry and its ability to facilitate progress and healing. In many ways, his legacy is a mentor to my work. Every time my performances have ever brought someone to tears I have been reminded of the ability of words to translate into movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest examples of this. Dr. King’s gift of tongue, the poetry in his politics, made him a beacon of light that many were drawn to follow. His words persist even in the absence of his body and live on in those who have been fortunate enough to hear them. Dr. King used words as a vehicle for movement and change; every day I aspire to do the same.

Alexis Marie - Spoken Word Poet

Alexis Marie. Photography by Marshall Vincent Garrett

Alexis Marie is a 19 year old Brooklyn native with a passion for social justice and change. Actress, poet, writer, spoken word artist, creator and community activist, Alexis is young in age but mature in her craft and passion for performance art. Along with having been a member of Urban Word NYC’s Youth Leadership Board (Word Wide), she was also a member of the 2008 Urban Word NYC Teen Poetry Slam Team that took second place at the national competition in Washington, D.C and won The Green Mic sponsored by Robert Redford—the prize for which she was able to travel to Utah to perform at the Sundance Film Festival. Alexis Marie also took second place at the NY Knicks Poetry Slam. In 2008 she wrote and performed her first one-woman show, Diary of a Young Black Girl, at Dance Theater Workshop. Alexis Marie has opened for artists such as Wyclef Jean, Mos Def and Goapele, to name a few. Alexis Marie was featured in the HBO documentary “Brave New Voices” as well as the MSG Documentary ” Knicks Poetry Slam.” She has performed on many stages including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Apollo, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Madison Square Garden, The Hammerstein, The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln theater and many more. Alexis aspires to be a English professor and novelist, ultimately sharing her gift of word with the world.

[box] Today we are pleased to present yet another engaging post written by Over My Shoulder Foundation Intern Sarah Gross. One of my favorite quotes about music by Jimi Hendrix is a driving force behind our mentoring organization. The quote reads, “If there is something to be changed in this world…it can only be done through music.” With keen insight, Sarah writes about how Lenny Kravitz’s new album mentors his listeners with a poignant message to replace all lingering racial discrimination with a joyful celebration of the common ground that can unify all people, all races. Enjoy!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder[/box]

 

Black History Month recognizes the history of racial tensions between blacks and whites alongside celebrating the achievements and impact African Americans have had on the country. While we commemorate Blacks in the shaping of the nation, we do so with the backdrop of racial strife. We are cognizant of the inequality between different races, an issue which was addressed but not quite remedied with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With each passing decade, legal measures are passed to improve equal treatment among the races, and yet the scars left by discrimination do not fully fade. We strive to overcome these scars through awareness and communication; a most potent form of communication is music.

 

Music, the lyric and the melody, encourages oneness or togetherness, and inevitably unifies people from a variety of backgrounds. Music speaks to people on a transcendent level, where words sung can convey meaning more effectively than plain words spoken.

 

From Smokey Robinson to Marvin Gaye to Michael Jackson, many African American musicians have used music as a form of communication to speak to broad audiences with great resonance. Recently, successful musical artist Lenny Kravitz released an album titled “Black & White America,” which targets conflicts between race and society.

Lenny Kravitz, Black & White America Album Cover

With themes of hope, inspiration, and unification, Kravitz’s album comments on continued racial discord with positivity. That is, Kravitz conveys positive messages in “Black & White America” to uplift and inspire his audience rather than remind them about the pain of negative racial discord.

 

For Kravitz, “Black & White America” is an opportunity to personalize his experiences through song—experiences of home life, of culture, and of racism. He hopes to revitalize people’s belief in goodness through songs that are a “celebration” of life. “Anybody listening is going to feel it and be uplifted by the spirit of the music,” he avers. This sentiment rings true with all of the tracks on the album, which carry lively beats and catchy phrases that are full of life and spirit. The title track achieves both goals of positive energy and social commentary:

 

The future looks as though it has come around
And maybe we have finally found our common ground
We’re the children of our father,
if you’re looking back, don’t bother
We’re black and white America

 

In an artistic move that plays with innovation and nostalgia, Kravitz weaves his personal story into a broad social message. His own experience as the child of mixed race parents models the successful unity between blacks and whites in spite of surrounding discrimination and prejudice. The “future”—peaceful and equal relations between blacks and whites—has reached Kravitz through the loving bond of his family, and his lyrics strive to reach out and inspire other people to appreciate their bonds of family and friendship. Kravitz does not advocate black solidarity (perhaps this is implied in “looking back”), but rather black and white togetherness. “Looking back” to the past reminds us of racial strife, but only looking forward, only the “future,” can promise progress. We are black and white America, Kravitz declares, as a personal sentiment but also as a prediction of the future. He envisions an integrated country, free of racism and segregation, which stands on common ground where blacks and whites relate to one another in terms of similarities rather than differences.

 

Kravitz’s album achieves a remarkable duality. Not only does his music reflect on the past, but it looks to the future. He perceives that future in a positive light and his message is one of hope and optimism. Poetry is often thought by scholars to predict the future, where the poet possesses divine intuition and thus can foretell the state of society. Musicians, a different strand of poet, seem to possess this intuition. Kravitz may be blessed with the gift of predicting the future, as his lyrics resonate so powerfully with the past and the present. The songs of “Black & White America” guide and mentor Americans toward a more tolerant and hopeful manner of existing in the world. Through the medium of music, Lenny Kravitz inspires kinship and commonality. As he describes his album as a “celebration,” he is communicating the true purpose of Black History Month: a celebration of blacks, striving for and achieving unity with people of all different races.

 

To learn more about Lenny Kravitz and his new album, visit www.lennykravitz.com.

 

This blog post comes to us courtesy of Ellen Sweeney, a student at UC Davis and our amazing intern/mentee here at Over My Shoulder Foundation. We are thrilled with the Mentorology story she came up with today. We want to encourage you all to think back on your education, your teachers and your mentors. Write to us to share your stories and inspiration. We appreciate your support, your thoughts and your time. Enjoy the post about “Finding Your Own Ilene”.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

At the beginning of our school careers, it seems as if there is a fairly straightforward path in life. If you work hard, get good grades, and get accepted to a good college, it follows that you should be able to get a good job once you graduate. However, once you get to college and beyond, there are so many possibilities and options and decisions that it is difficult to know the best way to get where you want to be.

John Green is a New York Times best-selling author and founding member of the 2-part  Vlogbrothers (a popular YouTube site he started with his brother Hank to keep in touch and stay smart). He recently made a video in which he discusses how crucial his mentor was in helping him get his first book (Looking for Alaska) published. He explains how much his mentor helped him improve his writing and that he wouldn’t be where he is today without her. Now that John is a well-known author, he has started mentoring other authors. He tells his viewers that whatever field they are interested in, they should find someone who is better than them in that field and take that person’s advice.

This point in life when your future is so uncertain is frightening because, as John Green  says in his video How to Become an Adult, it feels like making a mistake will somehow leave you “homeless and hungry and alone.”

The video struck chords of resonance with my classmates. Claire said, “John’s description of life after college is similar to the way I feel now as a student getting ready to graduate.” Someone else said, “Having a mentor would make the transition from college to career so much easier. We allow ourselves to have people to look up to and provide some framework and guidance most of our lives – why not now? I’ll definitely be looking for someone to take me under their wing, to inherit their wisdom and experiences. I hope that one day I can be a mentor to someone else too!” Blake says, “I do not currently have a mentor, but after watching John Green’s How to Become an Adult I am sure I am going to need a mentor after college and I could even use one now.  It would be nice to have someone who can help me figure things out about my career path because they themselves have gone through a similar situation.”

As students getting ready to graduate from college, we need mentors now, perhaps more than ever. Mentoring is important throughout life, but this video just got me thinking.

John’s video makes a point about the time period right after college. Graduates probably are not yet doing exactly what  they want to be doing. The solution to this, according to John, is to “Get an Ilene.” After he graduated from college, John worked at a magazine in a job full of “crushing monotony.” On the bright side, he was in an environment full of older coworkers who were much more experienced than he was. One of these coworkers was Ilene Cooper, a writer whom John went to for advice and help developing his own skills as an author. Eventually, with Ilene’s guidance, John was able to publish his first novel and finally had the job he really wanted.  It is inspiring to see that someone as successful as John Green went through such challenges early in his career and overcame them through the help of a mentor.

I am a student. I am glad that I have found some great mentors in my life. I am even more glad that I found the Over My Shoulder Foundation and can spend some of my time sharing stories about mentoring. Hopefully the story about John Green and Ilene Cooper, a Mentorology dream team, will encourage one of you to both find a mentor and become a mentor today!

Today’s post is written by Over My Shoulder Foundation Intern Sarah Gross, who is currently a student a UC Davis.

The month of February reserves a special place in the year to remember the resounding impact of African Americans through the history of the United States. Black history recalls the legal and social tensions for race equality and recognizes contributions made by black poets, musicians, and political activists. We commemorate the triumphs and endeavors of these people because they inspire us.

 

The inspiration that notable figures in Black History emanate is a non-tangible part of their legacy to the people of America. As we celebrate, we are inspired towards forgiveness and compassion, perseverance and tolerance. Most of all, we are inspired towards caring and helping others. As we incorporate these values into our lives this month, we recognize the trait that many black figures share: the capacity to be a mentor.

 

What defines a mentor is different for everyone, for mentoring is the subjective effort to better the life of another person. In the words of poet, author, and activist Maya Angelou, “to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care.” Caring opens the heart to the needs of others. Through her words and actions, Dr. Angelou mentors countless individuals by caring, the essence of which is to give hope. The most precious and valuable of gifts, hope is a “rainbow in the clouds” to those who live in gloom. When people can inspire one another, spreading love and compassion to those who need it most, mentoring becomes an important way of giving hope and leading individuals to their true potential.

 

The concept of a mentor may be understood in terms of a teacher and a student. The teacher helps the student to develop his or her ideas, caring for that student and providing hope and encouragement along his or her way to success. The teacher/student mentoring relationship applies across a broad spectrum, as the teacher may be an inspirational social figure with citizens of a community as the students. The teacher need not know his or her students personally, but that does not lessen the teacher’s capacity to connect with the students on a personal level. Inspirational figures, like Maya Angelou, abound throughout black history as teachers whose students are those who are inspired and in turn inspire others to right wrongs and make the world a more wholesome, kinder place. Maya Angelou’s poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” communicates the importance of the teacher/student relationship to describe mentoring as a coming together to surmount difficulty and spread hope in the world:

 

I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls,
Clap hands, let’s leave the preening
And stop impostering our own history.
Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,
Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Courtesy into our bedrooms,
Gentleness into our kitchen,
Care into our nursery.

This excerpt advocates peace instead of strife, love instead of hate. Maya Angelou read the poem in its entirety at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. The words reflect the ideology behind the March: “to reconcile [blacks’]spiritual inner beings and to redirect…focus to developing our communities, strengthening our families, working to uphold and protect our civil and human rights, and empowering ourselves through the Spirit of God.”[1] On this day in history, people came together to clap hands and bolster the community with hope for a better day, a better month, a better future. As a leading inspirational figure, Angelou stood before the many people in Washington, D.C. as a mentor. As a teacher, Angelou connected with her students on a personal level by sharing in, and encouraging, their hopes and dreams, and thus October 16, 1995 became a day of social togetherness for change through the power of her words.

The Million Man March, and Maya Angelou’s role as a mentor, serves as a paradigm example of the importance of Black History Month. We not only celebrate black history, but we celebrate the messages it carries. We are inspired by the positive developments in equality and community that blossom through black history, and we can continue to inspire by mentoring.

-by Sarah Gross


[1] Farrakhan, Louis. Afro – American Red Star. Washington, D.C.: Sep 30, 1995. p. A5

 

In the early years of the 1970’s our sleepy little town of Lincoln, Massachusetts rarely was exposed to  culture diversity. A Boston accent was rare. Once in a while you’d meet a Jewish family who spoke Yiddish, once in a while an Italian Grandparent who still had their thick accent from Italy, but mostly our town was just multi-shades of white. I remember my excitement when I learned about METCO.

Founded in 1966 in Boston, Massachusetts, METCO is the longest continuously running voluntary school desegregation program in the country and a national model for the few other voluntary desegregation busing programs currently in existence. The METCO Program was designed to bring two very different communities together. City kids, students from Boston, commuted to our preppy suburban Lincoln School. It was a life-changing experience for all of us. I saw it as a chance to learn all I could about Soul Music. I thought these kids could help me groove and sing like Chaka Khan.

Prejudices, often violent ones, were all around us. I remember my Grandmother’s fear of anyone less white than she. I remember vividly a weekend I spent at her house. While playing with a bunch of South Boston Irish kids, all of us bragging about how Irish we were, I tried to show off  my “I’m unique, I have a mixed bloodline” card. I was attacked, called names and told to go back to where I came from. I had said I was part French. I was shocked. I went to my Grandmothers door where she consoled and coddled me until I told her why the other kids roughed me up. I remember the additional shock and anger when she smacked me off the back of the head and said, “Never tell anyone you are not all Irish.” I learned how ugly hate was and see this single moment as the most influential element of my moral code.

Yet…even today, when asked what nationality I am, I still only say Irish. Maybe it’s a habit; maybe it’s a teeny-tiny scar that still recalls how scary it was to be judged by race. Mine is such a silly story compared to what others went through but what METCO did was open my mind and be sensitive. I see METCO as one of my very first mentors.

This week I am very proud to present a story exquisitely written by one of my fellow students, Ron Workman. Ron shares his side of the METCO experience. I left Boston for several years and while working in the music industry I learned how many musicians boycotted Boston, calling it a city of hatred. Now that I live in Boston again full time I marvel at how things have changed. I see how my schoolmates have all stayed in touch and I think we are all very grateful to the METCO program for educating us to respect diversity, culture and individuality.

This is mentoring!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

The Mentoring Experience: Integration of the Lincoln Public Schools

by Ron Workman

A couple of months ago, Over My Shoulder Foundation founder Dawn Carroll emailed me to share her experience of visiting our alma mater, Joseph Brooks School in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where she was asked by a current student what the METCO experience was like in the 1970’s.  When Dawn asked the student why the story was important to her she replied, “It was history.” Dawn’s Foundation focuses on Mentoring.

 

The METCO Process is History

After a brief phone call to Dawn, (a call that took almost 35 years to make) I contemplated how METCO and Mentoring had affected my life. Of course, when I first think of “mentoring” there are the obvious people that come to mind such as my brothers, sisters, father and mother, as well as certain teachers and coaches, and famous figures like Dr. J., Muhamad Ali, Martin Luther King, Diane Carroll, Humphrey Bogart and others. None of which are particularly related to METCO.  Then it hit me. With respect to METCO, it was “The Process.” The racial integration process of the Lincoln Public Schools in the 1970’s was a major Mentoring Experience that has affected my life in various ways.

 

Racial Tensions

I was born and raised in Roxbury and initially attended Boston Public Schools, as did my seven older siblings. In the mid-1970’s, forced school integration in the Boston School System pushed racial tolerances over the limit. In the heart of the tensions of forced busing were Boston’s working class communities of Roxbury, South Boston and Charlestown. There were daily school and neighborhood race riots along with several individual fistfights. Black students bussed to schools in white neighborhoods were escorted by the National Guard for their own protection.

 

Forced Busing in Boston

During this time of forced busing in Boston, METCO offered an educational alternative, which my parents wisely chose for me. My METCO years were from 3rd grade through 8th grade, from approximately 1972 through 1977; Ages 10 – 15. Every morning I rode a school bus full of us “METCO students” from our predominantly black neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan for approximately 45 minutes into non-black Lincoln, Massachusetts. On a long daily bus ride of urban junior high students, you had to be good at “capping” (aka “playing the dozen”, aka “Yo Mama” jokes) or somehow learn to defend yourself when you become the target of capping. The time was passed on the bus by playing card games like Knuckles, hand-clapping games like Mary Mack, and reading popular series like The Adventures of Tin Tin, Encyclopedia Brown and Matt Christopher sports stories. Shortly before arriving to school we passed by ponds, steepled churches, fields of green that are often mentioned in Henry David Thoreau writings. The suburban school had its own streams, riding paths and even a “Dunebuggy Trail.”

 

The Pop Culture of our METCO Times in the 1970’s

The hit television shows were The Brady Bunch, All in the Family, Happy Days, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Flip Wilson and the epic Alex Haley’s Roots. Being one of the largest Black males in the school, I endured many derogatory Roots-related comments. Also, during the 70’s Bruce Lee kung fu movies were very popular and every inner city male thought he had advanced fighting skills after watching “Enter The Dragon.” Unfortunately, the combination of racial teasing and the imagined expertise in martial arts sometimes resulted in physical altercations that ultimately ended in suspension.

Popular music was Rock and Roll or Rhythm and Blues (now known as Rock or R&B). Some may remember Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which came on TV after Saturday Night Live. Disco music was in the early stages, which could be considered the beginning of different cultures coming together musically on a mass scale. There was no rap and no crossover artists, although Elton John had performed on Soul Train. The early 70’s was before Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” record introduced Rap music to the public. Aerosmith and Run DMC had not performed the rock hit “Walk This Way” together yet. As I recall, the hit songs at our school dance was the original “Walk This Way” and “A New Kid In Town” by the Eagles.

I recall in music class being taught about Cat Stevens and Loving Spoonfuls. I also recall a METCO student, by direction of her mother, bringing to class a Little Richard 45 record and asking the teacher to play “Tutti Frutti.” As an adult, I understand why the parent wanted to make sure all the innovators of Rock and Roll were represented.

There were many cultural and lifestyle differences that were brought to my attention. The 70’s was a time of Afros and Afro Picks. A student, unaware of the use of a pick, once asked me “Why do you have a fork in your hair?” None of my inner city friends rode a horse or a motorcycle to school, although it was not uncommon in Lincoln. Also this was the first time I was exposed to students who had their own swimming pool at home, which doubled as a skating rink in the winter.

 

Culture Shock from the City to the Suburbs

There were times when we METCO students observed the culture shock of the Lincoln students coming into the City of Boston. For instance, there was a field trip to Boston to see Sounder, a movie about a dog owned by a family in the old south starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield and Kevin Hooks. Also, our French class traveled to Boston to eat crepe at The Magic Pan. For most of us Boston students, going downtown was something we did regularly on the weekends to go to the movies, shop and just hang out. For our Lincoln classmates, downtown was a once in a while trip to the big city. Most of the METCO students had a host brother or sister and sleepovers were arranged at each other’s house in Lincoln and Boston for the students to get some exposure to the others lifestyle. The entire class collectively, enjoyed the traditional 8th Grade Trip to Washington, DC to visit the White House.

 

Shared Culture in the City and in the Suburbs

I learned that some things were beyond cultural differences such as sports. An athlete respects another athlete. A teammate defends another teammate. Period. Many of us METCO students had a different style of playing basketball than our Lincoln teammates. Many of us METCO students had not played soccer until we arrived in Lincoln. Nationball was a playground activity that many of us enjoyed, but did not play in the city. The need to fit in during junior high school is also beyond cultural difference. I recall sneaking away to smoke cigarettes with my Lincoln classmates.

 

METCO Helped Me Become an Agent for Change

How has this experience contributed to my life today? African-Americans, as well as other people of Color remain under-represented in Corporate America, and particularly in the legal profession. Unfortunately, I am usually the only black male at the law firm who is billing his time to a client. As a result of my integration experience in Lincoln, I am confidently familiar with this dynamic and can be an active vehicle to help a corporation expand its cultural diversity profile. A colleague once told me that not everyone is willing or equipped to be the cultural pioneer for a company or department. Here, I think the METCO/Lincoln experience provided me with a good foundation for being a change agent.

 

My Mentoring Experience from METCO

I guess the true direct mentors that I had during the METCO experience were the students that came just a year or two before me: The Joseph Brooks graduating class of 1975 and 1976. I was able to watch them interact in Lincoln and in Boston. They were the ones who truly broke the color lines. There were other New England suburbs involved with METCO as well. Most of my classmates went on to Lincoln-Sudbury High School but I did not. Eventually, as the program grew, we METCO students were able to recognize and identify with each other in our urban communities. The indirect mentors were the visionaries who blazed the institutional path for the METCO program to come to fruition.

In thinking about Dawn’s encounter with that current Lincoln student, I had an epiphany about the evolution of life. As the students of the Brooks Class of 1977 approach 50 years old, I realized that our individual and collective memories and experiences of the 70’s formed some type of basis for who we are today. Perhaps more importantly, I realized that our memoirs are a living and breathing history lesson to a current Brooks student and should be passed on. I thank that young student for sparking this reflective journey and for mentoring upward.

 

Ron Workman

Joseph Brooks, Class of 1977

 

In the early 80’s if you dreamed of being a female “ROCKER” you were watching and studying Robin Lane. Robin and her band, The Chartbusters, were one of the very first videos EVER on MTV! Robin had all the essential ingredients: strong songs, infectious attitude, interesting lyrics, rock star looks.

A few months ago Robin and I met to talk about how Over My Shoulder Foundation and her foundation, Songbird Sings, might collaborate. It was all very formal and professional so I tried to repress the “star-struck-fan” in me. We became fast friends eager to partner with our songwriting and foundations. Over My Shoulder Student Liaison and Singer Ms. Santana Roberts is the writer of today’s mentoring interview with our new dynamic friend Robin Lane.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

I had the amazing opportunity to interview singer/ songwriter Robin Lane at the Over My Shoulder Foundation “Thank Your Mentor Day” event on January 25, 2012. In my excitement to learn about her life and her contributions to the music world, we sat down on a modern couch tucked in the corner of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. I didn’t know what to expect; it was the first time I ever interviewed someone but I had prepared to ask her a few questions. I imagined what I might tell someone years down the road when I have accomplished all that I dream about as a singer. Here’s some of what I discovered about Robin Lane.

 

Robin Lane as a Young Music Lover

I discovered that growing up Robin did not have a mentor, but that her childhood was filled with music. She loved listening to groups like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. She never thought of music as a career, it was simply something she loved to do. Robin did not view music as anything she wanted to pursue for her future, but as she aged, she realized that singing was her calling. Easily connecting to the passion in music, she loved all genres from rap to classical to country. “I love everything that I think is good” she says.

 

Robin as a Singer/Songwriter

Since the revelation that singing was her calling, Robin has been writing songs for over 40 years. Robin spit out 10 songs a day when she first started, often on napkins in restaurants or a handy piece of cardboard. Blessed with a very successful career, Lane can proudly say that she has the 11th video ever played on MTV. Since then, Lane mentors teenage girls from Roxbury Youth Works and youth from Home For Little Wanderers, through her “Giving Youth A Voice” workshop. She believes that change is possible and that the past, no matter how painful it is, should never define you.

 

Mentorology in the Life of Robin Lane

Robin told me she did not have a physical person to guide her in her childhood days but she looked to the moon, which she named John, for comfort. Despite not having someone to watch over her, she has dedicated her life to speaking out against all forms of violence. Lane is the founder of a non-profit organization called Songbird Sings. Songbird Sings provides healing through songwriting for women and youth suffering from domestic violence. Robin is passionate about giving a voice to those silenced by trauma. Participants in her programs learn how to use music, specifically songwriting, as an outlet to express emotion. Music has the power to illuminate the horrific memories of someone’s life, thus healing from the inside out. Freeing spirits by cleansing the mind and soul through music, Robin hopes that she can make a difference in the world, one song at a time.

 

From L to R: Santana Roberts, Patti Austin, Robin Lane at the Over My Shoulder Foundation “Thank Your Mentor Day” Celebration Event

“Over My Shoulder shows impact of mentoring” is the title of a story the Bay State Banner published about our 2012 “Thank Your Mentor Day” celebration. We are proud to show you what the locals think of our mentoring accomplishments.

Originally published by the Bay State Banner.

Article by Jacquinn Williams.

Photo by Leise Jones Smyrl.

(L-R) Dawn Carroll, Rick Dyer and Patti Austin

Grammy award-winning singer Patti Austin’s life has been filled with mentors and now she wants to give back by making a difference in the lives of young people.

“Mentoring is what we’re supposed to do,” Austin said. “It’s what we should be doing.”

She and Dawn Carroll co-founded the “Over My Shoulder” foundation, a unique media-based project whose goal is to raise awareness of the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

Last week, the foundation hosted an event at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in the Back Bay for National Mentoring month. Awards were presented to design mentors who’ve significantly impacted the lives of their mentees and Austin — best known for her hits “Baby Come to Me” and “Do You Love Me/The Genie” — presented a $10k check to mentee Santana Roberts, a new Berklee student. Teary eyed and emotional, Roberts told the crowd that her relationship with Austin started with an e-mail sent through her fan site asking for sheet music. Shortly thereafter, Roberts was on her way to New York to spend a weekend with Austin.

“My first mentors were my parents,” Austin said. “That’s where mentoring begins. My dad — who was a jazz musician — was my mentor musically. My mom was my emotional mentor. They set the stage. They helped me accept and receive mentoring. I was raised with the mentality that someone wants to help you! Later my godfather Quincy Jones was a mentor and my manager Barry Orms is a spiritual and emotional mentor.”

She’s gotten great advice from many important figures in her life and now Austin wants to do the same for others through Over My Shoulder.

“Everybody in this organization is so busy!” Austin exclaimed. “It’s like when Obama gave the State of the Union Address and seemed surprised by his own accomplishments. We’re starting to take off. It’s a great time for us.”

Though Austin is in the middle of a global tour, it was important for her to show up and support the work of the mentors and mentees of the organization.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” she said. “If there’s someone around who is younger or has less experience than you have, then it’s your responsibility to help them, to share information. It’s fascinating and nourishing to the soul to watch a child bloom before your eyes.”

To demonstrate the power of mentoring, Rick Dyer — a former heroin addict turned lawyer — talked about his journey from the streets to the courtroom. He acknowledged that the people who took an interest in him and helped him along the way, saved his life. His lowest point came in prison after a visit from his mother. Dyer told her that he was hopeless and helpless. His mother told him to borrow her hope.

“That’s one of the most powerful things anyone has ever said to me,” shared Dyer.

After the awards and check presentation, partygoers mingled and munched on appetizers while Austin made her way around the room. Before her exit, she sang “This Little Light Of Mine” acapella, a perfect compliment to the stories shared throughout the evening.

“You don’t always have the capacity to help hundreds of thousands of people at a time,” Austin said. “If you can help one person, you’re doing something for the universe.”

Behind the scenes of mourning where little is pretty….

We find new friends in Cambodia…strangers who have true pity.

Closure has never really been known. Closure seemed impossible, always postponed.

But now our pain has a place to call its own. The memories of our lost ones have another home

Today is National Thank Your Mentor Day. Mentors share and provide experience. They inspire. I often joke around and say “I am the poster child for what happens when you don’t have a mentor.” But its hardly truth. I have had amazing mentors. Today I want to thank my new mentors in Cambodia.

 

Writing a Memoir and Discovering Mentoring

Before I started the Over My Shoulder mentoring mission I was struggling to complete a memoir. I had so many chapters written, but I had no ending. My wise mentor, writing coach Michael Steinberg, kept telling me, “The ending hasn’t arrived yet.” Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) fell into my lap when I was asked to find a subject matter that a young girl could authentically and appropriately sing…that adults would like also. I giggled at first because I’d been so deep into my sad memoir I felt I had nothing appropriate to say. Then the term “mentoring” appeared. I knew it could be a perfect theme.

 

One Less – My Healing Quest

Mentoring was a cure for hopelessness and might be able to heal all the things my “Stephen King” memoir was about. I wrote the lyrics to the Over My Shoulder Song in seconds flat. I could see that the Over My Shoulder message could be the remedy to the destructive and disconnected feelings that littered the pages of my memoir. I kept thinking…maybe having a mentor could have prevented the death of so many kids that were part of our close knit community. Maybe a mentor could have glued us survivors back together, many of us suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and just maybe mentoring could cure my exasperated feelings. Maybe mentoring could inspire one less suicide, one less addict, one less teen pregnancy, one less alcoholic, one less bully, one less gang banger, one less murder. One Less of everything that had tragically touched my life. One Less became my dream, my passion, my healing quest.

 

Traumas and Tributes

Exposure to trauma has shattering effects on social, spiritual and physical health. There are real, hard to cure, long term effects. Then there are the things we victims call “triggers.” Those things that drag you back to your suffocating loss that make it almost impossible to heal. Little things can dismember your calm in seconds flat. You can’t protect yourself from triggers because the violation was so upsetting and the years only seam to bloat the void.

In the back of my mind I knew my project would also somehow pay tribute to all my friends who had died and had influenced me, mentored me from beyond to try and stop a future tragedy. I didn’t know how and I never thought it might become the final chapters of my book. Then I got the e-mail about a school and students in Cambodia. This story started to heal the hurt.

 

Helping Those With Greater Needs Can Heal Us

Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts (LS) is where the tragedy began. And Lincoln Sudbury Memorial High School in rural Cambodia is where a healing could begin. The amazing effort is the brainchild of a young student named Mira Vale who attended L.S. in 2007 had heard the stories of the loss our school had and then her class went through one of their own. Mira had figured that helping those who had greater needs could heal us.

Her vision created the Lincoln Sudbury Memorial School. Her vision wove two countries and two cultures together. At our school the hallways filled up with ghosts. The halls of the new school would overflow in hope. Because my memory was affected by post traumatic stress syndrome I could not accurately remember our dear friends. Plus the list was horribly long. Mira and a group of Alumni started to create this list. Nothing prepared me for the emotions the first time I read all the names.

 

An Amazing School in Cambodia

Thanks to this amazing project maybe now the nightmare can begin to fade. Maybe now I can find a way to finally become comfortable with the loss. Just maybe this story will have an ending that really heals and I will no longer find myself sifting through the ruins, desperately looking for answers. Maybe I can relax knowing that there is finally proof that all my wonderful friends really existed, that they all mattered and have been remembered. I can relax knowing that they are the reason Cambodia has a new school.

Thanks to my new Cambodian mentors in rural Battambang province, nearly 9000 miles away who I can’t wait to meet. Thanks to the vibrant Mira Vale who went to my High School in 2007 and started this amazing effort because the future looks brighter, the nightmare dims. Maybe now many of us who still live can finally say goodbye and let go to those we lost and loved so long ago. I am planning my trip to Cambodia to thank and give back and I will make it an Over My Shoulder Mission to bury the past and plant mentoring seeds for a bright future!

 

[box]“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Proving the power of music can create social change, Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) was started after we witnessed the breathtaking reaction to the mentoring message in our lead song Over My Shoulder. I was told by Dr. Johnetta B. Cole that this song was to be a gift, a facilitator to the mentoring message and a tool to break down barriers that separate generations of people and cultures. Our song and the focus of the foundation is to find remedies that transform one more hopeless person and create communities of respect, diversity, culture and individuality.

We re-post this beautifully written piece written by Stephen Powell who last week was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for following in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our shared goal is to inspire the next “Champions of Change.” That’s you! Do something today and every day to help navigate a positive path. You can reinforce positive dreams. Never forget the power of a dream. Become part of the glorious sound that is hope through mentoring on Martin Luther King Day.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder[/box]

 

Faith Moves Mentoring, by Stephen Powell

(Reposted with permission from the author. Originally posted at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/12/faith-moves-mentoring)

We all have a choice in life to define our legacy and assess our true divine calling. As we approach the time of year of reflection on the tremendous contributions made to our society by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I am reminded of his simple request wanting to be remembered as someone who simply tried to love. Dr. King’s spirit moves through me, daily, as I have made a conscious decision, moving by faith, that I want my legacy to be defined by the love for my community in my role as the Executive Director of Mentoring USA.

Mentoring USA, an affiliate of HELP USA, was founded in 1995 by New York State former first lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo. As a structured site-based mentoring organization, we provide comprehensive mentoring services and activities for youth, ages 7-21, through partnerships with schools, corporations, faith-based institutions, foster care agencies, community centers, and housing facilities nationwide. Once mentors are screened and trained, they play a vital role in teaching essential life skills such as: financial and media literacy; cultural awareness and respect; anti-bullying; self-esteem improvement; and living healthy lifestyles to the mentees in our program for a minimum of four hours per month. Essentially, our mentors are ‘positive opportunity brokers’ who serve selflessly to provide access to information, education, and opportunity to our mentees, and in some cases, the mentee’s family.

In the role as a mentoring executive, I am required to wear multiple hats in order to fulfill the goal of inspiring individuals—youth and adults, corporations, community partners, etc. to become agents of change. Some days I feel like I am a faith coach developing spiritual athletes and teaching youth and adults to: press on when life throws a curve ball, lift up in prayer challenging circumstances, and hurdle the temptation to engage in activities that will hurt their families and communities. Other days, I feel like a banker, investing in our communities and youth by using asset-driven language that deposits hope without withdrawing faith. My thought is that things can improve if we exercise an all ‘hands on deck’ approach in our respective communities.

I view mentoring as my ministry, as I recognize that much community healing is required to provide opportunities where children in under served communities can be inspired to learn and compete academically across the global landscape.

While our corporate partners have provided our organization with wonderful opportunities to expand and serve new communities throughout the country, I have purposefully focused on building the capacity of Black men and the faith community to address the shortage of adult male engagement in mentoring. Through support from the Open Society Foundation Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Mentoring USA was able to launch our MEN-TOUR: Recruit. Reclaim.Restore. effort to reclaim men and fathers who have already served as mentors in some capacity. The goal is to utilize and build their capacity to recruit more male mentors via the faith community, demonstrating how communities and schools will undergo a gradual restoration to safety and academic success for young Black men.

Our children are certainly ‘at risk’ when we consider the return we are getting on ignoring their cries for help. As a consummate optimist, with an intentionality to use language that inspires others, I tend to look at our next generation of local and global leaders as ‘champions on the cusp’ poised for greatness, when we learn to focus on what we have versus what we don’t have. I know this, first hand, having been raised by a single mom after losing my father to health related issues at the tender age of five. My mother knew then that mentoring starts in the home.

Moving in the spirit of collaboration, to mentor youth, engage men, and share resources, is the true testament to community transformation. When the ‘village’ is in action, lives will be changed. I am of the mind set that less is more; sometimes, it is necessary to be ego-less when aligning resources in order to be purposeful.

Happy New Year, Happy National Mentoring Month and God bless!

Stephen Powell is the Executive Director at Mentoring USA based in New York, NY

 

A few years ago  I approached a vibrant writers summer camp program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts.  They  had a MFA program and when fall arrived, they  suggested that I apply.  Considering that I had not gotten my bachelors degree I thought this was crazy. I was in my 40’s finally figuring out what I wanted to do and my lack of education was potentially going to stop me. I heard the echoes of yesterdays, my mothers being the loudest. “One day you will regret not going to college.” And the day had arrived. The director heard my concerns and suggested I apply anyway. The vigorous program wasn’t for beginners but she said sometimes they give credit for life experience. We both knew I had experience but it had to shine so vibrantly and passionately in my  application essay that it was irrefutably grounds for me to enter and complete the program.

The essay I began to write was about being  born in the same year Dr. Martin Luther King JR. gave his speech “ I Have a Dream”, in 1963. I was at a point in my life where I hoped something I would write would make a difference. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to be remembered and wrote about being inspired by the greatest mentor of all, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What I thought I was going to write and what I ended up writing were two completely different things but both were completely inspired by the same man, the same message: “I Have a Dream.”

Last year when the Over My Shoulder Song I co-wrote  (listen here) was broadcast live to 127 countries as part of the 8th Annual celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. here in Boston, my dream came true. With my guidance and the help of many volunteers the Over My Shoulder Foundation began to soar. Over My Shoulder has connected me with the most amazing group of people. One of these amazing people you will read about below. Stephen Powell is being recognized by the White House as a leader who has followed the footprints of Dr. King. Please share our joy and meet our new friend, Champion of Change, Stephen Powell. – Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

 

Stephen Powell, Champion of Change

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of Communications

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2012

 

White House Highlights Stephen Powell as a “Champion of Change” For Following in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

WASHINGTON, DC – Thursday, January 12th, eight local leaders who are following in the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be honored at the White House as Champions of Change. These men and women, who include business and non-profit leaders and community volunteers, have each taken great strides to improve the lives of others through volunteerism and in providing economic opportunity to others in their community.

 

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.

 

To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:30 pm ET January 12th.

 

Stephen Powell is the Executive Director at Mentoring USA based in New York, NY. A native of New Jersey, Stephen was born and raised in Newark and East Orange, respectively and now resides in New York City with his wife and family.

He remains driven to lead program expansion and technical assistance efforts for Mentoring USA across the nation in major cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Newark, NJ. Prior to joining Mentoring USA, Stephen worked in program development and management for local and national non-profits and toured the world with percussive-based dance troupe, Step Afrika, which was developed through his collegiate affiliation, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated (Beta Chapter- Howard University). His passion for mentoring and community are visible is his roles leading the Trinity faith-based mentoring initiative at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, chairing the USTA Eastern Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and providing technical assistance to the National CARES Mentoring Movement. He is also an Advisory Board Member to the New York City Young Men’s Initiative and leads an Open Society Institute sponsored male mentor recruitment initiative entitled MEN-TOUR.

###

 

 

[box]Singer/Songwriter/Mentor Aline Shader (1936-2002) was a wildly creative woman. With great pleasure we feature her glorious mentoring story through the thoughts and memories of her remarkable mentee Julie Silver. Here at Over My Shoulder Foundation we are preparing for National Mentoring Month this January, and we are so amazed and inspired by the dynamic mentoring duo in this post.

Julie, who is also a Singer/Songwriter/Mentor like Aline, makes keen observations about mentoring. She and her reflections are a true testament to Aline’s legacy of using music to break down barriers: generational, cultural and religious.

Armed with both talent and imagination, both Aline and Julie brilliantly connect the disconnected while inspiring greater confidence, self-expression, self-esteem, and self-worth. Their careers demonstrate how music connects, heals and has the ability to stimulate great ideas.

Aline Shader understood that by fostering creativity, by mentoring, she could change lives and move her young students towards a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value. Now, without further ado, Over My Shoulder Foundation presents an exclusive interview with Julie Silver. Please don’t hesitate to share your own stories and inspirations with us, especially this January during National Mentoring Month. Enjoy the interview!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder [/box]

Julie Silver – One of the most celebrated and beloved performers in the world of contemporary Jewish music today.

Julie, you are one of the most celebrated and beloved performers in the world of contemporary Jewish music today. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. At Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF), our mentoring organization uses the Jimi Hendrix quote “If there is something to be changed in this world…then it can only be done through music”. Can you talk a little about how you’ve noticed your music, and the music of others, become a change-making catalyst?

That’s a great Hendrix quote.  Music really is a universal language.  Music can bring large groups of people to an idea, to new information, to communication, to changing the world.  Think of the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and it’s all there in black and white.

As it relates to mentoring, teaching a child to love music, to sing, to write, to express their feelings in song can change their world. Music helps people find their own buried treasures.  Most importantly, music gathers historically marginalized people and includes them in the conversation.

I write contemporary songs based on ancient Jewish texts. I also write about my every day observations.  When I was younger, I mostly wrote what people taught me.  As an adult, I write my own story.  Of course, I want people to hear my songs and feel like they’ve arrived home, that they’re finally included, that they might raise their own voices in protest and celebration.  But beyond the concert, I want my students to become teachers.  I want my listeners to become singers—especially the ones who sing off key!  I want people to actively participate in their own growth and healing and maybe even return the favor and help others who are in need of strong mentors.  I was taught from a very young age that it’s my responsibility to repair the shattered fragments in the world.  Becoming a full time touring singer/songwriter has introduced me to a life beyond my own and has allowed me to be of service at any moment, anywhere in the world.

 

You currently live in Southern California, but your roots come from New England. You grew up in Newton, Massachusetts where your mentor Aline Shader also lived and raised her family. Can you tell us about how you and Aline met?

Aline was my teacher.  I was a student at the Bowen Elementary School in Newton, and Aline was a parent/volunteer who wrote beautiful songs and original musicals which we performed throughout our time at Bowen and beyond.  We were fortunate to grow up in a time when public schools fostered creative arts.  She soon moved to a position with the entire Newton Public School system and was teaching and writing and directing in every school in the city, K-12.  But she started teaching with my classmates so we always felt like that was a pristine time for her and us.  She would write a song, and then come in the next day and try it out on us.  Later in my life, I became a music teacher and used to do the same thing; I’d write a song and then teach it the next day to see if it worked.

 

When did you realize that Aline was your mentor?

I fell in love with her music when I was about 6 years old and her songs followed me everywhere I went and they still do.  In fact, any time we get together, anywhere in the country, Aline’s old students sing her songs.  Her songs solidified our group.  She wrote really interesting, smart lyrics and beautiful, unforgettable melodies.  I graduated college and it was my mother (another great mentor of mine) who suggested I walk over to her house and see if she could help me with my music. Over the next decade, I sat by her side, wrote songs under the shelter of her wings, spent hours in her home singing, learning, playing and dreaming.

Aline was an artist, a dancer, a composer who wrote from a very deep well of love and intellect.  There was nobody like her in the world.

Many of my old school friends credit Aline for inspiring them to great careers in acting and music.  We knew we were lucky back then and we celebrate those golden moments whenever we gather.

I knocked on Aline Shader’s door in June of 1988 and as far as I’m concerned, l have never left. After she died in 2002 her house was sold, I had already moved to the West Coast, but in my heart I’m still at the piano in her living room, my great mentor always looking over my shoulder, showing me what I could achieve.

 

Can you remember anything specific about how Aline might have also believed that music can change the world?

Listen to her song “For Love to Grow” and you’ll never feel the same way about adoption.  Listen to her song “Partners” and fall in love.  Listen to her song “Happy Birthday World” and try not to be inspired to take care of the earth.  “Una Luna Brilla” is a song about building bridges between Spanish and English speaking people.  “One voice is not alone, el mundo canta una cancion…”


Yo-Yo Ma said of Mrs. Shader’s music and CD that “Aline Shader provides a wonderful opportunity for children to become involved with music.” Can you reflect about why she focused on children, and how creative minds may provide answers to the many problems we have in this world, and how creative solutions can re-connect the disconnected?

I know first hand that if I had never been exposed to her songs as a small child, I wouldn’t be the adult that I am today.  Her lyrics were inviting and instructive and empowering.  They made people think and laugh and sing along. Aline kept it simple so that children would become engaged.  Getting children to think a new way, building their confidence in telling their own stories, is the single most important thing we can do for them.  Aline knew that choral singing can move mountains, in many ways like no other kind of music can.  I recall a line from the psalms: “The stones that the builders rejected should become the chief cornerstones”.  When songwriters and performers use this text as a mantra, we engage people who might not feel included and solve problems creatively, taking diverse opinions into account.

 

Without a major record label, you have sold more than 80,000 CDs, among your 8 current albums. “For Love to Grow” is your tribute to Aline. How has her influence allowed and encouraged you to flourish as a musician?

She encouraged me to do my own thing.  She wasn’t a Jewish singer/songwriter, but she knew that it was an important element of my life’s work and she pushed me to be good at it, to be better at whatever I wanted to do.  In the almost 40 years I knew her, I watched her successfully raise a family, be a grandmother, be a wife, be a full time songwriter, director and teacher. This was hands down, the most extraordinary model for me as I was making my way. So I am lucky enough to work every day, make a living, and pass on the most valuable piece of myself to anyone who might need it: my life’s experience.


At OMSF, a couple projects, including the Over My Shoulder song (performed by Patti Austin and her mentee Lianna Gutierrez), the Bulacards Project and our Mentorology Logo Project have taken the concept of Mentorology (the art and science of mentoring) and positively influenced the lives of many children – especially high school students. Of the Mentorology Logo project, the mentor and teacher David Messina said, “I saw kids that hadn’t done anything all year take charge and kick butt on this little project.” All these projects illustrate how mentoring can move us all toward a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value. Mentoring also helps us get across messages that might otherwise go unheard. Can you tell us what mentoring is to you? And how it has affected your life?

I have had many special Mentors and over the years who have taught me well.  In music, my great mentors were Aline Shader, Livingston Taylor, and the late Debbie Friedman who was a giant in the world of Jewish music and passed away suddenly about a year ago. I have had amazing teachers in the world of music and all of them have taught me to be a better student, musician, and ultimately a mentor.

Last year, I volunteered teaching lyric writing/journal writing at a school in the Watts area of Los Angeles, one of the most underserved communities in America.  I will never be able to articulate what happens to a student (and a teacher!) who is encouraged to simply write down and share their story.  As if a light-switch has been flipped on, suddenly they are writers!  Suddenly, their words and voices have merit and the stories of their classmates are of equal importance.  I used to tell them that the loudest voice in the room is not necessarily the most important voice.  Watching these young people write and hearing their stories changed all of us for good.

It might be important to point out that I am a lesbian, married in the State of California, and Mary and I are mothers to a 7 year old daughter and are expecting another baby in late January.  I stand upon the shoulders of the ones who came before me, the pioneers who have arrows in their backs, the ones who walked towards the Promised Land but were ever allowed in.  I sing for them.  I live openly and try my best to teach and encourage others to do the same.  Certainly, being a stage performer has given me the confidence to be open about everything I am.  But it was my close relationships with members of my faith community that urged me to come out and realize my fullest potential.  I pray and work that others might have the same experience I have had, or BETTER.


Music is the universal language with the ability to arouse great introspection and activism. What is the best example of this in Aline’s work? How about yours?

In 1993 I wrote a setting called “Shir Chadash”, in English “a new song”.  Psalm 96 compels us to Sing a New Song unto God.  This is the great challenge and opportunity in our lives, to see things a different way, to sing with our own voices, to be the change we wish to see in the world.  I write songs to include and inspire people to find their voices and repair the world.

Where Am I? (a song about inclusion in the stories of the Bible)

The Barefoot Sisters (a song about climbing a mountain in Ireland and having two nuns (of all people!) help me reach the summit)

 

Thank you, again, Julie, for the time you took to talk with us about your music, your mentor Aline Shader, and the power of mentoring and music to add value to our lives.

National Mentoring Month is celebrated every January and January 26th is National Thank Your Mentor Day. Over My Shoulder Foundation hopes you all are as inspired by the story of Aline Shader and Julie Silver as we are. It is an opportunity for us to start thinking about who we should be thanking this January during National Mentoring Month. Who has looked over your shoulder, and sheltered you under their wings? We invite you to share your stories with us. So, tell us, who mentored you?

 

 

 

Today’s guest post is written by Barry Brodsky. He is the Directory of the Veterans Upward Bound Program at UMass Boston. Barry is also a Screenwriting Instructor at Boston University, an Instructor of Writing for Stage and Screen at Lesley University and the Coordinator for the Screenwriting Certificate Program at Emerson College. At Over My Shoulder Foundation, we are delighted to introduce this guest post by Barry. He mentors countless veterans at the VUB program, helping them to obtain education and work after active military duty. This Veteran’s Day, we honor all the Veterans who have fought for our country and those like Barry that help mentor our Veterans. -Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

I came to work at the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB)  program at U.Mass-Boston in January, 2002. I had been teaching writing classes to adults and high school students for about 12 years, and as a veteran myself, the idea of helping veterans get ready for college was very appealing. VUB offers classes, tutoring, and other services all aimed at getting veterans into college.  My job would be to ‘counsel’ them through a 16 week semester, help them decide on a future educational strategy, assist them in filling out the necessary paperwork to apply for financial aid, review what veterans benefits they may have, and generally be there to help them adjust as they try to fit academics into their lives.

As we prepared for a weeklong orientation, a Vietnam Veteran I’m going to call Al came to the office and filled out an application. I interviewed him and found that he suffered from serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam nearly 40 years earlier. He had tried school before and wasn’t successful. He participated in group therapy sessions at the Boston Vet Center, a wonderful counseling program for combat veterans funded by the VA. He said he was interested in studying History and Religion, and was anxious to succeed this time. When he saw the dates of the orientation, however, he blanched: “That’s the week of my annual family reunion. Everyone gets together in Alabama once a year. It’s the only time I get to see my cousins and my nieces and nephews. Is it alright if I don’t come to the Orientation?” I smiled and nodded, “sure, that’s no problem. You can start the program in the fall instead.” He thought I misunderstood him: “No, I meant can I start the program the first week of classes.” I dropped my smile and leaned a bit toward him and said, “You can’t do that Al. Everyone has to go to Orientation.” “But I don’t want to miss the reunion.” I smiled again: “So don’t miss it. And you can start with us in the fall.” Al leaned back, clearly facing a dilemma. I told him he had a week to think it over and he could let me know what he wanted to do.

A few days later I arrived at work to find Al using one of our computers to check his email. I greeted him and he told me he had decided to skip the family reunion and come to the program. I applauded his decision, and told him I knew it wasn’t an easy one to make. He sighed, “It really hurts not to go, but I know my education can’t wait. I need to get going on it.”

Al completed our program and enrolled in U.Mass-Boston. About three years later he transferred to a Theological Institute where he eventually earned his degree. Today he is a Baptist Minister with a Boston congregation. Part of his ministry is visiting families of victims of violence to offer support and spiritual counseling. His many years dealing with his own grief over the extreme levels of violence he witnessed in war, he says, makes him uniquely qualified to help others begin this difficult journey.

Since Al walked through our doors we have had more than 1200 veterans attend Veterans Upward Bound at UMass-Boston. Nearly half do not complete the program; they aren’t really ready for the academic rigor, they have too many conflicts in their lives, they aren’t fully committed to moving forward with their education, or they simply have too many personal problems to concentrate on their futures. Many, however, return to try again. Some drop out three or four times before being able to complete the program. Of those who do complete, more than eighty percent go on to some kind of post-secondary educational program.

In 2004, I became the Director of the program. While I spend a lot of time managing our shrinking budget (cut for the first time in 35 years last year) and trying to keep up with the mountains of data and paperwork that federally-funded programs require, I still get the greatest satisfaction when graduates stop by to visit and tell me of their achievements. And once in a while, when Al stops by to say hello and I ask him to ‘put in a good word’ for me with the man (or woman) upstairs, he smiles and tells me he always does. It’s then that I know that in many ways, I’m truly blessed.

Thinking About Veterans Day

At Over My Shoulder Foundation, we believe it is our duty to support and mentor the men and women who have come back from overseas serving our country. We need to step up as a nation and mentor those troops in the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard. This Veterans Day, our country celebrates their courage to fight for our nation.

We want to get people thinking about mentoring the troops that have served our country and come back with little or no assistance. We hope you’ll enjoy a past post by 2LT Paul Merklinger’s about the importance of mentoring in his military career.

Mentorology and the Military by 2 LT Paul Merklinger

Read Mentorology and the Military NOW

On Veteran’s Day we will have a special post by Barry Brodsky, the the Director of the Veterans Upward Bound Program at UMass Boston. The Veterans Upward Bound Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston provides a unique opportunity for men and women veterans of all ages to gain access to information about college and career awareness, acquire the academic skills required for entry into higher education and/or to acquire the equivalent of a high school diploma. Services are offered continuously with various workshops, self-paced computer tutorials, individualized tutoring and classroom-based instruction.

 

Check back with us this Friday to read a great post by Barry Brodsky, and keep your mentors in mind this Veterans Day.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

 

The Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) was created to celebrate and reward nominated mentors and mentees; a new cadre of creative talent which will have the leadership skills to amend many of our social and economic crises.

“If there is something to be changed in this world…it can only be done through music.”

-Jimi Hendrix

Our foundation started and was inspired by the Jimi Hendrix quote above and our Over My Shoulder song because:

 

Music is a universal language, with the unique ability to arouse great introspection and activism. It can infiltrate borders with messages that might otherwise go unheard. Music has the distinctive ability to stimulate great ideas in minds both young and old. It can create a great sense of connectedness in those who feel disenfranchised, and connect and heal a broken spirit.

 

Tell us about your mentors and thank you so much for all your help!

 

Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

 

Younger Self, by Joyce Kulhawik

This week we are honored to share a sparkling essay written by popular Boston Massachusetts television personality,  Joyce Kulhawik. Joyce is the Emmy-Award winning Arts and Entertainment Critic (WBZ-TV 1981-2008) whose movie and theater reviews now appear on her new website JoycesChoices.com! Joyce has covered everything from the Rolling Stones to Kanye West, The Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, and interviewed many stars including George Clooney, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Madonna, and Brad Pitt.

A three-time cancer survivor, Kulhawik testified before Congress on the twentieth anniversary of The National Cancer Act, has helped raise millions of dollars for the American Cancer Society, and has inspired many cancer patients with her story

There are countless ways to mentor another person. Each of us is a gold mine of experience, so we encourage you to share your wisdom with another, like Joyce does here, and make mentoring a part of your daily life. Thank you Joyce Kulhawik for this exquisite story that was originally composed for the Daily Muse. We sincerely appreciate being allowed to re-post it today for the Over My Shoulder Foundation. -Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

I have always been who I am. I recognize myself in the 4-year-old girl who loved, even then, wearing black pants and a white shirt. I recognize me in the17-year-old girl who couldn’t wait to leave home and go off to college in Boston and a big world where I could do anything. (This is the age that I still secretly think I am!) I recognize myself as that super-charged woman in her tumultuous 30’s trying to make sense of her marriage, a flourishing career as a TV reporter and critic, and three bouts with cancer.

 

I am still alive, still married, now a mom, and searching out my second career. So what is it that I would tell my younger self who is still very much me?

Joyce Kulhawik

Joyce in Her 20’s

I know it has something to do with power.  I have always felt that anything was possible, that I could do anything I set my mind to, and that I just had to figure out how. I knew this from the time I was a toddler, and sequestered myself in my bedroom determined not to leave until I had taught myself to tie my own shoes. I can still see myself trying different knots and twists and turns until I finally GOT IT!!  I had such a feeling of power and accomplishment.

 

When I was in my late teens and early 20-’s and heard about “Women’s Lib,” I remember thinking—what do we need that for? I can already do anything I want. I was hardly radical—just on my own trajectory.

 

Now in my late 50-’s, I have circled back to this notion of female power, and am shocked as I look around at how little power women wield in the world. In the year 2011, women remain underserved, undervalued, underrepresented, and underpaid. I want to help change that.

 

I look at myself and realize that if I am going to move forward, I need to dig deeper. What is the real source of my own power? I picture myself as a young woman and realize what I would say to that young woman who was so intent on being “a good girl,” doing things perfectly, making sure everything was under control and the best it could be, feeling guilty about the smallest dust-up with a friend, worried about disappointing someone. I know exactly what I would say to that young woman who felt powerful in the outer world, but burdened on the inside.

 

I would tell her that she is OK as she is. I would tell her that she is worthy. I would lighten her load and tell her she doesn’t have to be perfect. I would tell her to trust herself to be in the moment and not always on guard. I would tell her to breathe, and not to waste time in worry and guilt. I would tell her not to spend herself on people who make her feel “less than,” ever. I would tell her not to be afraid to fail because every experience counts and will come in handy somehow, somewhere. I would tell her to trust her honest heart and good soul.

 

In short, I would love her.

 

This I tell myself now, and anyone who will listen– to love and have faith in our “selves;” this is the source of our energy, our joy, and our real power—and will lead us to speak in our true voices to the world.

Joyce Kulhawik, Now

Joyce Kulhawik, Now

 If you liked this article, you can SUBSCRIBE to Joyce’s website JoycesChoices.com to get regular e-mail updates of movies, theater, and more!

 

Last week I discovered a truly amazing story of one tormented girl and two compassionate sisters. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and as I researched stories I hoped would be “mentoring-centric” a fabulous book was given to me.

Letters to a Bullied Girl” is one of those stories you will fall in love with and will never forget. It takes you into the gut-wrenching life of Olivia Gardner (the Bullied Girl) and the two sisters who were determined to do something to inject hope, healing and encouragement into her world. Emily and Sarah Buder, the dynamic sisters who initiated a letter writing campaign: messages addressed personally to Olivia to lift her spirits. One of my favorite notes that was sent to Olivia simply said this:

“Hope you feel better – Don’t give up on life. I tried and it is a stupid and terrible thing to do”

What can we do during this month to reach out to the bullied and offer support? How can we transform a bully and change their cruel behavior? Buy them a copy of this wonderful book. Introduce everyone to Emily and Sarah Buder, our fabulous mentors of the month. Their courageous efforts remind us that we all can make a difference. Each of us can dedicate a little kindness and change a life. Emily and Sarah had a mission, One Less Hopeless Person. As a result voices from all over chimed in and made a difference. -Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

Letters To A Bullied Girl

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:             Alberto G. Rojas, 212-207-7891

alberto.rojas@harpercollins.com

 

LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL

Messages of Healing and Hope

By OLIVIA GARDNER with EMILY and SARAH BUDER

With A Foreword by BARBARA COLOROSO, author of The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander

 

Like millions of adolescents, Olivia Gardner was the target of bullying. Her personal nightmare began after suffering an epileptic seizure at school, prompting a wave of taunting and name-calling that grew into a tsunami of torment when some of her classmates created an “Olivia’s Haters” page on a popular teen networking site. But unlike many such stories, Olivia’s took a positive, and surprising, turn thanks to the intervention of Emily and Sarah Buder, two teenage sisters who didn’t know Olivia, but read about her plight in the newspaper and decided to do something about it. Their grassroots campaign to get friends to write letter of encouragement and support to Olivia took on a life of its own, triggering a national groundswell of support.

            Now Olivia Gardner and her two steadfast champions have collected some of the thousands of letters and messages that the campaign generated into an inspiring and moving book, LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL: Messages of Healing and Hope (Harper; Trade Paperback Original; On Sale: August 5, 2008; $14.95). Containing a representative cross-section of the widespread show of solidarity, LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL is first book in which those involved in the bullying epidemic are sharing their personal, private and true stories. Their accounts underscore both the breadth and persistence of the bullying epidemic, while offering hope to anyone who has ever been the target of this insidious form of emotional torture.  With correspondents ranging from young children to parents to retirees, girls and boys, women and men – even former bullies themselves – these stories of enduring and overcoming bullying are empathetic and wise.

            There are those who were bullied for their “different” looks, like the overweight girl with braces, the sixty-two year-old woman who still vividly remembers being taunted for being skinny as a child, or the seventy-two year-old woman with a hooked nose. Letter writers recall being bullied for being short, being Hispanic, being white, being gay. Sadly, unchecked bullying took some to the brink – and beyond, contemplating and even attempting suicide. Others write about their lifelong shame at having been bullies, explaining the source of their behavior, though not condoning it.

            The last section of LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL focuses on healing words, motivational thoughts from people across the country who were moved by Olivia’s story, even some who were themselves not bullied. “Stand up straight and hold your head high with a smile on your face,” one writes. “You’re a spokesperson for all the others who have been bullied in the world.” “You have strength, compassion for others, love, and survival skills that many adults do not attain,” writes another. “These skills will serve you well in your life and I expect that the many wonderful things you do in your adulthood will be in part because of what you have experienced in your childhood.”

            In an age where the timeless problem of bullying has grown epidemic, thanks in part to the new phenomenon of cyber-bullying, LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL should prove an invaluable resource for parents, teacher, and anyone seeking advice about how to deal with this odious reality. By refusing to stand by and doing nothing, Olivia, Emily and Sarah have sparked a quiet revolution, unleashing an emotional response from thousand, and providing hope for millions more who have fallen target to this often unspoken-about reality of childhood.

About the Authors

Olivia Gardner is a fifteen-year-old high school student from northern California. She is now forming healthier friendships and is no longer bullied. Sisters Emily and Sarah Buder are eighteen- and fifteen years old, respectively, and live in a suburb of San Francisco.

LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL: Messages of Healing and Hope

Olivia Gardner with Emily and Sarah Buder

Harper; Trade Paperback Original

On Sale: August 5, 2008

Price: $14.95/240 PP
ISBN: 9780061544620

 

[box]Over My Shoulder Foundation is honored to share this interview with Attorney Rick Dyer who kicked a heroin addiction, got out of jail, rebuilt his life, became a respected Boston Attorney and now dedicates his life to help others who suffer from this illness of addiction. Rick’s story stirs the imagination, and provokes us to think about how mentors can help those struggling by replacing unhealthy addictions with partnerships, dreams and a healthy lifestyle!

This is one of my favorite mentoring stories because it embeds massive amounts of hope and is the shining example that through mentoring we can have one less hopeless person. Rick became one less tragedy, one less addict and one less horrible statistic because of the mentoring he received. Enjoy this energetic interview with Rick Dyer and writer Jarred Samarco.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director[/box]

Attorney Rick Dyer, Photography by Merrill Shea

Jarred Samarco: Attorney Dyer, your life story is an inspiring one of addiction, recovery and hope. What is the one thing that helped you start turning your life around that you wish all those struggling with addiction could experience?

Rick Dyer: Hope, finding a reason to believe in me when I couldn’t – by borrowing someone else’s hope until I could get my own

J/S: While navigating the ups and downs of your troubled, younger years, how did you come across the relationships that appear to be paramount in allowing you to be the kind of man you are today?

R/D: People did care in spite of my own hopelessness.

J/S:  A number of times you make mention of a gentleman by the name of Judge Charles Artesani as your mentor. How did the two of you meet and how did he mentor you?

R/D: Judge Artesani, aka Chick, was the judge who had sentenced me several times. He deeply cared about the individuals and families in our community. He believed I could make it. Judge Artesani was my neighbor but I really got to know him as he handed me sentence after sentence in Brighton Court. No matter how I came into that courtroom – crying, strung out, desperate, despairing – he never gave up on me.  Time after time, when he got over the shock of seeing me yet again, he tried in earnest to find the right placement for me to best deal with my addiction, trouble or pain be it jail, halfway houses or hospitals. Years later, when he recommended me for Law School and later for a Governor’s pardon, he reminded me that I wasn’t arrested but rescued. I didn’t appreciate this until later in life–when all my friends who used drugs were dying and getting life sentences.

J/S: You have been an active member of Boston’s judicial system for the past 25 years. Specifically, you focus on Criminal Defense Representation. Do you find it effective and advantageous in this role to use your own experience of struggling with addiction as a misunderstood youth?

R/D: Absolutely. We are talking about sharing hope – the kind of hope that saves lives. Empathy and compassion are necessary to break down the barriers between myself and my clients, be they children or adults suffering from addiction and abuse. I don’t have to share my personal experiences with them in order for them to know that I truly understand. But the way I speak to them – when I can speak the language of their experience, and help them tell their story, they believe I understand and then trust and healing can emerge.

J/S: Was there one mentor in particular that allowed you to actually become a lawyer?

R/D: There have been many mentors like Judge Artesani and Governor Mike Dukakis who pardoned me over 25 years ago and has remained a mentor to this day. I believe my most important mentor was my sponsor/mentor in my 12-step program, Larry Sullivan (Sully) who encouraged and supported my sobriety and health, education and wellness.  He taught me to write and appreciate the classics and continue my education. Most importantly, he taught me how to care about me.

 

J/S:  On your website (www.rickdyer.org) there is mention of how your personal experiences can help others navigating their way through addictions. Would you consider yourself to be a “Mentor”?

R/D: Yes. I speak every day to individuals across the country about “shared hope”. To me, mentoring is about sharing and caring. It is like fly fishing with my son. First I share with him the techniques I use to cast the line. I share them with patience and steadiness and confidence so that he captures those traits as well as the technique. Then I let him cast and wait for the tug on the line. I guide him but let him make the mistakes or claim the victory of landing the fish. So the same with mentoring children and adults struggling with their lives.

J/S: How does someone like you go from a self-described 40 bag a day heroin habit to a well renowned member of the rehabilitation and recovery community?

R/D: 48+ bags a day. I was given the gift of desperation. I recognized the hope in others’ eyes and closed my own. I stopped listening to myself and reached out for the help of others.

 

J/S: You have helped so many people in their personal struggles with substance abuse. What motivates you?

R/D:  I believe the more love, happiness and joy you give, the more you receive. I like being happy. I love my life.

 

J/S: You are a Defense Lawyer who represents people that have been, themselves, led astray by the vicious cycle of drug addiction. Do you mentor your clients?

R/D: No, I do not mentor my clients while a case is pending because my role is to represent them as an attorney. Many times, however, when a case is over, my former client will stay in touch and share their life story. Then, I can use my mentoring skills to help foster their recovery.

J/S: You got a second chance at life. Today, with the unforgiving Internet and the severity of background checks for careers (even just for the construction industry) what do you suggest to kids who are flirting with drugs and alcohol and starting to get into trouble? Could you do today what you were able to do years ago?

R/D: To answer your first question: flirting with drugs is dangerous and can be fatal. The collateral damage – loss of family, job, education, employment and community is devastating. Flirting with drugs can lead to abuse and/or addiction and a lifetime of pain and suffering. What I suggest to kids is to stop and think about what they are putting in their body and doing to their hearts and minds. Also, if they are making decisions that start off with a lie – either to their families or themselves – that decision is probably not a good one and will lead to problems. Drugs and alcohol are takers. They take away our opportunities, our hopes and dreams and our lives.

To answer your 2nd question, could I do today what I had done before? Times are definitely different now! Remember, I did not really get away with my crimes having been incarcerated over 18 times! Today, I may not have been back on the street as much. Incarceration is tougher today. There are not as many options for people in the criminal system with addiction problems. The jails are overcrowded. The programs are overcrowded. We live in a time of program cuts and staffing cuts. Today, people who find themselves in the same desperate situation I was in may not recover. There simply are not enough mentors out there. That is why I believe that every voice of hope in the recovery community needs to be a strong voice. In the sixties and seventies, I think people had more time to care and believed in rehabilitation and all the rights, titles and privileges that went along with having a second chance, with being a productive member of society.

J/S: How can instilling confidence, self-esteem and mentoring help cure addiction?

R/D: Its starts with knowing that we are ok and are worth recovering-step by step. We learn, a day at a time, that we can like ourselves and eventually love ourselves.

I didn’t care or believe in myself in spite of positive things that were said or done for me in my journey from addiction. WHY? Because I couldn’t. I just couldn’t see it in myself. But others stood up and witnessed my recovery and showed me that they believed in me and showed me how to believe in myself. I learned to see what they saw in me. This is the key to mentoring. Recently, another judge, Judge Donnelly, reminded me “We don’t get to where we are alone.”

J/S: Is mentoring essential to your well being?

R/D: Yes, every day. I get much more back than I give. That is the gift of mentoring, absolutely.

J/S: You are a well respected lawyer who conquered a brutal addiction and a life–threatening career in crime. What’s next for you?

R/D: Not sure, but it seems to get better everyday. I’m very much interested in our criminal justice system and how I can make a difference on a larger scale for more people to access recovery and how we as a criminal justice system can reduce recidivism — e.g. sentencing and drug court reform.

J/S: You are living proof that mentoring works. You are a man who started his legal career on the wrong side of the bars and is on his way (fingers & toes crossed) to becoming a Judge in Massachusetts. What happens to you and your message of hope if this doesn’t work out in your favor?

R/D: I’m not sure about being a judge tomorrow but even so my message is the same and is not about me, but about hope and opportunity

 

J/S: Has society lost its patience with addicts?

R/D: Society has not so much lost patience but more society has become frustrated with the costs and time it takes to rehabilitate an individual, family and community. Society is hoping for instant fix for it tax dollars, but unfortunately it takes time. Relapse is part of recovery – and no one likes to hear that. There is a lot of fear associated with the addict and no one likes to pay or spend time on things they fear.

J/S: How will people with mistakes in their lives ever prosper if they are not forgiven by society for their past?

R/D: We all make mistakes. Someone once said circumstances don’t make the person but reveal them – mistakes are an opportunity for learning life’s lessons. People can prosper if they learn to live up to their own expectations and not hang on other people’s judgments.

J/S: Can we get addicted to happiness?

R/D: Not addicted, but connected to happiness, beauty, love and creativity to name a few other good feelings. Our lives are a part of the most infinite, majestic source in the universe –all we have to do is connect to it.

Thank you for letting me share my passion about my transformation and the mentors that made it possible.

My recovery and my mentoring has been the key to my personal health and wellness, mental excellence, spiritual awareness, growth and prosperity, improved personal relationships, a higher quality of life and a greater ability to perform and contribute to society as a productive member in it. Mentoring is about love and sharing joy so that we can all benefit from this life we are given.

J/S: That concludes our Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with Attorney Rick Dyer. Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Attorney Dyer. You can get in touch with him on LinkedIn. Readers, please keep checking back to read more inspiring stories about the impact of mentoring in our lives!

 

Michael McCarthy graduated cum laude from NYU in Management and Finance. He worked on Wall Street since he was only 18. His experience includes working as a researcher for a famous money manager who pioneered market timing. Michael started his own investment firm at 26 and was ranked the #1 market timer in the US every year for 10 years (1994-2004). He retired from Wall Street at 36. Michael McCarthy struggled with anxiety problems for years. The anxiety was so bad it led him to get a formal education in the fields of psychology and nutrition. That is why he is so familiar with the food remedies for common addictions found in this fascinating article.

Michael explored several nutritional anxiety remedies and discovered his nutrition deficiencies. Once he resolved those issues, he was fine. He started a food company and made a Superfood Nutrition Bar he called Budi Bars (www.BudiBar.com). Budi is Indonesian for ‘Wise’ because his food is for the brain. The bar tastes like a gourmet blondie brownie full of nuts, chocolate, seeds and amino acids that together, keep you full, reduce food cravings and allow you to focus and concentrate. The bar won the New England Dessert Expo last year and it’s meant to be a tasty and easy snack to help you through the day. Enjoy this informative article by Michael McCarthy as he mentors us about how foods and addictions affect our brain chemistry.

Recognizing the Need to Improve Our Mood

Good for you for recognizing you need to improve your mood and doing something about it. What I hope to do here is to help you improve your mood and avoid all those nasty side effects in a new way. To keep things simple we are all in the same boat…whether we are smokers, drinkers, shoppers or eaters we all have a brain chemistry (or mood) we don’t like and we’re all going for the quickest and easiest solution that works for our individual brains.

  • Those of us who like alcohol are really seeking out an amino acid in the brain called GABA.  GABA relaxes us and alcohol converts to GABA when it reaches the brain.
  • Those of us who crave ice cream are really seeking out an amino acid in dairy called CASEIN….which is a mild opiate.  Heroin and opium are opiates as well.
  • Chocolate too, has chemicals that act as mild opiates and anti-depressants.  So, when someone says they are a chocoholic they are!  They are seeking the opiates. Granted, this is certainly milder than heroin to be sure but it’s the same drug.
  • Even the ‘good’ addictions are drug seeking.  Aerobic exercise releases chemicals called endorphins. These are opiates as well.  The so called ‘runner’s high’ is in the same class as someone taking opium.

We are all doing the same thing here….we are trying to change our brain chemistry to feel in a better mood.  Since we aren’t brain doctors I’d like to share with you how to change your brain chemistry without all those negative side effects.

Changing Your Brain Chemistry with Nutrition, For Good!

One of the reasons drug rehabs or diets don’t work for all of us is that they don’t always address the underlying problem or cause…brain chemistry. It’s fine to say ‘stop drinking’ or ‘stop eating sweets’ but we’ve only solved half of the problem.  We’ve stopped doing something that’s not good for us in the long run but we are still stuck with a bad mood and stress. What does work is replacing our current solution ‘drinking, smoking, eating etc.’ with a solution that changes your brain chemistry for the better without all those negative side effects like hangovers and obesity.

The vitamins and amino acids found in certain foods can change our brain chemistry for the better.  Very likely you may be deficient in vital amino acids and vitamins that are throwing off your brain chemistry. Also, some of these same vital nutrients can be depleted through drinking alcohol or drugs, which is where those nasty hangovers and withdrawal symptoms come from. So, if you look at your brain as your medicine cabinet you need to fill it up again in healthier ways. For example, if you are low in Vitamin B complex you may very well experience depression.  Alcohol strips out Vitamin B which is one of the reasons we can feel depressed after a night of heavy drinking. The vicious cycle begins here.  It’s very easy to be hungover and sober and think:  “I’m happier drunk” and off we go to drinking again to recapture that better mood.

Whole Foods are the Best Way to Get Vitamins for Your Brain

While vitamin supplements can provide assistance, supplements are not the best way to get the vitamins absorbed in the body.  A better way is to get those vitamins through food. For example, beta carotene in carrots helps night vision.  However, beta carotene tablets do not help night vision. Why? There are other components in the carrot that helps the cells absorb the beta carotene. Food, and the vitamins and amino acids that they contain, can help the underlying cause of addiction—-by improving brain chemistry in a more healthy way without the side effects. By focusing on foods that help lower stress you can reduce the need for addictive behaviors.

Here’s a quick start to help you:

Food for Depression:

Low Vitamin B levels can create an environment for feeling depressed.  One of the best sources of Vitamin B comes from red meat.  So, yes, a nice grass fed, hormone free steak will help you. It’s difficult to measure accurately people’s level of Vitamin B and different people are unique as to how much they need.  People with the ‘O’ blood type tend to need more than people with blood type ‘A’.  Gauge yourself and listen to your meat cravings. Try a good steak once a week and see how you feel.

Food for Anxiety:

Typically, people who are anxious are low in magnesium.  Interestingly enough, magnesium is what makes vegetables green.  Typically, the darker the green the higher the magnesium. The best magnesium sources are kale and spinach.  And the more you cook a vegetable the more nutrients get boiled away.  Sesame seeds are also high in magnesium.  Eat as much as you like.  If kale and spinach are not your favorites you can freeze them and put them in smoothies, then you can’t taste them.

Food to Balance and Enhance Mood:

Omega 3s rich in the components EPA and DHA is a great solution to steady a wandering mind or the rapid, random thoughts that can create confusion. There are two active ingredients in Omega 3 that help with mood stabilization and enhancement…they are called EPA and DHA.  The best sources of EPA and DHA come from salmon and hemp seed. Salmon is expensive and you need such large quantities you may need to go towards Omega 3 Fish Oil….make sure the EPA and DHA levels are high by comparing nutrition labels. A vegetarian form of Omega 3 that is inexpensive is hulled hemp seed or hemp oil capsules. It is s cheaper than fish oil and has no fishy taste. It is delicious….soft and nutty and very nutritious.  Sprinkle on salads, soups and yogurt.

Final Thoughts from Michael McCarthy, Creator of Budi Bars

Using nutrition to understand how your brain works is just another tool you can use while you explore healthier alternatives to manage uncomfortable emotions. I hope this article is useful to all readers. Just try out some of the ideas that appeal to you, whether you struggle a lot, or a little. Most of all, be gentle with yourself. Find mentors that will help you in your journey.

 

Michael McCarthy graduated cum laude from NYU in Management and Finance. He worked on Wall Street since he was only 18. His experience includes working as a researcher for a famous money manager who pioneered market timing. Michael started his own investment firm at 26 and was ranked the #1 market timer in the US every year for 10 years (1994-2004). He retired from Wall Street at 36. Michael McCarthy struggled with anxiety problems for years. The anxiety was so bad it led him to get a formal education in the fields of psychology and nutrition. That is why he is so familiar with the food remedies for common addictions found in this fascinating article.

Michael explored several nutritional anxiety remedies and discovered his nutrition deficiencies. Once he resolved those issues, he was fine. He started a food company and made a Superfood Nutrition Bar he called Budi Bars (www.BudiBar.com). Budi is Indonesian for ‘Wise’ because his food is for the brain. The bar tastes like a gourmet blondie brownie full of nuts, chocolate, seeds and amino acids that together, keep you full, reduce food cravings and allow you to focus and concentrate. The bar won the New England Dessert Expo last year and it’s meant to be a tasty and easy snack to help you through the day. Enjoy this informative article by Michael McCarthy as he mentors us about how foods and addictions affect our brain chemistry.

Addiction: Enjoyment Leads to Negative Side Effects

We all struggle with some form of habit or addictive behavior that is both enjoyable and satisfying on one level yet causes us negative side effects because we do it so much.

  • Those of us who love the comfort and joy of food may eat so much that we become overweight and possibly even have negative health effects such as joint pain or diabetes.
  • Some of us love alcohol so much we become sick the next day with a hangover or even worse long term health issues like a damaged liver.
  • Some of us enjoy the pleasure of sex so much we throw caution to the wind and can end up with a sexually transmitted disease from a virtual stranger.
  • Others of us can enjoy shopping so much that we run into serious financial difficulties.

All of these activities have a few things in common.  The first is we really enjoy them to the extent that we overdo it. And we continue to do these behaviors like overeating or drinking or shopping to the extent that they cause negative side effects like poor health or financial trouble in our lives.

Figuring Out If We Have Real Addiction Problems

How do we know when we have a real problem? It’s a rather simple, personal, private assessment that is totally confidential. Ask yourself a simple question: Is the pain outweighing the pleasure?

The first thought that comes into your head is probably the most accurate answer.  If in your heart of hearts you feel that the negative side effects are outweighing the benefits you’ve made an honest answer.  Congratulations on being honest with yourself and no one has to know the answer!

The shame and guilt you may feel does not need to be announced to the world if it makes you uncomfortable.

Why Do We Overdo It?

So, why do we eat too much or drink too much or smoke too much? The answer is the same for everyone: Stress!  Stress!  Stress! When emotions become overwhelming or too difficult to stand we simply want a short vacation from all of that stress and we want that vacation right away! Since we are all individuals and unique, we relieve our stress in different ways.  Some of us really like the taste of some delicious food or the feeling we get from alcohol or the thrill of buying something.

Changing Our Brain Chemistry on Demand

We all have our ‘drug of choice’.  Whether it’s a substance like marijuana or a behavior like anonymous sex we are doing these things because it puts us in a better mood quickly. What we are all doing is changing our own brain chemistry on demand.  A good mood or a bad mood has a different mix of chemicals in the brain.  We are all doing the same thing…trying to change our brain chemistry. Since most of us are not brain doctors we are not doing a perfect job here.

What we are doing right is improving our mood on a short term basis but we are leaving a mess of side effects behind that are wreaking havoc on a potentially long term basis.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll talk about how nutrition changes our brain chemistry, and how we can use nutrition to positively change our lives

9/11 – A Mentoring Story


With the recent anniversary of September 11th, the power of mentoring and the resilience of the human spirit can be seen through composer Jessica Locke’s personal involvement in post-event recovery efforts and funding.

Shortly after the national tragedy, Locke traveled to New York City planning to do research for a memorial composition, aided by a short visit she hoped to make to a local firehouse. In addition to her musical work, Locke was involved in a bodywork program called the Alexander Technique, meant to aid in muscle relaxation as well as a form of stress relief. Her hope was to bring this technique to the embattled firemen, providing comfort both mentally and physically following the traumatic events. To her surprise, the firefighters were initially reluctant to allow her to try and seemed as though they were dealing well with all that had happened. However, after some persuasion, they accepted the offer. As she began the bodywork, Locke explained, “Something occurred which I had never experienced in my sixteen years of bodywork. I felt him intuiting my own needs in the same manner I was intuiting him, but with a great deal more intensity. It was astounding, yet it was as plain as day – he didn’t want the bodywork. Instead, he was letting me work with him to make me feel better”. Although these men had been through so much and lost so much in recent days, this man was able to muster the energy and time to care about Jessica. Understandably amazed and touched by this “singular act of kindness, delivered in the shadow of the horror emanating from Ground Zero five blocks away,” Locke refocused her efforts and seemed to make a positive impact with the technique for the firehouse.

Locke returned six times to Engine 32 that year, with her realization that she was helping them just as much as they were helping her, building her own confidence and reciprocation of respect. At the end of the year, Locke explained that these firefighters had impacted her life far beyond anything she had ever imagined. Aside from the composition she wrote, Reading of Names 9/11: The Firefighters, Locke decided to devote her time to the fire department, penning a memoir of her first year with the engine company, Rescue at Engine 32. Additionally, she created the Jessica Locke Firefighters Fund, a nonprofit organization partially funded by her memoir sales aimed at supporting firefighters affected by exposure to the physical toxins and injuries as well as the psychological traumas of working at Ground Zero. For Locke, the mentoring received from Engine 32 transformed her, not only artistically but as a person as whole, “they [gave] my life meaning and a purpose worth living for.”

September quickly jolts us out of the sleepy days of summer with vibrant back to school energy, refreshing crisp weather and a multitude of National Observance Days – many of which remind us of the dangers of a hopeless person. This year on September 10 we have World Suicide Prevention Day. We also have the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a somber day of remembrance. The entire month of September is dedicated to recovery from addiction. We are all addicted to something and every one of us can use support, kindness and most importantly understanding while we transform from hopeless to hopeful.

Over My Shoulder Foundation is honored to share stories this month that will focus on transforming one more hopeless, addicted person into a productive person full of contagious hope. We want you to ask yourselves “who is at risk” and realize that we all are. With the surge of unemployment, increase of poverty and a steady news stream that seems to predict more uncertainty we must reconnect and build strong supportive communities. We have to keep each other right side up and clear through mentoring friendships.

Please join the OMSF conversation  “Designing the Next Generation” because with Mentorology (the art of mentoring) as a priority we can help each other create strong people who are built to last by sharing wisdom, increasing confidence and reinforcing self-esteem. Our lives have become insanely busy and we can’t always see, hear, or feel the stress fractures or see the crumbling of a dream even though it might be disintegrating right before our eyes. We have to find a way to slow down, tune in and lend a helping hand. Morale needs nutrition too, and each of us has to remind the other of the importance to nourish our minutes and find nutritional value in our lives.

September is also “Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month” so please contact Over My Shoulder Foundation to share compelling stories about mentoring and hope in your own life!

 

Songwriter/Designer Dawn Carroll wrote the song Over My Shoulder with Charlie Farren, Brynn Arens and Barry Orms. It was first sung as a duet sung by Grammy Award winning singing legend Patti Austin and the then 13-year old Lianna Gutierrez who is generating an amazing buzz as a protégé and mentee of Patti Austin. Dawn is leading the Over My Shoulder Foundation, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

Dawn Carroll

The Similarities Between a Designer and a Mentor

As designers we recognize potential the second we enter a new space. With confidence we understand exactly what we can make a room…become. “What do you see that I can be?” is what a spiritless space will ask us. “What am I missing that will make me be complete?” is the question it begs us to answer. I’ve come to understand the many similarities between a designer and a mentor.

As we begin our design work, we listen to the dream then we create a set of blueprints. We assemble a professional creative team and then we begin to navigate. We take the underdeveloped space and guide it to greatness. We constantly recalibrate and engineer our decisions with our trusted team and with tender care we begin to unlock a room’s potential, eliminating all evidence of emptiness. We strip away the confusion, scrub away the errors and the deprived atmosphere suddenly evaporates. With the very best of our efforts we influence the space to become dazzling. Under our talented watch, a productive, enthusiastic personality emerges and this space begins to ooze confidence.

Design for Confidence

The basis of any “good” is smart, high-performance design and there is nothing like a blank canvas to stir our imaginations. As designers our creative minds are always on the hunt for the new and the advanced. As cutting edge designers, we know exactly the moment when we’ve seen the future – be it a product, color or trend. We pride ourselves at being one of the first to predict the new look and with our influence, we can tailor and elevate a gloomy, pointless room into a mesmerizing, coordinated successful room that resonates with the air of all that is classy, distinctive, sophisticated and sleek. If we are very lucky, award-winning.

Design for Wholesome Living

We mentor rooms to become the essential ingredient to happy and healthy homes – custom tailored nurturing spaces that weave old-fashioned goodness back into our modern lives while instilling hope and promise into our futures. Each of us, in all walks of life, has this capability for design. It can be for beautiful rooms, flashy fashion, brilliant technology or perhaps most importantly, designing flourishing people.

Design for Mentorology

On behalf of the Over My Shoulder Project, I would like to introduce to you to Mentorology, the art of mentoring. When we meet a new person that has the same vision and imagination that we use in our design careers, the art of mentoring teaches us to instinctively engage and ask: “How can I help design this person to be high-performance? How can I help design this person to become solid enough to last a lifetime?” We should ask ourselves, “What do I see that this person can be?”

This is Mentorology, the art of mentoring. Mentorology designs the next generation by recognizing there is something special about every individual we encounter. It is our job, or, as a wise woman once said to me, “It’s our rent in this life to monitor, mentor and design smart minded individuals. Our job in this life is to assist, advise, and solve challenges to help create healthy people.”

Mentorology’s Return

When we mentor we get something mind-blowing in return, something that offers a lifetime of satisfaction. That something is a privileged and prideful glow that comes from knowing we’ve made a difference in another person’s life. That one thing we might say or do could awaken a spirit, inject some wisdom, breed some self-worth and offer nutritional value to our well-being.

Sometimes the smallest comment can stretch a mind so far that a glorious chance or stunning opportunity not previously seen unveils itself. Sometimes you just need an angel to unleash your creativity, a person who can reignite your passion, reconnect you with your dreams and help you redesign your individual space.

The Mentoring Palette

A mentoring palette looks something like this: wisdom, esteem, confidence, worth and knowledge. Mentorology destroys the myth that mentoring is complicated when, in fact, it is primitive. Once upon a time we were people who belonged to a close-knit village. We were members of a productive loving tribe. Once upon a time the elders all took a mentoring role and each child became their own. Each child was an apprentice and learned essential life skills as well as a trade and as that child grew the elders knew that these same children would become their caregivers. This natural cross-generational mentoring was the norm.

Today our lives are often dictated by text messages, e-mails and conference calls. It is easy to feel unraveled and with our insane schedules, it is easy to slip through the cracks. The honest-to-goodness fact is that we will always need to give just as much as we need to receive. Mentoring knows no age and mentoring is the smartest investment we can make today for our tomorrow.

We CAN Design Thriving, Interwoven Lives Together

We can design the next generation. You can design the next you. We can design healthy and productive people just like we do every day for our clients as designers.

Mentorology asks you to look over your shoulder and become the key to someone’s success. There is indeed a golden opportunity knocking on your door. Mentoring is no longer a benevolent gesture. It can become essential to your well-being. Your interest can design a change to provoke a positive difference in a person’s life.

Remember, mentoring knows no age. Whether older to younger or the other way around, mentoring returns all involved to a place of hope, simplicity and accomplishment through teamwork. Without support and emotional substance, without a positive influence in our lives, we become lost, disconnected and unstable, as individuals and as a society.

It is with these thoughts from my perspective as a designer, and my life-changing involvement with the magical song Over My Shoulder that I invite you to join me with Grammy Award winning singing legend Patti Austin and countless others who believe in the Over My Shoulder Project and the power of music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

 

The future looks golden when we meet dazzling young ladies like Santana Roberts, the author of this guest post!  Santana is an energetic friend to the Over My Shoulder Foundation. Read her post to find out how Mentorology has allowed Santana to create some life-changing experiences for herself already. Now, Santana graciously offers to help spread our MENTOROLOGY mentoring message and dedicates herself to following her dreams and helping others along the way.  -Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder Dawn Carroll

The definition of the word “Mentor” as stated in Webster Online Dictionary is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. The second definition is an influential senior, sponsor, or supporter.

To me, the word mentor means so much more than a wise teacher, but a special person that you bond with and learn from. Having a mentor is a life-changing experience and can last from a short term relationship to a lifelong friendship. Your mentor doesn’t have to be older than you, the idea of a mentor is to learn from and accept guidance and knowledge.

Today as a high school senior I would not be where I am right now if it wasn’t for the many mentors in my life who have continued to challenge me to reach new goals each year. A simple phone call three years ago from Adriane (Ari) Meyers, the creator of My Purpose Party Service Learning Youth Initiative (MPP), challenged me to become the first teen in RI to create a dream party that combines my talents with a charity I feel passionate about. My Purpose Party has introduced me to plethora of people from various careers that has inspired and changed my life in a positive way.

Left to Right: Santana Roberts, Adriane (Ari) Meyers, Newell Roberts

MPP is about passion, purpose, and project.  My passion is singing, my purpose is hunger and my project is a concert. For 2 years and 1,000 hours, I created 2 concerts with a farmers market. I recruited over 60 volunteers ages 7 to 84 who showcased their talents from art work to singing. I led meetings, designed flyers, held practices and marketed my event on the radio. It was all possible with the Mentorology of MPP. Event planner Jim Verity, President of ProVisions Ends Hunger Rhode Island, guided my plans for success but always let me take the lead. We raised $5,500 and collected over 500 pounds of food. I have learned to conduct meetings, speak to adults, organize and market events. Here’s a slideshow about My Purpose Party. Because of the work I did, in 2010 I was the first teen in the US to be honored with the Leader of Change Award by The Foundation of Social Change. I want to continue using my voice in a positive way to affect my world.

I learned a lot through MPP but the best part was being mentored by Grammy Artist Patti Austin (a co-founder of the Over My Shoulder Foundation).  She helped my event to be pretty amazing by singing a duet with me at the event! You can watch me and Patti sing together here.

For more information to have your own My Purpose Party that will have a lasting effect on your life email Ari Meyers at mypurposeparty@gmail.com. I hope that more teenagers like me get to experience Mentorology with the help of Over My Shoulder Foundation!

Today, on Independence Day, we celebrate our nation’s freedom. Families and friends gather outside to relax, eat, play and watch the fireworks. Hopefully, we all take time to remember the sacrifices that our troops are making to fight for our freedom.

At Over My Shoulder Foundation, we believe it is our duty to support and mentor the men and women who have come back from overseas serving our country. We need to step up as a nation and mentor those troops in the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard that don’t get to relax on the day when the rest of the country celebrates what they fight for.

We want to get people thinking about mentoring the troops that have served our country and come back with little or no assistance. We hope you’ll read yesterday’s post by 2LT Paul Merklinger’s about mentoring in his military career.

The American Flag

Please keep checking back with us to track the progress of finding and creating situations that bring Mentorology to all those brave and courageous soldiers who fight for our nation’s independence. Happy Fourth of July!

Mentorology and the Military

We are delighted to have a guest post today by 2LT Paul Merklinger. Paul Merklinger graduated from West Point in May of 2011. He was recently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He will begin flight school at the beginning of August and will later become an Army Aviator. The opinions expressed herein are 2LT Paul Merklinger’s alone and do not represent the official position of the Department of Defense, the United States Army, the United States Military Academy, or the Department of Social Sciences.

Upon completion of the most difficult 47 months of my life, I became increasingly introspective over my life and the mentors that helped guide me on my path through grade school, high school, and college.

Growing Up with my First Mentors

I struggled to find my place in high school and fell into the “wrong crowd.” As I worked my way through high school I began to “find myself” through the help of my family. I looked to my grandfather’s example of leadership as a retired high-school principal, my grandmother’s outgoing attitude, and my father’s admirable work ethic. These mentors helped shape my life through discussion, but more importantly, through their positive example. I would not have received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, or gained an offer to join the class of 2011 without these supporters.

The Beginnings of West Point

The military was something that was very foreign to me. I only was acquainted with one graduate of West Point. No one in my immediate family had served in the military. In many ways, my first day of Cadet Basic Training, or Reception Day, was a shock to the system. The next four years presented me with problems that I had never had to face before, problems that no one back home could understand or give me advice about. I needed to make choices early in my cadet career that would have implications for the rest of my time at the Academy, the rest of my Army career, and the rest of my life. During sophomore year I needed to declare my academic major. While my high school mentors could offer some insight about which academic area to focus in, they did not understand the correlation between academic major and military branch (or specialty). My military branch, selected in my Firstie (senior) year would dictate the rest of my Army career. Making and contemplating these difficult decisions reaffirmed the importance of having a mentor in my life.

Finding a True Military Mentor

Walking with a Mentor

2LT Paul Merklinger with a Mentor

I was very fortunate to have a teacher of my American Politics class who stunned me with his countenance, demeanor, and appearance. COL Isaiah Wilson was the stem head of the American Politics, Policy, & Strategy portion of the Department of Social Sciences. Professionally, I admired all of the things that he had accomplished. He was a West Point graduate, an Army Aviator, and was hand-picked by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army to head up a team regarding the successful reintegration of retired Soldiers. Personally, I admired the officer and man that he was. He was approachable, kind, and incredibly insightful. He never discouraged any of my ideas or insights, but asked the right questions so that I could find my own conclusions. He was able to explain the American political system and its players in a way that really interested me. With his help, I confidently declared my major in American Politics.

During junior year, I was given a class assignment to assess the leadership style of an officer I admired. Immediately I thought of COL Wilson. I remember taking pages and pages of notes from my sessions with him, but his insights extended far beyond the assignment. Each of our meetings, while only scheduled for thirty minutes often went over an hour. I would walk back from his office each day with a sense of confidence that I never felt before. His thoughts, ideas, and experiences resounded in my head. I felt better prepared to lead soldiers and face the challenges of becoming an officer in the Army.

During my senior year, COL Wilson taught a seminar class for those in the major who were contemplating writing an undergraduate thesis. During this class, he again structured the class to engage and challenge each member to participate in educated discourse. He presented educated models and encouraged the class to apply them to existing problems and paradoxes in hopes of finding an answer that had greater applicability for the future. My analytical thinking and academic capability grew immensely that semester, largely because of COL Wilson’s structure of the class.

Becoming a Mentor Myself – Suddenly Experiencing a New Side of  Leadership

West Point has been the premier leadership institute in the nation for over 200 years. Its leadership process, called the Cadet Leadership Development System (CLDS), places cadets in charge of the Corps of Cadets. From New Cadet up until Firstie year, cadets gain responsibility and privileges each semester. During sophomore year, I was in charge of one Plebe (freshman). It was my responsibility to make sure that he was studying, staying in shape, and abiding by the expected military courtesies. During the first two years, I looked up to several upper-class cadets. Their example, appearance, and accomplishments motivated me to be successful in hopes that I might attain the same success that they had achieved. During the last two years of my cadet career I was placed in positions that put me over a number of people. I served as a cadet platoon sergeant (~40 cadets), a company commander during cadet basic training (~140 cadets), and finally, I spent my last semester as a cadet battalion commander (~500 cadets).

My time in these leadership positions helped me grow as a leader more than any other experience. One can read books about leadership, but learning from books is very different than learning through experience. For all the regard I had for officers like COL Wilson and other upper-class cadets, the unexpected happened to me while in these positions. The cadets under me, my subordinates, would approach me at the end of the semester and tell me how much they looked up to me, or how they had decided to major in American Politics because of a talk that I had with them. At the conclusion of cadet basic training, one of the new cadets in my company approached me and thanked me. He told me that without my help and encouragement, he would not have passed cadet basic training and entered the Corps of Cadets. This revelation was one of the most humbling experiences I had ever had. Until that point, I had always been on the receiving end of mentoring. While I had looked to others for their example and advice, I never considered that others would be looking to me for the same resources.

With the realization that others were looking to me, especially as I stood in front of 500 cadets each day, it had implications for my behavior. I pushed myself to be worthy to become their mentor. This meant setting the example with my appearance, my level of physical fitness, my intellectual aptitude, and in my interaction with other cadets. The example that I set would permeate through my unit. If I were to overlook instances of disrespect or mediocrity, a lower standard of living would be acceptable.

Understanding Mentorology: The Mentor/Mentee Relationship

The relationship between a mentor and a mentee is priceless and important. The mentor has the responsibility to impact the life of the mentee with his words and actions. This creates an obligation on the part of the mentor, an obligation that has behavioral implications. The mentor’s actions, the amount he/she drinks, his/her demeanor, and the way they interact with others are all being watched. On the other hand, the mentee has the responsibility to listen to the mentor and apply the lessons to their own life. The mentors words and actions are significant and important, but perhaps more important is the personalized application of those words and actions. Two people may see the same actions or hear the same words from a mentor, and apply them very differently to their life. This personalized application ensures the utility of the mentor and increases the relationship’s effectiveness.

Looking back on the past 47 months, my mentors’ impact on my life is visible. I can unequivocally say that the lessons and insights gained from mentoring have brought me to where I am today. Along the way, I became a mentor for others. I reflect my own mentor’s lessons when I offer advice to those who ask for it. I also grow from mentoring, I learn of new ways to approach problems and the possibility of alternative solutions.

2LT Paul Merklinger with Cadets at West Point

2LT Paul Merklinger with Cadets at West Point

The symbiotic relationship of mentoring is powerful. Its effectiveness is matched in a perpetual chain of advice. Mentors will pass down advice and guidance. This guidance permeates for generations. If you have not already, seek out a mentor. It can be someone you admire, it can be someone who has done something you are interested in, or it can be someone who you trust. The presence of a mentor affirms the fact that you do not have to face problems alone. Conversely, understand that you may be a mentor for those around you. Let that possibility dictate your behavior, the words you choose, and your countenance. By becoming situationally aware, both mentors and mentees can continue to grow together in the hopes of making the world a better place

The Over My Shoulder Foundation is continuing our drive to spread the
importance of Mentoring through schools across the United States. We just had
John H. Reagan High School in Houston, TX  which featured the incredible logo
designs by the students of David Messina. Now we are continuing our efforts on
the video front. Over My Shoulder is joining efforts with students in Wakefield,
Massachusetts at Wakefield High school and Video Production teacher Jonathan Berecz
to bring Mentorology video style into the hands of students.
As a graduate of the class of 1992 at Wakefield High School I decided to
go back to my roots where Jonathan and I were a part of the first video production
class that was taught by our mentor, Jude Daley. It was a class of about eight
students and we loved every minute of it. We wanted to spend every waking hour
shooting footage or editing in our small eight foot by eight foot editing suite.
Now with Jonathan’s knowledge and skills he has become a mentor to many of his
180 students. The classes are now broken up into three levels. Beginners, mostly
freshmen, average, and advanced classes.

Together the Over My Shoulder Foundation and Wakefield High School are going
to have the students create short two to three minute PSA’s (Public Service Announcements)
regarding how mentoring has changed lives, different short productions on what they think
mentoring is to them, and how their life might be different if they had a mentor. The
students will be tackling subjects that touch base with each and every student that walk
the halls of every high school across the country. In addition, the students are going
to have experiences with hands on events that the Over My Shoulder Foundation plan on doing
in the near future. It will give the kids firsthand knowledge on working on a professional
video shoots that will be shown on You Tube and the Over My Shoulder Web Site.
Jonathan says, “I look forward to working with Russ and the Over My Shoulder Foundation,
it will be a great opportunity for my students to see the production world outside of the high
school and to be able to apply skills to real world applications.” “With both Russ and I
coming from the same high school program, I feel that speaks volumes about the level of
training and mentoring that we received as students. Now it is our turn to mentor the next
generation of videographers and photographers.”
We are very excited to be joining forces with Jonathan Berecz and the students
at Wakefield High School and look forward to showing you all the cool and creative mentorology
videos that they create.

Thanks,
Russ Mezikofsky

Mentorology in Actionwith Linda Perry, Musical Mastermind

Written and Photographed by Russ Mezikofsky

Recently OMSF Founder Dawn Carroll and Creative Director Russ Mezikofsky met
with legendary record producer, songwriter and performer Linda Perry. When asked if she
would become the next Over My Shoulder “Mentorologist” she enthusiastically said yes!

It became apparent that Linda is a perfect example of Mentorology in action as she told
Dawn and Russ about how mentoring played a big part in her early career and later “cross-
mentoring” relationships with P!nk, Christina Aguilera and other musicians.Here’s her full
story.

As a young girl who didn’t feel like she even needed a mentor, Linda Perry idolized her
older brother, spending hours listening to his band and studying everything he did.It was
her brother that started Linda towards her career path in the music industry, acting as her
first mentor.

Linda burst onto the music scene as “the chick with the big voice” with the rock group 4
Non Blondes,best known for their mega hit “What’s Up”. As lead vocalist and primary
songwriter for the band, her dynamic singing capabilities and razor sharp writing
skills earned her recognition as a unique and unforgettable talent. With a hard-hitting,
uninhibited and seductive style Linda caught the attention of music fans all over and grew
to be a source of inspiration for young aspiring singers, both male and female.

In 2001 after the break-up of 4 Non Blondes Linda Perry met some difficulty. She had made
her brother, her first mentor, proud. Yet, she wasn’t absolutely sure what to do next.
Thankfully, Mentorology breathed new and unexpected life into an already great musical
career. To Linda’s surprise, she was contacted by Alecia Beth Moore, or “P!nk”.

P!nk, a longtime fan who revered Linda’s musical talents, wanted Linda to write and
possibly sing for her album Missundaztood. At the time Linda was laying groundwork to
showcase new songs and get a tour going, but after several meetings with P!nk, Linda
canceled her plans.Linda knew there was something special about P!nk.

As Linda Perry and P!nk made music, something magical was happening. At Over My
Shoulder Foundation we like to call it Reverse-Mentoring, or,Cross-Mentoring. Initially,
P!nk(a new artist) reached out to Linda (the established artist) to mentor her and in the
end Linda also got mentored by P!nk.  Canceling her plans for her next career move was a
chance Linda took, but in taking it she introduced new opportunities to both musical
stars.Linda ended up writing a bulk of the songs on Missundaztood, which sold over
11 million records and boasted the # 1 hit single “Lets Get the Party Started.”

Demonstrating her keen ability to inspire and natural ability to mentor, Linda says, “That’s
the beauty of life. We never know what we are signing up for but the key is to just sign up
for it anyways. Be open to the experience.” She continues, “Follow your gut feelings, not
your brain. The way I live my life is one gut feeling after the next.”

Along with her resolute belief in trusting her gut, Perry credits Bill Bottrell, music producer
and songwriter of such artists as Michael Jackson and Sheryl Crow, as her producer mentor.
She says, “He taught me that there is no right or wrong way of producing or songwriting.
You just write, record and mix the sound of the song until it makes you happy.”

Newly energized and inspired by her role as a musical mentor, Linda was sought out next
by Christina Aguilera. Linda had just finished writing the song “Beautiful” for herself as a
come back hit of sorts.  As soon as Linda heard Christina sing the song, Linda knew it was
meant for Christina. “Beautiful”, a song about self-esteem, became another #1 hit and was
nominated for the prestigious Song of the Year Grammy Award.

Linda beams with pride when she explains her decision not to sell the lucrative rights of
her songs to anyone. Instead she generously donates the license to various worthy causes.
It brings Linda Perry great joy to give something back to the world. Her continuing saga of
Mentorology is further proof that Linda keeps giving back.

“We can only be great if we allow ourselves not to know what the future holds. You have to
have confidence and believe that you are going to be okay.” Explains Linda

That philosophy works, and Linda’s musical career proves it. Perry went from artist with 4
Non Blondes to producer with P!nk and Christina Aguilera to shrewd business person when
she started two record labels:Rockstar Records and Custard Records. The first label was
started to sign the bands “Stone Fox” and “2 Lane Black Top”.  The second label was started as a
platform for mentoring new musicians and helping them develop their sound. James Blunt was
the first musician Linda signed to Custard Records.  His album “Back to Bedlam” sold 11
million records world wide.

Linda explains that she now works with lots of young fresh talent. She recognizes that a
majority of young musicians have no clue about the way of a “true” artist. She pushes them
to take ownership of their careers and mentors them to stay true to themselves, never
compromising their artistic vision. “Everyone’s afraid of losing something.  They don’t
think about the gifts that they have been given or the things that they can gain by believing
in their gut and believing in themselves”, she says.

We all get mentored when Linda emphasizes the importance of being open to new ideas.
She says, “You can’t mentor someone who thinks they know what they are doing already.
When egos and insecurities come into play, you have to realize that you really have no idea
what you are getting into. You look for a mentor to tell you how to recognize the little
things that make your path right. And hopefully you find that mentor.”

In closing, our newest Over My Shoulder Foundation Mentorologist Linda Perry wants to
be mentored all the time.  She even regularly says to random people, “Teach me, teach me
something.” This open attitude and inspiring legacy makes us proud that Linda Perry took
the time to share some information about her life of Mentorology. Thanks Linda!

Hi I am Russ Mezikofsky the Creative Director for The Over My Shoulder Foundation.  May is my first anniversary with the  OMSF.  I have worked closely with founder Dawn Carroll for the past twelve months flushing out the creative strategy of some of the OMSF projects.  As the official photographer I have captured all of the magical moments and have watched this project grow from a song to a full blown mentoring mission.  I have been part of both  the growth and spirit of this amazing project.  During the past few months we have begun collaborating with exciting educational partners like Right to Succeed. “Today, half of America’s kids are failing to make it through middle and high school, and of those who make it into college, fewer than half graduate.   This means that only 25% of young people have minimal academic skills. Fewer still have competitive 21st century career and life skills. This trend, if continued, projects that just one generation from now, as many as 75% of Americans will be fighting poverty.  Imagine the bleak reality of a world in which three out of four of Americans are unable to sustain themselves”. Ted Fujimoto Ceo/Founder Right to Succeed.

Grim statistics like the one above is why we have become so passionate to work with students.   Projects like the Houston Mentorology logo assignment is exactly why I got involved with OMSF- It’s creative projects like these  that can take a mission and make it swirl worldwide.  This project taught me something:   that both kids and adults are famished-starving for someone or something to inspire and that people are hungry for opportunity.  So often confidence is the hurdle but after reading the comments of the kids we clearly see that there are brilliant minds out there ready to be harvested- they just need opportunity  –   What was is it that stimulated this dynamic reaction?  What was it that caught the attention of these kids at John Regan High School?    What made them tap into all their brain power- creativity and spirit?  What made them do their homework?

In their own words, the kids from John Regan High School with tell you.   Please join myself and OMSF in applauding the Houston Mentorology Logo Project- the Teacher David Messina and the vibrant students in his multi-media class.  Please help OMSF continue this network of “Mentorology” by taking the Mentorology pledge:

Mentorology is the Art & Science of mentoring.  OMSF created Mentorology to breed “mentorologists” We seek to create a Network of Mentorologists who will make mentoring a way of life.   Through mentoring we seek to build confident- hopeful- resourceful – creative thinking:  Through mentoring we hope to re-connect the disconnected. Are you a mentorologist?

The John Regan High School project has inspired me to create a film version of Mentorology- Here in Boston where the OMSF was born we are about to create the Boston Mentorology project at a local High School.  This Mentorology project will be the film version and students  will create short films featuring Public Service Announcements that inform us:

“What I am because of Mentoring- What I could be if I had a mentor- What happens when you don’t have a mentor”.

My goal is to make mentoring fun through creative visions. I want to hear from people as to who mentored them and who they have mentored. I’m working on creating blogs with celebrities, educators, people making a difference in local communities, and everyday average kids that have a mentoring story to share. Please don’t hesitate to email me as we want to hear from you.

Stay tuned for the announcement of this exciting project and enjoy the comments below from the vibrant minds in the class room of David Messina.

Right To Succeed Foundation <—-Click here to go to Web Site.

THE MOST POWERFUL LOGO DESIGNS

I USED TO THINK “NIKE” HAD THE MOST POWERFUL LOGO

I teach Digital and Interactive Media for a class at John H. Reagan High School in Houston Texas. Motivation is probably the biggest deficit at our school.  Our kids come from really poor situations, gang infested neighborhoods where the sound of a gunshot doesn’t even phase them.  It isn’t easy to get them motivated to do anything.

My friend Dawn Carroll was telling me about her mentoring project, the Over My Shoulder Foundation. She asked me, what could I do for National Mentoring Month.  What could I do to make a difference?  Huh?  Make a difference?  I’m a teacher.  I thought all I had to do was show up to make a difference.


She told me she needed a logo for her concept of “Mentorology”, (motivating others through mentoring is mentorology) .  Her assignment was:  “Ask the kids to come up with dazzling, cool ideas; the logo has to “glam” up the mentoring mission.”  I suddenly realized my motivation had been missing, too.  Dawn and I decided to set up a logo contest for my class. When I introduced this to my students I was really excited about it and they could tell. No one was wondering why my laid back self was so excited, they just listened. When I was done talking….something special had happened.  I saw kids that hadn’t done anything all year take charge and kick butt on this little project.

Jesse
Jesse is what I refer to as a flat liner.  Jesse has been in my class all year, and  has attempted to do maybe one or two assignments.

The day I announced the logo contest, I had to replace Jesse’s computer with a brand new computer.  I’m thinking. “There’s  no way I should waste this new computer and let any flat liners sit there.”  After I went over the assignment, there was Jesse, browsing the internet. I didn’t pay attention to what he was looking at.  I told Jesse “You should really try this assignment. If the Foundation likes your logo, they will use it and you could be known.” Jesse replied back that he was researching his logo, since he didn’t have the software yet. I’m thinking, all he is doing is trying to watch rap videos on the computer.  I was too busy with other students to address this.

The next day there was Jesse, working on the logo.  I gave it a closer look and it was looking pretty good; actually it was looking better than most I had seen.  Jesse had a few questions, and when I tried to show him what to do he almost got mad.  He only wanted a little guidance. He would not let me touch the mouse.  This is one of those teaching moments that remind you why you are a teacher. Jesse was taking ownership in this assignment.  He was going to do it, and no one could take any ownership over his logo.


This whole project has changed my teaching outlook.  After teaching for so many years it gets routine.  I know I had lost the enthusiasm I am capable of to get my students interested, but this little project has brought that back.  This logo project has started a graphic arts club, with kids flocking to join it.


Now I’m trying to get graphic companies to get involved in our co-op program so these kids can get a job with a graphic company, instead of the typical clerical job that most students get.  I’m thinking about my students more, coming up with interesting assignments, and thinking about cool things to do in our class.


Wait a minute…no, it couldn’t be! Teaching is fun again.  This is one of those unique experiences where you think you are being a mentor but end up becoming the mentee – and my students have inspired me.

Working on this project has helped my students get motivated.  It has brought out talents they didn’t know they had, and has recharged my passion for teaching.  It’s amazing the power and influence one little logo can have.  This is “MENTOROLOGY”

David Messina
Multi Media Teacher at John H Reagan High School in Houston Texas

\”Final Logo on YouTube\” <—– click here

David Messina is a Career and Technology teacher at John H. Reagan High School in Houston, TX.  David has been a high school teacher for eleven years all at Reagan High School. He got involved with the Over My Shoulder Foundation by a chance reconnection with childhood friend Dawn Carroll.  Dawn told David about the foundation and David thought this mentoring project would tie in to his classes that were focusing on graphic arts.

Bulacard’s to the President

I am honored to work with the Over My Shoulder Foundation.  I enjoy
sharing some of my thoughts and ideas on mentoring and education.  There
is a vast wealth of untapped talent and beauty out there.  We only have to
realize that it is often hidden from the general public.

I hope to provide tools that will help to unleash, empower, and embrace those who stand on the sidelines waiting to climb the tree of mentorology.  We learn from each other and share common dreams.  We cherish the very young for their innocence and clarity of spirit.

I can’t wait to see our new leaders, artists, singers, and musicians emerge out on the scene.  For I know that their raw talent, messages, and spirit can change the world forever.  I encourage everyone to take a moment in time to reflect on the powerful, influential mentors in their own lives.  The educational system is a vehicle that opens doors of opportunities.  Mentors serve as beacons of light that allow visitors to pass through these gateways.  Their vision and strength can help bridge the gap between helplessness and success.

In the last few weeks, my path has been through Boston, Houston, and Dallas. I have met amazing students, artists, and individuals who have offered to share their messages on the Internet of Experiences.  These voices, videos, and Bulacards will travel to Washington D.C. and back. Please
jump on board and join the ride!

Thank you,

Monto Kumagai

Monto Kumagai is the CEO and President at Extreme Sign Post, Inc.  He is the creator of the BULA Card which uses technical wizardry to record visual and audio messages – these messages are stored in the Bula Card-signed by participants and then sent to President Obama to raise awareness for the need of more mentors.

 

Between dropouts in K-12 and college, only 25% of kids are making it through to get any kind of academic degree. We aren’t even talking about the quality of the education received that would truly prepare them for life and to be internationally competitive for successful careers. The bottom line is that 75% of kids are not acquiring the skills needed to succeed and to sustain themselves. Imagine a reality 15 years from now-when these kids today become adults-that 75% of Americans won’t have the skills to pay for themselves.


We have a whole generation of kids who have never had anyone believe in them and their dreams–who are giving up. Worse yet, in many cases across all walks of life, the adults are telling kids to their face that they will never amount to anything.

I have a friend who lives in a decent neighborhood whose 6 year old daughter came from school one day and asked her, “mom, what does ‘succeed’ mean?” Mom replied, “Why do you ask honey?” The daughter replied, “because my teacher said it is what I will never be good at!”

Recently, I hosted a group to visit the Los Angeles School of Global Studies—a school in the middle of Los Angeles is helping disadvantaged kids succeed. At the end of the visit, we had a student panel that we could ask any question of the kids. One question was how they could compare their prior school to their amazing current school experience. Each student had come from 6 different schools. Each one had an identical story. In their prior school, they said they had teachers who didn’t care. Who would simply hand them worksheets and if they failed, the teacher would simply give them an “F” and not care whether the kid was learning or not.

We were inspired by another student who talked about his own experience about being in prison, and when he got out, he begged to come back to the Los Angeles School of Global Studies. He was a “tough” guy and some kids looked up to him. However, he told these kids, “Don’t look up to me. You don’t want my life. You are capable of so much more. ” In an unconventional way, this kid was being a mentor to his peers.

The big idea that hit me out of these stories is that the most important thing you can do for a kid is to “care” and that anyone can be a mentor. You don’t have to have a bunch of expertise or have a chock full of advice. What matters most is that you deeply care about your mentee’s success and put their interest and well-being first and take every opportunity to talk to a kid about their dreams and that they can succeed.

The Right to Succeed Foundation is collaborating with Over My Shoulder Foundation around the cause of using mentorship to help kids succeed and not lose hope. Mentorship is not a job title or position, it is a way of being—a connector between a child and their dreams and aspirations. It is being that one adult or peer in a kid’s life that believes in them, their dreams, and their right to succeed. Seek out opportunities to be there for a kid—it may be the only chance you will get. You can change and save a kids life!

Written by Ted Fujimoto

 

 

Over My Shoulder Inspires Mitchell Gold
At the upcoming February 17th Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams event, Mitchell Gold himself will unveil the home furnishing brand’s Spring 2011 Collection, Modern Classic. As a core part of the evening’s celebrations, the company will establish its firm commitment to mentoring and “Designing the Next Generation” alongside event sponsor Cumar and Over My Shoulder Foundation.

In November, Design New England collaborated with stone fabricator Cumar Inc. and Over My Shoulder Foundation to create the Mentors In Design (MIDDIES) program, a program focused on recognizing and awarding those individuals who have generously taken the time to support future generations of designers. Throughout Boston, designers have heeded the call to promote mentoring in the world of design and this month, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams joins the cause. With mentoring being the focus of Over My Shoulder Foundation, we are proud to have inspired this exciting event and are thrilled to see Design New England’s Mentors In Design (MIDDIES) continue to grow!

Don’t forget, nominations for the MIDDIES are currently being accepted!

 

 

Grammy Winner Patti Austin, ADPublishing.org and XtremeSignPost Embark on Million Mentor March in Support of Mentoring and Education January 16th, 2011.

Grammy winner Patti Austin, ADPublishing.org and XtremeSignPost join with the Over My Shoulder Foundation to engage the first champions of the Million Mentor March on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17, 2011. Through active involvement in the lives of the 14.6 million at-risk young people, the alliance hopes to increase school attendance, reduce drug and alcohol use, and improve the lives of all involved.

“Mentorology,” the Over My Shoulder Foundation credo, leverages the media to strengthen communities through the production of music, film, events, and other creative projects.

On this first of many events, audiences attending the MLK Boston Children’s Chorus concert will be given an opportunity to send their digital message of hope to the President. Through a revolutionary mobile, social, entertainment experience network , RFID enabled postcards (“Bulacards”) will be physically and digitally signed by participants. The Bulacards will then be collected and presented in Washington, D.C. in an “once-in-a-lifetime” video montage, representing the collective concerns of the people.

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. That dream forever changed the course of history. Each participant will be part of the dream that will help shape the future which is inextricably tied to the past.

“The Boston Children’s Chorus’ mission to unite diverse communities across race, religion, and economic status through music epitomizes our Mentorology credo,” said Dawn Carroll, CEO of the Over My Shoulder Foundation. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with them on this historic event.”

“I can’t wait to send a personal Bulacard to the President on mentoring and then share it on The Internet of Experiences,” stated Dr. Monto Kumagai, CEO and President of XtremeSignPost, Inc.

About Patti Austin
Grammy winner Patti Austin is a singer, songwriter, producer and humanitarian. Ms. Austin, well known for classics like “Baby Come to Me” and “How Do You Keep The Music Playing”, recently co-produced “We Are the World 2” for Haiti Relief and is just finalizing her much anticipated new CD, “Sound Advice.”

About ADPublishing.org
ADPublishing.org (http://adpublishing.org) is an Internet and mobile marketing, online reputation management and product launch company, servicing the sports & entertainment and high tech Industries.

About XtremeSignPost, Inc.
XtremeSignPost uses RFID technology to integrate and share consumer experiences with personalized products. Additional information about XtremeSignPost can be found at http://www.XtremeSignPost.com and http://www.internetofexperiences.com.


Bringing her mission of mentoring back to the Boston area this Monday, Over My Shoulder co-founder Patti Austin is thrilled to be featured in WCVB TV Channel 5’s “Raise the Roof: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., In Song.” Along with the help of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars Kyle and Chris Massey and the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) under the direction of Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King, Patti will honor the life and work of Dr. King in this television special.

Patti explains, “Especially as we begin this time of celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest mentors of all time, I begin to think of the songs that came out of the civil rights movement and the artists that were inspired to offer up their soul-stirring creations to empower people to bring on cultural change. Needless to say, we are at that time in our history again. For me, music is the strongest door opener to the hearts and minds of the people. I want to use recorded music, videos, concerts and social networking as the ‘stimulus package’ to re-energize the focus on forward thinking approaches to education as the key factor in eradicating poverty for the coming generation. Learning should never stop for all age groups. We can empower millions to realize the opportunity to help shape a new society of creative ‘mentorologists’ in all areas of life.”

Don’t miss this television event, a wonderful reminder of Dr. King’s vision of world unity, coming this Monday to WCVB Channel 5 at 7pm.

The Over My Shoulder Foundation, co-founded by Patti Austin and Dawn Carroll, is dedicated to the art of mentoring.