Friday, October 26, 2012

Mentor of the Year: Lisa Gosdschan

The Fighting Back Mentor Program Coordinator, Ann Cowell, told me while choosing the Mentor of the Year that she is looking for someone who not only demonstrates the time commitment to their mentee, but a commitment to the community as a whole.  She looks for a mentor who supports and cares for their mentee in every way that they can: in school, in their personal lives, and by encouraging them to always learn and experience new things.

This year we are so proud to announce and celebrate Lisa Gosdschan as our 2012 Mentor of the Year, because she embodies all of those qualities! Throughout her long, and sometimes rocky, relationship with her mentee she never gave up, never stopped caring, and is a perfect example of what a mentor can be given enough time, heart, and devotion. Her work with her mentee, who is now an 8th grader, is beyond the expectations of a mentor, and therefore comes directly from her own intrinsic motivation and spirit. Her story is important to share because it shows how, when given the opportunity, people are capable of immeasurable generosity and compassion.

When I sat down for an interview with Lisa, she told me of all the ways she supports her mentee with her physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual health. Lisa is extremely hands on, very involved, and an incredible model of humanitarian work. She is a valuable member of numerous volunteer groups: Mentor Task Force, Kiwanis Club, Catholic Charities (Food Pantry, Special Olympics) and on the board of Alpha Resource Center. Her volunteer work with Ed Cue at Kiwanis, exposed her to the need of mentoring, and inspired her to get involved with more programs within the Santa Barbara community.

            Nearly three years ago, Lisa and her mentee met for the first time at their match meeting at her elementary school. It was clear from day one that they were a good match. When I read over her mentee’s pre-match interview, I found that when she was asked 'What type of person would you like to be matched with?' she responded, "Someone who is nice, who cares about me, and knows other languages." It turns out that Lisa speaks French, German, and English. But this is only one small connection among many, such as their shared love of cats, and going to Yogurtland, that make them great. Lisa brought Jolly Ranchers to the match meeting for her mentee and it turned out that that was her favorite candy! The candy was a great conversation starter and it allowed for her normally shy mentee to open up. They were both very enthusiastic about the relationship and her mentee fed off of Lisa’s energy. Lisa identified with her because as a young girl she remembers being shy and reserved also. And then as she grew older Lisa overcame her shyness, became a cheerleader, and got more involved in school and the community. Lisa was immediately excited to share this experience and knowledge with her mentee, to help her blossom, just as Lisa had.

                        For Lisa, sharing her childhood and family experiences with her mentee has been a wonderful and important part of their relationship, but dealing with the differences in their backgrounds and perspectives, and relating to her mentee with understanding and without judgment, has been one of her greatest struggles. Not having any children to base a mentoring relationship on, Lisa put forth what she knew about support and encouragement from growing up in a disciplined and structured military household. Sometimes it was hard for Lisa to understand her mentee’s actions, because she describes that from her own experience growing up "I just never [broke the rules], I just never did anything. I knew there would be consequences and I didn’t want to find out what they were. I never got in trouble, never got suspended, never got anything, and when I met my mentee, her family was totally different. You know, with her father incarcerated, uncle incarcerated, broken family with her mother busy all the time, she didn’t have any consequences. But she was a child, so I figured, you know, it doesn't really matter, this dynamic, obviously she needs someone, and I think it was just a really, really good match for us."


            Lisa’s mentee is raised by a single working mother with two other children, one of whom suffers from a difficult mental disability, and therefore her mentee often finds herself without attention or help from her overwhelmed mother. Lisa is more than willing to step into this gap to help her mentee and her mother, and make sure her mentee has regular visits to the doctor and dentist, that she is signed up for important school programs such as the meal plans and correct classes, and takes time to have fun with her mentee and go shopping or walking down State St. Lisa also focuses on encouraging her mentee to increase her involvement in her schoolwork, and after her mentee expressed interest in criminal investigation as a potential career Lisa helped her explore this interest even more and turn it into a motivating goal. Throughout their relationship Lisa has helped her mentee embrace the idea of attaining good grades, going to college, and finding a career path that uses her strengths and sparks her interests. It truly is a great relationship when a mentor can help a mentee see their potential and take steps to reach it.

            I asked Lisa why she gives so much of her time and energy to her mentee she explained that it is a wonderful opportunity to be an positive influence on a young person at a time when they need it most, and talked about how mentoring enriches her life as much as her mentees: "[A mentor] can make someone feel important and show them how they can make others feel important; when you give, you get a lot back.” And after two years of numerous challenges and growth in the relationship, Lisa told me about a time when she 'got a lot back' and truly saw that she was making an impact. Lisa took her mentee on a trip to visit with Lisa's family while they did spring cleaning: "[My mentee] saw everybody do everything together. Everybody would work together, eat together, and we'd be laughing around the table, I don't think that [her mentee’s family] have a dinner table to tell you the truth. Even though cleaning a house isn’t our regular circumstances she just saw a family that was really working hard together, and she had a great time working along side us. I think that was a changing experience for her and she was happy to give back to me and my family." For Lisa this was such a rewarding time with her mentee, and she cherishes the ability to show her different perspectives and the different ways that people, and families, live. This changed her mentee’s worldview, and Lisa said that after this trip there was a positive shift in her demeanor overall, and her attitude towards school. This story, among many, best illustrates Lisa's inclusive approach and dedication, but it also illustrates the possibilities in mentoring, and how something that may seem random can make the greatest impact.

When we asked Lisa's mentee if she could describe her mentor in one word, she chose the word "generous." Not only does this describe Lisa perfectly, but it also describes the soul of a Mentor, someone who is willing to give of themselves to help another. There are Mentors that give an incredible amount of their time, spirit, and support, and some who can only give that one hour a week, but they all make a difference. And then there are Mentors like Lisa, who demonstrates outstanding generosity, support, graciousness, resilience, passion, and compassion that goes above and beyond anything we ask or expect of mentors within the program.

Congratulations, Lisa, for being our 2012 Mentor
of the Year! You truly deserve it!

~Kiana G. Alzate, Creative Media Intern with the Fighting Back Mentor

Monday, September 24, 2012

What do you think? Divorce and Family Issues

What do you think? Divorce and Family Issues

Scenario- Dean is right in the middle of high school in his sophomore year. His parents always used to argue, but he thought that was normal for every family. Then during the summer, his dad started not coming home until really late at night, or on the weekends. This summer, he overheard his parents talking about divorce, and this year of high school just hasn't felt right. Dean doesn't know who to talk to, his older brother is working all the time up north, his younger sister is too young, and he is worried he will upset her more. She cried one night their parents were fighting, and now Dean feels like he has to protect her. Many of his friends at school don't have a dad around, and have always considered him lucky, so Dean is embarrassed to complain or whine about his family drama. He has decided to simply keep quiet about the divorce and just try and keep his sister happy. Unfortunately his mom has been so busy trying to keep everything at home organized that she sometimes forgets to buy enough food and keep the house clean. It has been a struggle for Dean to be a parent to his sister and take care of his schoolwork, her schoolwork, and the house. Dean feels like he is spinning out of control, forgetting homework assignments and often missing class, and so emotional he just doesn’t know how to handle all the changes. He just wants to make things work at home, and be the man of the house since his dad is not around as much. He is unsure of talking to anyone about it, but doesn’t know if he can keep it together on his own.

Questions for Discussion-
1.)   What do you think about Dean's decision to focus on his family and take on adult responsibilities without talking to anyone? What would you do in his situation?
2.)   How do you think Dean feels about the divorce of his parents? Would talking to someone about this situation help him? If so, how?
3.)   Do you think Dean should ask for extra help in school or work something out with his teachers considering his difficult situation? Do you think that his teachers will understand and give him some leniency?
4.)   Have you ever opened up to a teacher, or adult, at school about personal problems that affect your work? What happened, and did it help you?
5.)   Have you, a family member, or close friend been through divorce/family problems? How has that affected you?

**Divorce can be a serious trauma for children of all ages and has many serious potential consequences. Children whose parents have divorced are more likely to be the victims of abuse. They exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems, are more frequently involved in drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide.

**Children of divorced parents also tend to perform more poorly in reading, spelling, and math, are more likely to repeat a grade, and to have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation.

**Children expect and deserve to grow up in a safe and consistent world. Their parents' role is to nurture and protect them, and help them understand the world and their place in it. The dissolution of the family is the single greatest threat to a child's emotional – and often financial or physical– wellbeing. Having their parents publicly declare that they cannot love each other enough to stay together causes a child's sense of security, and their view of the world, to change completely. While they struggle to deal with this immense change, other areas in their lives, such as academics, become a low priority, and this can cause the variety of problems mentioned above.

**Children often believe they have caused the conflict between their parents. Many children assume the responsibility for bringing their parents back together, or protecting younger siblings, sometimes by sacrificing themselves. They need those around them to let them know these are not their responsibilities, and to support them as they try to find a new clear role in their changed world.

**While parents may be devastated or relieved by the divorce, children are invariably frightened and confused by this immense change. Some parents feel so hurt or overwhelmed by the divorce that they may turn to the child for comfort or direction, which can cause greater confusion for the child. Divorce can be misinterpreted by children unless parents tell them what is happening, why it is happening, and what will happen to them moving forward. They also need the support of friends or trusted adults outside the family to help them cope and understand what is going on.

**When there is no viable alternative to divorce, parents must ensure their children's emotional well-being by arranging some form of therapy. Divorce certainly does not condemn a child to a lifetime of unhappiness; many children of divorce have successful relationships and happy lives, but the insecurities caused by their parents’ divorce must be dealt with before this can truly happen. Sometimes just speaking with a therapist or trained counselor a few times can be enough to help them move through the crisis in a healthy way by providing them the understanding and coping strategies they need, but they always need this help.

How Mentors Can Help-
            **Try to talk to your mentee about their family, and the relationships they have with their parents and siblings, and start by sharing about your own family. This can be difficult, and it often takes time for mentees to build a trust with their mentor before they open up about these things. But it is important to discuss family relationships because most of the time there is a direct correlation between a child's mental and academic stability, and their home life/family dynamic. If one parent is absent, or if both parents are working, it is more likely that your mentee will have parental/babysitting responsibilities towards their siblings. These dynamics can sometimes be detrimental to your mentee's study habits and motivation in school, not to mention their emotional state, as they are already being forced to take on adult responsibilities that eclipse less important things like homework or play. Open communication and updates on their family life are keys to successful mentoring so that you know where they are coming from and can provide support.
            **Once you know some of their home situation you can help them by giving them what they may be missing. Sometimes it’s just a person they can talk to who cares, and can help explain why things are the way they are. Someone who can reinforce that their parents love them regardless of how they may be acting. Maybe they need someone to help with school and show them that it is still important, or perhaps they need someone to show them how to be a kid and just have fun and learn experientially. If you are not sure what your mentee needs this is something your case manager might be able to help you with, and we would love to talk about it with you.
            **Asking for help is challenging for everyone, but it can be incredibly helpful to have the school staff know what is going on with a student who is struggling. Encourage your mentee to talk to their teachers or counselor about their family situation if it is at all relevant to their academic work, so that there is a support system in all areas of your mentee's life. This is especially helpful if there is divorce or a sudden absence of a parent that is causing great turmoil in their life. Often times if they speak to a counselor about what they are going through and ask for help that counselor can advocate for them to the teachers for leniency and understanding so your mentee doesn’t need to tell more than one person at school about their personal crisis, which can be difficult enough. The point of this is to avoid unnecessary reprimanding at school that can cause more emotional stress in your mentee, and to reinforce that asking for help from school staff is acceptable and positive.
            **Divorce, and/or sudden changes in the family structure can dramatically change the way a child behaves in and out of school. There are studies and research that shows a child who experience divorce at a younger age has a greater risk of dropping out of school, using drugs or alcohol, and other behavioral problems. If you see warning signs of any potential behavioral problems like these speak to your case manager right away so we can discuss how to help, and potential services available.
            **Sometimes all mentors can do is be there, listen, and support in any way we can. Your mentee might resist anything more than that, and as mentors we don’t want to break their trust by pushing too hard. Remember that you are not responsible for changing everything in their life and just do your best to be the empathetic friend and supportive adult they need in their moment of crisis. Just being there for them will make a huge difference.


Check out these websites for more information and tips-

Monday, September 10, 2012

What do you think?: Consistency and Communication

Scenario- Silvia has been struggling with junior high since she entered 7th grade last year. She needs a little extra help organizing all of the homework from all of her different classes. Not only does she feel busy at school, but her family isn't doing very well, and her parents have been stressed out with work, and concerned about paying the bills on time. Silvia feels overwhelmed and gets distracted during classes worrying about her family. Then she gets upset that she cannot focus in class, or on her homework. It feels like an unbreakable cycle and she doesn't know what to do.
Normally she talks to her Mentor, who she has been seeing since last year, but unfortunately they haven't been meeting as much this school year. They don't have a consistent meeting day during the week, and most of the time they try to schedule a meeting it doesn't work out, either because Silvia is helping out at home or her Mentor is booked, and they don't meet at all. Silvia is starting to feel that her Mentor is too busy to meet with her, or maybe just doesn’t want to be her mentor anymore. Silvia doesn't want to bother her Mentor too much, so she stops calling and texting because she is worried it might stress her Mentor out, and she is a little upset at how her mentor hasn’t been communicating with her. When her Mentor calls now, Silvia avoids the phone calls and tries to focus on helping her family.

Questions for Discussion-
  1. What do you think about this situation? Why are they having so much trouble with communication and consistent meetings?
  2. What do you do when you get stressed out about something in your life? Is it hard to open up to someone about it, especially if they are busy with their own drama? Does it help to talk to someone?
  3. What do you think will happen if Silvia focuses on her family and drops out of school? Will that really help her family? What could she do instead?
  4. Do you think that Silvia's Mentor really stopping caring about her? What could the Mentor do to rebuild Silvia’s trust?
  5. What do you think is the best solution for Silvia and her Mentor? How can they both improve their communication and get back on track? 
How Mentors Can Help-
          **When it comes to building a relationship and trust, with your mentee or anyone, the most important aspects are consistency and communication. It is the mentor’s responsibility to move the relationship forward and do the majority of the communication and reaching out to set up meetings, at least at first until a rhythm is established.
**It is important for Mentors to establish consistency with their Mentees early on in the relationship, and especially during the beginning of the school year. A consistent start is a good start, and usually leads to development of good routines and habits. In the beginning of the school year try to set up a consistent day and time for your weekly meeting, and then add on extra time to hang out outside of school if you want, while keeping that same weekly meeting. You can change or experiment with your meeting place(s) depending on what activity/assignment you're doing that day.
**The hardest part of setting up these meetings is communication with your mentee, so if you run into trouble contact your case manager for information on the teacher or school counselor as they are excellent assets to help with this process.
**However, we know that you have your own lives and responsibilities that can throw your routine off track sometimes. When this happens its important to communicate with your mentee not only that you need to reschedule the meeting, but why, and reinforce that you look forward to meeting them on the rescheduled date. This is so that they don’t feel you are just ditching them or that you no longer want to mentor them. Many of the kids we work with are sensitive to rejection so it’s important to be aware of this. If you cannot meet with them try to stay in touch with a text message or phone call so they know you are still there for them.
          **Show your emotional support by asking about them and their about their family. Share what’s going on in your own life so they feel more comfortable opening up and sharing in return. Talk to them about school and how that is going for them. Maybe it is best to separate school and family time; suggest that they do their assignments with you, after school in the library, or during their supervision period so they can focus on fun and family when they are home. When your Mentee knows you understand both their school life and their home life, then they are more likely to reach out when they need help or need advice about something.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4th, 2012

What do you think?: Back to School


Martin just started junior high last week and is already feeling a little overwhelmed about having so many different classes, with different teachers, and each having different homework! He sees other kids with lots of binders and folders, color coded pens, and always writing things down. He wonders how he will keep track of his notes and assignments, and if he should buy a binder and folders. His mom never made it past 6th grade so she doesn't know how to help him when he asks her about classes. He thinks about going to one of his teachers and asking him about what he should do, but Martin feels intimidated asking for help since he doesn’t know them. He feels too nervous and thinks it is it's too much work to ask for help. Martin decides he is probably fine to do what he has always done, so he puts his homework away in his backpack to pull it out later at home. He decides this and quickly feels better and goes outside to play with his friends.

Questions for Discussion-

  1. What do you think will happen if Martin does not get organized for school and just tries to keep on using his old methods? What would you do in his place?
  2. When you get confused about an assignment or anything school related do you ask for help? Who would you go to if you did?
  3. What do you do to get organized for school? Do you have a binder? Folders?
  4. How do you keep track of your assignments? Do you write things down anywhere?
  5. What happens when you just put things in your backpack? How might this method make it difficult to do well in junior high or high school?

** The basic advantage of doing homework is : in a well-run class, doing the homework prepares students for taking the exams. This does not mean that exam problems are like homework exercises; it means that students who put a lot of time and effort into homework tend to do better in exams than students who do not. But there's an additional advantage: doing the homework helps students to learn the material better. By reading a text, a student can memorize facts; by doing homework, a student can learn how to use those facts [1].

**Beliefs regarding the positive non-academic effects of homework include that it:
• develops or improves attitudes about school and learning,

• develops or increases organizational and time management skills,

• increases the opportunity for independent problem solving,

• develops positive attitudes toward learning and school,

• develops self-direction and self-discipline,

• promotes inquisitiveness and exploration, and

• promotes the understanding that learning extends beyond the school walls [2].

** In a 2007 study data collected showed 95.0 of elementary student and secondary students reported that they completed homework outside of school [3].

** Average hours per week spent by elementary and secondary students who do homework outside of school was 9.2 hours for elementary students and 8.8 hours for secondary students [3].

**A higher percentage of Black students (83 percent) had parents who reported that they checked to make sure that their students' homework was done, compared with parents of White students (57 percent), Asian students (59 percent), and students of two or more races (66 percent).  In addition, 76 percent of Hispanic parents reported checking homework, higher than the percentage of White or Asian parents who did so [4].

** Homework has shown to have a positive impact on achievement in comparison to no homework. The impact of homework varies by grade level and is greatest for older students. Homework had twice as large an effect at high school as at junior high. In turn, the impact at junior high was twice as large in comparison to elementary school. Marzano and Pickering (2007) note the following effect size and average percentile gains [1]:

Grades 4-6: Effect Size = .15 (Percentile gain = 6 points)
Grades 7-9: Effect Size = .31 (Percentile gain = 12 points)
Grades 10-12: Effect Size = .64 (Percentile gain = 24 points)

How Mentors Can Help-

**Ask your Mentee about their daily routine with school and homework, and share your own experiences with school. Help them identify areas that they might be able to improve their organization or practices to make their life easier and less stressful. The beginning of the school year is a great time to create new and better habits!
**If they are transitioning to Junior High ask them how they feel about having more than one teacher. This can help you gauge their levels of anxiety, excitement, maybe if they are overwhelmed, and then help them find fun ways to organize themselves and explain how that might help ease the transition into their new schedules and routines and reduce stress.
Some people love to color code while others may want multiple binders or colored folders etc, so be open to their ideas about how they want to organize.

**Ask your Mentee if they ask for help on certain assignments or if they talk to a teacher at school, maybe an AVID teacher or counselor.

**It is important as a Mentor to begin every school year with consistent meet-ups. It is essential for the relationship to have a routine and consistency (especially at the beginning of the school year), so that you can establish that you are there for them. Make it known to them that you are available during this busy transition time and try to set up a consisted day and time to meet with them on or off campus.

**Talk to them about their homework habits,  especially where and when they do their work. If they feel overwhelmed by all of the work talk to them about ways to make it easier like breaking it up into manageable chunks with short breaks in between for fun and games or relaxation. And definitely try to reinforce the idea that work gets done before play. This website explains how  "creating a homework station" can improve good study/assignment habits:

1. McColm., G. (n.d.). About homework . Retrieved from
2. George , M. (2007). Got homework?. The Association of California School Administrators, Retrieved from
     3. Youth indicators 2011, america’s youth: Transitions to adulthood. (2011, December ). Retrieved from
     4. Digest of Education Statistics

Monday, July 23, 2012

On paper, mentoring can seem a bit overwhelming, maybe even daunting, for someone who doesn't have children, or doesn't trust themselves to give the right type of influence to a malleable mind. With our busy schedules we doubt our ability to give an hour a week to someone who may need a bit more attention and advice, let alone a child who may truly need a strong mentor.  These fears are understandable, but I hope that as we celebrate all of the amazing work that Edgar Diaz has done we can also use his words and experience to better understand the true nature of mentoring and why we should move past our hesitation and reach out to change the life of a child.

Edgar joined the Mentor Program as a Mentor Advocate at the very end of 2010, and within one month was matched up with his first mentee, MP, a 6th grader with a difficult family situation and problems managing his anger.  Edgar quickly made a connection with MP by helping him open up about his feelings while playing basketball or just walking around campus during lunch, encouraging him to try new things, and even helping him get into an excellent private school by personally speaking to the dean in his favor. As their relationship progressed Edgar realized that he was truly helping to change MP’s life. 

This experience was so rewarding and meaningful for Edgar that just over 4 months after being matched with MP he took on his second mentee, CL. A rambunctious 3rd grader who struggled to follow the rules, often fought with his classmates, and also lived in a tumultuous household. Over many months Edgar helped CL understand and respond more appropriately to his emotions through role playing and problem solving, taught him to write his thoughts down in a journal and “draw his emotions” so he didn’t bottle them up, and gave him a friend to talk to about his struggles at home.  They grew so close that one day CL told Edgar he looked up to him like a father, and Edgar was so proud to have made such an impact on a child in so great a need. Edgar continues to be in touch with MP and CL and looks forward to continuing their relationships for many years to come.

Taking on two mentees within a six month period seems a bit ambitious to me at first, and I wondered how Edgar became so enthusiastic about mentoring. What experience had he had prior to becoming a mentor that drove him to give back and volunteer so much of his time. I asked Edgar what motivated him to become a Mentor and he first spoke about his Aunt: 

My aunt was the first to go to college. She attended UC Riverside. When I was in fourth grade I spent my spring break with her and she took me to her classes and around campus. We had so much fun and I remember being amazed at how awesome college was! Because of that experience I was determined to go to college. She sparked something in me. To her it probably wasn’t such a big deal but to me it meant so much. I spent most of my junior high and high school years wanting to go to UCR and I eventually decided on UCSB. As I grew older I didn’t need her as much, but she was always there for me when I needed her to review some homework assignments or if I had questions about college. I want to give someone that spark and support that I once received from her.”

Edgar’s was extremely motivated by this family experience, but as he continued to speak he made it clear that its not just family that influences a child, but also the outside environment.

Also, what inspired me was that I have seen a difference in the lives of people who have someone to care about them and those who don’t. I came from a high school where maybe about 60% of the incoming freshmen actually make it to graduation. My older brother was almost one of them. His teachers weren't pushing him to do better which is why he barely graduated. Of course at one point everyone should become responsible for their own education, but it always helps when someone is encouraging you.”

There are two main places that affect the development of a child, the home and family, and the school community of teachers, peers, and other types of mentors. Talking to Edgar showed that the community outside of the home, especially the school, have just as great an impact on a child’s potential and outlook on life than their home environment, for better or worse. Edgar knows from his time as a mentor, and from being an Advocate for over a year, that just having someone who cares about you and encourages you can make all the difference.  I was curious about how this change comes about, so I put together a questionnaire for Edgar to showcase his perspective on the influence, challenges, positives, negatives, and overall rewards that come from participating as a Mentor in the Fighting Back Mentor Program.

Q: What was your favorite part of working as a Mentor Advocate? And what will you miss most about working with the program?

E: I think my favorite part was matching up a new mentor and mentee. I loved calling the child into the office and tell him/her that I found a mentor for them. Their excited smiles were so cute and it made me feel so good to know I was helping to change their life. Then doing the match meeting and seeing how the mentor and mentee click is always amazing. I became pretty good at finding the right mentee-mentor match, and took a lot of pride in this ability. Then after they are matched up I loved hearing how their relationship was going and how the kids were improving. I also liked hearing how the mentor were enjoying the experience, especially because it was often a surprise to them to realize how much they were growing and how much fun they were having.

Q: What do you think has been the most challenging part of maintaining a mentor/mentee relationship? How did you deal with/overcome it?

E: The changes, as I mentioned before are fun and exciting, however there are changes that can make the relationship challenging and difficult. This goes for both the mentor and the mentee. The mentor might have a family or have a busy job schedule, which can make it more difficult to meet. And as the mentees get older they often get more involved in sports or organizations at school, get caught up in socializing, and start dating.
These transitions, especially from elementary school to middle school can be challenging and different for everyone, but it is always important to remember to welcome the changes with open arms. Both mentor and mentee need to communicate and be honest about what is going on. The mentor will probably have to be more upfront in the beginning because the mentee might feel embarrassed to talk about their feelings. Communication is key with any relationship, especially with kids who aren’t always the best at it. All these kids are smart and they pick up on everything, including how we talk and interact with them. There are many ways of communicating and staying in touch, even if you're not meeting with each other as consistently as you’d like.

Q: Off the top of your head, describe the first moment that you realized that you had made an impact in your mentee’s life? -> How did this make you feel?

E: For MP, the first time I realized I made a difference was when I took him to California Pizza Kitchen for our one-year celebration. All I did was sit there and listen to him. He just kept talking and talking. I knew this was a shift in our relationship because he was shy when I first met him; very polite, respectful, and quiet with a lot going on under the surface. A year later he is sitting there telling me everything about school and how happy he is that he isn’t getting in serious trouble. He was so happy at his new school, with his new friends, and he told me “thank you” for helping to get him in. I was so grateful and happy that he was doing better and staying out of trouble, and it felt great that he identified me as the reason that he was in such a good place.

For CL I think it was when he started the fourth grade. We made short term goals for him to stay out of trouble. First we started with a goal of three days. Honestly it took him a while but eventually he accomplished his goal of three days, then we began to extend the number of days. The lunch lady at his school would always give me updates about how he was doing, and one day at the end of January, she told me that he had not been in trouble for an entire month! I was so happy with this news, I told CL how proud of him I was, and encouraged him to stay out of trouble. After this event, he went on to stay out of trouble for three straight months! Even if he had another moment, he learned to trust me and opened up to let me know if he got in trouble. More importantly this also opened up a place for us to talk about his family and helped us grow closer in our mentor/mentee relationship.

Q: Describe the first moment that you realized your mentee had made an impact/affected your life? -> How did this make you feel?

E: Well, I have a little brother who is 9 years old now, and I missed him because we don’t live nearby. Meeting and maintaining relationships with both of my mentees was a great way of filling that void, because if I can’t be there with my brother at least I can spend time with kids around the same age and energy level, and do my best to guide them. The opportunity to hang out with someone younger, like a younger sibling, also allows me to do all the fun activities people usually stop doing as adults. It is a way to step out of my adult stresses and simply have fun with two great kids, while also knowing I’m helping to enrich their lives.

Q: What do you think has been the most influential and positive part of maintaining a mentor/mentee relationship?

E: I think that the most influential and positive part of maintaining a mentor/mentee relationship is that the mentee has someone who cares about them no matter how old they get or what they are going through. I always tell my mentees that no matter where I go or where they go or whatever happens that I will always be there for them. Any kid simply wants someone who’s going to be there and support them, and someone who will simply show up. It is also very rewarding to maintain a mentoring relationship over time because you can see how you both change and learn from every new experience that comes into each other’s lives. The privilege of not just watching, but positively influencing the course of a child’s life and seeing them grow over time is an amazing satisfaction for me.

            Edgar shows us that becoming a mentor and has its ups and downs, challenges and rewards, growth and regression, exactly like any relationship you maintain over time. It is a choice to participate, encourage and support another individual in whatever it is that they do. Edgar took an opportunity to provide an hour or more a week of his attention to someone who was at risk, who may or may not have been getting it from their family, or teachers at school. What impresses me about Edgar is his patience, not only in hindsight or retrospect, but currently, even as he moves on to a new home, new job, and maybe more education, he looks at his mentoring relationships as current and ongoing. He still makes the time to meet with his mentees and stays in touch over the phone when he cannot visit.  Edgar’s experiences illustrate how truly rewarding, challenging, eye opening, and life changing being a mentor is. His words show what many of us already know first hand, that being a mentor doesn’t just affect the mentee; it also deeply resonates within the mentor and can be a wonderfully life changing and fulfilling experience. As Forest Witcraft famously wrote:

“One Hundred Years from now it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money was in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.”

In Edgar’s case he has made the world a better place through the lives of countless youth in Santa Barbara by his incredible volunteerism and work as a Mentor Advocate.  Because of his commitment to his two mentees, and the community as a whole, we are proud to celebrate Edgar Diaz as our Mentor of the Summer!! Congratulations Edgar, you deserve it!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scenario: Showering
Julie’s parents work very early in the morning, and come home late. She is in charge of getting her brothers and sisters ready for school and bed. Sometimes she is in such a rush to get things done that she forgets to shower. Julie doesn’t feel it’s that important anyways. She says she’ll take a shower once she gets dirty. One day at school as the class is going to recess, some kids start laughing when they are around Julie. One of the kids says, “Ew, what’s that smell?” They tell Julie she smells funny and jokingly back away. Julie starts to cry and runs off to the corner of the playground.

Questions for Discussion

1. Why do you think the kids are making fun of her? What would you do if one of your friends came to school smelling weird, would you talk to them about it?

2. Do you think showering is important? Why or why not?

3. How often do you shower?

4. What are some consequences of not showering?

6. What products can you use to smell better?


** Personal hygiene may be described as the principle of maintaining cleanliness and grooming of the external body. 

** Kids with poor hygiene face medical consequences and are more prone to developing rashes and infections.

** Poor personal hygiene is a contributor to the spread of infectious diseases. Touching the hands, clothing or bodies of people with poor hygiene spreads colds, ringworm, head and body lice, and other parasites and viruses.

** Cleaning your body is also important to ensure your skin rejuvenates itself, as the scrubbing of your arms, legs, and torso will slough off dead, dry skin and help your skin stay healthy and refreshed.

** Instead of sharing a bath towel, it's suggested to use your own towel. This will prevent cross-contamination.

**Avoiding certain aromatic foods like onions, garlic, or spicy dishes can reduce body odor.

** Remember: nothing smells better than clean skin. Perfumes are not a good substitute for a shower or wash.

** Underclothes are right next to your skin and collect dead skin cells, sweat and possibly other unmentionable stains. Overnight bacteria start to work on these stains so your clothes do not smell as nice on the second day of wearing. If you have to wear a school uniform then take it off as soon as you get home and hang it up to air before you wear it the next day.

** Its so important to keep your hair clean and conditioned to ensure it stays healthy and strong. Washing your hair at least every other day is important to keeping your hair healthy and in good shape. If you wash it too frequently, your hair will become brittle and dry, making it difficult to grow and keep strong. If you wash it too infrequently, it will become greasy and will also stunt its growth.

** Social aspects can be affected, as many people would rather alienate themselves from someone who has bad personal hygiene than to tell them how they could improve. Bullies may use bad personal hygiene as a way of abusing their victims, using social embarrassment as a weapon.

** In the 'olden' days all water had to be boiled on a fire or wood stove, and then carried to a washbowl or bath. Often families would only have a bath once a week (or less often) when all the family would use the same bath water, one after another. 

How Mentors Can Help:

** Start the conversation by talking about each other’s daily routines.  For instance “I wake up, shower, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and go to work, what do you usually do when you wake up?”  This is a non confrontational way to open the door on these sensitive issues.

**Discuss the pros and cons of daily hair washing. Some teens may prefer to skip days to prevent their hair from drying out. Others may want to wash their hair daily -- especially if they have oily hair, which can both look greasy and aggravate acne.

** It’s also important to consider that for children who are going through puberty, which can start as early as 7 to 9 years of age, this is a major transition. Simply put, their bodies need more care than they have in the past in order to remain clean. Talk to your mentee about the changes in their body and why good hygiene is important.

** If your mentee associates showering or bathing with relaxing, they are less likely to fuss when it comes time to clean up. Tell your mentee to use this time in the bathroom to calm down, think about the day, relax, and plan for the week ahead.

** Compliment your mentee when they take the time to look good. They should know that people notice their efforts, and that personal appearance in terms of cleanliness does matter.

** It's easy for kids to go overboard on colognes or body sprays. Be sure you explain that a little bit goes a long way. Smelling good doesn’t always mean they are clean.


Additional Resources

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