[box]Designers recognize potential the second they enter a new space. With confidence they understand exactly what they can make a room…become. “What do you see that I can be?” is what a spiritless space will ask. “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, and today’s guest writer KNOWS those similarities inside and out. We are very pleased to introduce Jen Duchane who graciously wrote this piece about mentoring in the design world.

Jen Duchene focuses on her book, Le Chic Cocoon: 7 steps to Creating Your Selfish Space, which encourages women to create spaces that truly allow them to BE THEMSELVES. It’s a fascinating study in how designing the right space can help you grow into the person you are meant to be. As if that’s not enough, Jen offers coaching programs for polite women to find their seat of power.

Designers like Jen are the allies we need for Designing the Next Generation, Over My Shoulder Foundation’s national conversation about mentoring in the design world.

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


On Why I Wrote Le Chic Cocoon, the Book about Creating Space that Mirrors YOU

Why did I write Le Chic Cocoon? What tall tale spun, enchanted me enough to break a spell of years? I think I was born a dreamer and a scribe. A biddable child, wanting to please and to be enthralled.

It’s an odd coupling to be both a leader and easily led. Down the garden path. Wanting only to go merrily on my way. Designing in mud, sticks and paint. In my teens I devoured every book I could lay my hands on, lost in a dream world. Drawing floor plans and moving furniture.

At twelve I was reading adult books. Dipping into the world of pen and page. I soon discovered Virginia Woolf, and hung onto the grace and grief within her prose. I had no sacred space of my own, no secret castle I could conquer. Years later when the life I lived crumbled, I discovered a secret covered in bramble. Joy and the ability to cherish my own dreams, to open my heart to me.  The stranger, my hero who had lived invisible within.

I had woven a wall of fear, scared to trust even myself. Virginia was right, walls are necessary to flourish within. We need a sacred retreat of our own to cherish our inner wildness. To surrender to our desires. Of course being in the decorating business I knew that not just any room would do. It needs to express its owner. To be both talisman and essence. That very secret walled retreat needed to be a jewel box and barred against the well meaning. A caterpillar may crawl in, gasping for a martini, and a butterfly would emerge, life and the room deliciously evolved.

On How I Started Mentoring

My membership in mentorship began before I knew what a mentor was or why I would need one. I found guidance between the sheets of book, in the comfort of paper and ink, in plans and budding rooms. My parents opened up my imagination to worlds beyond what I could see. School, life and my beautiful child. Travel, conversation and a curiosity.

How I Find My Mentors

When I decided to change the way I did business, I found a mentor. As I grow, there they appear. A shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, an ear to listen in. Precious both in their belief in me, and the confidence that comes from having unconditional support. Having someone who has traveled my path. Not too far up ahead on the road. Someone who can coax me forward when I start stumbling. Those days when I feel helpless and hopeless and wonder what the point is. When I want to hide under the bedclothes.  Too scared to try something new. The negative tailspin that crumples the butterfly wings, because someone told me I sucked.

About the Polite Woman and How I Mentor HER

I started Le Chic Living andThe Polite Woman’s Power Rules because I realized that the women I guide need boundaries. They want to ask for what they want, in a way that keeps them safe, free to express their own voice.. To be able to say no without being a bitch or feeling guilty or mad or sad. To create a life of elegant passion, so that these women can feel safe, accepted, loved, and deeply content. Having a room that feels right and cherished is a powerful tool. I mentor women and girls who need a little guidance in the creative fields or to find their seat of power.

We all have our myths and our mentors. I prefer to choose mine with deliberation. Some have been long term and some fleeting. Building my life and my own Le Chic Cocoon means starting from scratch. Even if I am going to use some or all of what I already have, I still need that talisman to create the essence in the room. The raison d’etre that spills out beyond the walls. Bringing in the light and the view. Using every piece of real estate with intention. Every surface designed to please and reflect me.

I know that creating a space without, to reflect  and support what I hold dear within, is the most rewarding boundaries I will ever build. Every step to the door of my lair, every yes, and each helping hand is all part of the grand design of life.

Joie de Vivre,
Jen Duchene


[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]


[box]Today’s mentoring story is brought to you by Madge Woods, the board president for the Action Committee for Women in Prison. That committee advocates for the humane and compassionate treatment of all incarcerated women, collaborates with other organizations dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system, works for the release of individual women prisoners who pose no danger to society, informs and educates the public and promotes a shift of focus from punishment to rehabilitation and restorative justice. We KNOW that mentoring after prison transforms lives, as demonstrated by the mentoring story of Attorney Rick Dyer.

Through this mentoring story, Madge has proven that a thoughtful, caring mentor WILL improve the lives of others AND reduce recidivism, which is a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior. Mentoring after prison isn’t something that we normally think about, but give it a thought today!

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


I met her on parole, and now she’s AMAZING.

Keisha is my mentee, technically really not anymore as she finished parole April 29, 2011, 5 years from almost the day I met her.

 Meeting My Mentee

Keisha has become so much more than what she was the day I met her. She had trouble making choices about everything (no choices in prison). She was more like the teenager she was when imprisoned at age 15 1/2 than the 32 year old woman standing in front of me.

Having been one of the first juveniles tried as an adult in California she was sentenced to life plus 9. I never did understand this sentencing. When I first met Keisha, after she was out a month, we went to lunch with a program that we both signed up for, Volunteers in Parole (which is now de-funded). She was nervous and didn’t know how this would all work. But by the end of the lunch we were matched and the bond started.

 Starting the Mentoring Process

For 5 years we hung out. We went to museums, plays, shopping, lunches, dinners. Mostly we spent time just talking, in person and on the phone. We are very different. Our lives couldn’t have been farther from each other but somehow we waded through. I talked and asked questions and sometimes she answered me and sometimes she had no trust that she could tell me what she needed to say. But with time and work and energy we started to be friends rather than mentor/mentee. I guess this is proof of the Mentorology cycle at work!

She’s Starting to Transform…

Keisha’s life after prison started back where SHE started. Living with her disabled Mom immediately put Keisha back in the position of daughter, only now she was taking care of her mother. We talked about her roles in life, her roles in her family and her dreams for her future, which needed a job to get going.

Keisha got a job right away and it took a while to find the right fit. A few jobs later she settled in and at the same time started thinking about helping those lifers still in prison and those outside. She joined groups and started speaking out on her story. She spoke on stage and with friends and among total strangers. She started to become the adult she searched for.

After mastering driving and cooking and making a place for herself within her Mom’s home, Keisha flourished. She dreamed of the day she was off parole so she could move to her own place and start the life she so deserved and worked so hard to attain. Now, 5 years later, she is reaching all her goals. If she had buried a list when going to prison, I think she would feel she is moving farther away from that 15 year old and more to who she believes she can be and checking off items on that list.

Continuing the Transformation

From that first day, I cared about Keisha. I tried to introduce concepts that she had never learned or seen in her family-saving, checking accounts, credit cards, and insurance. She thrived and started saving for emergencies and for her future. Did she always make the best choices? No, but she made choices and accepted consequences and grew from each encounter.

She  had her tattoos removed from Homeboys and became active in prison reform. She started talking and couldn’t stop. She turned her life around. She took advantage of every possible program in prison, she graduated high school, she represented the women in prison less educated than she and helped with rules, regulations and programs in prison. She even went to Toastmasters and became a great speaker. We worked on some language and pronunciation and she continued to write and publish and perform. She became a tax payer, she now can vote and most importantly she broke the family cycle that had led her to crime to begin with.

I have full faith Keisha will never offend again and will not ever put herself in a position where her character could be questioned. Keisha is a success at solving problems and resolving issues. I can honestly say I have learned more from Keisha than she could have possibly learned from me. She became part of my family. She shared my joys and struggles. I have a lifelong friend that I love like my own family. I am so proud of Keisha and I just wanted the world to know it.

A Life Completely Transformed through Mentorology

It is now over 7 years since Keisha was released. She has her own place and is moving soon to be with her Mom in their own place. She has a wonderful job with a big global shipping company and has passed all their requirements with a 100% accuracy. She is going from a temporary employee to full-time and is respected by all her co-workers. She has continued to speak out and help teens and pre-gang groups to see if her lessons can be shared and prevent violence among youth in trouble. Keisha also is in a wonderful relationship with someone who respects her and is a good partner. But most important Keisha introduced me to her life, her friends and I am now involved with the Action Committee for Women in Prison as their board president. Also, when another of her friend got released Keisha encouraged her friend to select me as her mentor. That relationship also has been very successful as well for over 6 years. I love my friendships with these two women and am so proud of them. I truly feel they are my sisters and we share so many great conversations and adventures.

Mentoring works. I live it and breathe it everyday. It has totally changed me and showed me how young, bright women can get caught up in making bad choices but with friendship, time and energy can change and become a remarkable citizen of this country.


[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]

OMSF Media Brief

Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) is a non-profit organization founded by Patti Austin and Dawn Carroll to promote mentoring and Mentorology through music and design. Over My Shoulder Foundation hails Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority as they move forward producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.

Think of “Mentoring”, “Music” and “Design” together. Now envision Over My Shoulder Foundation uniting those worlds with the  guidance of the non-profi t’s two award-winning co-founders.

Continue Reading…

Design for Mentorology

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.

[button link=”http://s3.amazonaws.com/overmyshoulderfoundation/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/13235521/OMSF-ad-Des-NXT-Generation.pdf” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] Read or Save as PDF[/button]


As Posted on December 10, 2012 on design-bloggers-conference

Grammy winner Patti Austin crosses all musical genres, has made 17 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the GRAMMYS® and the Oscars. As a performer, songwriter and vocalist she has had a star-studded career that began at the age of four, making her one of the most beloved artists the world over and a mainstay on the Billboard Jazz Albums charts. Patti’s extraordinary career continues to cross over boundaries and reach new heights.

Patti has had a life-long interest in design. Patti Austin is currently being mentored by Boston’s prestigious design community as she realizes one of her dreams of becoming an interior designer. Patti attributes much of her musical success to her mentors, most notably the close guidance of her godparents Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington.

Because of how important mentoring has been to Patti throughout her life, she co-founded the Over My Shoulder Foundation.

The Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) is a non-profit organization founded by Patti Austin and Dawn Carroll to promote mentoring and Mentorology through music and design. The Over My Shoulder Foundation hails Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority as they move forward producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.

Think of “Mentoring”, “Music” and “Design” together. Now envision the Over My Shoulder Foundation uniting those worlds with the guidance of the non-profit’s two award-winning co-founders.

Dawn Carroll has dedicated a large part of the past 4 years to starting the Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. In fact, her passion for Designing the Next Generation has driven Dawn to draw on all her resources to create the dynamic media-driven non-profit organization that exists to further the concept and application of mentoring.

Dawn has carved out OMSF’s niche in the mentoring world while managing an award worthy design career at CUMAR Marble & Granite, which is currently in its 8th generation of leadership in stone sourcing and fabrication in Everett, MA. Dawn writes, “What do you see that I can be” when considering the similarities of an empty room and an individual who needs a mentor in her article about “Designing the Next Generation”.

OMSF accomplishments keep Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority. As OMSF grows as a non-profit organization they will keep producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.

OMSF partnered with CUMAR Marble & Granite to create and inspire The Boston Globe’s Design New England Magazine MIDDIE (Mentors in Design) awards. The MIDDIES salute design professionals in interior design, architecture, building, landscape design, and related fields, who share their time, expertise, and wisdom with the next generation.

OMSF launched the inaugural “Designing the Next Generation” event in 2012 with Cumar Marble & Granite to expand the mentoring conversation nationally. It was an Inspirational Evening of Mentoring Story and Songs at the Liberty Hotel in Boston featuring speakers Stephen Powell (Executive Director, Mentoring USA), Ted Fujimoto (Founder, The Right to Succeed Foundation) and keynote speaker Attorney Richard Dyer who was introduced by Attorney Gary Greenberg of Greenberg Truarig.

Rick Dyer presented former Presidential Candidate, Governor Michael Dukakis, with a stunning award designed by Cumar Inc. thanking him for the mentoring that allowed him to turn his life around. The audience was graced with beautiful musical performances by Patti Austin, Charlie Farren, Robin Lane, Hal Lebeaux and Julie Silver.

OMSF partnered with well-known brands like the prestigious Poggenpohl kitchen design studios and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Furniture showrooms. The events are just a hint of what is to come nationally as individuals from the worlds of mentoring, music and design are gathering to recognize the importance of Mentorology and help OMSF spread the concept for future generations.

The premier of the Over My Shoulder song with Lianna Gutierrez took place at the 2009 PowerGirls Global Summit with Dr. Johnetta B. Cole’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute. The song is based on Dawn’s belief in hope, courage and transformation. It was written by Dawn Carroll, Charlie Farren, Brynn Arens and Barry Orms.

For more information about the Over My Shoulder Foundation, visit overmyshoulderfoundation.org or contact Dawn Carroll, Co-Founder and Executive Director, by calling (617) 510-2620 or emailing carrollco2@comcast.net.



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



Exciting news is underfoot. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has adopted Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) as its charitable partner in March!

To top it off, both myself and Grammy award winning singing legend Patti Austin (co-founders of OMSF) are being recognized this year for our service in the design community at the New England ASID 2013 Excellence in Design Award gala at the end of March.


ASID New England President Mary Beth Haggerty says, “I know they have poured their heart and soul into mentoring”. That couldn’t be more true. As some of you may know, Over My Shoulder Foundation is my passion project, a side job that I do because sharing and spreading Mentorology (the art and science of mentoring) is the most important thing I can think of doing with my free time. That being said, doing basically 2 full-time jobs is exhausting!


For my “real job” I am a stone designer at Cumar Marble & Granite. Our company is currently in its 8th generation of leadership in stone sourcing and fabrication in Everett, MA. Without mentoring and apprenticeships, the work that we do would not be possible. It is because of both my jobs, Cumar and OMSF, that I am so VERY excited to announce that both I and Patti Austin are being recognized this year for our service in the design community at the New England ASID 2013 Excellence in Design Award ceremonies.

Here’s Patti and I at Cumar, being mentored!

We are being recognized for bringing mentoring to the forefront of thought in the New England design industry. How have we done it? Well, miracles and a LOT of hard work. We’ve launched major events like Designing the Next Generation, an inspirational evening of mentoring story and songs, and the MIDDIES which are the New England award ceremonies designed to recognize design professionals who share their time, expertise, and wisdom with upcoming generations of designers.


With this ASID recognition for the community service we’ve done through OMSF, I am further energized to guide my OMSF Co-Founder Patti Austin (a Grammy Award-winning singing legend and Design Mentee) in the beginnings of her blossoming career as an interior designer.


Mentoring, Music and Design are coming together – more and more each day!


Please root for Patti, Cumar, Over My Shoulder and I as we continue unraveling the dream we have of spreading our passion for Mentorology through Over My Shoulder Foundation!


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


[box type=”shadow”] Have you been mentored to such success that you won an award? Please comment or write to us and share your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation so we can keep inspiring others to focus on Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. Don’t forget to find Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too![/box]


[box]While we champion all aspects of mentoring here at Over My Shoulder Foundation we do not shy away from the sobering gravity of individuals that are existing in the depths of despair. By sharing stories like our feature today and the story of a reformed heroin addict we aim to give hope to the hopeless. Because that’s what mentoring does.

Today Arno Michaelis, speaker and author of My Life After Hate, shares his story in tribute to the woman that gave him hope to borrow. One woman changed the ENTIRE course of his life through a mentoring moment at a fast food joint. CNN calls his 4-minute story “Inside a Life of Hate” when recounting 7 years of his life as a white supremacist. “I’ve beaten people and left them for dead” says Michaelis. In that life, he says “there is no room for happiness, there is no room for joy.” This monstrous life was transformed with that woman’s mentoring into an inspiring mentoring story for us all.

The thing is, mentoring doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process that spans weeks, months and careers. Mentoring can be accomplished in a moment. Every little effort to spread the power of mentoring is energy well-spent. 5 minutes was all it took for Mentorology to turn an extremely racist man into a force of change who mentors others in the practice of embracing diversity and gratitude. Countless people have been inspired to live more compassionately after hearing this story.

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

Dear nice old black lady at McDonald’s,

I think of you fondly and often, and I talk about you all the time.

You wouldn’t think that a cumulative 5 minutes of contact at a fast food restaurant over the course of a few weeks could help change the course of a life, and subsequently change the course of countless other lives, but that’s exactly what happened.

Our paths crossed during a time in my life when I radiated hostility, especially towards anyone with a darker complexion than mine. You demonstrated the courage necessary to respond to my ignorant, fearful aggression with compassion—from behind a cash register at McDonald’s.

I thought I knew all about courage back then. A zeal for violence and the willingness to engage in it at the slightest provocation was my idea of courage. Of course, I thought I knew all about everything. Via an ongoing practice of ignorance, fueled by hate and ego, I had managed to convince myself that white people were superior to everyone else, and that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to wipe us out. I was terrified of the world around me, and confused enough to call that feeling of terror “courage”.

This miserable condition was plainly evident in my appearance. Covered with streetfight scars and homemade tattoos indicative of my angst, steel-toed boots and a shaved head completed the look that said, “I hate you” in no uncertain terms. The many people who crossed the street rather than pass me on the sidewalk were wise to do so. But that first time I walked into the McDonald’s where you worked, I was met with your smile, as warm and unconditional as the sun.

And I shrank in the light of that smile. Such a pathetic lost soul that a genuine smile made me quite uncomfortable. There I was very diligently trying to hate black people, and there you were making doing so seem as stupid as it is simply by smiling at me.

Having drowned the trauma of your smile in cheap beer and hate-rock over the course of a week, I was taken aback by your warm greeting upon my return, this time amplified with your recognition of me. When you asked me how I had been you might as well have asked me to solve Pi to the millionth digit. I was bewildered at the prospect of conversation with someone who wasn’t a violent white racist. Once again, I looked down at my boots, mumbled a strained response, and scurried off with my Big Mac as fast as I could.

That weekend I had a swastika tattooed on the middle finger of my right hand.

Strategically placed so that when someone responded to my aggression with some of their own I could show it to them before closing that hand into a fist and hitting them. Willfully ignorant of the wrongness steeped into the swastika during the Holocaust, all I thought of was the cheap thrill of offending people.

But when I walked into McDonald’s for that third payday Big Mac, you took no offense.

Instead you smiled, and asked how was my day, and if I was going to have a Big Mac again, and you remembered that I drank Diet Coke. Thoughtless, I had managed to forget my discomfort with your past kindness. I would have chosen another restaurant for my one meal a week that wasn’t ramen noodles, which I ate otherwise to conserve drinking money.

At 6’3” tall, I towered almost a foot above you, but I felt about six inches tall as it dawned on me that I didn’t want you to see the swastika. As the ancient symbol hijacked by hate was needled into my finger the Saturday before, I relished the idea of it being the exclamation point on my ongoing flip-off to the world. I sloshed and stumbled around the city, showing my middle finger con swastika to anyone unfortunate enough to encounter me.

I tried hard to keep my hand behind my back, and awkwardly dug into my front pocket palm-up to fish a $20 fresh from the check-cashing place to pay for my meal. But as the money went from my hand to yours, the swastika was revealed.

The look in your eyes for the split-second they met mine before I shamefully looked away is still clear as day over two decades later. It was the same look my grandma gave me when I used to torment my poor little brother. A look that said, “I love you, but let’s stop this foolishness.”

“What is that on your finger?” you said, gently but firmly.

“…it’s nothing.”

I should have said, “I’m nothing”, as that’s how I felt for coming before you with such disrespect.

“You’re a better person than that. I know that’s not who you are.”

Powerless against such compassion, such engagement with the human being I was despite my best efforts, I snatched my food from the counter and my change from your steady hand, and fled from your steady smile and authentic presence, never to return to your McDonald’s again.

It would have been nice if that experience of humanity changed me on the spot, but it didn’t. I went back to my dingy house and got drunk out my mind, blasting white power music with my white power buddies, and slurring some nonsense about Jews taking my money from my paycheck and giving it to lazy black people. We set out on the streets to find someone to beat up. People were beaten that night, and throughout the next seven years, for no reason other than the color of their skin, their assumed homosexuality, their religion, or just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet a seed was planted in my heart that day you saw it behind the swastika. A seed hardy enough to take root and sprout in the desolation of fear and ignorance. The seedling grew, attracting like seeds. Together with my family that refused to give up on me, and my daughter who needed me, the kindness of peace warriors like yourself brought love to my life until there was no longer room for hate.

Today I share this ongoing process of learning and growth. Over the past three years, I have had face-to-face contact with over 7000 people, and exponentially more via media worldwide. A nonagenarian black man once told me that I gave him hope. An eleven year-old Latino boy told me he could see how bad I felt for hurting people and that he felt sorry for me. Gay men and Jewish women call me brother. Countless lives were involved leading me to where I am now, and countless people have been inspired to live more compassionately after hearing my story.

A story that couldn’t be quite the same if you weren’t in it.

Thank you.

with love and gratitude,

[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, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.[/box]

[box]Kay Goldstein has enjoyed a multifaceted career that includes professional work as a psychotherapist, chef/entrepreneur, author, poet and meditation teacher. She is married and has two grown children. Kay enjoys a variety of leisure activities that include photography, kayaking, gardening, cooking and theater. Star Child, published in 2012 is her second book and first fiction story.

Today Kay is being interviewed by Shannon Smith, a youngster from Boston, MA. You know what? This isn’t the first time that Over My Shoulder Foundation has handed the reigns over to a young inquiring mind and gotten amazing results. Remember when 7-year-old Carly Ann Connors did a mentoring interview with American Idol contestant Ayla Brown? These interviews demonstrate how the Mentorology cycle makes magic for those involved, the mentor (traditionally older) becomes the mentee…

Enjoy this interview.

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

“I have always believed that  the things we say and do in the presence of a young person can have great impact, even years later and even when we have long forgotten the encounter. We never know, as we live our lives and draw from our many experiences, how we can be of real help to others. But we must try to remember that our attention and focus in the presence of another can be a real gift.” 

-Kay Goldstein on Mentoring

Shannon Smith: Hello my name is Shannon Smith from Boston,Massachusetts. I am here to ask you about your wonderful and inspiring mentoring book, Star Child. Questions like: why you wrote it, what is love. This book is a really wonderful and inspiring book.  It made me feel like everyone is special in their own way. I really want to know, what message do you want people to get from this book?

Kay Goldstein: I loved getting your request and hearing how much you felt inspired by Star Child. You obviously got the main point, which is that everyone is special in their own way and that our purpose is to find our true selves and express those gifts.

I wrote the book because I was inspired by the characters who sort of arrived in my imagination in moment of inspiration- and totally unexpectedly. I then found that I loved the images of world that was flowing onto the page. I liked being in my own imagination and was constantly surprised by what happened. I also thought it was a great way to think about important questions about life and reflect some of the things I had been learning. But mostly I wrote it because I loved doing that.


What is love? I don’t think I have all the words necessary to describe it. Love is bigger than all the words put together.  It is the driving energy /force of the universe. Love is most powerful when allowed to flow freely from our hearts. It then connects to everything  and everyone.


This book was based on love, compassion and soul mates do you personally have an experience like this?

I am fortunate to have many experiences of feeling unconditional love and acceptance and compassion. Many people have shown me how to find this: some were formal teachers, others were family members, others were friends or even strangers. I think that the most important thing is that we learn to feel unconditional love and compassion for ourselves.

About soulmates: Terra and Marius were obviously very powerfully connected from the beginning. But what the story shows is that they learn to be fully themselves before they can freely offer themselves in relationship to the other.  Every relationship has the potential to teach us new things about ourselves and can therefore have meaning. Sometimes relationships feel very negative and we can learn something from that too.  One of my wise teachers once said, “a Soul does not need a mate.” I think that may be true, but I also believe that some relationships help bring us closer to our true self than others. The closer we are to living as our best self, the more likely we are to find others to support that journey.

As for my personal journey, I have been married for 42 years. I can’t honestly say that my husband is or is not my soulmate. But I know that I am constantly learning something from this relationship and that it continues to grow in a loving way. I feel clearly that our relationship was meant to be.


The girl “Terra” in this book takes care of and helps a couple. How did you come up with this?

Terra’s relationship with the old couple reminds me of times when I grew up in my grandfather’s house. I used to help him in his workshop and I loved sewing and being useful. I did not purposely try to incorporate this into the story, but it was easy to draw on my own experience and sweet to remember how much I liked doing those things. I have also been a caretaker of others as they aged.


What inspired/drove you to become an author and your other occupations?

That is a good question. There are times I wondered myself. Since I have had many careers and jobs, one would have to wonder why I kept changing and evolving. Each time I made a change in my work, it was because something really drew me to it. When I stopped practicing as a psychotherapist and became a full time cook and food entrepreneur, it was because I loved doing it and found a way to really express my creativity. But I used the skills I had learned previously to help manage employees and the stresses of running a business.

Later I sold my business when I had small children and found it impossible to do both without burning out. Each time I thought I was changing my self image and public identity along with my career. But something about me and how I look at and interact with the world never really changed. Looking back, I see now how everything I have done has led me to this particular juncture in my life: writing and talking about the challenges and meaning of life here on Earth.


Why did you pick these characters to take place in this book?

I think the characters picked me 😉  Some were drawn from my life experience, but sometimes they just appeared on the page when I was writing. It can happen when we let go and just let our imaginations take over.


Do you want this book to help other children’s lives? What do you mostly want them to get from reading this book?

I do hope that young people find comfort and inspiration from this book and can use it as a kind of roadmap to remind them of ways to travel on their life journey. I think though that that only thing I really know about this book right now is the joy and love I felt in writing it. I hope all my readers experience some of that.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your inspiring book, Star Child.

I am so happy to be able to answer your questions about Star Child and the process of writing the book. From beginning to end, from the first moment of inspiration to the day of publication, was more than 15 years! That seems like an awfully long time to be writing such a simple and relatively short book. But it believe that it took that long for me to be able to both understand the purpose of the book and to become simple enough to write it 🙂

Are you inspired by an author, a teacher, a friend? Tell us how they mentored you! Please SHARE your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation, consider donating to our non-profit and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.


[box] Patti Austin, Over My Shoulder Foundation co-founder and Grammy Award winning singing legend, reflects on her design mentors. Look out, she’s going to get awards for her design work pretty soon![/box]

This article appeared originally on Patti’s website.

I couldn’t say goodbye to 2012 without reflecting on all my magical DESIGN mentors in Boston who graciously shared their time, wisdom and expertise and helped mentor me as I pursued learning more about my passion of Interior Design.

Enjoy this amazing video that designers Leslie Fine owner of Leslie Fine Interiors and Rosemary Porto from the luxurious kitchen design firm Poggenpohl had made for our Over My Shoulder Foundation last June…


And you must see this amazing video that was shot at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Boston showroom on Thank Your Mentor Day last January…

Lastly, I would like to thank my friend and Over My Shoulder co-founder Dawn Carroll and her company Cumar Marble & Granite for mentoring me!

January is National Mentoring Month… Who mentored you? Who is your navigator? Go to Over My Shoulder Foundation or visit our Facebook page and tell us your story!

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, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.


[box] Lois Alter Mark is a writer making her impact in the world through StyleSubstanceSoul, the blog she publishes with her two best friends. They say that style, substance and soul combine in amazing ways to create the eSSSence of a woman. They have coined eSSSence in the same way that Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) has coined MENTOROLOGY.

Both those words have taken on their own lives and now exist in a web of magnetic meaning. Both those words become action-initializing and thought-provoking reasons to fight for a cause and shout from the rooftops why the concepts are important. Today we give you a glimpse into the life and world of the dynamic and inspiring Lois Alter Mark.[/box]


So, Lois, what was the pivotal moment when you, Amy and Susan decided to launch your website?

Four years ago, the three of us were disgusted with what was happening in the world – yes, it was an election year! — and we decided it was time to stop shouting back at the TV and actually do something. We wanted to set a good example for our then-teenage daughters (and son!), and show them they had the power to make a difference in the world by taking action and making their voices heard. We started StyleSubstanceSoul specifically because we believe in the power of women to get things done and we knew if we could build a strong community of women, we could make an impact.

Amy Krause, Lois Mark, Susan Jensen

Amy, Lois and Susan – Creators of the Website StyleSubstanceSoul


We define Mentorology as “the art and science of mentoring” here at Over My Shoulder Foundation. Do you think that there is an art and a science behind the eSSSence of a woman?

I think there’s probably more of an art to “style,” a science to “substance” and a spirituality to “soul.” You need all three to be complete. Our tagline is “look good, feel good, do good,” and each of those is a very important component of being a woman. The “do good” aspect is the one that’s most important to us – and the one that sets us apart from other sites – but it’s really the individual way style, substance and soul combine that makes up the essence of a woman.


Out of over 100,000 applicants, you were selected to go to Australia with Oprah. What was it like meeting Oprah? Can you boil down the eSSSence of how her work has mentored your own?

 I was chosen as an Ultimate Viewer after writing about how Oprah had inspired and mentored me over the past 25 years, with StyleSubstanceSoul being the most tangible expression of that. Oprah is all about “living your best life,” and that’s what we try to help women do with StyleSubstanceSoul. Just like Oprah, we feature our favorite things and lots of books and authors but, most importantly, we also showcase women who are involved in charitable projects, we introduce readers to causes and we offer easy ways to do good. For example, in our Click a Day section, you can just click a few buttons and, without any cost or even getting off your couch, you provide free mammograms to women who can’t afford them, help save the rainforests and protect endangered animals. It’s so simple. We also started a flip flop recycling project, Formerly Flip Flops, where readers would send us old flip flops and we’d forward them on to UniquEco, an award-winning company in Africa which upcycles them into jewelry and pieces of art, keeping them out of landfills and building a sustainable economy in Nairobi. In our Shop with a Conscience section, we feature small, women-owned businesses that are eco-friendly or socially-conscious, or that re-use, recycle or give back in some way.


I am overwhelmed that Oprah acknowledged StyleSubstanceSoul, and it’s still surreal that the three of us got to accompany her on the trip of a lifetime. Meeting her was amazing. She is exactly who you think she is – warm, down to earth, real. When you talk to her, she locks eyes with you, listens closely and asks questions that make you feel she really hears you. She is so generous – and I don’t mean what she gives away. One afternoon, she made a speech to all of us, saying that nobody was there by mistake, that she knew every person’s story and that each one of us was there for a reason. That was so powerful to me because there I was, thinking that all these other people had overcome huge obstacles and struggles, and all I did was start a website for women. I will always be grateful for her words, for the amazing people I met on the trip and for the extraordinary experience.


Lois won the People’s Choice Award in the Op-Ed category of the 2012 BlogHer Voices of the Year ceremony for her story, “It’s Time To Re-Think Pink”. Cancer is actually the thread that tied Dawn to Lois in the first place. Dawn’s friend Johanna was diagnosed with stage IV of a rare EGFR rare cancer mutation. Johanna started a campaign called Put a Cork in Cancer for its cure – starting with her own roots in Boston’s restaurant industry. Lois, where are your roots? And how do they affect the work you are doing now?

My roots lie in a close-knit family from New York City, where I was raised by liberal, hard-working parents who always encouraged me to follow my dreams and help others. They made me believe that anything was possible, and that I had nothing to lose by trying. Thankfully, I have no personal ties to cancer but when I read Johanna’s story, I knew I had the power to help spread her story and her cause. That’s what we try to use StyleSubstanceSoul for – to make women aware of what’s going on out there and what they can do to help. I believe people in general want to do something to make the world a better place, but they don’t know what to do. If they can do something as easy as donating corks, we’ve given them a practical, manageable action that will make a difference. I was very proud of winning the People’s Choice Award because it meant people were actually reading the piece and learning new ways to look at and donate to breast cancer charities.


You’ve built a multifaceted career including work as contributing writer for the Huffington Post, Flicks for Kids Editor on NickJr.com and the co-author of Wonderplay. What is it that you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of the incredible community we’ve built with StyleSubstanceSoul.com. Our readers are doers, and there’s nothing more rewarding than when they email us to tell us how they’ve taken action after reading something we’ve written. We’ve had teachers start their own flip flop recycling programs, and readers become mentors in the Afghan Women’s Writing Program. Readers have sewn dresses out of pillowcases for girls in Africa and collected toiletries for girls in need here in San Diego. They’ve written letters to politicians and boycotted companies selling sexist t-shirts. The list goes on and on, and this is how change happens.


Can you tell us a little bit about how mentoring has impacted your life, and how you can envision mentoring growing in the future?

When I was getting my master’s degree in public relations at Boston University, I did an internship at Sack Theaters and was mentored by Sherry Natkow, who became a close and dear friend. I spend time with her every time I go back to New York. She is smart and creative and compassionate, and I still learn so much from her. I’ve tried to do that for other women in every job I’ve held, and hope we are doing that through StyleSubstanceSoul.com. I am a huge believer in the importance – and power – of paying it forward. In fact, Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, was a big inspiration for us when she was on The Oprah Show years ago, and we would love to have her as a personal mentor. Just throwing that into the universe – hey, as my parents always taught me, it’s worth a try!

 Thank you, Lois, for the time you spent with us in this interview about Essence, Mentoring and Writing.

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, especially this January during National Mentoring Month.

[box] In these first few weeks of the New Year the gyms are packed, runners are everywhere (even in the cold!) and to-do lists are mastered. Mentors help us make and keep our resolutions year round, and that is just one of the many reasons we are here to bring mentoring stories and events to you and your circle of friends and family.

Please enjoy these thoughts today, from Blü who urges us to welcome the new year. Jennifer “Blü” DESIGNED her words to be read along with the MUSIC of Helen Jane Long, specifically, the extended version of the song The Aviators. It’s a wonderful experience to listen and read, so let the sounds and words MENTOR you by listening and reading at the same time.

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


The Music – by Blü

written to Helen Jane Long’s song The Aviators (extended version)    

 As the evening dissolves into the last of 2012, I am called to remember the past 365 days. I am beckoned like the moon to the night sky to count the stars of my successes and failures. These keys begin to fashion themselves into the chorus of my mind, reaching out to explain and examine my life, as if in accounting for the events which have brought me here I will discover their truth.  However, before I can even begin to determine what truth is, I must first define where success and failure reside.


So what does it mean to be successful?  Is it adorations?  Is the complement of hands in a wave of symphonic applause? or is it the sunsets of days well lived?  And what of failures?  How are they defined? Are they the silent shadows cast after long expectations extinguish in the bright light of a new direction? Are they the will unmoved by the simplicities of knowing the path but not taking it?  And who am I to define them? Is some measure of friendship or great work the definition I seek to be what I long to be?  Is stepping out against the angst of my nature to leave at the curb the dust of my past the way to discover who I am?


I, honestly, cannot give you an answer which will suit you.


And as I write this, I can never be sure the answers to these questions. What I can say, is all of this is part of the journey to a life well lived. Successes and failures dance in a song of our own making.  The music is our dreams and the dreams of others woven in a tapestry of searchings and longings played about on the stardust of our attempts. In this music, we are the instruments, the resounding – the re-sounding, of every moment of try.  Every moment of doubt and every willingness to risk all lingers in the halls of our minds and into the universe of all we encounter. Will we hit all the notes in perfect pitch or is perfection the evidence of a life un-risked?  Who am I to tell you what success and failures are?  Who am I but a poet and a writer, a believer, a dreamer, a hoper, a stumbler, a fist-shaker?  Who am I but who I choose every day to be? and just as a drop of rain cannot determine where it will land, only that it will quench whatever place it comes to rest… so can I never know how my life will mix in the great melody of our days.


But what I can say, and what I can know, is with every moment, every breath taken in, I have the choice to be what each day calls of me.  I can step out against fear and doubt to risk making mistakes to make the world, my world… our world… a bit better. Sometimes the music played will be triumphant, other times quickened and outpaced by chords gone awry, and still others slow and steadily noted as it paces to a quiet end.


And now as I think of it, the only true failure would be to not play. To extinguish every action in the swell of no action, no words, no writing.


So these are my words to myself, and to you.  We are but stars, noted out in the grand universe of our makings.  And no matter what happens in the next 365 days, it is our choice to shine… or sing… or write… or play,… or dance… speak, create, love, gather, share, long suffer, trudge forward or to not.   We are the music.  Let us find the song and rejoice in all of its wondrous cords – successes and failures.  Let us make the music to tell our stories and be who we are called to be.  Let us put away doubt and fear.  Let us embrace each other, lift up when one is down, reach out when needed, comfort when called, and dance in the storms.  For in these things, we become the music.


We are…  the music.


Welcome 2013 may your symphony be….   as it should.

If you liked this post you can find more from Blu on her blog or on Facebook.

If you like Over My Shoulder Foundation, please SHARE your mentoring stories and find Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too – especially during National Mentoring Month in January.

[box] Dawn Carroll and Over My Shoulder Foundation celebrate Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority as they move forward producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring. Think of “Mentoring”, “Music” and “Design” together. Now envision Over My Shoulder Foundation uniting those worlds in the New Year. Now, some thoughts from Dawn.[/box]

As designers we listen to the dream then we create a set of blue prints. We assemble a professional creative team and then we navigate.


We take underdeveloped space and guide it to greatness. We constantly recalibrate and engineer our decisions with our trusted team.


We strip away the confusion, scrub away the errors and a deprived atmosphere evaporates. With the very best of our efforts we influence the space to become dazzling.

Under our watchful eye, a productive, enthusiastic space begins to ooze with confidence. We mentor rooms to become the essential ingredient to happy-healthy homes-nurturing spaces that weave old-fashioned goodness into our modern lives.


Happy New Year from Over My Shoulder Foundation & Dawn Carroll

[box] To clarify where Over My Shoulder Foundation fits in the world of mentoring non-profits, we’ve taken a look at what we’ve done and where we want to go.

Right now, we mainly produce live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.

Please download the one-page information sheet about Over My Shoulder Foundation to get to know us more and then share it so that we can bring you more stories and events about mentoring, music and design!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director [/box]
Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) is a non-profit organization founded by Patti Austin and Dawn Carroll to promote mentoring and Mentorology through music and design. Over My Shoulder Foundation hails Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority as they move forward producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.
Think of “Mentoring”, “Music” and “Design” together. Now envision Over My Shoulder Foundation uniting those worlds with the guidance of the non-profit’s two award-winning co-founders.


Grammy winner Patti Austin crosses all musical genres, has made 17 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the GRAMMYS® and the Oscars. As a performer, songwriter and vocalist she has had a star-studded career that began at the age of four, making her one of the most beloved artists the world over and a mainstay on the Billboard Jazz Albums charts. She is Patti Austin, whose extraordinary career continues to cross over boundaries and reach new heights. Because of how important mentoring has been to Patti throughout her life, she co-founded Over My Shoulder Foundation. Patti attributes much of her musical success to her mentors most notably the close guidance of her godparents Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington. Patti Austin is currently being mentored by Boston’s prestigious design community with Dawn’s expertise as her guiding light as she realizes one of her dreams of becoming an interior designer.


Dawn Carroll has dedicated a large part of the past 4 years to starting Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. In fact, her passion for Designing the Next Generation has driven Dawn to draw on all her resources to create the dynamic media-driven non-profit organization that exists to further the concept and application of mentoring. Dawn has carved out OMSF’s niche in the mentoring world while managing an award worthy design career at CUMAR Marble & Granite which is currently in its 8th generation of leadership in stone sourcing and fabrication in Everett, MA. Dawn writes, “What do you see that I can be” when considering the similarities of an empty room and an individual who needs a mentor in her article about “Designing the Next Generation“.



OMSF Accomplishments keep Mentorology, the art and science of mentoring, as the number-one priority. As OMSF grows as a non-profit organization they will keep producing live events which bring together industry leaders in order to pay tribute to great mentors and put the spotlight on the importance of mentoring.

  • MIDDIES: OMSF partnered with CUMAR Marble & Granite to create and inspire The Boston Globe’s Design New England Magazine MIDDIE (Mentors in Design) awards. The MIDDIES salute design professionals in interior design, architecture,building, landscape design, and related fields, who share their time, expertise, and wisdom with the next generation.

  • DESIGNING THE NEXT GENERATION: OMSF launched the inaugural “Designing the Next Generation” event in 2012 with Cumar Marble & Granite to expand the mentoring conversation nationally. It was an Inspirational Evening of Mentoring Story and Songs at the Liberty Hotel in Boston featuring speakers Stephen Powell (Executive Director, Mentoring USA), Ted Fujimoto (Founder, The Right to Succeed Foundation) and keynote speaker Attorney Richard Dyer who was introduced by Attorney Gary Greenberg of GreenbergTruarig. Rick Dyer presented former Presidential Candidate, Governor Michael Dukakis, with a stunning award designed by Cumar Inc. thanking him for the mentoring that allowed him to turn his life around. The audience was graced with beautiful musical performances by Patti Austin, Charlie Farren, Robin Lane, Hal Lebeaux and Julie Silver.

  • DESIGN-CENTRIC MENTORING PRODUCTIONS: OMSF partnered with well-known brands like the prestigious Poggenpohl kitchen design studios and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Furniture showrooms. The events are just a hint of what is to come nationally as individuals from the worlds of mentoring,music and design are gathering to recognize the importance of Mentorology and help OMSF spread the concept for future generations.



  •  Premier of the Over My Shoulder Song with Lianna Gutierrez at the 2009 PowerGirls Global Summit with Dr. Johnetta B. Cole’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute. The song is based on Dawn’s belief in hope, courage and transformation. It was written by Dawn Carroll, Charlie Farren, Brynn Arens and Barry Orms.

  • Patti Austin honors the life and work of a man she considers “one of the greatest mentors of all time” in “Raise the Roof: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., In Song” with Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stars Kyle and Chris Massey and the Boston Children’s Chorus under the direction of Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King. The performance was broadcasted live to 171 Countries.

  • Patti Austin performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra in “Visions of America”, a mentor-centric musical performance 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 at the Boston Symphony Orchestra is one to remember!

For more information abut Over My Shoulder Foundation, visit overmyshoulderfoundation.org or contact Dawn Carroll, Co-Founder and Executive Director, by calling (617) 510-2620 or emailing carrollco2@comcast.net.

You can download a copy of our Over My Shoulder Foundation Media Brief, Over My Shoulder at a Glance here

[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]


Dear Readers,

This topic is so close to heart because finding a mentor is important to everyone. Finding a mentor is SO IMPORTANT that I have dedicated a large part of my life to starting Over My Shoulder Foundation and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. Justin Locke, a previous member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, appeals to teenagers as he writes this Beginners Guide to Being a Successful Mentee. Yet, most of as really ARE all still just kids at heart wondering what we’re going to DO when we grow up. Mentoring IS often understood as an older person teaching someone younger how to do a specific thing, or teach that youngster some lessons about life. Yet in Mentorology there is an even exchange. Mentor and mentee share valuable insights with each other and grow because of it.

Even Warren Buffet’s career advice is to “do what you’d do if you were independently wealthy.” Why not start now by finding a mentor? It’s so easy with Justin Locke’s step-by-step mentoring advice below.

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


Okay, so you’re a high school kid who has been reading this Over My Shoulder blog, and now you’re saying to yourself, “wow, how do I get in on some of this fabulous mentoring action?” Well, read on, we will explain the basics
of how to do it, or at least one approach.

Finding a mentor is actually pretty easy to do. Even if you’ve never encountered someone who took any interest in you up until now, if you follow the rules and procedures, you too can have a fabulous mentoring experience.



Step one: It all starts with desire. Here is a trite question, but it’s also one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself: what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s kind of important to not take this lightly. Also, you are probably surrounded by people who are trying to influence your decision and tell you what they think you should want. So sit down in a nice quiet room someplace all by yourself and imagine that everyone around you is happy and content and willing to accept whatever career decision you make on your own. And then, ask yourself that question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Bear in mind, this can be difficult, and you may not get it right the first time. This is a process of discovery. But before you can present yourself as a candidate for mentoring, you need to at least say, “I am seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I was hoping you could give me some advice in the matter.”


The next step is finding potential mentors and hooking up with them. This is a whole lot easier than you might think. Start close to home, in your current “network.” Ask your parents if they know someone. Ask your friends and their parents if they know someone. If that doesn’t work out, start expanding your network. For example, there are wonderful things in every town in America called “Rotary Clubs.” They sponsor all sorts of programs for high school kids, including scholarships and leadership training. Not only that, but practically every Rotary club has at least one lawyer, one doctor, one banking professional, one real estate agent, and one everything else. They know everybody. They are a magnificent resource of connection, they would be happy to give you some advice, and all you have to do to start is send an email to the president of the club.


The next step is, again, based on the answer to the question in step one. You want to say to these people, “I’m seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I’m looking for an adult who can give me some advice.” It is important that you be serious about your desire, because they will notice right away if you aren’t. Also they will notice right away if you are, and that will command respect.

Now at this point you may be asking, “why would any of these busy people want to take time out of their day to spend time talking to me?” The answer is, for all sorts of reasons. Every single one of these people was, one
time or another, a teenage kid just like you, so they can empathize with your current situation more than you might think. Many of them will have memories of being a somewhat lost and confused teenager, wishing that
someone had helped them out and given them guidance. Helping you is a way to heal their own past. Or perhaps someone helped them out way back when, and now they are eager to “pay it forward.”

There’s also just plain old ego. Many people are eager to share their philosophy, or just show off their knowledge. And no matter who you are, it feels good to help other people. And don’t forget, there is tremendous
“equity” in youth. Older people like to be around younger people. You’re so full of life.

Getting Into Your Mentoring Relationship

There are all sorts of ways to get into a mentoring relationship. You can take someone to lunch. Or, you might volunteer or sign-up for an internship. The best mentoring opportunities are totally unique and don’t
fall into any pre-existing forms. To make it happen, just hang around, or maybe offer to make yourself useful. Ask people the magic question: “How can I help you?” Offer to help out with menial tasks or just
sweeping up the place. If you want to be a lawyer, filing the papers or washing the windows in a real law office for a couple of weeks will tell you more about the actual business than any book on constitutional law.

Once you hook up with a mentor, bear in mind, being a good mentee is not the same as being a good student. This is not a relationship where you should be eager to demonstrate that you “know the answer.”
The real world is not school. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Be humble. And remember this principle of applied stupidity: “The dumber you look, the more stuff people will tell you.”

There are more mentoring opportunities out there than you can count. And remember, it’s important to go to school and get good grades, but networking and making connections is just as important to your success in
life, if not more so. There are lots of people out there who are genuinely eager to help you. It all starts with articulating desire.

So, what you want to be when you grow up?

© Justin Locke


[box type=”bio”]

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.”  J

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 for more information please visit his website www.justinlocke.com. [/box]


[box] Have you successfully found your mentor? Please write to us and share your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation so we can keep inspiring others to do the same! [/box]

A Veterans Day Poem

We Need Hope for the Hopeless

A Poem for Veterans Day

By: Marissa Ranahan


In the shooting sounds of rifles,

And the somber sounds of screams,

In the midst of fear, he praised the lord,

To end his hellish dream.


He was a soldier on the line,

a man tossed into war torn blunders,

The daggers of sadness protruded him,

In his life of an un slept slumber.


The aura of nerves deep inside his body,

And the trauma resting into his head,

Made an emotionless mind completely empty,

And a soul left to be dead.


We need hope for the hopeless,

The soldiers too lost to roam,

Their battlefield does not leave in war,

But the battle starts right at home.


We need hope for the hopeless,

The angels to help with healing aide,

With grace to heal their tattered minds,

And a well mind to be made.


These angels are not sent from the heavens,

And do not come from a blue lit sky,

We are the angels on a human earth,

Trained to hear the soldier’s cry.


To gently embrace the soldiers hand,

And lead through a faithful door,

Leaving the trauma behind the lock,

And becoming the soldier’s mentor.


To thank the men who risked their lives,

So we could proudly hold our colors,

The dignity and sacrifice of these men,

Is not comparable to any other.


We need hope for the hopeless,

To slowly ease the minds to rest,

Whisper kind words to say “we’re there for you”

And guide them through their stress.


And if you doubt your gifted grace,

To help a war drenched soul,

As a mentor, you hold a gift to heal,

And fill the heart’s lonely hole.


[box] In the past we’ve featured a Veterans day Mentorology story by 2nd LT Paul Merklinger about mentoring in his military career and also a story written by the director of the Veterans Upward Bound Program at the University of Massachusetts who works to mentor veterans in the process of obtaining education and work after active military duty. [/box]

It Takes a Tragedy…

With the aftermath of Sandy, the nation is poised to reflect upon the possibility of another sudden tragedy. Who knows what, where, when or who will be affected next by some unexpected heartbreak. We feel our own heartbreak right now more than ever as one of our dearest volunteers, Becca, has suddenly passed away.

Becca’s glowing memory helps us to reaffirm our commitment to working every day towards the things we hold nearest and dearest. We want to encourage you, dear readers, to open your hearts to what is greatest in humanity.

We want you then, just like Becca, to share the greatness in you with others through mentoring.

Becca was part of our mentoring family here at Over My Shoulder Foundation. We will never forget the glorious energy of this special young lady. She was working on some writing for us which included an excerpt from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:

“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.”

Those stunning words are good advice for anyone, all races, all ages. Becca was a fabulous and powerful mentor queen. After some of our sadness clears we will dedicate something more to her but for now we want to thank Becca for all her energy, which continues to mentor us right now.

Once in a while the stars collide and gift you with a special person who grabs your attention so intensely that you feel like you have known them your entire life. You feel, also, that you need and want them in your life forever. That was Becca. She made everyone she met improve at the moment of introduction, just with her smile.

Her immediate belief in Over My Shoulder Foundation was evident. There was no error in meeting. Our friendship ignited instantly, and was perfectly clear from the moment it started. She asked questions that no one has asked before, requests so intriguing that we felt something magical start to happen whenever we spoke.

Becca must have been predisposed to stories, and facts. She was so smart. As a lifelong dancer and aspiring library scientist – she brought the best of all worlds into one. Becca shared her awesome eclectic music taste on a music blog that we keep visiting to keep her memory bright. I will never forget the note I sent to Becca right after meeting her:

“I adore you and need to know everything about you”

While we can’t know what Becca would have done with her future, which was looking bright, we CAN appreciate what she has given us. Becca felt empathy for the downtrodden, and she worked to make the world a brighter place by improving herself and mentoring others. We at OMSF, like all her friends and family, feel devastated.  We didn’t know Becca long, but the time we knew her was remarkable and unforgettable. So, Becca, we miss you. We feel like we’ve known you before and will know you again…

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

[box] What if we lived in a world where our education was a mentor-centric venture and all the nations in the world held Mentorology as the highest value for both men AND women equally? Would you want to live in that kind of world? Education is precious so we need to fight for it just like Malala Yousafzai did, and is doing, in Pakistan. That is the foundational belief guiding this story by one of our favorite guest writers, Sarah Gross. Sarah has written for us before as she pursued her undergraduate degree at UC Davis. She has delighted us all with in-depth inquiries into mentoring issues. For example: Lady Gaga and the anti-bullying crusades of 2012, how Lenny Kravitz addresses race issues and Bob Marley’s mentoring legacy. Now in pursuit of a combined teaching credential/ Master’s of Education program, Sarah is teaching at a middle school & high school while taking classes. Somehow she still finds time to write for Over My Shoulder Foundation. We sure are grateful!

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

On Being a Teacher…

This morning, I woke up early and drove to the middle school where I am an English teacher to 7th graders. As I greet them every day, I see different personalities, ethnicities, and genders. Each student comes into the classroom with their own unique story, their own values, and their own personal background. These students are individuals who enrich the classroom environment. It is an adventure to teach them all, and I learn from my students as much as they learn from me.

When I think about my life at this point, I see myself maintaining a daily routine where my identity as “teacher” is synonymous with providing quality education to all who enter the classroom. This lifestyle—teaching all adolescents within a classroom, no matter their gender or background—is somewhat taken for granted in the United States. Teachers are common threads in the tapestry of American society.

I do not take my profession for granted, but it is an easy thing to do when I have lived in a country where access to education is a guarantee. There was no question that I would go to school and receive at least a high school education. There is similarly no question of an education for my 7th grade students. They are already taking field trips to Universities, and the curriculum is designed to lead these students on the path to college. With these guarantees in place, where students are set up for future success, it is easy to forget that not all countries share the view that its citizens should have access to education. Yet, one incident is enough to remind us of how precious education really is; of how important teachers are; and of how important individual students are in their role as shapers of the future.

Then Realizing that My Educational Worldview was Incomplete…

That one incident came just a week ago. A young girl—teen activist Malala Yousafzai—was shot in Pakistan by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education. Despite living under a highly patriarchal regime, where education to females is viewed as a threat, Malala has fought for the education of girls like herself. She has maintained a blog and has starred in a documentary to bring awareness to the issue. Her efforts even won her the National Youth Peace Prize.

Malala Yousafzai – a Women’s Education Activist

Recognizing Malala’s Heroism

While campaigning, she received threats from the Taliban, who wished to silence her radical ideas. A powerful soul like Malala’s, however, cannot be silenced. Though living under the shadow of these threats, Malala did not allow this darkness to blunt the shining light of justice she carried through the Swat Valley. Her resilience casts her in the role of a martyr, sacrificing herself for neighbors. The outpouring of emotion and the unifying effect brought on by the shooting, however, lifts Malala into a position even more powerful than that of a martyr. The news reports of the incident, widely circulated and showing communities joined together in prayer, are evidence that Malala is no ordinary victim to Taliban threats. Rather, her actions and what she stands for bring certain gravity to the situation that has resonated across the nations. Malala is not just a martyr: she is symbol of hope and peace for a broken community. Most importantly for young girls, she is someone to look up to. She is a role model. She is a mentor.

Honoring Malala with Our Ongoing Commitment to Mentorology

Malala’s courageous efforts reveal the level of injustice she has lived with. When comparing her life to the life of a girl growing up in the United States, I cannot help but notice the painful disparity.

We can take this incident of darkness as a sign of hopelessness. We can feel despair for Malala and the girls in her country, and grateful that we live in a better place.

I choose to do neither. I choose to honor Malala, to honor her courage and resilience, and to mark this incident as the dawning of a new era of hope for girls across the globe who deserve an education. Malala is truly a mentor for all of us. As a teacher, I am reaffirmed in my belief that I can make a positive difference in the lives of my students, because they all—boy and girl—are receiving the same education. I can advocate for the students here in the United States, and spread the word about the importance of education. On a subtler level, I can work to be a role model to my students, just as some of my grade-school teachers are still role models to me.

Though what happened to Malala is a tragedy, it is something we, as country, can learn from. A Newsweek author opines, “Who will speak for [Malala] now?” In answer to this, I say that “we” as a collective nation can speak for her. We can embrace this young girl, this mentor, and take up her cause for girls’ education. We should all have the right to an education, and the right to be heard.

Let us, then, listen to Malala and share her words, those spoken and unspoken. Let us celebrate her as the shining light of justice in a dark world, and let us learn from her as she mentors us all.

[box] October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the United States National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.[/box]

Thanks to MTV many of us discovered the magical musical talents of  Robin Lane with her giant hit “When Things Go Wrong.” Today Robin shares her time, expertise and wisdom with dynamic MENTORING by working with victims of domestic abuse using music and writing to nurture healing one song at a time.

SONGBIRD SINGS is the foundation Robin created to help victims of domestic abuse tell their stories. Through musical mentoring, they create beautiful music together and a healing can begin. Over My Shoulder Foundation has been a catalyst to vibrant conversations among powerful leaders and educators regarding the power of mentoring in solving many individual and social issues. Mentoring programs like Songbird Sings can heal broken spirits and fuels greater confidence, self-expression, self-esteem, and self-worth.

[learn_more caption=”Robin Lane & The ChartBusters-When Things Go Wrong”] [/learn_more]

[box] “The OMSF goal is to create and support mentoring events that break down barriers that separate generations of people and cultures: Lets wipe out bullying together. Mentoring can equal “one-less bully” Mentoring can kindle communities of respect, diversity, culture and individuality. Dawn Carroll[/box]

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! There are great activities happening nationwide. Here are some updates from The BULLY Project team:

BULLY is opening in 50 Theatres Nationwide this Friday, Oct 12th!!!!

Check thebullymovie.tumblr.com for details on cities and theaters. We’re so excited to bring BULLY back to theaters and give many more people the chance to see it! Organize your friends and colleagues to go to a screening near you!


The BULLY Project is being featured on a giant CBS billboard. Thanks to a generous gift from our partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are able to get our message out to an audience of millions (Shout out to RWJF on Facebook and Twitter). Watch the ad streaming here.

The ad is running from Oct 1- Dec 8th, including during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Our hope is that every person who passes by this ad will stop and think about the bullying epidemic in America and join our effort to end it.

Unite with PACER to end Bullying! Wear ORANGE Tomorrow, Oct. 10th!

October 10th is Unity Day for PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. It’s a day for schools and communities everywhere to send one large  ORANGE message of support to students who have experienced bullying. Please join us in showing your support by wearing ORANGE tomorrow and donating your Facebook status and a Tweet to Unity Day and #BULLYMOVIE.

Thank you for your continued support!

Lee Hirsch


The BULLY Project

[learn_more caption=”The Bully Project Times Square”] [/learn_more]

Rick Dyer

Rick Dyer “right” paying tribute to his mentor Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis at Over My Shoulder Foundation event


[box] We are very proud to feature this special interview with singer, songwriter and American Idol contestant, Ayla Brown. Ayla is the daughter of popular Boston’s WCVB-ABC Newscaster Gail Huff and U.S. Senator Scott Brown.

I first reached out to Ayla about being interviewed for OMSF when she was performing with our co-founder Patti Austin and the Boston Pops. A young singer that had just been introduced to Over My Shoulder Foundation ( 7 year old) Carly Connor was on her way to meet Patti and I thought, how cool it would be to have this young singer interview them.

It didn’t happen exactly as I planned…which ended up being fabulous. Carly interviewed Ayla weeks later at the South Shore Music Circus in Massachusetts where Ayla was performing with Josh Turner. Carly had not only rehearsed her questions (look out Diane Sawyer!) but she also carried out her interview with perfection and has us laughing hysterically with her question about Simon Powell. The two of them ended up singing “Beat by a Girl” for 2,000 adoring fans and then signing autographs all night long. It was a glorious mentoring moment that none of us will soon forget.

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


Josh and Carly Ann Connor caught up with Ayla Brown in Cohasset, MA in her dressing room at the South Shore Music Circus prior to her performance with Josh Turner on July 15th, 2012. Carly interviewed Ayla while Josh worked behind the camera and production of the interview. After the interview, Ayla invited Carly to join her onstage that night for her finale of her new hit “Beat by a Girl”. It was a Magical Mentoring Moment.




















[learn_more caption=”Click Here for Video”] [/learn_more]


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OMSF Post Liberty Event Media


Thank you! 

Thank you to everyone who attended our first annual “Designing the Next Generation” event on June 18th at The Liberty Hotel.

With more than 300 of you in attendance, it was a spectacular evening of inspirational stories and song.

Our thanks go out to our speakers, including Patti Austin, Attorney Rick DyerGovernor Michael Dukakis, Ted Fujimoto (Founder of The Right to Succeed Foundation), Stephen Powell ( Executive Director of Mentoring USA), and Mayor of NewtonSetti D. Warren, for all getting to the core about how mentoring and helping others is imperative for our communities and our future.

A huge thank you to all our amazing musical performers, including Patti AustinCharlie FarrenRobin Lane, Hal Lebeaux Boudreau, and Julie Silver. The music you made was a perfect way to make the point about the power of each of us helping another.

We will be posting photos and videos on Facebook in the coming days, so check in soon athttp://www.facebook.com/cumarmarbleandgranite and http://facebook.com/overmyshoulderfoundation to take a look (or see what you missed!).

We hope the evening was inspirational to you, too!  CUMAR Marble & Granite and the Over My Shoulder Foundation‘s goal is to inspire more of us to mentor and support mentoring, so we hope that everyone will take some action to advance the cause of mentoring in Greater Boston and beyond.

Here are a few simple ways you can take action today:

1) Become a mentor:

Many mentoring relationships only require one hour per week, but think of how much good you can do for another person’s life with so little time:


Mass Mentors

2) Donate to one of these terrific local organizations working in mentoring and other vital social causes in our communities:

The Home for Little Wanderers

Improbable Players

Mass Mentors

Mentoring USA

3) Nominate someone for a MIDDIE! 

The MIDDIES (Mentors in Design Awards) salute design professionals in interior design, architecture, building, landscape design, and related fields, who share their time, expertise, and wisdom with the next generation.

A nominee might be someone who has mentored you or who you have observed mentoring others during his or her career. The candidate might be your boss, a close colleague, or someone from another discipline who has opened the door to new possibilities.

Nominating someone takes just a few minutes, but is a wonderful way to reward them for their mentoring!

Nominate at Design New England today 

4) Donate to the Over My Shoulder Foundation, so we can use your funding to create more editorial, video, and audio to help inspire even more people to mentor!

5) Let us know what action we helped inspire you to take…we want to know if our actions are working, too! 

We look forward to seeing you at our next event in January 2013!


* Dawn Carroll, Design Specialist, CUMAR Marble & Granite and Executive Director, Over My Shoulder Foundation

* Dave Connor, General Manager, CUMAR Marble & Granite

* Carlotta Cubi, Executive Vice President, CUMAR Marble & Granite

Brochure: OMSF & CUMAR_PGRM – 6-18-12 Liberty Hotel

Wednesday night’s Design New England Fourth Anniversary celebration was a landmark event for the Over My Shoulder Foundation. As an organization focused on promoting the power of mentoring, Over My Shoulder ‘s influence inspired the creation of Design New England’s Mentors in Design Awards (MIDDIES) which were officially announced at the gala.

On hand for the spectacular celebration was Over My Shoulder co-founder Patti Austin. Patti was presented with an honorary award created by Cumar Inc., praising her achievements in her music mentoring initiatives as well as her involvement with the creation of the MIDDIES. Also performing at the event with mentee Lianna Gutierrez, Patti and Lianna’s rendition of the Over My Shoulder theme song wowed the crowd and was the highlight of the evening.

The event represents a wonderful turning point in the story of the foundation. It provided a coming together of organizations who are committed to and believe in the power of mentoring. Over My Shoulder has its eyes on the future and hopes to promote mentoring through upcoming events.  The Over My Shoulder Project is a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

The Over My Shoulder Foundation, a cross-cultural and cross-generational mentoring organization, founded by CEO Dawn Carroll and Grammy Winner Patti Austin, honor the dedication and commitment of the students of John H. Reagan HS in Houston, Texas.

PRLog (Press Release) – Apr 07, 2011 – The Over My Shoulder Foundation, a cross-cultural and cross-generational mentoring organization, founded by CEO Dawn Carroll and Grammy Winner Patti Austin, honor the dedication and commitment of the students of John H. Reagan High School in Houston, Texas. Tasked by teacher David Messina with creating a logo for the OMSF “Menotorology” project , the students rose to the occasion and within days delivered 50 well thought out and professionally created logo designs for Mentorology: the art and science of mentoring

The students of this high school come from very poor situations. A simple homework assignment, guided by a visionary concept conceived by Mr. Messina, turned into a motivational challenge that inspired hope and the possibilities of a bright future. This project embodied every aspect of the mentoring credo of the Over My Shoulder Foundation. “I credit the work of these students for re-energizing my perspective and passion for teaching,” said David Messina, teacher at John H. Reagan High School. “These kids have taught me that, when properly engaged, every person can elevate themselves above the hopelessness that all too often engulfs us.”

Sadly, the Houston community will be losing the popular teacher at the end of the school year. The Over My Shoulder Foundation is asking the Houston Community to embrace and celebrate the Mentorology project in a festive and congratulatory way. “David’s caliber and commitment are directly responsible for rousing these students to reach for the stars,” said Dawn Carroll, CEO of the Over My Shoulder Foundation. “It’s a shame that the school will be losing him next year. In association with the Houston community, I’m hoping that we can come up with a fitting way to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Dave and his students.”

The student logo designs can be found below this press release-

About the Over My Shoulder Foundation (www.overmyshoulderfoundation.org)

The Over My Shoulder Foundation is a national mentoring organization that uses music and the media to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross generationally. The foundation’s goal is to break down barriers that separate generations of people and culture to bolster confidence and wipe out hopelessness.


CONTACT: Dawn Carroll

Phone: ( 617) 510-2620  / Email: Carrollco2@comcast.net



Over My Shoulder Foundation Spreads “Mentorology” with Music and Needs Your Help

11/22/2011: BOSTON, MA – January is National Mentoring Month, and January 25 is recognized as “Thank Your Mentor Day.” The power of mentoring positively transforms individuals, families and communities. The Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) believes, as Jimi Hendrix best said, “If there is something to be changed in this world…then it can only be done through music.” While some musicians are already on board, including former Four Non Blondes singer Linda Perry and Grammy Award winning singing legend Patti Austin, OMSF is gearing up for another big year starting January 2012. And OMSF wants your help.

The Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF), a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness of the impact of mentoring, or, “Mentorology,” champions the mission “One Less Hopeless Person.” Led by tireless co-founder Dawn Carroll, a Boston-based award-winning stone designer, OMSF is reaching out to a powerful group of people for January’s National Mentoring Month. With music, OMSF plans to incite a dynamic mentoring message and provoke many collaborative efforts that demonstrate how creative minds can use art and music to cut across generations and learn from each other.

Would you believe that one song started it all? Dawn Carroll wrote the lyrics of Over My Shoulder with brilliant songwriters Charlie Farren and Brynn Arens in honor of a story she had heard 20 years ago when working publicity for Patti Austin. That story is Patti’s story: a girl born with enormous talent and the luck to find a legendary team of mentors (Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and Dinah Washington to name a few) who helped nurture and navigate her toward greatness. Patti performed Over My Shoulder with her mentee Lianna Gutierrez last January at the WCVB TV Channel 5’s inspirational musical celebration to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The awe-inspiring performance by Patti and Lianna was broadcast live to 127 Countries and was re-broadcast for 8 weeks straight!

“Mentorology”, the art and science of mentoring, is a word that OMSF coined and wants on the lips of everyone this January. The magic that is shared between mentor and mentee is intoxicating. Dawn Carroll says, “There is always something new to learn and share when we stimulate the human spirit and challenge ourselves to reach outside of our perceived limitations to become something more.” Patti Austin says, “Quincy Jones mentored me, and hoards of others including Michael Jackson and Usher. Now Usher mentors Justin Beiber and Shows like the XFactor are proving that mentoring is in! “These relationships are real, and our stories of success with mentoring is one that I hope everyone can experience.” Explains Dawn Carroll

Please contact the Over My Shoulder Foundation to get involved. Today and every new day forward, the opportunity to change a life through Mentorology presents itself. Don’t wait. For more information about this news release, visit www.overmyshoulderfoundation.org and contact Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation co-founder by phone at (617) 510-2620  or email at  Carrollco2@comcast.net

Contact: Laidlaw Group Public Relations
Laidlaw Group, LLC
Phone: 617.423.2801 x201
Email: pr@laidlawgroup.com


08/10/2010: BOSTON, MA — The Over My Shoulder Project, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness of the impact of mentoring, or, “Mentorology,” was inspired by the unique relationship between GRAMMY Award winning singer Patti Austin and songwriter/designer Dawn Carroll who collaborated on the song Over My Shoulder. The song was written by Dawn Carroll, Charlie Farren, Brynn Arens and Barry Orms and premiered in June 2009 at the Power Girls Gala. As the Project grows, the song continues to influence the world of mentoring. A portion of the proceeds from Patti Austin’s new Shanachie Entertainment CD, “Sound Advice,” which will be released in September 2010, will be contributed to the Over My Shoulder Project. When Boston-based integrated marketing communications firm Laidlaw Group was added to the mix, the Over My Shoulder Project was on its way to becoming a nationally recognized advocate for the power of mentoring.

This week Patti Austin will be in Boston to promote the Over My Shoulder Project. She will be performing at the Scullers Jazz Club on August 13 and 14. Dreaming big, Patti envisions more songs like Over My Shoulder in her future as the power of mentoring helps her realize a longtime dream of becoming an interior designer. Patti says, “With everything I’m doing, my goal is to break down barriers that separate generations of people and cultures. Through mentoring, we are all increasingly interdependent on each other, rather than independent individuals. And, because of people’s interdependency, the Over My Shoulder Project hopes to foster respect, diversity, culture and individuality.”

To hear the song Over My Shoulder co-written by Dawn Carroll and sung by Patti Austin and Lianna Gutierrez, visit Patti Austin’s blog. To schedule an interview with Patti Austin, contact Tom Estey at 508-451-5246 or TJE6464[@]aol.com. For more information about the Over My Shoulder Project or this news release, contact Laidlaw Group Public Relations at 617.423.2801 x201 or email pr[@]laidlawgroup.com.

Dream Big, Boston

Rick Dyer, Stephen Powell, Patti Austin, Governor Michael Dukakis, Gary Greenberg, Dawn Carroll, Ted Fujimoto, Dave Connor, and Calvin Cherry.

I am proud to have been part of the amazing event “Designing the Next Generation” at the Liberty Hotel by the Over My Shoulder Foundation. The people attending represented the city’s best and brightest professionals representing the design community to the top lawyers and civic leaders. The very personal story of Rick Dyer was shared. Most people would write off that a boy so lost and pretty much a permanent resident of jail. Rick’s story is an inspiration about the power of not only being given a chance but the power of mentorship in giving him something powerful and positive to fight for. He is a prominent lawyer advocating for kids so they too can have something positive to fight for. There are so many different ways the story could have turned out if he was not given a chance, if he did not receive a pardon from then Governor Dukakis.

Kids like this are lost and wander our streets and in our school halls. They are smart and with amazing potential that have either been taken over by bad influences or snuffed out with uninspiring and non-engaging school environments. They have gone too long without any adult showing care or concern whether they do well or not. It is no wonder that every school day, about 7,000 students decide to drop out of school – a total of 1.2 million students each year – and only about 70% of entering high school freshman graduate every year. Approximately 2,000 of America’s high schools produce half of the nation’s dropouts. Without a high school diploma, young people are less likely to succeed in the workforce. Each year, our nation loses $319 billion in potential earnings associated with the dropout crisis. (Whitehouse Press Release, March 10, 2010).

Too much energy is focused exclusively on fighting what we are against–bad budgets, bad bureaucracy, bad teachers, and bad unions to a point that we do not know what we are fighting for. It’s time to fight to a great school in every neighborhood that prepares our children for the best opportunities in the world. It is time to fight for a great school in every neighborhood that knows how to inspire—and knows how to value mentorship not as a side program but integrated into the core of school. Schools like this will cut the dropout rate in half almost overnight. This may all seem like wishful thinking but there are nationally replicating school models. Around the country, communities are catching on and transforming and starting dozens of schools in a short period of time.

Imagine Boston in five years if the twice the number of children are successfully graduating with options to attend the best universities and colleges. Imagine Boston in five years if it were to double or even quadruple the number of students graduating with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related degrees and entering the workforce. Boston would have to spend significantly less on social services and on the criminal justice system. Companies will have access to a larger qualified workforce to grow their business-making Boston an even more of an attractive place to locate and grow increasing revenues to the region.

We want schools that are truly modern and vibrant. Forget the boring lectures and teaching to test. Imagine where students are solving tough real world problems as part of their learning…where mentorship with industry professionals is not some add on program but integrated into their learning experience. At these schools, students will not only master the highest academic standards but also practice being leaders, using critical thinking skills to solve tough problems, develop a global perspective, and be master communicators…the skills needed to thrive in the best careers internationally.

This is achievable through the following specific actions:

1. Create or convert public schools into a cluster of 15 high performing STEM public middle and high schools using nationally replicating proven school models like New Tech Network, Big Picture Learning, Expeditionary Learning, International Baccalaureate schools. These models are capable of serving children with the toughest backgrounds and helping 90% or more graduating high school and getting them into college with double the rate entering STEM related degree programs and careers.

2. Provide these STEM cluster schools the autonomies and conditions on the ground that help these schools thrive and implement the models with high fidelity. Boston’s history of its Pilot Schools can be leveraged as a good start to provide this positive environment.

3. Create or leverage a strong community coalition to drive the creation of these schools, ensure the school models are delivering, create an education transformation fund, and to ensure that the District is providing an environment that supports and does not get in the way of implementing these models with fidelity.

Let’s dream big, Boston, and turn the dream into reality. Sometimes true transformation that creates the future and makes history requires bold action.

-Ted Fujimoto, Founder, Right to Succeed Foundation

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]


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


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:
<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>
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