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

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

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

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

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

This is mentoring!

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

The Mentoring Experience: Integration of the Lincoln Public Schools

by Ron Workman

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


The METCO Process is History

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


Racial Tensions

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


Forced Busing in Boston

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


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

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

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

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

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


Culture Shock from the City to the Suburbs

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


Shared Culture in the City and in the Suburbs

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


METCO Helped Me Become an Agent for Change

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


My Mentoring Experience from METCO

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

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


Ron Workman

Joseph Brooks, Class of 1977


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

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

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

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


Robin Lane as a Young Music Lover

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


Robin as a Singer/Songwriter

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


Mentorology in the Life of Robin Lane

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


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

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

Originally published by the Bay State Banner.

Article by Jacquinn Williams.

Photo by Leise Jones Smyrl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the scenes of mourning where little is pretty….

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

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

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

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


Writing a Memoir and Discovering Mentoring

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


One Less – My Healing Quest

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


Traumas and Tributes

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

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


Helping Those With Greater Needs Can Heal Us

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

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


An Amazing School in Cambodia

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

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


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

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

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

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


Faith Moves Mentoring, by Stephen Powell

(Reposted with permission from the author. Originally posted at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Stephen Powell, Champion of Change


Office of Communications


January 10, 2012


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

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


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


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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


When did you realize that Aline was your mentor?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking About Veterans Day

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

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

Mentorology and the Military by 2 LT Paul Merklinger

Read Mentorology and the Military NOW

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


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

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder


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

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

-Jimi Hendrix

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


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


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


Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder


Younger Self, by Joyce Kulhawik

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

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

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

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


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

Joyce Kulhawik

Joyce in Her 20’s

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


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


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


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


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


In short, I would love her.


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

Joyce Kulhawik, Now

Joyce Kulhawik, Now

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


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

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

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

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

Letters To A Bullied Girl



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



Messages of Healing and Hope


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


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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors

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

LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL: Messages of Healing and Hope

Olivia Gardner with Emily and Sarah Buder

Harper; Trade Paperback Original

On Sale: August 5, 2008

Price: $14.95/240 PP
ISBN: 9780061544620


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

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

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

Attorney Rick Dyer, Photography by Merrill Shea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

J/S: Can we get addicted to happiness?

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

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

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

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


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

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

Recognizing the Need to Improve Our Mood

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

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

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

Changing Your Brain Chemistry with Nutrition, For Good!

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

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

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

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

Here’s a quick start to help you:

Food for Depression:

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

Food for Anxiety:

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

Food to Balance and Enhance Mood:

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

Final Thoughts from Michael McCarthy, Creator of Budi Bars

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


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

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

Addiction: Enjoyment Leads to Negative Side Effects

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

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

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

Figuring Out If We Have Real Addiction Problems

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

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

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

Why Do We Overdo It?

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

Changing Our Brain Chemistry on Demand

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

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

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

9/11 – A Mentoring Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Dawn Carroll

The Similarities Between a Designer and a Mentor

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

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

Design for Confidence

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

Design for Wholesome Living

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

Design for Mentorology

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

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

Mentorology’s Return

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

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

The Mentoring Palette

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

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

We CAN Design Thriving, Interwoven Lives Together

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Flag

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

Mentorology and the Military

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

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

Growing Up with my First Mentors

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

The Beginnings of West Point

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

Finding a True Military Mentor

Walking with a Mentor

2LT Paul Merklinger with a Mentor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Mentorology: The Mentor/Mentee Relationship

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

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

2LT Paul Merklinger with Cadets at West Point

2LT Paul Merklinger with Cadets at West Point

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

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

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

Russ Mezikofsky

Mentorology in Actionwith Linda Perry, Musical Mastermind

Written and Photographed by Russ Mezikofsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulacard’s to the President

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

Monto Kumagai

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Ted Fujimoto



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About ( is an Internet and mobile marketing, online reputation management and product launch company, servicing the sports & entertainment and high tech Industries.

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

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

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

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

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

In Memory of Julio "Cesar" Vaquerano

In Memory of Julio “Cesar” Vaquerano

December 18th was my friend  Julio ’s birthday and like typical birthday celebrations, Julio was surrounded by his loved ones: family, friends and co-workers. We did our best to sing  “feliz cumpleaños” the Spanish version of Happy Birthday,  but producing a beautiful, audible sound while you are sobbing is almost impossible. It was Julio’s 37th birthday and we were at the funeral home paying our last respects and saying our final goodbyes.

I know how this family feels: violent crime brings not just shock, it also infects you with brutal confusion. It’s completely overwhelming, especially when kids are involved – and Julio had four children aged 3-14.

Julio was part of the magical team that created the magnificent marble and granite masterpieces found in so many of my clients beautiful homes. He was also one of the inspiring energies that kept me focused while I created the Over My Shoulder Foundation last year. In so many meaningful ways,  Julio and all the vibrant men who work on my design team, mentored me both professionally and personally while I launched this foundation. I enjoyed many long conversations about the importance of family and the necessity of  balance in life with Julio. I remember one day in particular, sitting outside in a parking lot talking to Julio about his beautiful children, his grandmother and the American Dream. I remember this day so vividly because I was so envious of his contentment – I thought to myself, this is a successful man, this is a man who has it all.

I want to dedicate this blog entry to Julio – Julio was  one of the dazzling mentors found in my exquisite collection. I would also like to take a moment and ask all of you to send your good wishes and prayers to Julio’s family. They will need our continued thoughts and prayers as the mystery surrounding Julio’s death unfolds and is solved.

As we each face the New Year, I ask that each of us adopt some of the mentoring spirit of my friend Julio. Julio was a vibrant man with contagious enthusiasm. He had a smile that could cure any sadness. Let this beautiful memory of him mentor, inspire and influence us all.

Dawn Carroll

Arens and Farren kept studio time productive and always entertaining!

As the self-proclaimed “Oddfather of Rock,” Brynn Arens has been on the pop culture music scene for decades. He has worked with some of the top names in music as a studio guitar player, described by well-known English songwriter and producer Mick Ronson as “one of the best natural guitarist he had heard in years.”

I am very pleased to be a part of the Over My Shoulder Foundation as mentoring was as much of a part of my young life and as it is today. The people involved in this foundation are top notch, and it just makes me proud to be associated with such a great group of individuals. It was an honor to work side-by-side with music legends like Charlie Farren and Patti Austin and closely with song writer Dawn Carroll to create the iconic foundation theme song, “Over My Shoulder.” Dawn Carroll is a tireless trooper and she brings so much positive energy to everything she does that anyone can see this truly is her calling.

Stand tall, be proud, sing it high, sing it loud, I am here and so are you, together we make each other strong! Onward and Upward!

Brynn Arens



DNE Publisher Steve Twombly, Grammy Award-winner Patti Austin, rising star Lianna Gutierrez and DNE Editor Gail Ravgiala at Design New England’s Fourth Anniversary Celebration


Cumar Inc.’s Controller Carlotta Cubi sits down with Design New England Editor Gail Ravgiala and Publisher Steve Twombly to reflect on mentoring in the design world.

Carlotta Cubi: First of all, congratulations on Design New England’s four year anniversary!

Gail Ravgiala: Thank you! The November celebration at the W Hotel honoring the milestone was the perfect way to mark the occasion. Everyone who attended raved about Grammy-winner Patti Austin and her protégé Lianna Gutierrez singing the song “Over My Shoulder” written by Cumar’s own Dawn Carroll. Combined with the unveiling of the MIDDIES award, it was the event of the year.

Carlotta Cubi: We, here at Cumar, were so honored to be able to design the Mentors In Design (MIDDIES) award for the program recently started at Design New England. For those who aren’t as familiar with the MIDDIES, what was the inspiration for this awards program?

Steve Twombly: Design New England wanted to applaud the Over My Shoulder Foundation for its pioneering spirit and strong mission of mentoring and recognize the generosity shown by established members of the design community. From construction sites to showrooms, from design offices to work rooms, we find there is a sharing not only of knowledge but also of the intangible insights that only the seasoned player can impart to the rookie. Veterans in the design world are incredible assets to promote and encourage future designers.

Carlotta Cubi: It’s been a great year for both Design New England and Cumar, including welcoming designer Dawn Carroll to our talented team. As one of the founders of the Over My Shoulder Foundation, Dawn was instrumental in bringing us all together to support the mission of mentoring. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, and we look forward to working with Design New England in the future!

Honoring Our Mentors

Patti Austin, beside her OMS co-founder Dawn Carroll and mentee Lianna Gutierrez, receives her honorary award from Cumar’s Carlotta Cubi

At Design New England’s Fourth Anniversary celebration on November 3rd, Over My Shoulder co-founder Patti Austin was given an honorary award for her pursuits in the world of design and her pioneering initiatives in mentoring. Award designer Cumar Inc.’s CFO Carlotta Cubi spoke about her own mentoring experiences and presented Patti with the award.

“Thank you everyone for coming to celebrate Design New England’s 4th anniversary and the spirit of mentoring, with the Over My Shoulder Foundation. I’d like to congratulate Design New England on four years of success in the industry, and thank you for the opportunity [for Cumar] to participate by creating the award.

In the stone world, mentoring is the only way that the special craftsmanship has been able to live on from generation to generation. Growing up as the daughter of a 7th generation stone craftsman whose passion for his work has brought him international recognition was inspiring. In my house, a highlighter and a set of architectural blue prints were how we practiced coloring within the lines. No coloring books, just plans of hotel lobbies, elaborate offices, or luxury residences. When I joined the family business, it became obvious that my dad was mentoring me all along. To you [my father] Ivo, I say thank you from me, the entire team at Cumar, and the countless number of other people in the industry you have mentored over the years.

Lastly I would like to thank Patti [Austin] for starting the foundation, and for demonstrating here tonight with [your mentee] Lianna, the results of a strong mentoring relationship. Patti, for your commitment to the music industry and now the design industry, we would like to present you with the 2010 inaugural MIDDIE award. Congratulations Patti and as we welcome you into the design industry, we wish all the best with your transition from mentor in the music world to mentee in the design world.”

The Giving Season

December 12, 2010 by Adam Leipzig

Some’s readers create opportunities for others; some are creators themselves. Here are ideas for holiday and New Year’s giving from a few of the people who read this blog – presents your friends and family may love, and gifts you might love to give to yourself in the months ahead.

Over My Shoulder Foundation is a unique arts and entertainment driven project whose goal is to raise awareness of the historical impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross generationally in new media driven ways. It’s an organization that understands that there was a time when mentoring was a given art handed down to generations as part of one’s reason for gaining a skill or just plain old wisdom. reader Dawn Carroll co-founded the organization, and co-wrote the song Over My Shoulder. Grammy winner and OMS co-founder, Patti Austin, along with her young singing sensation mentee, Lianna Gutierrez, recorded it.

Over My Shoulder co-founder Patti Austin wowed the audience at Boston’s “Holiday Lights,” celebrating the 69th tree lighting ceremony. Ready to celebrate the holiday season, a huge crowd gathered on Boston Common last night. The event featured appearances by the world-famous Radio City Rockettes, “American Idol” contestant Katharine McPhee and the Boston Pops Gospel Choir with Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. Patti provided a show stopping performance and was thrilled to be able to bring her message of mentoring back to the Boston area.

Maria “TOOFLY” Castillo is a graphic artist whose work has appeared in various books, videos, and magazines such as Graffiti Women, Burning New York, Current TV, MTV Tr3, Trace, YRB, Juxtapoz, and Marie Clair. She also has her own line of t-shirts, designer toys, graffiti bags, art prints, jewelry, and stationary. Coming from humble beginnings in Queens, Toofly’s story illustrates the power mentoring and inspiration can have to shape and motivate people to reach their goals and succeed beyond all expectations.

You note on your website that you were highly influenced by the calligraphy and illustration skills of some exceptional writers as a teen. Who were some of these early inspirations and why were they so motivating to you?

Some of my early inspirations were graffiti writer friends from my neighborhood and from school and other writers whose graffiti letters, tags, and characters I saw on rooftops. Graffiti and illustration fascinated me as a teen because it carried a strong and powerful “rough” but “fluid” energy. I was drawn to it because it’s how I felt at the time.

Your urban arts collective Younity is all about promoting the arts in conjunction with mentoring for young women. Were you afforded any similar opportunities as a child or was there a specific person you viewed as your mentor that helped jump start your passion for art and design?

I grew up with a very creative family, especially my mother. She was always making piñatas, party momentums, or drawings. She was an independent artist throughout most of her life which was how she financially took care of us. She showed me at an early age to be an entrepreneur. During the summer she taught me how to make crafts and sell them on our stoop. I was about 10 years old when I realized I could make things with my hands that people would like and buy. My passion for art and design has been with me since I was a child and I feel my mother and the art programs available to me in school helped me cultivate that passion.

Who, today, do you consider to be your greatest inspiration to create your work?

I feel I carry a strong female energy, and message inside me that wants to shine. I realized it as a child but as I got older, I have come to recognize it, and feel its presence more and more. This is what continues to motivate me, and help create my life’s work around women and women’s issues.

Do you still draw on ideas from your surroundings?

Yes. I continue to draw ideas from various places in my world and state of mind. Everything from how I feel, to the beautiful street art in my city, to fashion and photography, and social issues happening in my community. Inspiration is everywhere and anywhere when I want to tap into it.

What do you think your next move is in the arts/business world?

I have found in the last few years that I want to dive a lot more into community building and education. I have learned so much and have much to share these days. I am in the works to develop my own independent youth program project for girls that will launch in the Spring of 2011.

Now that you have created a strong brand and built the Younity movement, what other ventures are you pursuing?

At this time I would like to continue to make all my ventures strong. Foundations are important for the longevity of the brand. Every year is a chance to learn and introduce a new project depending on where I am at in my life and creative flow. Some ideas make it through and continue to grow but others don’t and so you gotta know when to step away and start something new and fresh. That’s where I am now stirring up something new! For up to date info on my new projects you can visit my blog:

In Tune With Mentoring

Patti Austin with Charlie Farren and Lianna Gutierrez
“I had the pleasure of attending the Design New England Anniversary Celebration in Boston last week to support the Over My Shoulder Foundation. I was so proud to be a member of the songwriting team as I listened to the legendary Patti Austin and her mentee Lianna Gutierrez perform the foundation’s signature song, OVER MY SHOULDER. It was quite gratifying to hear the performance punctuated with audience reaction several times as the lyrics and arrangement clearly touched the room in a way that gave me chills!

Patti Austin’s career and story — famously mentored by the iconic Quincy Jones — is a fitting metaphor for the OMS Foundation, generously passing the torch to a gifted young performer in Lianna Gutierrez.

Mentoring is a gift in equal measure to all parties involved — in many ways it’s a gift to one’s self, and it’s a most important contribution to a next generation that will carry us into the future, and will be charged with facing tomorrow’s challenges.

Kudos to Over My Shoulder co-founder Dawn Carroll for her tireless focus and dedication in kicking off this important organization and movement. I can’t wait to see what’s next!”

– Charlie Farren

Charlie Farren is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and guitarist who first appeared on the music scene in the 1980s after teaming up with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry to create the album The Joe Perry Project. In 1986 Charlie, along with Dave Hull of The Joe Perry Project and John Muzzy, formed FARRENHEIT and released a self-titled debut album on Warner Brothers. Charlie reinvented himself as an artist throughout the 90s and continues to create and release songs today, performing in New England as one of the most original and compelling musical artists to-date (

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.

Having founded the Over My Shoulder Foundation with legendary vocalist Patti Austin, the national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally, mentoring has become an even more prominent part of my daily life. Over the years, Patti and I have begun mentoring each other with Patti helping advance my musical pursuits while I nurtured her interest in the world of design. This newly-found common passion led to Patti’s September 24th flight into Boston for a covert mission. Together with my current company, Cumar Inc., a stone fabrication and stone design business, we had three days to come up with the Mentors in Design Awards (MIDDIES), which would be unveiled at an elegant evening that Design New England is planning for November 3, 2010.

As a Grammy award winner, Patti understands the true impact of an award so I brought her to the Cumar offices to share with my co-workers the dreamlike feeling and the significance behind winning a coveted award like the one we were about to design. In addition, her newly-sparked interest in design made this opportunity ideal for Patti to get involved in. We had to make the award not only visually beautiful but also had to make it convey the importance of the person receiving it, a leader, a influencer who played a major role in the design community as someone’s mentor.

Mentoring seems to follow me wherever I go and is something that happens every minute of every day at Cumar. As one of the most respected and influential stone craftsmen in the country, president Ivo Cubi is also known globally for his ability to find the most unusual stones and is a natural mentor for everyone who works with him. Not only is Over My Shoulder proud to have inspired the MIDDIES, but the Foundation’s chance to work with Cumar, a company that believes so strongly in the impact of mentoring, to help create the award has been incredible. Combining the stone design knowledge of Cumar with the altruistic spirit of Over My Shoulder produced a stunning finished product fitting of the deserving future recipients. – Dawn Carroll


The Over My Shoulder Foundation, founded by Dawn Carroll, award-wining stone designer at Cumar, Inc. and Grammy Award winner Patti Austin, is proud to have inspired Design New England Magazine’s Mentors in Design Awards (MIDDIES). The MIDDIES recognize design professionals who share their time, expertise, and wisdom with upcoming generations of designers.

With the goal of raising awareness of the impact that mentoring can have both cross-culturally and cross-generationally, the Over My Shoulder Foundation has garnered tremendous support. From musicians to authors to everyday individuals, the circle of influence the Foundation has attained continues to grow. Now, with the MIDDIES, Over My Shoulder is able to share its passion for peer support and personal growth in the New England design community.

Founder Patti Austin explains, “Our goal is to break down the 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 foundation hopes to foster respect, diversity, culture, and individuality.”

Published by Boston Globe Media, Design New England is a high-end furnishings and home design magazine. The official launch of the MIDDIES and start of the nomination process will occur on Wednesday, November 3 at Design New England’s fourth anniversary celebration, an invitation-only gala at the W Hotel and Residences in Boston’s Back Bay. After review, honorees will be announced during January, National Mentoring Month.

With the help of my friend Dawn Carroll, a founder of The Over My Shoulder Foundation, I was inspired to become a part of this movement. Today, I am the still photographer for Over My Shoulder, visually documenting those involved in mentoring- the core focus of the project.

During these photo sessions, I have had the opportunity to hear inspiring stories, stories that underscore the intense impact mentoring can have on a person’s life. Looking at my own children, the oldest being five, I hope that they will continue to have mentors in their lives, to inspire them to reach for greatness and build self-confidence. Teens present another key group that would benefit from mentoring relationships. When I see so many kids without anywhere to go after school, I feel a program like Over My Shoulder takes them off the streets and energizes them to do things that they never thought they were capable of doing. When you think of mentoring, people often think of an older person helping out someone younger but that is not always so. Mentoring is simply about helping those in need, offering guidance to better another’s life.

Over My Shoulder is truly an incredible project. If you have the opportunity to help people in need, why not join us? As someone who believes it is important to get involved with projects that you are passionate about, I am proud to be part of a project with such a selfless, inspirational mission. Who couldn’t use a mentor at some point in their life? We all have qualities and traits that can help people. Taking the time to share these skills with others may ultimately create a better future for them. The best aspect of mentoring is that it is never-ending; those you mentor can take that experience and go on to mentor others and keep the positive spirit of Over My Shoulder going.

Russ Mezikofsky, photographer

To me, a mentor is having a special relationship with someone who shares their knowledge by giving the very best advice to guide you through life. A mentor doesn’t have to be famous, but does have to have a true passion for giving their time and wisdom to a younger person. The younger person just has to be open to listen. I was lucky enough to be the mentee of the incomparable Patti Austin.

As I child, my parents introduced me to every style of music, from the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald to the soulful tunes of Earth Wind & Fire to the talented Carol King, sparking my interest early to become a singer one day. I still remember this first time I heard Patti Austin for Ella in the 7th grade and fell in love with the song A Tisket, A Tasket, wishing I could sing just like Patti. One day, I entered a contest and chose that very song though the sheet music was nowhere to be found. Looking on her fan website, I noticed it was her birthday and decided to email her, sending her birthday wishes, telling her I loved jazz and singing, and also asking for the score for A Tisket, A Tasket. To my surprise, her manager wrote back asking for a photo and a demo CD. The next thing I knew, I was on a train with my family to New York City to spend a weekend with Patti Austin! I went to a recording studio and recorded Someone to Watch over Me with her. Patti taught me how to hold myself on stage, how to dress for a performance and she told me to learn, learn, learn! Our time together was magical and it gave me the motivation to pursue my dreams even more. To this day, I can remember every moment shared with her, it was the most amazing experience of my life.

During that same weekend, I also met Ari Meyers, a wonderful person who filmed the entire mentoring experience. A couple of years later, Ari called me to tell me about a new concept she had created called My Purpose Party™. She explained that the concept of My Purpose Party encourages youth to utilize their talents to create their own dream party for a charity. Charity has always been a passion of mine, so I held my first My Purpose Party on October 11, 2009, raising $2000 and 500 pounds of food which was given to the food pantries of Exeter and West Greenwich in Rhode Island. This year I held my Second Annual My Purpose Party on September 25, 2010 for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Exeter and West Greenwich Food Pantries while promoting farmers through a musical concert. With my goal of raising $10,000, I was thrilled to have Patti perform at the event and enjoyed another wonderful weekend of mentoring and thoughtful advice. I have been so moved by her giving, gracious spirit that I hope one day, I can get the chance to return the favor of mentoring someone myself.

Inspiration is Contagious

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, co-founder of Over My Shoulder and songwriter/designer 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.

“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.” – Hal Lebeaux Boudreau

Dawn and Hal are currently in the studio recording their song “Jet Stream.” Stay tuned and be one of the first to hear this collaboration.

Byline: 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 has joined the Over My Shoulder Project, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

On the way to yet another birthday on August 10th as Patti Austin, I think about how rich my total life has been and the kind of treasure that no amount of money could ever buy. At this time of year I always reflect upon those who mentored me and taught me the life sustaining and life fulfilling lessons that make these birthdays so happy for me.

It all started with my parents. They kept me so well grounded in trying to understand how valuable every bit of life knowledge was that I could squeeze into my little brain—a brain that usually was thinking about how I would be famous like Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis Jr. and Quincy Jones – who all became mentors to me when I was just four years old.

I have done my best to heed their advice about making every minute count towards being a total entertainer and a total human being. That’s why I got so excited when given the opportunity to work with Dawn Carroll who has given birth to the Over My Shoulder Project and its “Mentorology” concepts, of using design, music, stories and entertainment to help people understand the power of mentoring and give them real life examples of how mentoring is an art form that can continually provide enduring “life goodies” to mentor and mentee.

Dawn claims I mentored her for years by example. I had no idea of the positive effect I was having as she made her way to become so successful in her life. Of course, we entertainers have no problem taking credit for anything that builds and repairs our fragile egos. But working with Dawn to bring the “Over My Shoulder” mentoring ideals to life has been yet another life affirming experience for me and I think I will call this August 10th a rebirth-day. After the incredibly influential and positive affect my mentors have had on my life, it is destiny now that I am able to help promote the power of mentoring and I am blessed to be a part of the Over My Shoulder Project.

Watch Patti Austin and Lianna Gutierrez perform Over My Shoulder as part of the Eighth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert in partnership with New England Conservatory and ABC Affiliate  WCVB-TV.  The live broadcast on January 17th 2011 was syndicated nationally to millions of viewers across the U.S. and re-broadcasted to over 117 countries.


Over My Shoulder is a duet written by Dawn Carroll, Charlie Farren, Brynn Arens and Barry Orms and sung by Grammy Award Winning singing legend Patti Austin and now 15-year-old singing sensation Lianna Gutierrez. The song is about inspiration, guidance and mentoring. It is about passing the baton to a younger generation.

The real life mentoring effort that exists between Lianna and Patti has ignited a stunning conversation that started in Boston Massachusetts, which is historically known for its big ideas. The conversation is now reaching all over the nation encouraging all people to become a part of the Over My Shoulder Foundation, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

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[box]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 has joined the Over My Shoulder Project, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.[/box]

On the way to yet another birthday on August 10th as Patti Austin, I think about how rich my total life has been and the kind of treasure that no amount of money could ever buy. At this time of year I always reflect upon those who mentored me and taught me the life sustaining and life fulfilling lessons that make these birthdays so happy for me.

It all started with my parents. They kept me so well grounded in trying to understand how valuable every bit of life knowledge was that I could squeeze into my little brain—a brain that usually was thinking about how I would be famous like Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis Jr. and Quincy Jones – who all became mentors to me when I was just four years old.

I have done my best to heed their advice about making every minute count towards being a total entertainer and a total human being. That’s why I got so excited when given the opportunity to work with Dawn Carroll who has given birth to the Over My Shoulder Project and its “Mentorology” concepts, of using design, music, stories and entertainment to help people understand the power of mentoring and give them real life examples of how mentoring is an art form that can continually provide enduring “life goodies” to mentor and mentee.

Dawn claims I mentored her for years by example. I had no idea of the positive effect I was having as she made her way to become so successful in her life. Of course, we entertainers have no problem taking credit for anything that builds and repairs our fragile egos. But working with Dawn to bring the “Over My Shoulder” mentoring ideals to life has been yet another life affirming experience for me and I think I will call this August 10th a rebirth-day. After the incredibly influential and positive affect my mentors have had on my life, it is destiny now that I am able to help promote the power of mentoring and I am blessed to be a part of the Over My Shoulder Project.


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

Many people why I created the Over My Shoulder Project, so here is my story. It is one of hope, courage and transformation. If you are inspired by my story I believe that you will continue to be inspired if you get involved in the Over My Shoulder Project with me, GRAMMY® Award winning singing legend Patti Austin, American television writer and producer Norman Lear and countless others who believe in the power of music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

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Lianna Gutierrez is a 15-year old singer of Filipina descent who is generating an amazing buzz as a protégé and mentee of Patti Austin. She sings the duet Over My Shoulder with Patti Austin; the songs lyric written by Dawn Carroll about hope, courage and transformation that has become the anthem of the Over My Shoulder Project, a national mentoring initiative that uses music to raise awareness about the impact of mentoring both cross-culturally and cross-generationally.

A Mentor. Something that every girl my age wants but doesn’t speak about. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they don’t want to admit it or maybe they’re embarrassed to ask for advice. Having Patti Austin as my mentor has helped me not only with my singing, but as a person. She told me to always stay humble and never change. Seeing her in the studio helped me see who she really was; funny, humble, and extremely down-to-earth. Recording Over My Shoulder was a really thrilling experience. I got more comfortable in the studio and actually got to know Patti. One thing that I learned: once she enters a room, there will be non-stop laughter. We had a blast! Laughing and joking around, it got so bad that we had to stop ourselves mentally and get back into focus mode.

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Byline: Andrew Shapter is a filmmaker, photographer and screenwriter. Andrew has been involved in the arts since began to collect cameras and experiment with lighting at the age of 12. After graduating from college in 1992, Shapter quickly began career as a professional photographer specializing in music and fashion photography. After working non-stop for nearly 15 years in the photography market, Shapter turned his attention to his very first passion, filmmaking. His first effort, the critically acclaimed 2006 documentary Before the Music Dies (featuring Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Questlove and many other prominent musicians) was a hit with music fans worldwide. His follow-up film HAPPINESS IS is an exploration of the truths and myths of “the pursuit of happiness” in America, touring the U.S. in 2010. Because of his passion for mentoring and music, Andrew will get more involved in the Over My Shoulder Project in the future.

When I was just six years old, I came home from school alone while my parents were away working long hours. Every afternoon, like so many children still do, I turned on the TV and got lost for three hours a day. It was my virtual babysitter. I watched re-runs of sitcom classics like Good Times and Three’s Company, although hardly shows that a 6 year-old kid could relate to.

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