Eyes Wide Open Mentoring is proud to participate in WPGC's (95.5 FM) 18th Annual For Sisters Only women's empowerment event on Saturday, November 4th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We will be seeking volunteers as thousands from the D.C. community gather for a day of musical performances, information-sharing, educational opportunities, health and wellness seminars, and building community. WPGC's star DJ, Poet Taylor, will be on site at our booth so come by and say hello!
For ticket information, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wpgc-955-presents-the-18th-annual-for-sisters-only-tickets-38107343089
Eyes Wide Open Mentoring is proud to salute our founding Board member and D.C. Ed Fund Service Award recipient Ann Brogioli. To show her commitment to Eyes Wide Open Mentoring, Ann donated 10% of her cash award to us last evening. Thanks to the wonderful people at the DC Public Education Fund for making this evening possible and showcasing so many local heroes.
Want to learn more about EWOM?
Listen to this podcast featuring one of the EWOM co-founders, Ashleigh Diserio.
We have been fortunate these past many months to occupy shared office space in the heart of Historic Anacostia. We are at a point where we really need private office space to plan for the organization's growth, vet volunteers, and confidentially discuss issues affecting the youth we serve. As you know, ours is a start-up organization with an extraordinarily lean budget, but very real financial needs. If you know of free or reduced-price private office space that will be available in 2017, please notify firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent interview, Eyes Wide Open mentor Mychele Lynn generously shared why she chose to become a volunteer with us.
"What motivated me to become a mentor with EWOM was that it is an organization which helps children who don't have permanent homes. This touched me on personal level. I spent the first four years of my life in the New York foster care system. Then my foster care parents adopted me. We moved around a lot because we were a military family. However, when my dad retired in 1986, it was hard for him to provide adequate housing for us. As a result, we became homeless. We moved in with my grandmother. I was starting the sixth grade but I still felt very sad and alone in the world. One thing I missed was spending time outside.
"One day I made an appointment to talk the school counselor. I told her about my home life. The next day she invited me to have lunch with her and let me invite my best friends. I was on top of the world. It made me feel so special. Spending time with her was like a little ray of light coming through the tiny windows of the basement where I slept. It also gave me hope and a little faith that things would get better. On this day I decided that I wanted to become a counselor. I wanted to bring that same ray of light and brighten other kids' lives -- particularly kids who were much younger than me. When I became a teenager, I decided I wanted to be a mentor and continue that path into my adult life."
That school counselor changed the trajectory of Mychele's life, giving her hope where previously she had felt alone and fearful. Mychele was born on October 30, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York. She spent the first part of her childhood in New York, then moved with her new family to Maryland. She has called Prince George's County, Maryland, "home" ever since. She is currently a student at University of Maryland's University College studying for a second bachelor's degree; this time in Psychology. "I decided to study Psychology as part of my continuing recovery from a diagnosis of PTSD. I wanted to learn how my experiences have affected me and why. Through studying psychology, I hope to understand and give more love to myself so that I can continue to give it to others. As a career I would like to continue mentoring youth through being a guidance counselor or a play therapist," she explains.
Mychele is giving back through this program, but long before we knew her, Mychele understood the power of mentoring when she intervened in the life of a first grader who was being ignored by her peers. "I decided that in my spare time I would talk to and spend some time with her. To make a long story short, I mentored her until she was 16 years old. At her high school graduation, there were three people there: her late maternal grandmother, her mother, and myself. It was one of the proudest moments in my life."
Like all of our mentors, Mychele offers her mentee the opportunity to speak and to really be heard. "My mentee and I went to the movies, the library, and spent a lot of time at the community center near where she stayed. Some of the best times I had with my mentee was when we were riding in the car and engaging in conversation. She talked a lot about loss. For example having to go to so many different schools, missing her favorite pet dog, and how she and her family became homeless. It was also talking about lighter stuff that was memorable too. Like why when she bit into her plum it turned pink and when I bit into my plum it turned red. She was so curious. I think she would have enjoyed making a science fair project on this topic."
"What made smile the most was when we were at the movies. She was in awe of everything: the displays of the different candies, the photo booth, the big screen, etc. It was like she was able to let go for a couple of hours and be the child she is. I think she really enjoyed herself. I think my mentee enjoyed having someone to talk to about what she had gone through. I think having a mentor in her life made it easier for her to be herself. Being a mentor helped me see strength I didn't know I had. It also help me realize some of the unexpressed feelings I had inside me from when I was a child."
Mychele summed up her feelings about our work with vulnerable young people this way: "Empowerment to me means loving the person I was and have become. It also means loving and honoring other people for who they are. I believe we are all connected through a loving higher power."
We love having Mychele in this program! Thanks to Mychele and all of our generous mentors.
By: Joe Barbato
The setting is Milwaukee, but the story is decidedly American. Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond spent two years embedded with eight poor families living in trailer parks and poor neighborhoods to fashion his highly readable Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. The families-black and white-live on the constant cusp of eviction, which sends adults and children to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street. In moving (and enraging) story after story, Desmond shows how the resulting homelessness "invites depression and illness, compels families to move into degrading housing in dangerous neighborhoods, uproots communities, and harms children."
Desmond's widely celebrated, best-selling book chronicles the ceaseless cycle of "making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless" through the frantic experiences of people like Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who carries three garbage bags of clothes whenever she moves; and Arleen, a single mother, who contacts more than 80 landlords in her search for a new home. In the process, children are scarred as they are pulled from one school to another and often lose what few possessions they can call their own. Adults have trouble keeping jobs, and for lack of a permanent address may become ineligible for any available benefits. Emphasizing that "all this suffering is shameful and unnecessary," the author celebrates the resilience and humanity of these families, and argues for universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted. In an interview, Desmond said he and his wife have created a foundation to help the families in Evicted. His aim is to "find them better housing, address unmet medical needs, and quickly address crises, preventing one problem from spiraling into several."
Another recent book offering important insights into homelessness and poverty is sociologist Christopher Dum's Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel, which describes a year in the life of "a location of last resort for individuals in search of affordable housing." The residents of Boardwalk Motel, located in an unidentified affluent white suburban community, arrive from prisons, shelters, and the back seats of cars. They include the mentally ill, disabled individuals, addicts, and registered sex offenders, thrown together in "a dumping ground for those deemed socially unacceptable."
Like Desmond, Dum evokes the lives of his subjects with empathy and compassion, noting that "the stigma of the motel was so blinding that people were unable to see residents as human beings." He makes clear that in recent years rising rates of incarceration, foreclosures, evictions, and homelessness have turned many motels into shelters for the marginalized.
Two talented women did an outstanding job creating marketing material around our participation in the Combined Federal Campaign and assisting with other communication activities. Thanks to Sheila Fernandez and new Board member, Zoe Couacaud, who provided their work on a pro bono basis. We will report on how we did with the CFC in the new year, so stay tuned. Many thanks to all of the federal employees who supported our work with homeless youth.
We want to recognize the efforts of Lynn Stanaway to help improve the quality of life for our mentees. Lynn is presently an independent, Texas-based consultant for Thirty-One, a company whose mission is to empower women to run successful businesses selling stylish organizers, totes and bags. We happen to love their "There's nothing you can't do"-style! Lynn decided to create an online "party" in which guests could purchase large duffle bags that would go directly to our youth. Since most of our kids carry their belongings in a garbage bag, we welcomed the idea of giving them something they could carry with pride and that would keep their possessions safe. We will stuff the bags with items the children need for the winter (like the Under Armour sweatshirts, see story opposite column) and give them to them at Christmas-time. Lynn is donating every commission on these sales right back to our mentees. We thank her for her generosity.
Great news!! MentorPrize recently selected us to become one of their partner organizations!
Recruiting dedicated and quality mentors is no easy feat, so we're very excited that as we move into our second year of mentor programming, MentorPrize will be helping us to grow and meet this challenge!
MentorPrize recruits quality mentors for non-profit organizations in the Greater Washington, D.C. area and advocates for more and better mentoring programs. They believe our communities flourish when people connect through meaningful relationships bound by mutual respect and shared goals
We sincerely enjoyed the time we spent with our mentors at our EWOM get together. We know our mentors have very busy schedules, but we appreciate them giving so very generously of their time, not only to their mentees, but to our organization. Thanks to those who came out and thank you to Art-drenaline Cafe for hosting us.
Our board members care about #homelessyouth! Join them for a good cause and donate today to Eyes Wide Open Mentoring for Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area-CFCNCA. Look for us with our Designation Number CFC#57222! Thank you!
Eyes Wide Open Mentoring thanks the dedicated men and women of Center for Naval Analyses for your service to our national defense and for the privilege of participating in your Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area-CFCNCA Fair!
Like Center for Naval Analysis, we know that extraordinary acts by ordinary people can make a huge difference in our community.
When Under Armour sent 3 cartons of boys cold gear tops to Max Levitt and Ian Cohen at Leveling the Playing Field, Inc., LPF knew who to call for distribution to kids in need. Thank you for a wonderful donation that will keep our young people dry and warm this winter!
Our board member, Sharlene Sawyer, showed the children how to make a bag out of a t-shirt. Now they have something to carry their belonging in. Many also decorated a t-shirt after their bag was complete. We had a great time. They love crafting. Check out their creations!
Don't be surprised to see camera crews accompanying us as we mentor, enjoy recreational opportunities, and educate kids this year. Stone Soup Films, a D.C.-based nonprofit production company that creates professional promotional films for worthy organizations such as ours, is shooting a movie for us under the direction of Mary Lively. Mary and her film crews have followed the kids all over the city this summer capturing footage of our experiences, and interviewing mentors and mentees alike about what makes our program stand out. Look for details about the film's release in the late fall or early winter of 2017.
Lots of our kids and mentors gathered at Anacostia Park for a last hurrah before school resumed for many on August 8th. (Select schools are turning into year-round schools this year, under a plan announced last spring by Schools Superintendent Kayla Henderson.) The park is a largely undiscovered gem located just blocks from our offices in Historic Anacostia, and home to shore birds and other wildlife. One of the great assets of Anacostia Park is its rollerskating rink, where mentees and mentors alike had a great time zipping around (or struggling to stay upright). We will be back to the park on September 10th to explore the wildlife in and surrounding the Anacostia River, thanks to a collaboration with the Department of Energy & Environment's Wildlife Management Branch, and friends at Anacostia Riverkeeper.
Seven generous souls gave up a recent weekend in order to participate in the final phase of mentor training. Director of Recruiting and Training Ashleigh Diserio walked prospective mentors through a detailed agenda covering a range of mentoring programs and policies. Every volunteer had the chance to role play in actual scenarios that have come up over the years to test what it would be like to make decisions on a moment's notice. Welcome to our new mentors!
There is so much great news to report this summer. I thought we'd begin with Trey's* story. (*Not his real name.)
We've all heard the proverb, "it takes a whole village to raise a child." The statement reflects the African belief that children are a blessing from God for the whole community to enjoy, so the entire community needs to play a role in nurturing and raising them up. What a perfect maxim for Eyes Wide Open Mentoring!
This summer, we had the pleasure of seeing the community come together to make one of our youth's dreams come true. It all began when we learned that Trey and his mentor were practicing lacrosse together, and that Trey had decided he wanted to attend lacrosse camp at Gonzaga College High School this summer. We knew that it would be a long shot, but started making calls nonetheless. Imagine our surprise when Coach Casey O'Neill over at Gonzaga said yes, they had a place for our student! The only hitch was that he needed to supply all of his own gear for full-contact lacrosse.
For those of you who don't follow the sport, that's a lot of gear. We picked up the phone again. This call was to parents whose children have played lacrosse over the years. Everyone was eager to help! One couple in particular, Jean Anne and Andrew Hosker, put us in touch with a Montgomery County coach, who put us in touch with Kenny and Jennifer Shure. Jennifer had recently collected lacrosse gear for the nonprofit organization, Playing It Forward. Within days, our student was fully outfitted in all the necessary gear. Trey had a blast at LAX camp, and now has hopes for a lacrosse scholarship to get him to college.
But the story doesn't end there. Jennifer put us in touch with Leveling the Playing Field (LPF), a local nonprofit that aims to bring athletic participation to underprivileged children across the United States, and we discussed our needs with them. In August, LPF donated backpacks and sporting equipment to EWOM kids. While plans are still in the works, there's a very real possibility that kids throughout Southeast will have the opportunity to learn the sport of lacrosse, and possibly tennis, thanks to the actions of these generous individuals.
~~ In more recent news, the University of Maryland's School of Business' student consulting program, Change the World, just accepted our application for assistance in marketing our program. We have a similar type application pending with a student organization at Georgetown University for fundraising assistance as well.
It's not every day that our youth get to work alongside talented college professors to learn the basics of such things as music production, animation, broadcasting, or video production. But thanks to funding from the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE), two of our students did just that in a series of hands-on college classes over the summer at American University's (AU) School of Communications.
Much like nervous college freshmen, our students arrived on campus on July 10th wondering what they were in for. They met their roommates and soon they were engaged with kids from across the country -- and world -- in fun and engaging classes, as well as a jam-packed "after hours" schedule featuring some of the District's best attractions: a monuments-at-night tour; a visit to the Newseum to explore five centuries of news history; an evening cruise along the Potomac River; and a National's baseball game.
Both of our students would be the first in their families to attend college. Thanks to this opportunity, they've replaced a sense of uncertainty about what college is like with a desire to work ever harder to make it possible. Street Sense recently ran an article about our role in connecting homeless students to this opportunity: "Lighting the Way to College for Homeless Youth." Special thanks to Angela Pinaglia, Associate Director, Discover the World of Communication at AU; Nicole Lee-Mwandha, OSSE's Homeless Education State Coordinator; Tasheen Stallings, OSSE's Program Specialist for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program; and Board member Ann Brogioli, for bringing us together. We look forward to continuing this rewarding partnership with OSSE and American University in the future.