Friday, September 30, 2011

September Mentor of the Month!

Kanta MacDermott and her mentee will be celebrating an amazing three years together in October. Her mentee was referred in 2008 and need a mentor who would help her improve her self-esteem, academics, and social skills. Together, they have been able to accomplish these things and many more. Kanta's patience has been a strong factor in developing their mentoring relationship. It wasn't always easy to mentor a young girl whose main interest was playing with her friends. But Kanta stuck with her mentee, encouraged her to develop her artistic skills and creativity, and further her academic achievements. Kanta's consistency has helped her mentee improve in all areas of her life. One of their goals was read three new books over their first year together. They surpassed that goal quickly and Kanta encouraged her mentee to read one book a week during a summer program. Her mentee has become a better reader and actually enjoys reading now! Each year, Kanta makes an effort to reach out to her mentee's teacher to see how she can best help outside of school hours. Beyond academics, Kanta encouraged her mentee to be caring and thoughtful of others, and now we see her mentee say, "please," and "thank you" with a sweet smile at every appropriate moment.

Kanta takes advantage of the many mentor resources to help out develop her mentee's interests. For example, she encouraged her to sign up for the PAL Twelve35 Teen Center to develop her mentee’s passion for arts. They have also created a scrapbook, mosaic art pieces, and other forms of arts and crafts. Kanta goes above and beyond to be that support system and friend that her mentee needs. She takes extra time to look into community events and activities to keep her mentee engaged, especially during the summer months. She helped her sign up for Fun in the Sun and brought her to many Mentor Program events. Thank you for all that you do, Kanta!

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Do You Think?: Sexting


8th grade Leah went to her brother's high school football game Friday night. She wasn't "popular" in middle school, but not known as a "nerd" either. She didn't really stand out in any way. So when a cute 10th grader started talking to her during the game, she was flattered. At the end of the night, they exchanged numbers and stayed up until the early morning hours sending text messages to each other. The same thing happened the next night. Leah was excited, butterflies in her stomach. If she entered as a freshman with an 11th grade boyfriend the next year, her popularity would definitely skyrocket. She was determined to make this happen.

Saturday night the text messages started to get a little more mature. He asked her what she was wearing. When she tried to describe it, he said, "cute. send a pic." So she did. He told her he wished he could see what she really looked like under her big shirt, instead of imagining it. After a pause, Leah thought, "What's the harm? Then he'll know he definitely wants to date me, right?" So she took a picture of herself again, but without her shirt this time, asked for a pic from him, and hit "Send." He never responded, but she assumed he fell asleep.

On Sunday afternoon, Leah heard her brother yell from his room. Leah's mom came running up the stairs to his room, then Leah heard her scream and Leah went running to see what was wrong. Leah's mom was shaking and crying on the floor and her brother looked up and showed her his phone...on it was the picture she'd taken for the cute 10th grade boy.

Questions for Discussion:

1. What do you think happens next for Leah? Do you think it stops here? Do you think that this situation could happen in real life? Read this article to find out.

2. Look at the above definition for sexting. If you sent a text to your friend saying, "hung out last nite with jessie. back corner, movie theater...parking lot. dats rite," would you consider it sexting? Why or why not?

3. If you received a naked pic of your boyfriend or girlfriend, would you show it to others? Do you think you could get in trouble for passing it along?

4. If you received a "sext" from someone, what would you do? What if it was about your best friend, your sister, your brother, your cousin? Who is someone that you could tell about this to help stop it from spreading further?

5. If you're comfortable watching this with your mentee, view this Motorola ad from the 2010 Superbowl of Megan Fox. She is supposedly advertising a phone, but what kind of message do you think this sends to viewers, especially teens?

Factoids: (taken from a national online survey)

**20% of teens (ages 13-19) & 11% of young teen girls (ages 13-16) have sent/ posted a nude or semi-nude picture or video of themselves

**39% of teens have sent or posted a sexually suggestive message; 48% have received one.

**47% of teens say “pressure from guys” is a reason girls send and post sexually suggestive messages and images. 24% of teens say “pressure from friends” is a reason guys send and post sexually suggestive messages and images.

**4 in 10 teen girls who have sent sexually suggestive content did so “as a joke” but many teen boys (29%) agree that girls who send such content are “expected to date or hook up in real life.”

What Can Mentors Do to Help Prevent This?

**Talk with your mentee about their cell phone and internet use. Make sure they understand that everything they send and post is not truly private or anonymous.

** Remind them about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it’s of them. They could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law.

** Let them know that if they forward a sexual picture of someone underage, they are as responsible for this image as the original sender. They could face child pornography charges, go to jail, and have to register as a sex offender.

** Remind them that if they received an inappropriate text or noticed an inappropriate photo or post about someone online, that they should notify a parent or someone at school ASAP. They have the power to help stop the cycle of bullying and humiliation, and no one has to know it was them that spoke up...chances are that everyone else in their school saw it as well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Do You Think?: Protecting Your Reputation

After a fun summer, Martin entered the new school year with a positive attitude. He felt good about his classes, and the new friends he’s made. After the first few weeks of school, Martin has noticed the new girl, Gaby. He develops a crush and talks to her whenever he has a chance. One of his classmates, Steve, tells Martin that Gaby likes him and wants to be his girlfriend. Excited, Martin goes to hug Gaby, and asks if she would like to be his girlfriend in front of everyone, including Steve. She stares at him, and says no. Everyone is laughing and Martin soon realizes this was just a rumor started by Steve. Martin yells some bad words to Steve, clenches his fists and throws the first punch.

Questions for Discussion:

1. How do you think Martin felt when he realized Steve had made up a rumor about him? How would you feel?
2. Why do you think Steve started the rumor?
3. Why do you think that Martin fought Steve?
4. Instead of fighting, what might have been a better way for Martin to handle this situation? How do you stand up for yourself?
5. What do you think will be the consequences for fighting at school?


**Fighting isn't just for boys. 46% of males and 26% of females reported they had been in physical fights. For males, both physical and verbal bullying is common, while for females, verbal bullying and rumors were more common.

**Those in the lower grades reported being in twice as many fights as those in the higher grades. However, there is a lower rate of serious violent crimes in the elementary level than the middle or high schools

**For both males and females, the percentage of students who reported being in a fight anywhere was lower in 2009 than in 2007 (39 percent compared to 44 percent for males, and 23 percent compared to 27 percent for females).

**Students recognize that being a victim of abuse at home or witnessing others being abused at home may cause violence in school.

**Two High School students were jailed in 2008 on assault charges after police said they were in a fight in the school during which another student was cut.

What Can Mentors Do to Help Prevent This?

**Teach kids to seek out trusted adults for help if they have trouble resolving conflicts on their own. Adults can be helpful in sorting out differences.

**Don’t Judge, Don’t Solve, DO Listen. Talk with your child, and find out what’s going on. Are her or his friends also fighting? Is your child struggling with an issue or perhaps a disability? Do not try to solve their problems right away. Start by listening to what your mentee has to say.

**Sometimes we unknowingly misdirect our kids’ coping skill development by teaching them how to make excuses and blame others. When you ask to a child, “Why did you hit that kid?” not only are they asking him to make an excuse, but if he doesn’t, they’ll readily provide one: “Maybe you were angry.” The question “why” always indicates that we’re looking for an excuse or reason, when really what we want to learn is what he was trying to accomplish. So a better question is “What were you trying to accomplish when you hit that kid?” because it gets to the facts of the action.

**Teach empathy, respect, and compassion. Try to understand your mentee’s feelings and talk about what the victim might be experiencing. Is your child aware of the impact of the behavior?

**Teach by example. Model nonviolent behavior (use your past experiences), practice constructive resolution of difficult situations, and give positive feedback when you notice healthy choices.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Do You Think?: Teasing The Smart Kid.

Lidia just entered 9th grade and has always done well in school, enjoys reading, and likes to think about things in new ways. People tend to assume she is older than she is and she often feels as though she is not “on the same page” as her friends. Her school smarts and unique way of thinking make her a target for teasing, even from her own friends. A few of her classmates call her names like stupid, weird, and spacey, and ridicule her good grades. She laughs it off but secretly wonders if she really is weird or crazy and wants nothing more than to be accepted and liked by her classmates. The teasing makes her feel isolated, angry, and recently has caused her grades to slip from A’s to C’s. She has also started making older friends and engaging in risky behaviors with alcohol and boys because she is trying to fit in and be “cool.”

Questions for Discussion:
1. If Lidia doesn’t get some help what do you think could happen to her?
2. Why do the other kids tease her so much, and have you ever teased someone for those reasons?
3. Have you ever been the kid being teased and how did it make you feel? What did it make you want to do?
4. If you were Lidia what could you do to make the situation better? How would the kids teasing her react to each option you come up with?

**Smart, or “gifted,” youth are often teased by classmates because they are perceived as different. A 2006 study of almost 500 gifted 8th grade students showed that 67% had experienced teasing or bullying from their peers, and many think its closer to 90%!

**Gifted youth tend to be more sensitive to others and can experience intense reactions to teasing and bullying. Potential consequences are emotional withdrawal, depression, intense anger, or even violence against self or others. Many of the kids involved in school shootings were gifted children who were reportedly teased and bullied regularly.

**Most gifted youth that are teased don’t tell anyone or ask for help because they think it reflects poorly on them, are ashamed they can do nothing to stop it, and/or think telling an adult is “tattling”. Common symptoms of being teased are lowered academic achievement, trouble sleeping or eating (especially during the school week), unexplained aversion to school/ditching, headaches and stomach aches before and during school, and emotional flatness.

**Psychological studies indicate that victims of teasing/bullying might choose to partake in more risky behaviors (drinking, smoking, drug use, unprotected sex) than those who have not been victimized, may become more delinquent in later stages, and could possibly be diagnosed with future psychological problems such as ADHD and anxiety disorders.

What Can Mentors do to Help Prevent This?:
**The most important thing is to be understanding and empathetic, don’t try to minimize their pain by telling them that lots of kids get teased or that they should just stand up for themselves, these strategies are proven to make victims feel even more powerless and inadequate. Be supportive, sympathetic, and reassure them that they are not weird, stupid etc. and that telling an adult is not shameful or tattling. If they are being teased because they are gifted explain to them what their being gifted means and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Smart children often feel different than their peers but don’t know why, so understanding that can be a big relief.

**Try using this problem solving model created for kids who are being teased or bullied.
1. Clarify the problem with your mentee (who, where, when, and why).
2. Brainstorm other ways your mentee could respond the next time the situation arises:
a. postpone judgment on suggested responses: their answers can be inappropriate, vindictive, silly etc; just let them explore and don’t be afraid to joke around a little bit!
b. While you let them get out emotions and be silly in this exercise, be sure to include appropriate responses: walk away, be assertive, go for help etc.
3. Think through the consequences of each suggestion on the list and pick one to try.
4. Make a plan, role play to practice, and have them try it out.
5. Evaluate what happened, and try another option if necessary.

**Some successful responses you can try with them are:
1. Stay calm and ignore the bully. Feign disinterest or boredom (maybe yawn) and become interested in some other activity.
2. Be assertive and tell the bully/s how you feel without being aggressive and escalating the situation. Eg. Try to get the bully/s alone and say something like, “It really hurts my feelings when you say xyz about me and I would appreciate it if you would stop.”
3. If the bully won’t stop, or they threaten or scare your mentee tell them to seek adult help immediately. Come up with several safe people they can go to in various situations and places (school, home, after school program etc) and talk to those people about the situation so they are ready and willing to help. Of course it’s best if your mentee can deal with the bully themselves but if their physical or emotional safety is in jeopardy they need to be able to find help. Threatening someone is a crime and should be treated as such.

**If you are teaching them how to be assertive practice these tactics:
1. Look people in the eye
2. Stand up straight, with feet slightly apart
3. Keep your hands in your pockets
4. Move closer to the person rather than backing off as you talk
5. Speak loudly enough and use a firm and determined voice

**Check out these links, and do your own internet research with your mentee, for more information on gifted children, bullying, and other helpful coping strategies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Do You Think?: Cutting School

Brett wasn’t doing well with school. Some days, he just didn’t want to he didn’t. Then it became easier not to go. He thinks he was too proud to ask for help. And he felt ashamed because he couldn’t do all the work. So he just quit going. He just hung out with his cousin and his friends. They were selling drugs. So Brett started to as well. Now he's in jail, able to get his GED, but wishes he'd asked for help, thinks things might have been different for him.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Why might it seem easier to quit school than to ask for help?

2. Brett thinks that "things might have been different". What might have been different if he'd gotten help and stayed in school?

3. Who do you ask for help from in school? How do you feel when you ask for help?

**Cutting school on a regular basis can lead to dropping out all together. Dropouts are far more likely to be unemployed, imprisoned, and living in poverty.

**When 500 dropout students were interviewed, they gave their reasons for leaving: 47% said class was not interesting, 43% missed too many days to catch up, 45% entered high school poorly prepared by earlier schooling, 69% said they weren't motivated to work hard, and 25% said they left to become parents. 2/3 said they would have tried harder if more was expected of them.

**US Census data tells us the average income of different education levels. Those with: Bachelor's degrees earn $51,554; High school diplomas earn $28,645; and high school dropout earns $19,169.

What Can Mentors do to help prevent this?
**Emphasize reading. This doesn't have to be the traditional way through books. You can use magazines, online articles, road signs and billboards as you're driving, emails, write each other letters once a month, create a jeapordy game. Words are everywhere. Simply use whatever topic is interesting to your mentee and find something for them to read about it.

**Make education come alive. Are they learning about Native Americans? Visit the Santa Barbara Mission, the 3rd mission located in the land of the Chumash. How about rocks and minerals? Go to the library and check out a rock and mineral guide and carry it with you on a walk around campus, the neighborhood, the beach. Learning about the first settlers in America? See if you can figure out how to talk like they did and read together trying only to use that accent. Or ask them what they think it would have been like to live during that time. Have them draw a picture of what their house looks like today and what it might have looked like then. Learning about synonyms? Play a game with words like "pretty" and "nice" by writing down as many as you can think of on scratch paper and use them like flash cards with your mentee. Flip one over and ask if it's a synonym or antonym. For more suggestions, talk with your case manager!

**Help them develop their curiousities. What do they want to know more about in life? In the future? It's okay if they only want to know about a sport or about being an actor. Help them see what it would really be like. Random fact, but did you know that retired professional football players tend to have more physical and emotional difficulties than any other retired pro athletes? Find a sample athlete contract online and see if they can read it. Explain how important it would be to know what the contract says.

**Take a quiz. A career quiz, that is. Registration is required, but you can find one here: MAPP You can also take a Color Test just for fun: Color Test

**Ask them if they didn't have to be in school, but all their friends were in school and their parents at work, what they would do every day.
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