Is this what it sounds like when doves cry? A true artist who changed the face of music: brilliant story teller…wild chance taker -refused to worrying about what “others” thought- His music was great because he did as he pleased… did not compromise to “fit-in” he became iconic because he was genius and adored for his charming frenzy & simple shyness – he broke down barriers- his infectious tunes blew up the charts … this was all after several unsuccessful attempts. The same ears that suddenly loved him, earlier in his career had rejected him. BUT… He never gave up on his dream- he had a story to tell and he was going to make sure we listened – Isn’t that a great mentoring legacy? Isn’t that life well lived. Thank you Prince for all your royal greatness… Nothing compares to you
Happy Mentoring Month! The beginning of each new year not only gives us a chance to set goals for the future, it also offers an opportunity to reflect on the past. We’re delighted to report that 2014 was a banner year here at the Over My Shoulder Foundation. Here are just a few highlights, from awards and events to media sponsorships and emotional mentorship stories.
The world witnessed its share of sadness in 2014. The cycle of senseless violence made us question our selves and our place in the world. Now, the start of a new year brings the promise of a new leaf. But the world isn’t cooperating. These past weeks have seen a violent attack in France, continued turmoil in the Middle East, and civil war in Eastern Europe. Misunderstanding blinds us to the right course of action, and stops us from peacefully seeking the route to understanding.
At the Over My Shoulder Foundation, we have been searching for a way to make a positive impact, however modest. So in 2015, we’re going to Mentor Peace.
We mentor peace by opening our minds to new concepts. We mentor peace by fighting ignorance with education. Above all, we mentor peace by treating every person with care and respect we would show to a member of our families. Over the past few weeks, I interviewed a number of magnificent young people, from all corners of the globe, asking a simple question: “How will you mentor peace in 2015? What do you hope for in your country regarding peace?”
Fahad, Age 23, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
“I want to mentor peace by showing that world that regardless of what they see on the media, there are good people in all corners of the country.”
Kylie, Age 22, Ferguson, Missouri
“I will mentor peace by showing people that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character. I will do this by showing the world how successful people of color can be, regardless of stereotype.”
Lucy, Age 19, Paris, France
“I want to mentor peace by showing the world that together, non violent acts of protest can speak to millions in silence.”
Fatima, Age 25, Islamabad, Pakistan
“I want to show the world that violence is never right. I want to show the world that people who are violent will not win. The only way to fight violence is with peace. The only way to remember the lives of the innocent is with positivity. I want the world to know that the lives of the innocent children killed in my country will always be remembered. I will be peaceful for them.”
Mira, Age 22, Beirut, Lebanon
“My wish for peace in 2015 is for my country to see the beauty in all people. God has given us the ability to live in a beautiful country. We must also show that beauty through our actions.”
Mohammad, Age 29, United Arab Emirates
“I want to mentor peace by telling people to love all religions and respect everyone’s belief. We can do this by educating and really listening to each others point of view respectfully. Didn’t our prophets do the same?”
Tyrese, Age 8, Boston, Massachusetts
“I want to mentor peace by showing my friends books about all different cultures. This way, we can all be friends and get along.”
Martin, Age 26, Dublin, Ireland
“I want peace to be mentored through every step I take. I want peace to be mentored through the kind words I speak to people. I want peace to be mentored through politicians, because people pay attention when people in power practice peace.”
Miranda, London, UK
“I love people of all race religions and backgrounds. I want to take my knowledge and spread it like wildfire —that underneath our skin we are all the same!”
Carlo, Madrid, Spain
“I want the people of my country to have empathy on those who are poor, and mentor them into better health. I want to mentor and inspire people to help the less fortunate.”
Bahir, Damascus, Syria
“I want to mentor the world. I want to tell people; My country is beautiful. Even under violence, we still dance and love. If we can mentor dancing and love through hard times, we can help anyone get through a hard time.”
Let us mentor the world with powerful actions, showing that peace is greater than hatred and violence. Let us mentor society by demonstrating that peace can be found everywhere on earth. Let us mentor each other on the path to peace.
[box]About the Author
OMSF team member Marissa Ranahan is a student at the University of Hartford and hopes to pursue a career in writing.[/box]
Every year, millions of people around the globe make New Year’s resolutions to better their lives.
Some of the most common goals are to lose weight, quit smoking, get a new job, learn a second language, and save money. These are all perfectly worthwhile ambitions. But there’s another resolution that should be added to the top of your list: to become a better mentor.
January is National Mentoring Month in the United States, and that’s a perfect way to kick off each new year. It’s a reminder that everyone needs the support of their friends and loved ones to succeed, and that each of us can become a better mentor to the people in our lives.
Becoming a mentor doesn’t necessarily mean working with a charity (although there are many fantastic volunteer mentorship opportunities). It doesn’t require a long-term commitment. Coworkers, family members, and friends can all use the support of a mentor from time to time. Opportunities arise daily—as long as we’re looking for them—to lend support and guidance, to bolster the best parts of each other.
This year, commit yourself to a new New Year’s resolution. And stay on track by staying in touch:
· Check out the OMSF archive and subscribe to the blog
· Become a fan of OMSF on Facebook
· Contact us about sharing your own mentorship story!
On Friday evening, September 5, Over My Shoulder Foundation Executive Director Dawn Carroll was thrilled to present Boston design legend Yolanda Cellucci with the second annual “Designing the Next Generation Award” during a VIP reception at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.
The “Designing the Next Generation Award” spotlights the importance of mentoring across generations and cultural barriers—not only to the field of design, where it is vital, but also to the work of creating a better society. Founded by OMSF in 2013, in partnership with the Cumar Marble and Granite, the award’s inaugural recipient was Governor Michael Dukakis.
For more than four decades, Yolanda Cellucci has worked tirelessly to translate movie-star glamour from the runway and the red carpet to the streets of America. In that time, she has mentored more than her share of young women and men: fashion designers, interior designers, and local media fixtures—as well as a familiar face.
“Like so many young women, I launched my career at her store,” explains Dawn Carroll. “She ignited confidence in me that women could be powerful business leaders, glamorous wives, and nurturing mothers. Yolanda was a wonderful mentor.”
Friday night also marked the opening of “Yolanda: Innovative Fashion Icon; 50 Years of High Heels, Headpieces, and Haute Couture” an exhibit of high-fashion gowns that features an all-star lineup of twentieth century designers. Curated by Cellucci herself, the exhibit includes several items from her private collection.
Waltham, MA – Featuring the designs of Oscar de la Renta, Bob Mackie, Stephen Yearick, Givenchy, and other fashion visionaries of the twentieth century, “Yolanda: Innovative Fashion Icon; 50 Years of High Heels, Headpieces, and Haute Couture” opens to the public on September 8. Hosted by The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, this special exhibit is curated by Boston icon Yolanda Cellucci.
On Friday, September 5, Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) Executive Director, will present Yolanda Cellucci with the second annual “Designing the Next Generation” award during a VIP preview of the exhibit. The award, co-sponsored by OMSF and Cumar Marble & Granite, honors those who cross generations and cultures to mentor the leaders of tomorrow, and was last presented to Governor Michael Dukakis.
“Like so many young women, I launched my career at her store,” explains Dawn Carroll. “I learned show production and how to navigate the world of glamorous luxury brands. Under her guidance, I learned how to work with political figures, newscasters, and celebrities. We all learned how to be ladies, how to be professional, how to work with all kinds of people. She ignited confidence in me that women could be powerful business leaders, glamorous wives, and nurturing mothers. She demanded that you respect yourself and be the very best that you could be. Yolanda was a wonderful mentor.”
Yolanda Cellucci founded her famed bridal salon with just a handful of dresses in 1968 and built it into a local institution. She brought couture fashion to the conservative streets of Boston. Forward thinkers like Yolanda sparked the imaginations of designers of all kinds to explore couture, bringing the glitz of Cher and glam of Bob Mackie to the woman on the street.
By the time Yolanda Cellucci closed her shop in 2009, the business included a bridal salon, bridesmaid and couture boutiques, children’s wear, and a full-service beauty salon and spa.
September 5: VIP opening reception, 6 p.m., at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, $25.
The reception includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the “Designing the Next Generation” award ceremony. To purchase tickets, visit yolandavip.eventbrite.com.
September 8: Public opening of the exhibit. There is a suggested donation of $10.
October 16: Special exhibit talk with Cellucci at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, 6 p.m., $25. To purchase tickets, visit yolandatalkcrmi.eventbrite.com.
November 20: Special exhibit talk with Sondra Celli at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, 6 p.m., $25. To purchase tickets, visit sondracellicrmi.eventbrite.com.
For more information, visit crmi.org.[/box]
Anne-Marie Slaughter, photo © PopTech
[box]When women are asked if they think they can “have it all,” many will say yes. A few usually say, maybe not. It’s still so hard for women to juggle high-pressure careers, family, mental health, friends, and hobbies. They have to stay emotionally stable, stay physically fit, nourish a marriage—oh yeah, then there’s soccer, gymnastics, hockey games…. Can you do it without a team of experts, a house manager, a Nanny, a stay-at-home dad? I personally side with those that say Nope! I could not do it—though maybe I could pretend. But inevitably, something would break. Something would be compromised. When I watch brave women trying to have it all, I can’t help but wonder…
Reading the now-infamous Atlantic article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I was so relieved: here was a very successful woman admitting that there was a problem. I stopped feeling weak, stopped wondering if the grass really was greener. I asked today’s writer, Erica Korff, to give me her view because, when I was her age, there was no stopping me. I was determined to destroy the glass ceiling. Sliding comfortably into my 50s, I wonder whether I should have done things a little differently.
Join the conversation and let us know what you think!
—Dawn Carroll, Executive Director[/box]
“You’ve got the power.” It’s a simple motivational quote one hears throughout their lifetime. “You can be anything you want to be.” It’s what young adults today heard from their parents. But did every kid really grow up with these ubiquitous sayings?
Indra K. Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, grew up in a family whose beliefs were rather different. Her experience shines light on the realities of women and the struggle for equality.
In an interview, Indra talked about her mother’s reaction to her becoming the CEO of Pepsi. One would think that such a high position would garner praise and celebration. “Let the news wait,” Indra’s mother said. “Can you go out and get some milk?” That was her reaction to this life-changing news. “Let me explain something to you,” her mother said. “You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”
When Indra was asked in a more recent interview if women can “have it all,” her response reflected her mother’s beliefs and perspective. “I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all.”
Indra went into further detail, explaining the challenges of balancing work with her personal life. To her way of thinking, one must choose what they are going to be at a certain time—a mother, a daughter, a wife, or a worker. One cannot be all of those things in a single moment. Perhaps this is true. But does it really mean that women can’t have it all?
“Having it all” may mean something different for each person, but that fact doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. Indra’s mother told her that she never had a crown to take home—but Indra did have that crown. It’s a sign that the times are changing. Still, “having it all” does not necessarily mean taking on multiple roles at the same time. One chooses, as from a basket. In Indra’s basket were a husband, two daughters, and a rewarding job. Indra may have to pick and choose at times. But that doesn’t mean Indra hasn’t succeeded; it only means she picks one role at a time, depending on the moment. In the end, she carries them all together.
I decided to ask my mother if she thinks that women can have it all. She has been extremely successful in her career, acting as the Executive Sales Manager for New England Home Magazine. I asked whether she had a mentor. She said she did not. Despite that, her views on the question are rather positive.
“I think that women can have it all,” she said. “I think everyone’s definition can be different. I think having it all can be hopefully having a loving relationship, a family, a job, and friends, and making it all work. It’s harder for women because that’s just the way it is; men don’t have to have that added pressure of ‘Oh I have to take care of the kids,’ so it’s a lot on a woman. I do think women can have it all but it is challenging.”
Next I interviewed my great-grandmother, who turns 102 this September. She’s an amazing woman: intelligent, funny, and very with it. She became a widow at a young age, and had to support the family on her own. An extremely hard worker, she now writes stories to share her successes and accomplishments. When I asked her about having a mentor, and what she thought about women having it all, she told me:
“I had Rabbi Zigmond who sponsored me when I worked at Harvard years ago. He supported me and motivated me. Having a job and having a family are two separate loves. Women can raise a family and have a good job, because it’s not the same kind of love for the work and for the family, but they both can get along.”
The women in my family seem to believe that women can have it all, but they recognize the same difficulties that Indra Nooyi described. It may not be easy, and it may require balance and a plan—but if you believe in yourself and work hard, it can all work out. You’ve got the power!
Image © Craig Sunter
“I thought forgiveness was important for anyone to move forward in life. But most importantly, forgiveness is for ourselves! Just like many spiritual teachers stress. Oprah, in one of her life classes, taught about the art of forgiveness and how its practice enriches the mind, body, and soul. Freedom and forgiveness go hand in hand. When it’s in full swing, you can now put the past behind you. As someone once said; “When the past comes knocking, don’t answer, it doesn’t have anything new to say.”
So true! Here are two quotes I found on Oprah’s Life Class website, and incorporated my own words, enjoy.
“The knowledge of the past stays with us. To let go is to release the emotions, the grudges, the pain and sorrow that hold us back. Forgiveness is not something you do for someone else, it’s something you do for yourself. And once you forgive, you feel free.” [box] About the Author Marissa Ranahan is a student at the University of Hartford. She hopes to pursue a career in writing.[/box] Marissa Ranahan
I am worried about the future of women. If you don’t understand, I don’t blame you—but if you’re a woman, go find a mirror. Take a long look at yourself. What is the first feature you notice about yourself? Likely it’s a physical trait. Is your reflection starting to get foggy? Are you comparing yourself to someone else in society? Many women’s mirrors fog up because they are comparing themselves to airbrushed advertisement models and societal images of what is “beautiful.” I imagine a 13-year-old woman opening a beauty magazine, then tugging at her thighs and dreaming that “life would magically be better” if she only had that “majestic” thigh gap so many girls desire. This “foggy mirror” image of young women is why I am worried for the future.
However, there is some solace in knowing that I am not the only one who’s worried. A new documentary, Miss Representation, looks about how women are misrepresented and influenced by the mainstream media. A particularly exciting segment of the film focuses on “minute mentoring,” in which young women go from one successful women to another, asking for mentoring advice from each one.
“Women have the desire to be mentored,” says Jessica Shambora, one of the brains behind this mentoring initiative. “When women mentor each other, it is really powerful.” The girls in this film listen attentively to the women that spoke to them. Many of the girls said they felt empowered afterward, and energized simply by meeting successful women who take an interest in mentoring them.
However, girls still feel tension between their intellectual ability and their appearance.
“There is no appreciation for women intellectuals. It’s all about the body, not about the brain,” says Ariella, a high school student. “When is it going to be enough?” asks Maria, another high school student featured in the documentary.
Miss Representation shows how young women feel the constant pressures of the media: the sexualization of women in advertisements, the obsession over weight, the negative effects of social media. All play a key role in distorting the self-image of young women. But positive media can act as a mentor to clear up the fog.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the director of the film, has done a fabulous job creating awareness through cinematography. She imagines a world when her daughter can be confident with her own image, but also recognizes that we have a long way to go. The film features prominent women such as Rachel Maddow, Condoleezza Rice, and Jane Fonda, speaking about their experiences with media distortion through supposedly benign weight jokes, “bitch” jokes, and negative stereotyping. It’s time women ask themselves, When is it going to be enough?
Miss Representation has started many (positive) media campaigns to help raise awareness about this topic. “The Representation Project” on YouTube has videos about the media’s effect on young women. The videos are simple and appropriate for girls of all ages. The film’s website has several ways young women can get involved in the body-positive movement. It also features “media positive” advertisements for girls to watch and compare with mainstream ads—I call this media positive mentoring. If we show young women that their worth is not about their waistline or their appearance, a generation of women intellectuals can be nurtured. It’s time that young woman became just as “obsessed” about being a senator as they are about makeup products.
Everyone can be a media-positive mentor for the young women in our lives by asking girls questions about issues that really matter, by showing them that not all girls are judged by their appearance, by teaching them about successful women past and present, and by showing them how to break down barriers and stereotypes. One of the mentors from the Minute Mentoring program summed up their message simply: “To thy own self be true.”
Visit the Miss Representation web site and click on the link “Take Action” to find more ways to get involved.
[box]About the Author
Marissa Ranahan is a student and staff writer for OMSF.[/box]
[box]Singer-songwriter-mentor-performer-mother-philanthropist-healer: meet my beautiful friend, rock icon Robin Lane. Like many aspiring female rockers, I sat glued to MTV ( when it was actually about music) waiting for my favorite videos. One of theses was by Robin Lane & The Chartbusters—their big song, “When Things Go Wrong.” Years later Robin still writes, sings, and performs. She also dedicates much of her time to supporting people when things go wrong in their lives. Her nonprofit organization, Songbird Sings, uses songwriting and music to mentor people who have been through difficult experiences, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
Now Robin Lane’s life story is about to come to the big screen, in a new film by Tim Jackson—named after the big song—and we are very pleased to have Larry Katz interview Robin just a few days before the movie premiere and benefit this Friday, April 4, at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA.[/box]
“When Things Go Wrong,” the new film about Robin Lane, includes all the elements you expect to find in the story of a rock musician’s life.
Troubled childhood? Check.
Wild teen years? Check.
A shot at stardom with a major label record deal? Check.
The band’s breakup and the hard times that inevitably follow? Double check.
It’s all there in “When Things Go Wrong,” a new film which will be seen for the first time on Friday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA, a premiere benefit screening that will include a live performance by Lane and her former band, the Chartbusters.
But—spoiler alert—the movie does not end with either the rehab stint or triumphant comeback found in your typical “Behind the Music”-style rock doc. These days Lane, the queen of the Boston new wave scene circa 1980, has found a new venue for her voice and guitar: leading songwriting workshops as a way to help victims of sexual and domestic abuse, at-risk teenagers, prison inmates, and the elderly.
While what Lane does in her workshops is a form of music therapy, she is quick to point out that she is neither a therapist nor a counselor.
“I’m a facilitator,” she said from her rural home in Western Massachusetts. “I facilitate these situations where people can, through songwriting, find a key out of their dilemma—a key to their own healing capabilities. My role is really just to help them find a way to write a song, to help them to heal themselves and get out of whatever they’re in that’s dangerous and not good for their lives.”
It’s not a job she consciously pursued, at least not at first, but it’s one that Lane has found herself eminently well-qualified for. Music, after all, had always been her own lifeline.
“I’d been writing songs for years,” she said, “and didn’t realize why. I’d always loved music, but if I hadn’t had songwriting I would be scared to think of what would have happened to me.”
Lane’s life story has more than its share of mental and physical hurt. Distant parents. Sexual assault. Domestic violence. Divorce. And a tantalizingly close, ultimately frustrating brush with stardom. When the first two Robin Lane and the Chartbusters albums failed to sell as much as expected, the band was tossed aside by their label, Warner Brothers. And after Lane gave birth to a daughter, Evangeline, she found she was no longer considered a serious contender in the male chauvinist rock world of the 1980s.
“I raised my child,” Lane said of her post-Chartbusters years. “Got married again. Had a couple of dogs. Played around. Made the ‘Catbird’ CD [ed. 1995]. Then I got divorced, around 1999.”
And almost without realizing it, she was embarking on a new career as a songwriting mentor.
[box] We are thrilled to feature this inspirational interview between Larry Katz and Sam Polk. It’s incredible the way a mentor at the right time can pry us open, leaving just enough space for the light to shine in, providing enough leverage for the next unexpected mentor to step up. Enjoy![/box]
Would you walk away from a job that paid millions?
Sam Polk did.
Four years ago Polk was working for a Wall Street hedge fund. When he received a $3.8 million bonus on top of a $1.5 million salary, Polk reacted with anger. He demanded that his bosses increase his bonus to $8 million. They raised their offer, but only if he agreed to stay with the firm for several more years.
Polk refused. He said he didn’t want to make the commitment.
But the bonus amount wasn’t the reason Polk quit his job. He had come to believe he was an addict hooked on making money—and it didn’t feel good.
Polk tells his compelling story in “For the Love of Money,” an essay published in January on the front page of the New York Times’ Sunday Review. It attracted far more notice than he expected.
“I had no idea of the impact it would have,” Polk said from Los Angeles, where he has launched Groceryships, a non-profit he has co-founded with his wife to provide needy families with “scholarships for groceries.”
“I’ve gotten over 10,000 emails,” he said. “I’ve been interviewed and been on all these radio and TV shows. It’s been overwhelming and shocking.”
In his New York Times story, Polk outlines how he came to understand the wisdom of that old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.” It wasn’t an easy lesson, especially since he grew up being told the exact opposite. Polk’s salesman father, he writes, “believed money would solve all his problems.” Then, while attending Columbia University, Polk read in “Liar’s Poker” how a young Michael Lewis made hundreds of thousands as a Wall Street bond trader. He somehow missed the book’s dark side.
“My heroes,” Polk said, “were people who had made billions of dollars and risen to the top of Wall Street.”
A very different set of heroes would emerge later in Polk’s life—unexpected mentors who would profoundly alter his definition of success and a well-lived life. We wanted to know more about these influences and Sam Polk was happy for the opportunity to tell us about them.
On Monday, March 24, the Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) partnered with Cumar, purveyors of fine marble and granite, to present Charmed by Charity: Mentoring in the Music, Design and Fashion Industries.
The event was held at the Alex & Ani outpost on Boston’s trendy Newbury Street, and featured a mix of local celebrities, media, and mentoring supporters. Guests were treated to light fare and copious attention from the Alex & Ani staff, who were on hand to help customers choose from an array of beautiful bangles and bracelets.
Headquartered in Cranston, Rhode Island, Alex & Ani is known for their collection of meaningful jewelry that “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.” 15% of proceeds from the evening’s sales were donated directly to the Over My Shoulder Foundation; guests who purchased $100 or more in merchandise were treated to The Path of Life, a book of testimonies by Alex & Ani customers, who share the ways the positively-focused jewelry changed their lives for the better.
Janice O’Leary, health and wellness editor of the global luxury publication Robb Report, formerly editor-in-chief of Boston Common magazine, was the event’s emcee, which kicked off with a welcome from Dave Connor, CUMAR general manager and OMSF board member. Guests were also treated to a song put together especially for the event: “The Path of Life” was co-written by Grammy-nominated Boston rocker Jon Butcher and OMSF Executive Director Dawn Carroll, and was inspired by the Alex & Ani book of the same title.
After that, Amanda Frederick, assistant manager of Alex and Ani’s Boston location, discussed Charity by Design. Cumar’s executive vice president, Carlotta Cubi, and Paula Daher, principal of Paula Daher Design, talked about the importance of mentoring in the stone and interior design industries, respectively. Then stylista Denise Hajjar, of the eponymous boutique, shared her insights from the fashion industry.
Before she took the mic, Paula Daher mentioned just how important mentoring has been to her as her career’s progressed. “It took me awhile to find [a mentor],” she said, “And in fact, I never thought I would. It’s men who tend to hold positions at the pinnacle level.” In response, she says that she feels even more compelled to mentor—in particular, women—now that she’s established herself.
Janice Dowling, another area designer and instructor at Boston Architectural College, agreed, and added that, “It doesn’t matter how far along in your career you are, or how old you are. There’s always something to learn. Be a sponge. Ask questions. Be curious.” Which just goes to show: mentors are needed at every stage of life.
About the Author
Karyn Polewaczyk is a freelance writer living in Boston and a staff reporter on personal finance for the Boston Globe.
[box]OMSF is honored to work with young talented volunteers who are willing to share their experiences and thoughts on mentorship. Today I am particularly proud to feature a story written and designed by our new mentoring friend, Ali Shirazi. Ali is a senior at Northeast Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield, MA. He loves music and hopes someday to be a songwriter-producer. A connoisseur of iconic music talents, he also happens to be an expert on our the career of OMSF co-founder Patti Austin! We couldn’t survive without our altruistic volunteers—people who share their time, wisdom, and expertise to remind us all how much we need each other. Thank you so much, Ali, for sharing this story with us today!
—Dawn Carroll, OMSF Executive Director[/box]
Faces upon faces upon faces, all unique and all special in their own particular way. Nothing links these faces except for maybe a few things. They all share similar feelings: of excitement and assumed preparedness, ready to take on the next four years of their lives. They think all will soon be great and each day will be filled with excitement and pure splendor.
The thoughts, for some, are of hope for a NEW BEGINNING. They see the halls them with seemingly infinite doors, thinking hope should lie somewhere. The people around them seem intimidating or friendly. But another feeling they might have is a sense of fear. It’s the fear that keeps each person on edge, causing each step to shake more than the last. Despite the excitement and hope, underneath lies an ugliness. There lies a doubt about all their hopes:
“I’ll make FRIENDS, but, maybe I won’t”
“I’ll join football, but, maybe I’m NOT GOOD enough.
“I’ll join DRAMA, but, what’s if I get stage fright? Or, if I’ll even get on the stage…”
“I’ll get my voice out there for once, but, maybe NO ONE CARES. They never had before…”
Those are the few examples of the hopeful yet frightened thoughts that linger within the young minds.
I had volunteered to stand in front of a group of children with these same ideas—the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” mindset—hoping I could change that, or at least make them feel less anxious. They sat in front of me, their many questions forming a whirlwind. I had to take on the persona of “Time”, to dissipate the tornadoes oncoming with question marks.
In my role as a Junior Mentor at Northeast Metro Tech, the goal was first to help students by easing them from anxiety into more positive thoughts, from fear to pure excitement. I was also expected to ensure they know all the rules and customs of the school, and answer routine related questions. Lastly, optional yet expected, was to be there for my assigned freshmen, or any freshmen that looked like they needed help. Sometimes, just say hi to them to let them feel welcomed. Not just welcomed to the school, but even welcomed by you, a peer. And I had done just that, exchanging greetings with them and asking them if they need help. They’d smile and say hi and how are you. Then, usually, they’d tell me they’re doing fine or they’d ask a quick question.
There are a few instances in which I felt proud, not so much of myself, but of them. One of the girls I mentored came to me during lunch—she asked to sit with me and I said, of course!—and she began telling me how her year went by so far and how well she’s been doing. I was glad that she felt comfortable enough to tell me, that she knew I would listen—it was very brave of her. In another instance, I greeted a boy in the hallway as usual and then he said, “Guess what?” He told me about getting into the shop class he was excited to take and about signing up for sports, that he’s keeping up his grades and he loves the school so far.
I’m happy I got to help some kids with their transition into high school. When I was a freshman, I needed a guide. The teachers stood around and offered direction, but that was about it. However, a senior girl I was already friends with offered me a place to sit at lunch as well as her advice. She introduced me to one of her friends as well. I was lucky to have had a mentor. I appreciated that more than anything, and now I’m glad I got to do it for a new class of students. To greet the minds filled with questions and the “maybe I will and maybe I wont’s” to see them filled with answers and to hear them say, “I know I will.”
One of my earliest and most-treasured mentors is David Shapiro CEO of Mentor, “the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States.” I asked him to offer some reasons for becoming a mentor. Here’s what he told me:
“Currently, 1 in 3 young people reach age 19 without a mentor of any kind. Absent this critical guidance and support, an extraordinary amount is left to chance—and we are too often losing these children to hardship and hopelessness. It has been proven that young people with mentors both aspire to and reach college at a higher rate. They also have better self-esteem and they make better, more productive decisions.
“The more risk factors in a young person’s life, the less likely they are to connect to mentors ‘naturally.’ With such a powerful tool in our midst to improve the lives of young people, we have a responsibility to actively engage with them. We have to learn to notice the signs that a young person needs support and use what we know about quality mentoring to create and support them.
“It is for these reasons that Mentor was founded, more than twenty years ago. It has expanded from helping 300,000 young people in mentoring programs then, to helping 4.5 million today. It is our privilege to work to inform, connect, and fuel the mentoring movement in America—whether through the National Mentoring Month campaign in January, the National Mentoring Summit, our work on advocacy and policy to advance integration and support for mentoring, or our work to help get practitioners the best information from researchers to make their programs of the highest quality.”
As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, I hope you will share in the mentoring spirit. Consider making mentorship a part of your life. Mentoring shatters barriers that separate generations of people and cultures. Mentoring fosters respect, diversity, culture, and individuality. Mentoring develops the talent of our youth, who will then have the leadership skills to amend our social and economic woes.
This is the essence of Mentorology. We hope that you will become a mentorologist too, and help spread the good word of mentoring!
—Dawn Caroll, Over My Shoulder Director
[box]Recently, I was invited to write a guest post for the blog of Alex & Ani, a company that “offers eco-friendly, positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.” It was thrilling to be able to highlight the importance of mentorship for their community. Here is the complete text of the post, which you can also find at the Alex & Ani website.
—Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Director[/box]
A few years ago I was asked to help write a song for a very talented thirteen year old to sing with her mentor, singing legend Patti Austin. The challenge was to find subject matter that was both appropriate and authentic, something teenagers and adults could relate to. I was given a musical formula by the managers: take a base of Taylor Swift, blend it with Adele, and decorate it with some Carly Simon – with that, I was supposed to cook up a delicious song with multi-generational appeal.
Initially, I laughed about the assignment. It was like being asked to write the spell that turns lead into gold. I said to myself, “If I can write that story/song, I could retire tomorrow!” However, I enjoy a daunting task and attacked it with relish. At the time I happened to be with my niece, Meghan, so I asked her to help me. Together, we came up with many ideas in just a few hours, but there was one idea that kept me up that night.
When I was trying to make it big in Hollywood, I was working for a music management company. They represented, among others, New Kids on the Block (hey, they were pretty big at the time!) as well as singing legend Patti Austin. One time, Patti was asked to describe the recipe of her own success. She simply replied, “Mentors.”
That word kept coming back to me as I was working on this new song. I have jokingly told people that it only took 15 minutes to write a duet for Patti to sing with this young lady, but truth be told, the song had been marinating inside me for more than two decades. That’s how I came to write “Over My Shoulder.” The message of the song is simple: two voices, two generations, each one inspired by, supportive of, and paying tribute to the other.
This was the very first song I ever wrote, and at 48 years old, it was also a lifelong dream come true. The song was a hit! It initiated vibrant conversations amongst powerful leaders both young and old, and something stirred inside me as well. Jimi Hendrix, my musical hero, once said, “If there is something to be changed in the world, it can only be done through music.” I felt that I could create music, tell stories and produce events that could spotlight mentorship, to promote positive change in the world by encouraging people to care for each other.
I believe that there is nothing more dangerous than hopelessness. Mentoring is our most powerful weapon in the fight against it as well as poverty, ignorance, and hatred. We all need to become life-navigators and be open to them. It is up to all of us to design the next generation, to instill hope into the future. Without it, we become disconnected as individuals and lost as a society.
The Alex and Ani story is a perfect example of the power of mentorship. Like many of you, I gravitated to its positive energy and ethos of continuity, “inspired by the wisdom of ancient thinkers,” as the company’s biography reads. I discovered that Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder and Creative Director, created Alex and Ani to carry her family’s legacy forward, to fulfill the vision of her father. She did this not only for its own sake (and all of ours!), but for her daughters’ as well.
The Alex and Ani mission is mentorship writ large: history and values being passed across three generations and likely more to come. Mentoring truly is a life force without which none of us can thrive. It helps the next generation take over and succeed. It allows the spiritual side of passion to flourish and let a living history be passed on.
I cofounded the Over My Shoulder Foundation to shed light on these important examples of mentorship in music, design, and elsewhere. As Executive Director of OMSF, having collected dozens of stories like this, I have come to learn how important mentoring is to people. It spans across age, class and race, defying innumerable social divisions. Mentoring is a healing and hopeful force that reconnects the disconnected. Mentoring stimulates creative thinking, and it will be creative minds that will move us all toward a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value.
This topic is so close to heart because finding a mentor is important to everyone. Finding a mentor is SO IMPORTANT that I have dedicated a large part of my life to starting Over My Shoulder Foundation and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. Justin Locke, a previous member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, appeals to teenagers as he writes this Beginners Guide to Being a Successful Mentee. Yet, most of as really ARE all still just kids at heart wondering what we’re going to DO when we grow up. Mentoring IS often understood as an older person teaching someone younger how to do a specific thing, or teach that youngster some lessons about life. Yet in Mentorology there is an even exchange. Mentor and mentee share valuable insights with each other and grow because of it.
Even Warren Buffet’s career advice is to “do what you’d do if you were independently wealthy.” Why not start now by finding a mentor? It’s so easy with Justin Locke’s step-by-step mentoring advice below.
-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director
Okay, so you’re a high school kid who has been reading this Over My Shoulder blog, and now you’re saying to yourself, “wow, how do I get in on some of this fabulous mentoring action?” Well, read on, we will explain the basics
of how to do it, or at least one approach.
Finding a mentor is actually pretty easy to do. Even if you’ve never encountered someone who took any interest in you up until now, if you follow the rules and procedures, you too can have a fabulous mentoring experience.
Step one: It all starts with desire. Here is a trite question, but it’s also one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself: what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s kind of important to not take this lightly. Also, you are probably surrounded by people who are trying to influence your decision and tell you what they think you should want. So sit down in a nice quiet room someplace all by yourself and imagine that everyone around you is happy and content and willing to accept whatever career decision you make on your own. And then, ask yourself that question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Bear in mind, this can be difficult, and you may not get it right the first time. This is a process of discovery. But before you can present yourself as a candidate for mentoring, you need to at least say, “I am seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I was hoping you could give me some advice in the matter.”
The next step is finding potential mentors and hooking up with them. This is a whole lot easier than you might think. Start close to home, in your current “network.” Ask your parents if they know someone. Ask your friends and their parents if they know someone. If that doesn’t work out, start expanding your network. For example, there are wonderful things in every town in America called “Rotary Clubs.” They sponsor all sorts of programs for high school kids, including scholarships and leadership training. Not only that, but practically every Rotary club has at least one lawyer, one doctor, one banking professional, one real estate agent, and one everything else. They know everybody. They are a magnificent resource of connection, they would be happy to give you some advice, and all you have to do to start is send an email to the president of the club.
The next step is, again, based on the answer to the question in step one. You want to say to these people, “I’m seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I’m looking for an adult who can give me some advice.” It is important that you be serious about your desire, because they will notice right away if you aren’t. Also they will notice right away if you are, and that will command respect.
Now at this point you may be asking, “why would any of these busy people want to take time out of their day to spend time talking to me?” The answer is, for all sorts of reasons. Every single one of these people was, one
time or another, a teenage kid just like you, so they can empathize with your current situation more than you might think. Many of them will have memories of being a somewhat lost and confused teenager, wishing that
someone had helped them out and given them guidance. Helping you is a way to heal their own past. Or perhaps someone helped them out way back when, and now they are eager to “pay it forward.”
There’s also just plain old ego. Many people are eager to share their philosophy, or just show off their knowledge. And no matter who you are, it feels good to help other people. And don’t forget, there is tremendous
“equity” in youth. Older people like to be around younger people. You’re so full of life.
Getting Into Your Mentoring Relationship
There are all sorts of ways to get into a mentoring relationship. You can take someone to lunch. Or, you might volunteer or sign-up for an internship. The best mentoring opportunities are totally unique and don’t
fall into any pre-existing forms. To make it happen, just hang around, or maybe offer to make yourself useful. Ask people the magic question: “How can I help you?” Offer to help out with menial tasks or just
sweeping up the place. If you want to be a lawyer, filing the papers or washing the windows in a real law office for a couple of weeks will tell you more about the actual business than any book on constitutional law.
Once you hook up with a mentor, bear in mind, being a good mentee is not the same as being a good student. This is not a relationship where you should be eager to demonstrate that you “know the answer.”
The real world is not school. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Be humble. And remember this principle of applied stupidity: “The dumber you look, the more stuff people will tell you.”
There are more mentoring opportunities out there than you can count. And remember, it’s important to go to school and get good grades, but networking and making connections is just as important to your success in
life, if not more so. There are lots of people out there who are genuinely eager to help you. It all starts with articulating desire.
So, what you want to be when you grow up?
© Justin Locke
Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass with the Boston Pops before becoming an author and speaker. In his books and presentations he talks about the confluence of education, history, and the performing arts, and how this affects current issues of organizational dynamics and management.
His books include “Real Men Don’t Rehearse” (his humorous Pops memoir) and ”Principles of Applied Stupidity” (or, the benefits of going against conventional wisdom). His upcoming book is titled “The Emotions of Money: Undoing the Effects of Poverty Thinking.” J
Justin has been featured on Chronicle HD, CBS Radio, WGBH’s Greater Boston, and in the Boston Globe, and he recently appeared as an “author@google.” Justin’s plays for family orchestra concerts are performed all over the world, and he writes a monthly article of managerial “people skills” for the American Institute of CPAs. Justin appears regularly as an entertaining and inspirational speaker for more information please visit his website www.justinlocke.com. [/box]
[box] Have you successfully found your mentor? Please write to us and share your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation so we can keep inspiring others to do the same! [/box]