[box]We are lucky to have a teacher on our writing team and excited for her students, because Sarah Gross is NOT afraid to tackle difficult issues.

She has written about the sensitive topics of racism and bullying before, addressing Lady Gaga and the anti-bullying crusades of 2012 and how Lenny Kravitz addresses race issues. So when Sarah’s students brought up the controversial performance of Sebastien de la Cruz during Game 4 of the NBA playoffs in June she jumped at the teaching moment and mentored.

Today, Sarah urges us to DISCUSS these issues and learn from what is wrong and what is right. She tackles this story to mentor us as only she can, to inspire and nurture a more tolerant state of mind.

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

The National Anthem

A young Mexican-American boy, lionized for his skills as a vocalist on the popular TV competition show, America’s Got Talent, sang the National Anthem at the NBA finals. The audience waited with baited breath for the singing spectacular to grace the stage, expecting to see an image to feed their patriotism; a voice to fill their hearts with the familiar sounds of the American Dream.

When Sebastien de la Cruz walked proudly up to the microphone, he accomplished just that, offering a heartfelt rendition of the song that symbolizes “Americanism” and all that bearing the badge of “American citizen” stands for.

The Public’s Reaction

Many cheered at the performance, touched by the young boy’s voice, but those cheers quickly became marred when negative publicity targeted Sebastian, and the focus of his performance turned from his beautiful voice to his nationality. Specifically, Sebastian’s appearance became the focus—not his voice, not his personality—no, his physical appearance rapidly became the target as individuals who watched the performance made judgments that have plagued our country for generations. These individuals generated comments which spread like wildfire across the internet, shallow and prejudiced.

What was the cause of these comments? Sebastien de la Cruz, gifted vocalist or not, did not meet the expectations of a select audience primed for a quintessential American to stand and deliver the National Anthem. Sebastien de la Cruz, dressed in the garb reminiscent of a Spanish mariachi—to embrace his personal culture—became, to some, a Mexican, not an American. Comments, like the one below, soon found their way across the internet:


Assumption-Based Negativity After the Performance

The negative attitude shown through this comment highlights the assumptions that some viewers of the NBA game made. However, the comments may stem more from the time and place in which Sebastian embraced his culture, rather than the gesture itself. While the young boy delivered a good song, it may not have been the proper platform for a traditional costume, simply because it took the focus off the game. This could be the case with any costume from any culture. To displace the focus during a sports event may be considered disrespectful to many diehard sports fans, especially as the sports arena is placed on a high pedestal in America. Nevertheless, this instance highlights the attitudes that persist, and the need to respectfully address them.

Schooling, and education, starting with our nation’s youths, is a route to truly combating these attitudes. Teaching young people life values and character traits such as respect and tolerance, and tackling tough issues at home and inside of the classrooms, is at least a starting point.

A Teacher’s Perspective on Bullying

As a teacher, my value system includes instructing students through a curriculum embedded in life skills, and using key texts to supply students with the tools to help them lead a successful life. Yes, we can use a novel like To Kill a Mockingbird to teach English Language Arts-specific skills. But, in doing so, we miss the opportunity to teach the richness of the text. By avoiding the tough issues (racism, empathy, prejudice), we fall short of fully preparing youths to go out and be successful in the world.

If we truly want to combat stereotyping and prejudice, then we should not be afraid to confront and discuss these issues at school and at home. Keeping them hidden accomplishes nothing, and as seen through the public’s reaction to Sebastian de la Cruz, only feeds the negative attitudes that have plagued our country’s history.

A Classroom Discussion of the Word “Immigrant”

Sebastien de la Cruz’s experience touches a cord with me specifically because I am confronting these issues in my classroom as I teach my students the autobiographical novel Breaking Through by Mexican author Francisco Jiménez. My classroom is diverse, and my students identified with the novel immediately. During a discussion of the word “immigrant,” my students voiced the words that were surely in the minds of those who gave negative feedback of Sebastian’s performance: “illegal,” “green card,” among others.

There is a degree of hostility in the students’ voices as they are clearly aware of the stereotypes that exist against the main character (and author) Francisco, and by extension, the stereotypes which may exist against them. The novel brings up sensitive issues; do we shy away from them, brush them under the rug, or is it our duty to face them, as they are?

What Benefit Comes From Shielding Young People from These Realities?

The question to ask here is what benefit there is in shielding young people from these realities. Conversations with youths will show a startling awareness of these issues, and we are doing a disservice to students if we think it is in their best interest to hide, or to sugarcoat. Youths are intelligent, and we can challenge them and better prepare them to think critically about the world if we can start to talk with them about these issues and give them the space to form and refine their own ideas.

Teaching Tolerance and Respect

Teaching tolerance and respect can only happen if we start with the nation’s youths. Perhaps then, we will see less and less of the comments directed at Sebastian; perhaps then, we will see a young boy singing the National Anthem and we will celebrate him for who he is on the inside. The color of his skin, his clothes, his accent—those things will be a part of who he is, but those things will comprise his individuality, and we can begin to embrace the idea of a diverse American citizenry.

This hope for the future, I think, is beautifully expressed through the words of Mr. Jiménez, who is a wonderful mentor for us all:

“For me, the beauty of that ideal, of that American dream, is when you see all different immigrant groups that make up our society, from all different parts of the world, coming together, living together, working together, helping each other.

If our country has the potential and the hope of showing the rest of the world that different peoples from different cultures, speaking different languages, with different customs, can live together in harmony and in peace and learn from each other, then we have a lot to offer to the rest of the world.”

Using Difficult Experiences to Design the Next Generation

I write today about my classroom’s discussion of Sebastien de la Cruz because racism and bullying are learned behaviors that must be STOPPPED. We need to use every opportunity we have to build a more tolerant, compassionate world. We need people like a reformed racist Arno Michaelis fostering a better world by speaking of his own experiences with hate and the miracle of one woman changing his mind with her kindness.

By tackling the difficult issue of racism with my students, I hope that they would be inspired tocreatethis better world filled with tolerance and compassion. By writing about this difficult issue with Over My Shoulder Foundation, I hope that you will be inspired to mentor a more tolerant generation.

After all, we are designing the next generation…

[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]


An increasing percentage of our youth population is expressing an interest in pursuing a career in the art and design industry; however, few of our teachers and counselors are aware of the wide variety of career opportunities available in this field. For this reason, we often use our Over My Shoulder Foundation blog as an opportunity to share some youth mentoring programs that were designed to expose our youth to real life experiences of what careers in art and design would be like.


A career in film is much more viable these days. Source: ponsulak via Freedigitalphotos.net

According to the Open Education Database, the fastest growing careers in art and design include the following: animator, art director, fashion designer, film director, graphic designer, interior designer, landscape architect, and photographer.

If you think about how we live our lives today (interacting with friends and family via social media and being heavily influenced by the advertisements that we see on the internet), we are constantly confronted by the visual arts industry. For these reasons, there has been a spike in demand for individual’s knowledgable and capable of handling a career in this field, and this trend will only continue as our society becomes more dependent on technology. Where those that majored in art years ago had a difficult time transitioning into the workplace, today’s need for individuals with a creative background will continue to increase for years to come.

A great example of the success one can find by pursuing their career in this ever-growing field is the story of Maria “TOOFLY” Castillo, who turned a passion for graffiti and illustrations into various products — including stationary, jewelry, and her own line of t-shirts. You can read more about Maria’s story on my blog.

Mentors can play an instrumental role in helping to guide a young person with these interests find the right career path. We need more mentors, and if you have an interest in serving as a mentor to a member of our youth that would like to pursue a career in art and design, please contact me at the Over My Shoulder Foundation today.



Effective mentors can make a difference in the lives of at-risk youths. Source: Lisa Dabbs via Pinterest

Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise of at-risk youth in our communities. An at-risk youth student is best defined as someone that is statistically more likely to do poorly in school due to a low socioeconomic status, disability, and/or little to no parental guidance in the home. One of the best ways to correct this problem is to expose these at-risk youth to positive role models, which is why we are now seeing a number of mentoring programs appearing to help address this issue.

There is a great article that was recently written by Edutopia that discussed the four basic ingredients that a program targeted to mentoring at-risk youth should have. I found this article to be very impressionable and thought that anyone that has ever considered serving as a mentor should take note of these four points highlighted below:

  1. Caring and Stable Relationships: Teachers are often some of the first mentors that our youth have, and a major challenge that we face with our education system is retaining teachers. In addition to a mentor being trusting and caring, it is imperative that they are a stable and reliable figure for our youth.
  2. Help Set Attainable Goals: Students often look up to celebrities and athletes in our society and set goals based on what these individuals have achieved. Sometimes these goals are not always realistic, and a good mentor should help guide his or her mentee towards more reachable goals.
  3. Offer Guidance: Our youth need mentors that can help to guide them towards achieving their goals and overcome obstacles along the way.
  4. Create Engagement in Both School and the Community: You can help your mentee to become engaged by recognizing his or her positive contributions in these areas.

For more about mentoring at-risk youth, please contact us at OMSF.


There is no question that there is a growing number of high school students that have expressed an interest in a career in the design industry. However, it’s unfortunate that parents, teachers, and even guidance counselors are not well versed on art and design mentoring programs that would offer students additional exposure in this area. Since we’ve made it our mission to share the powerful impact that “Mentorology” can have on Designing the Next Generation, we wanted to make our followers aware of a program called Youth Design.


The path is easier with a helping hand. Source: Jenny Pollock via Pinterest

Seeing a great need for an art and design mentoring program in the Boston community, the Youth Design mentorship program was established to expose inner-city high school students to what a career would look like in the design industry. Participants not only have the opportunity to work closely with some of the most respected design firms in the city, but also earn an income during the program.

Denise Korn, in conjunction with Boston’s American Institute of Graphic Arts organization and Boston’s Private Industry Council, founded this summer mentorship program to provide guidance to students with a creative spirit that are looking to pursue a career in the design industry.

To date, a total of 59 students have come through the Youth Design program, which has resulted in many of them going on to study for a career in the creative industry in college. To learn more about this wonderful mentoring program and how you can become involved, please contact Youth Design at 857-277-1737.

If you would like to find out about other art and design mentoring programs in your area, please subscribe to the Over My Shoulder Foundation blog and be sure to “like” us on Facebook too!



Source: Arizona State University via Pinterest

We recently talked about Youth Design, which is an art and design mentoring program targeted towards Boston high school students with an interest in exploring a career in creative design. To elaborate on this post and provide students with an interest in design some additional helpful information, we wanted to take a moment to tell you about some architecture career fairs in Boston, most particularly the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Architecture and Design College Fair.

This highly anticipated career fair will take place on Saturday, October 26 from 10 am to 2 pm at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. The event is completely free for students and their families to attend, and nearly 40 schools with outstanding architecture and design programs will be present. While the event is free, please note that registration in advance is required. For a full list of the schools that will be in attendance at this year’s career fair, please visit the Boston Society of Architect’s webpage.

Selecting the right design program for you to participate in can be a challenging and overwhelming task, and the Boston Society of Architects helps to make this process easier for you by sharing some helpful resources and important factors to consider. To learn more about some of the upcoming events for the Boston Society of Architects, please check out the calendar on the organization’s website.

If you are interested in learning more about architecture career fairs in Boston, please feel free to contact us at the Over My Shoulder Foundation. We are passionate about Designing the Next Generation, and attending a career fair can offer some excellent guidance to individuals that aspire to have a career in a creative design field.

If you have found this article to be helpful, we encourage you to SHARE it!



Identify what you want your program to focus on before you begin. Source: James Hickey via Pinterest

Our mission at the Over My Shoulder Foundation is to raise the awareness of Mentorology, which is the art and science of mentoring. Both the organization’s co-founder, Patti Austin, and myself have benefited tremendously from the mentoring relationships that we’ve experienced throughout our lives, and we believe that mentors will play a powerful role in Designing the Next Generation.

We often use our blog to share mentoring success stories and have touched on how to establish a company mentorship program. Before getting started with designing a mentoring program for your organization, though, it’s important to first identify the need.

Perhaps your overall goal of the program is to develop loyal and competent leaders to run and manage the company in the future. Another objective could be to create a mentorship program specifically for women to help encourage their growth up the corporate ladder. Regardless of your reason, there has to be an actual need, and uncovering this should always be the first step in how to start a mentoring program.

Once the need for the mentorship program is identified, you can begin designing the parameters of the program to determine how it will best function and serve your need. For example, if the goal of your mentorship program is to improve the lives of the underprivileged youth in your community, you may consider partnering with a local school. You will also need to consider where and how often mentors will meet with their mentees, how goals will be measured, the length of the program, how staff will provide necessary support to program participants and so forth.

For more about how to start a mentoring program, contact us! Don’t forget to like Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too!




Join the over 400 artists this program has helped already. Source: Shelly Leit via Pinterest

We recently shared a program with you that is dedicated to women in mentoring, and due to this being such an important topic to us, we wanted to share another program with you that is dedicated to the continued professional growth for women artists.

Since 1982, WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) has developed a mentoring program to provide the necessary support to women artists as they balance work and family life and deal with other challenges such as the under-representation of women in the industry, diversity, and building a successful career. There are few artists mentoring programs out there, and over the past 30 plus years, this program has served more than 450 artists that have gone on to have fruitful careers.

What differentiates this mentoring program from others is that it lasts for two years, and each participant plays a direct role in selecting her mentor, outlining her goals, and tracking her progress along the way. To go along with our Designing the Next Generation mission, this program has been created to serve a young and budding artist that is just beginning her career.

For those interested in participating in the program as either a protegee or mentor, the next two year cycle begins in January 2015. The program is currently accepting applications for both positions, and you can contact Tina Nemetz or Karen Searle for more information: 612-567-9276.

To learn more about artists mentoring programs, please contact us at Over My Shoulder Foundation. SHARE your mentoring stories with us on our Facebook page, consider donating to our foundation, and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too!



Source: Lorri Beth via Pinterest

If you follow our Over My Shoulder Foundation blog, you’ve probably heard us talk about Designing the Next Generation, which is our international conversation about raising the awareness of mentoring relationships and the powerful impact that they can make.

Perhaps you have decided that you want to be a part of this initiative and become a mentor for an aspiring young professional. One of the most important things that you can do as a mentor is to clearly understand the responsibilities of the position that you will be undertaking. To help best prepare you for what you are signing up for, we wanted to share some useful information for how to be a good mentor:

  • Understand that you will be taking on a role as both a coach and advisor. Not only will you offer useful and meaningful advice to your mentee, you will also need to be prepared to offer feedback when necessary.
  • You will need to provide encouragement and support to your mentee when necessary. Being a mentor is not just about instructing your mentee on what to do. A huge component of this role is to be a sounding board and provide the necessary support that your mentee needs to achieve his or her goals.
  • Offer resources. Sometimes you will not have all of the answers, and sharing your contacts and resources with your mentee can be extremely valuable.
  • Encourage new ways of thinking. Sometimes it’s okay to play devil’s advocate with your mentee to encourage him to think through important decisions.

To learn more about how to be a good mentor, contact us!


I have experienced much success in my career due to the mentors that have impacted my life, which is why I co-founded the Over My Shoulder Foundation with Patti Austin. We often like to use our blog as an opportunity to highlight strong and formidable mentoring programs, and we would be remiss if we did not mention the SUCCESS Mentoring Program at Texas Woman’s University.


SUCCESS can help you start off on the right foot at Texas Woman’s University. Source: Mentor Works Ltd. via Pinterest

There are few programs out there dedicated to women in mentoring, and the SUCCESS Mentoring Program has been designed to cater to women that are first-generation college attendees in their family. Through this program, mentors will be provided to these young women to provide them with the support that they need to have a successful first year of college and lay the foundation for future years.

Participants in the program will not only have their mentors to help guide them through this process, but an entire support network of peers that are also part of the program. Through activities that encourage social interaction, leadership development, and educational success, these women will be better prepared and are more likely to stay in school through graduation.

The mentors in the program are upperclassmen and can offer valuable experience and expertise for the challenges that incoming freshmen often face in their first year. The program participants will meet with their mentors one-on-one twice each month in addition to attending monthly social activities within the group. This is a great way to foster long-lasting, positive relationships that will continue throughout the participants’ college careers.

To learn more about this program, please contact Michelle Buggs: 940-898-3679.

If you are interested in learning more about Mentorology or Designing the Next Generation, please contact us at the Over My Shoulder Foundation.