So, each year PSU’s School of Social Work hosts an Summer Institute on Youth mentoring. Experienced mentoring professionals are invited from all over to participate in the different programs put on. Each year it is themed and this year was for those who work in the fields of child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, and education. All-Stars got to attend different portions of the events. The events varied over a course of a little over a week. Each day also catered to different audiences.
The All-Stars have gone in the past and had great reviews so PSU's School of Social Work tries to include them each year. Originally I wasn't one of the few that were supposed to go but it just so happened the day before the event an extra spot opened up. I didn't know what to expect but hearing back from the other All-Stars made me excited. I got to go with Katie (Montana) and we prepped with Celeste that night. It worked out for us because we balance each other out. Prepping for the event consisted of looking into our own mentoring experiences and pulling out what we were able to gain from both formal and informal mentoring.
So they day we arrived our audience was full of researchers, policy makers, funders, state partnership representatives and other mentoring professionals. It was exciting to be around the people who actually envision, create, help implement and evaluate the very programs that serve youth.
So I spent my day listening... and then educating these professionals on the importance of mentoring, peer-mentoring especially and permanency. I mainly told them to just ask youth what they want and actually listen to them. The room was full of working ideas and positive vibes. I think the entire day I had a smile on my face. It was amazing to share the concepts and stories I gained through my relationship with my formal and informal mentors. I shared my story in the few minute intervals of speaking I had throughout the day. I never would have thought that our voice would hel them realize how vital youth involvement is in designing and implementing new programs. What they mentioned during their take-aways I will always remember. We were able to help them with the simplest advice. We were also able to help inspire.
I was happy to help people put a face to the youth that they serve. It's an honor to represent the half a million children and youth in the foster care system. As well as those caught in the juvenile justice system who are disproportionately African-American and Latino. I was able to help bring a face and a voice.
When I left it was all smiles and hugs. I got connected with a really important man who is also the Admin of an organization that I’m familiar with. He's such an awesome man! We have already have gone through the process of connecting me with various organizations and opportunities in Southern California for when I move back home. I'm excited for what's to come!
This event in all was just empowering. It helped me remember that despite my experiences with the system there are people who genuinely care. People who want to partner in changing the outcomes of the system. It helps remind me that what I’m doing in life is definitely heading in the right direction..