Monday, February 27, 2012

What Do You Think?: Music Choice

Arturo is in 6th grade and getting ready to go to junior high.  He lives with his mom and two older brothers who are in high school.  He never used to pay much attention to music but recently he and his friends have been getting into the rap music their older brothers like.  Many of the songs are very graphic, describing gang life in detail from their generally misogynistic views on women to killing rivals and committing various crimes.  Arturo’s mother hates that her boys listen to this music so he only listens to it when she's not around.  One day when he thought she wasn’t home he was play wrestling with his friends when, in the heat of the moment, he called his friend a horrible name he'd heard in one of his favorite songs.  His friends all laughed until Arturo’s mom burst out of the bedroom where she was napping and started yelling at him for saying such a terrible thing.  She asked him where he heard it, and knowing she could tell if he was lying, he told her from his music.

Questions for Discussion:

 1.  Why do you think Arturo is drawn to “gangster rap” when he knows his mom hates it?  How do you think it makes him feel?
 2.  Do you think the fact that his dad is gone makes him more drawn to the strong male rappers, or does that have nothing to do with it?
 3.  Why do you think his mom hates that music, and is she justified in feeling that way?  Why or why not?
 4.  Do you ever listen to music that uses bad words or negative/criminal themes?  If so why do you like it?
 5.  Do you think the music you listen to influences the way you talk, act, or think at all?  Why or why not?

** 80% of global top ten music contains violence and the violence is often glorified in the lyrics.

** A study of 522 black girls, ages 14-18, from non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, girls who watched gang-related videos for 14 or more hours were more likely to engage in destructive behaviors, including being: 3 times more likely to hit teachers, 2.5 times more likely to get arrested, two times more likely to engage in sexual activities with multiple people, and 1.5 times more likely to get an STD, use drugs, or drink alcohol.

** Rap has gone from urban to suburban environments, and is even part of mainstream advertising.  Music and media can influence its viewers and listeners in both positive and negative ways.  Parents and other adult mentors who pay attention to what kids are watching and listening to can help the kids gain a better understanding of the messages they are being sent.  This could allow them to differentiate between what they see/hear and what is acceptable behavior.

** The hip hop movement began in the early 70s in the Bronx as a means of expression and protest against injustices toward African-American, Caribbean, and Latino immigrants.  Rap developed as a way to tell it like it is and “keep it real.”  However, it seems that it has moved further from its roots in activism and self-expression toward exploitation of women and negative activity.

** Early 90s rap often referenced the violent rivalry between East and West Coast rappers- a rivalry which led to the loss of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., two of the most popular rap artists of their time.  Other rap artists, such as 50 Cent, have survived multiple attempts on their lives, while others have not been so fortunate.

** Rap lyrics are often associated with disrespect for women, often displaying them as only being there for male sexual needs.  Men hold the power in the videos, with women being subservient, yet the women in the videos seem to be enjoying themselves.  This could lead to imitation of these behaviors in both male and females who watch the videos.  Girls may feel it is only acceptable to be submissive and subservient, whereas boys may feel that it is their right to use girls only to meet their needs.

** Sex is seen as commonplace and inconsequential in hip hop and rap music and videos.  Frequent exposure to this attitude could lead to a higher amount of sexual activity, with little regard for the consequences.  With earlier exposure to cable television, younger kids view this and model the behavior, seeing sex as something that is not to be taken seriously.

** Edited versions of hip hop and rap songs on the radio often remove some of the more explicit lyrics, making the songs catchier and less obscene.  However, the blanks left in some of the songs often lead kids to search the internet for the “real” versions, which can lead them to even more obscene music.

** Despite the depiction of urban life and tough streets, many who listen to hip hop and rap are suburban, white youth and those who have cable access.  One study shows that 75% of those who listen to rap and hip hop are non-white.  No matter who listens to or writes rap music, the positive side is that it can often be a form of self-expression for youth who feel they do not have other outlets.

** Negative depictions of law enforcement and the display of general rebellious activity in hip hop and rap music can lead to mistrust and disrespect of police officers and other law enforcement.

** The celebrity status of hip hop and rap artists, including those who engage in criminal behavior, often leads kids to view them as role models and their music in the same way.  Even though in 2009 popular artist Chris Brown was publically reprimanded for his violent assault against his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, another music star, he won a 2012 Grammy Award for his music. The public also reprimanded Rihanna for her quick-to-forgive attitude, only supporting the idea that domestic violence is okay.

** Weapons and drugs are often shown in hip hop and rap videos, and many music artists keep both in their possession.  Rappers T.I. and Beanie Sigel were both arrested for possession of weapons, and Snoop Dogg maintains major mainstream popularity, despite having been arrested for numerous times for possession of drugs and weapons, including cocaine and marijuana.

How Mentors Can Help:
** Talk with your mentee about what types of music they listen to and talk with them about your music preferences, and how music has changed over the years.  This may seem cliché, but it can lead into a conversation about how much more explicit music has become.

** Talk about their music choices, how often they listen to music, and how it makes them feel.  Talk about how music can help or hurt someone’s thoughts and opinions of others.  Encourage them to use music as a form of expression, but to think through what they hear and see, and not to let these things sway them into negativity.

** If your mentee has an expressed interest in creating music, but lacks the financial means to buy their own instruments and equipment, encourage them to sign up for a FREE membership to the Notes for Notes MusicBox, located in the SB Boys & Girls’ Clubs and the Twelve35 Teen Center. For more information, contact your case manager.

** Ask your mentee about their thoughts on hip hop and rap music.  Ask them who their favorite artists are and why.  Pay special attention to what attributes they point out and see if this can lead into a discussion about positive role model.

** Talk about the attitudes displayed toward women in the videos and their thoughts about this.  If your mentee is female, talk with her about having a voice in relationships and encourage her to respect her body and her worth.  If your mentee is a male, encourage him to view girls as being equal and worthy of respect.

** Discuss violence, weapons, and drugs in music and media.  If hip hop or rap artists’ names come up and the discussion leads to their behavior, be sure not to encourage glorifying.  Contrast the activity in the videos and even the artists’ lives with what happens in real life.

** Ask your mentee their thoughts on law enforcement and talk about the positive side of law enforcement, encouraging them to look at why the law is in place and how it supports them.

** Ask your mentee who their role models are and share some of yours.  Talk with them about positive attributes that make up a good role model.  If they point out celebrities or artists who have criminal records and/or send negative messages, encourage your mentee to differentiate between these behaviors and reality.

Additional Resources:

Friday, February 24, 2012

February Mentor of the Month

Koji Tanaka

Koji Tanaka and his mentee have just celebrated an amazing first year together. His mentee was referred by his mother. Working fulltime and taking care of a new born baby, she felt her son could use a little extra attention, especially academically. After months of being on the waiting list, Koji and his mentee were matched up. They hit it off as soon as they met during their match meeting. Koji and his mentee were both excited to spend time with one another.

Koji has been able to help his energetic mentee focus and work on his reading and vocabulary skills by playing various board games such as Life and Scrabble. He has made learning fun, which has had a positive effect on his mentee’s academics! Koji has also helped his mentee transition into a new school, and improve his self-esteem and confidence. Over the time they have been together, Koji’s mentee has become more open to meeting and interacting with new people. His mentee has gain so much confidence that he ran for class treasurer and won!!! Thank you Koji for being such a dedicated and encouraging mentor! You are our February Mentor of the Month!

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Do You Think?: Teasing the Kid Who Doesn't Sound Like You

Scenario: Casie is in the 5th grade and is very popular with her classmates. Everyone wants to be her friend and play with her during recess. Casie has played with the same friends since she was in the first grade, and they have become a close group of girls. One day, Casie’s new classmate Lisa comes up to ask if she can play with Casie. Casie starts laughing at Lisa because she has a stutter. She says, “No Lisa, you can’t play with us because you sound weird. Why do you even talk like that?” Casie goes on and starts fake stuttering back at Lisa. All her friends are laughing and they start making fun of Lisa too so they can be as cool as Casie. Lisa starts to cry and runs into the bathroom.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Why do you think Casie reacted the way she did to Lisa? Do you think she thought about her actions before doing them? Might she have acted differently if she wasn’t surrounded by her friends?
  2. Why do you think kids tease each other in general? What did Casie gain by teasing Lisa? Do you think Cassie will get in trouble for this?
  3. How do you think Lisa feels? How might this affect her in the future?
  4. Have you ever made fun of someone because they speak differently? Why did you do it or why didn’t you? How do you feel about that now?
  5. If you saw someone being made fun of, would you try to stop it? What would you do?
  6. Have you ever been teased for the way you sound before? What might you do if you were? Would you tell someone?

* Every seven minutes, a child is bullied at a school yard. Bullying is serious and can range from verbal to physical taunting. It can cause emotional and physical pain which could have long term effects on those who are teased.

* There are often differences in the way boys and girls bully. Boys may use more direct verbal and physical bullying tactics, while girls may use more indirect and psychological tactics for bullying. All of these can be extremely detrimental to a child’s emotional and physical well-being.

* Bullying has changed to now include cyber-bullying, which can involve texting, social media, e-mail, and harassing phone calls. Nearly 42% of kids have reported being bullied online and many have had this happen on more than one occasion.

* Megan Meier was a teenage victim of cyber-bullying when other created a fake web page to gain her confidence, which was then used to taunt her mercilessly until she finally hung herself. She was only thirteen years old at the time. Http:// is the site for the foundation that was created to work toward prevention of cyber bullying.

* Children may have access to weapons, and if bullying escalates, the bully or the bullied could bring it to school with devastating consequences. One study estimates that one out of twenty students has seen a gun at school.

* Teasing often occurs most in areas with the least amount of supervision, such as hallways, buses, and on the way to or from school. Without an adult witness, it often has to escalate before it is reported, as many kids are taught that “tattling” is wrong and they often can feel too ashamed to say anything.

* Despite many schools having “No Tolerance” policies for bullying, it still occurs on a frequent basis amongst all grade levels and ages. Studies show that around 30% of kids have been bullied, have bullied others, or both. A country-wide study showed that 74% of 8-11 year-olds state that teasing and bullying occurs in their schools on a regular basis.

* Even some of the kids who are considered to be “popular” can still feel very insecure. They may try to distract from this by making fun of other kids.

* Children will join in with teasing other kids if they feel that it is going to allow them to be part of the more popular crowd, even if they do not feel it is the right thing to do.

* Kids who have more confidence are often less likely to tease others. Kids who have more confidence are often more likely to remain resilient when other kids tease them.

* Children often imitate those around them, especially parents, older siblings and kids, and other older mentors. Positive role modeling has a big influence in how kids carry themselves and interact with those around them.

* Arming kids with tools that help them to be more self-confident, such as humor and positive self-image, will allow them to have better outcomes when encountering peer pressure, teasing, and other challenging situations.

How Mentors Can Help:
* Talk to your mentee about times when they have been teased or when they have teased other kids. Share examples from your experiences. Talk about their feelings and your feelings, as well as what can be learned from both. If your mentee is hesitant to talk about it, you can use your examples and other examples to make them feel more comfortable opening up.

* It is important to take any reports of serious bullying seriously. If someone is causing harm to your mentee, please follow up appropriately. Encourage your mentee to look at some outlets for their feelings, such as this movement:

* If your mentee has participated in teasing, talk with them about what guided this decision. Encourage them to step into the other kid’s shoes and think about how they might feel if they were being teased that way. Talk with them about some ways they can treat all of their peers with respect, no matter what someone else does. Make sure not to criticize this behavior in a way that might cause them to shut down; rather try getting them to understand what is motivating them to tease others and helping them to come to the understanding of treating others how they would want to be treated.

* If your mentee has been teased, talk with them about why they think the kid(s) who teased them is feeling and why they might be doing this. They may not respond as well to this right away, so it might be helpful to talk about how someone who is doing the teasing is often insecure about something themselves. Make sure not to excuse this behavior, simply make it so that the kid being teased has a better understanding that it is not about them, even if it feels that way.

* Let your mentee know that, no matter what anyone says, they have nothing to be ashamed about. Encourage them to embrace the things that make them unique and not to be ashamed of anything about themselves.

* Whether or not your mentee has been teased, work with them on ways that they can use humor and self-confidence to avoid being influenced by others in a negative way. Encourage your mentee to stand up for his or herself in a positive and non-violent way and to not let anyone else have power over them.

* For LGBTQ identified mentees, encourage them to look into the messages of hope on the “It Gets Better” website:

Additional Resources:

** Tips for responding to teasing
** How to help a child being teased
** "Teaseproofing" a youth
** Helping Kids Deal with Bullies
** Facts about Bullying
** Facts About Cyberbullying

Friday, February 10, 2012

What Do You Think?: Cell Phone Use in Class


Ryan, a 7th grade student, is so excited because his grandpa just bought him a cell phone. His mom wasn’t very happy with it, and wanted him to leave it at home on school days, but Ryan convinced her it would be okay, that he’d only use it for “emergencies”.

The first few days, he kind of forgot that he even had it, and it stayed in his backpack until after school. But then one day during Nutrition, a bunch of his friends were showing each other a hilarious YouTube video. They told Ryan to check his phone, that they’d texted him the website and he should watch it. By the time he started watching the video, he had to get to his next class. He knew his teacher always started things slow, so he kept watching and finished when he arrived. But he didn’t have anyone to talk with about it when he got to class. He was bursting and really wanted to share his reactions with his friends, so he started a group text when the teacher wasn’t looking. He was nervous he’d get caught, but the teacher didn’t seem to notice. Pretty soon, class was over. He had no idea what the teacher had talked about, but his homework assignment was on the board, so he quickly jotted it down and moved on to his next class.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Do you have a cell phone? What do you use it for mostly?
2. Do you see a lot of friends texting during class?
3. Why do you think teachers don’t allow cell phone use in class?
4.  Would you consider it rude if you were Ryan’s teacher and discovered him texting during your class?
5. Do you think that Ryan should text his friends all the time now during class since his teacher didn’t catch him?
6. Do you think his mom might find out about his “non-emergency” cell use? What would she say if she did? What might be the consequences?
7. Why do you think or not think you and/or your friends should have your own cell? Give 5 good reasons to support your argument.


*75-80% of teens, ages 12-17, now have cell phones, where only 40-45% had them in 2004.  Nearly half of teens say their cell phone is one of the most important parts of their social lives.  88% of teens who use cell phones also use the text messaging services on these phones.

*1/3 teens sends more than 100 text messages per day.

*24% of teens attend schools that ban cell phones from the building; 62% can have them at school, just not in class and 12% can have them any time at school.

* 64% of teens with cell phones have texted in class; 25% have made or received a call during class time.

*A study done by Context Research group showed that teens who do not have cell phones may be ostracized by peers who do have cell phones, partially due to the convenience in communication amongst those who do have cell phones and other mobile devices.  A researcher from the same group called it a “social faux pas” for a teenager to not have a cell phone.

*Many teens feel pressured to have the newest and coolest phone.  With phone companies, such as Apple, coming out with newer models constantly, this can make kids feel as if what they have is not good enough. 

*94-98% of teens note that the main reason for having their phone is so their parents can reach them any time and vice versa.  They also note feeling safer because of this. 

*24% of teens have been bullied or harassed through text message and/or phone calls.

*48% of teens have been in the car while the driver was texting.  California and many other states ban the use of phones while driving, unless using a hands free device, such as a Blue Tooth.  For those who use the headphones versions of hands-free devices, they are not allowed to be in both ears at the same time while driving. There are strict fines and penalties for phone usage while driving.  Whether or not there is a law against it, phone usage while driving has resulted in many accidents and even deaths. 

*There is a growing trend of using mobile devices to cheat on tests in school, which is also part of the reason many phones are banned, along with being a distraction.

*Many teens now have Facebook and often accept friend requests from people they barely know and even strangers.  Many of these same teens post their mobile number on their Facebook page, allowing anyone on their list to have access to it.

*Cell phones can add to bullying, harassment, and inappropriate images/content.  Some teens may send provocative pictures to a boyfriend or girlfriend, later to find them posted online and/or sent to unintended recipients.  Teens have greater access to multiple applications on cell phones, especially on many of the newer models, as well as the internet, with little to no content restrictions placed.

For Mentors

*Talk to your mentee about whether or not they have a cell phone.  If they do have one, ask them how they got the phone (from parents, bought it themselves, etc) and why they like having it (to reach their parents, talk to friends, etc).  If they do not have a phone, see what they say about whether or not they want to get one, and why.  If anything regarding peer pressure comes up in this conversation, talk to them about being their own person and not worrying about what others think.  Use your own personal experiences if need be, perhaps talking about what the “cool trend” was when you were their age.

*Talk about ways to communicate with and without a cell phone, including contacting parents and friends, emergency calls, Facebook, land lines, e-mail, and others and how a cell phone can be used in positive ways.

*Work with your mentee to program an emergency contact number as “ICE” (in case of emergency) in their cell phone.  This would allow others to have a number to reach if an emergency arose.

*If you both have cell phones, it might be fun to go through different features together.  You could share ringtones together and talk about courtesy of ringtones, especially in class or other quiet areas.  Expand on this and go through games, texting, and other parts of the phone, making sure to continue the conversation about appropriate usage, courtesy, and privacy.  If you are familiar with them, talking about different applications and limiting privacy could also be helpful.

*Talk to your mentee about privacy, and how it is important to limit who they give their mobile number to and where they post it.  Encourage them not to post it on Facebook unless their friends list is limited to close family and friends only and to not give their phone number out to strangers.  Encourage them not to respond to unfamiliar numbers and text messages.

*Find a news story about cellular and cyber bullying.  See what their thoughts and feelings are about this.  Discuss bullying and encourage them not to bully others, through cell phones or any method.  Also encourage them to report any abusive, harassing, and inappropriate messages or calls they may receive.
*Talk with your mentee about how, once they put something out there, that person is capable of passing that information on.  This could be a text message, e-mail, photograph, Facebook post, or voicemail.  Encourage them to protect themselves by monitoring what they send to others and not to send something they would not want others to see.

*Discuss the ways that a cell phone can be harmful, such as distracting someone in class and/or while driving.  Encourage your mentee to use their phones in-between classes and never if they are driving.  Talk about some of the potential negative consequences, such as getting poor grades, getting detention from the teacher, or worse- getting into an accident and/or getting hurt if using the phone while driving.  If they have to drive a long way, encourage the use of a hands free headset or other hands free device and not to dial while driving.


Monday, February 6, 2012

What Do You Think?: Is College Within My Reach?


Nicole is the youngest of four children and just entered 9th grade.  No one in her family has ever been to college, except maybe a class or two at City College.  Her parents both work two jobs to support the family and they encourage Nicole to get a job after high school.  However, she has been talking with her favorite teacher and he told her that she would do great in college and it will help her get a better higher paying job.  He shared stories about how college was one of the best times of his life and how it helped him realize his passion for teaching.  Nicole also wants to be a teacher and so she has started considering actually going to college.  The thought of being the first person from her family to do so is at the same time exciting and terrifying, but she still can’t quite see it as a true possibility.  She knows her family is poor because her parents have to work so much and they always scrape by for a day or two at the end of every month, so how could they possibly afford college?!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What should Nicole do to find out more information about college and how to pay for it?  Who can she talk to?
  2. Do you think that your family could afford college for you?  If money was not an issue would you want to go to college?  Why or why not?
  3. Do you know anything about financial aid and scholarship money?
  4. What do you think about being the first one in a family to go to college?  Would that make you want to go more or less?
  5. What do you think Nicole’s parents and siblings will think about her applying for college? Will they be supportive?  What about your family?

* The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara offers scholarships to students with a high school diploma or GED who have spent four years in Santa Barbara schools from grades 7 to 12. is the website for these scholarships. They also list other specialty scholarships here, including ones who are AB540 status. Another SB site for AB540 scholarships is the Adsum Education Foundation.
The Ventura County Community Fund supports Ventura students with college funds (

* There are many websites which break down cost and answer questions that students might have, making it less difficult to find out the information they need, such as: and there are also forums where other students can go online and discuss the pros and cons of different options.  This is often a great way for students to connect with others who are looking at similar options and/or those who have already made similar decisions. 

* Summer competitions and other essays can earn students scholarships simply by having them write their story, share their goals, and/or test their academics.  High marks are also ways to earn academic scholarships, but there are many types of scholarships available.  Scholarships can be competitive, but there are also numerous scholarship funds that go unused because not enough people apply. is a site that lists different types of scholarships that are out there.  Religious, athletic, high school, and military scholarships are some of the many types available. 

* Work-study programs at universities work with financial aid programs for students who have financial need.  Universities often offer these employment options as a way to benefit both the students and university, as the university then has lower cost employees, and the students often are able to study during down times at work and are able to work around their class schedules as well.  Especially in local college communities, many places of employment cater to student schedules, with part-time employment available on nights or weekends, and even summer or holiday employment.

* Grants are often offered to students who demonstrate financial need, usually on a first-come-first-served basis.  Grant money is financial aid which does not have to be re-paid.  Federal loans (Stafford and Perkins) are cheaper than private loans and often have more flexible repayment options.  Private loans are also an option if Federal loan funds are not available or have been utilized.  Early applications are the best way to maximize the amount of aid available.

* Based on demographics, students may find it easier to get into school in some locations over others.  In recent years, some regions in the Midwest and Northeast have not seen as many first-year applicants, which led them to offer more scholarships in-order to increase enrollment.

* If a student is undocumented, they may not be eligible for federal aid.  However, there are other resources out there which have funds specifically to support undocumented students in their education.  and some of the listed sources at the bottom of this blog have some great resources for undocumented students to receive financial support for college. 

How Mentors Can Help:

* Talk about your own decisions about going to college, whether or not you went, how you decided where to go, who you talked to, and how you paid for it.  If you did not go to college, talk about this decision, and you can also talk about those you know who went to college, into the military, or trade school. 

* Discuss your mentee’s motivation for going to college, whether this if financial, occupational, personal, etcetera.  Discuss some of the goals they want to achieve and help them to really feel sure about their decisions and not just feel family or other pressure.  Encourage them to consider all of their options.

* Encourage your mentee to talk with their high school career center and counselor about what kind of preparation they need in-order to apply for colleges.  Help them begin to work on some of their goals and where they see themselves going.

* Talk with them about considering junior college first or other local college in-order to save money on tuition and allow them more time to figure out their career goals.  Encourage them to start looking earlier so they have more time to make an informed decision. 

* Talk to your mentee about scholarships and other financial support.  Encourage them to write about their stories, their goals, and their reasons for going to college and sending them in as essays for scholarship money for college. is a site to help them take a look at the different types of scholarships available.  Encourage them to search for scholarships in their local area, as well as talking with their high school, religious organizations, employer, and the universities they are planning to apply to. 

* Direct them to the FAFSA website and talk with them about financial aid. contains a lot of information for applicants about different types of aid and how to apply.  Let your mentee know that there is a lot of aid out there and the responsibility would not have to fall on her parents.  Scheduling an appointment with a college financial aid officer is a great way to give them an idea of what they will need to do and what might be out there.

* Talk with your mentee about working students and how many jobs are flexible with students’ class schedules, especially on-campus jobs. 

* Encourage them to be wary of credit card companies that often target young adults and discuss with them the pros and cons of credit cards.

* Talk with them about different resources out there - friends, school counselors, teachers, and online sites (such as: ) and other online forums where students discuss their decisions, what worked and what didn’t.

Funding Resources for Undocumented Students:

Additional Resources:
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