IS members represent nonprofits, foundations, and corporations engaged in every kind of charitable endeavor, with missions that reflect the nearly infinite ways of working for the common good. New member, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), located in Boston, fuels the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people. Research by the organization shows that one in three young people will reach adulthood without a mentor outside their family.
We talked with Erin Souza-Rezendes, Director of Communications, about their efforts to support young people with the supportive relationships they need to succeed and to close the mentoring gap.
Q: Describe some of the programs or services your organization runs.
ES: We are a national nonprofit, leading and growing the mentoring movement nationwide. We and our local affiliates across the country provide training and technical assistance and help recruit more quality mentors for the movement. We run a national database for mentoring services, that brings more people into the fold, and connects potential mentors with opportunities in their community (we have over 2,000 programs in the Mentoring Connector). We were selected by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to run the National Mentoring Resource Center, an online resource center for people in the field, with resources and research offered free of charge. We host the National Mentoring Summit, bringing together 1,300 individuals to share best practices, build relationships, and strengthen the movement. The Summit is the only national convening for youth mentoring professionals.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your career path and how you arrived at your present position.
ES: I came to MENTOR from the political and nonprofit space, drawn to this work because it allows me to live out my personal values in a professional setting. Previously, I led communications for a national organization researching the obstacles for women running for office, really working with an eye toward equity. MENTOR works with a similar lens, as we’re thinking about leveling the playing field to ensure opportunity for all young people. This role is a happy marriage of things I really care about.
Q: Was there a day in your work at MENTOR that you remember as special or extraordinary?
ES: My experience being at the National Mentoring Summit in January was so memorable and a special opportunity to see the work in action and meet people that I’d connected with but haven’t seen in person before. I’m an extrovert and draw energy from being around other motivated people, so it was great to be there and see the power of collaborating in person. One moment that stands out to me was the chance to hear from young people firsthand about what mentoring means to them, and how we all, as a field, can best engage them and support mentors.
Another time that stands out as special was a recent week where we had a lot of long-term work come together. We released a guide for mentors to talk about toxic masculinity, Conversations About Masculinity: How Mentors Can Support Young Men of Color. The guide was released during MBK Rising!, the first national convening of the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper’s Alliance.
This was one of those moments where you see the efforts that have been slowly building coming together. It’s helpful to remember too – the tip of the iceberg is what you see, but all the smaller coordinated efforts under the surface lead up to those big splashes.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your organization and how have you responded to them?
ES: A challenge is taking the long view, being strategic, but also nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of, it’s important to stay grounded, but be willing to swing at things as they come.
In the last year or two, there has also been the need to be mindful of how and when you respond as an organization to what’s happening in the news. There have been moments when I’ve been proud of how we’ve been able to navigate this to share our values and stay true to them. And I’ve been glad to see many peers in the nonprofit community doing the same.
Q: What is one of your favorite places to be in your community?
ES: I spend part of my time working from our Boston office and part of the time working from home in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. A place in South Dartmouth that means a lot to me personally is The Ritual Sweat Society – a yoga studio where I focus on inner work and self-care, and where relationships can grow and blossom.
Q: Is there an unsung hero on your team or in your office you’d like to shout-out?
ES: One of our core values at MENTOR is to be leaders through service, and everyone at our organization embodies that value! I do want to shout-out to Sarah Jasinski, our Chief of Staff. She has a quiet competence about her that I so admire. She keeps the trains running here and is also such a savvy strategist. She does a lot of things behind the scenes to make people feel special and supported.
Learn more about MENTOR at www.mentoring.org and visit The Mentoring Connector, the only national database of mentoring programs and a free service that helps quality youth mentoring programs across the country recruit more local volunteers.
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