Learning How To Be An Advocate For Mentoring

Discussing lobbying and advocating for mentoring

In honor of National Mentoring Month, PYD recently collaborated with Mass Mentoring Partnership to host a training for our Mentor Match participants on advocacy and lobbying. Participants learned how the state government operates, background on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the rules of lobbying, tips for building relationships with legislators, the history of the mentoring line item, and the importance of advocating. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on the mentors who have impacted their lives and the growth they have seen within their own mentees.

Participants learned about the Mentoring Matching Grant, which is administered through the Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), a statewide organization fueling the movement to expand quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts. This grant funds at least 1,300 mentoring relationship and supports 25-30 jobs at local mentoring programs on a yearly basis, thanks in large part to MMP’s work advocating for mentoring and ensuring that the grant makes it into each year’s budget.

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A New Year of Making Healthy Connections

Youth at a recent MHC Springfield meeting

Making Healthy Connections (MHC) programming is now in full swing at both Boston and Springfield program sites! Boston MHC began in the fall and Springfield MHC just launched a new program session on January 11th, 2014.

Both MHC sites offer youth and parent sessions twice monthly and are working to enhance the health and well-being of youth with disabilities in the Greater Springfield and Greater Boston areas through social, recreational, and transition-focused learning opportunities. This year’s topics for MHC Youth Meetings include: Disability Pride, Nutrition, Accessible Transportation, Independent Living, Fitness, Advocacy, Relationships, Stress Management, and Talking to Healthcare Providers. Currently over 60 youth participants and peer leaders are participating in Making Healthy Connections for 2014.

MHC is fortunate to receive another three-year funding award from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional MHC funding received for FY2014 includes awards from the Beveridge Family Foundation, CVS Caremark Community Grants, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Thomas Anthony Pappas Foundation. These awards provide critical support for MHC program activities. Thank you to all our funders who make it possible to continue offering this unique and important programming!

So what do our participants like best about MHC? Let’s ask them!

“Being around everybody”

“Working independently, making friends, learning lots of new things.”

“This program has impacted my life by showing me I have a disability and I should be proud of it. Also I learned how to deal with it and the recourses… I loved cooking at American International College.”

“The group helps me cope with my Autism on a day to day basis. I truly look forward to coming to group for the last 2 years. It has been a blast. I feel like I’m a somebody in this group and I can’t thank MHC enough for making a better person with Autism.”

The parents of MHC youth participants are also enthusiastic about the group, and they believe that the program positively benefits their child in many different ways:

“He is learning about peer relationships, as well as how to advocate for himself.”

“Empowered her to advocate for herself and given her the confidence to move forward towards becoming more independent. She now sees many possibilities for herself and has enjoyed meeting others she can look up to and identify with.”

“Self-confidence grew and now he has become very interested in self advocacy and leadership opportunities. Learned how to be a peer leader.”

Thank you to all our enthusiastic youth participants and their families. It is an honor to work with all of you, and we look forward to another great year of Making Healthy Connections!

For more information about Boston MHC, contact Deep Chinappa (Director of Outreach and Recruitment) at dchinappa@pyd.org. For information about the Springfield program, contact Susan Nicastro (Deputy Director) at snicastro@pyd.org.

10 Ways to Show Your Appreciation on Thank Your Mentor Day!

Update: The next Thank Your Mentor Day is January 21st, 2016. While this post was published a few years ago, we still believe everyone should thank their mentors this month!

January is National Mentoring Month and today, January 16th, 2014 is Thank Your Mentor Day! Mentors are experienced friends and companions who provide their mentees with support and guidance through any number of situations. Whether your mentoring relationship is professional, academic, social, formal or informal, all mentoring relationships strengthen our community as a whole by increasing youth’s self-esteem, academic success, and workforce readiness. These successful relationships would not be possible without the care and dedication of our kind mentors. Whoever your mentor is, today is the day to show your appreciation for their efforts!


Here are ten easy and creative ways to thank your mentor today:

  1. Pass on the great experience that you received from your mentor by becoming a mentor to a young person in your community.
  2. Write a tribute to your mentor and post it on the Who Mentored You? website. Be sure to let your mentor know that their support and dedication is being recognized on the web.
  3. Bake something delicious, like cookies or a cake, to show your mentor how sweet they are!
  4. Send your mentor a thank you card from National Mentoring Month. Download a card here.
  5. Make a financial contribution to a local mentoring program in your mentor’s honor.
  6. Record and send a video message to your mentor that expresses your gratitude. You can dance, sing, act or use special effects to make your video creative and unique!
  7. Take a picture of the words “Thank You” spelled out with different objects and hand deliver it to your mentor for a thoughtful surprise!
  8. Give your mentor a phone call to brighten their day. Tell them about a lesson they taught you or how much progress you’ve made since you met them.
  9. Write a song in honor of your mentor.
  10. Make your mentor a collage of different pictures that you think symbolize your relationship.

No matter how you choose to show your appreciation, make sure to let your mentor know just how special they are to you!

2014 Scholarship Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

With January already half gone, the season for college and scholarship applications is well underway. If you’re a senior and looking into scholarship opportunities, it can be quite hard to sort through all the noise and find local scholarship opportunities that fit your background and needs. There are just so many opportunities out there!

To help sort through the noise, we’ve taken some time to find a handful of scholarship opportunities that are directly applicable for youth in our programs: Boston-area students with a disability. Each of these scholarships targets a slightly different demographic, but we hope this list will have something for everyone.

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Tips for Managing Mentee Behavior & Avoiding Meltdowns

Mentors at the behavioral management forum

In mid-December, the Mentor Match program held an ongoing training session for our current mentors. We call these events our “Mentor Community Forums,” as we try to make these events opportunities for mentors to network, to express their challenges and concerns, to learn from each other, and to learn additional tips from our staff.

At this most recent Forum, the topic of discussion was “Addressing Challenging Behavior.” Working with kids can present many unexpected challenges, and mentors have to know how to manage and adapt to their mentee’s behavior. Every child has a different set of triggers that can cause them to get frustrated, upset, or angry, and it’s important for mentors to know how to recognize these triggers, avoid them, and help their mentee positively cope with their subsequent emotions.

To help our mentors navigate these tricky situations, we put together a training packet that focuses on youth behavior management skills. It helps mentors understand triggers and the meltdown cycle, and provides them with tools on how to best avoid meltdowns and how to support their mentee through them.

The behavior management packet is available for download here. You can also find a full archive of our previous resource packets below:

Summer Job Resources for Teens

11 Summer Job Resources for Teens & Young Adults with Disabilities

Eight Tips for Setting Goals with Your Mentee

Self-Advocacy Training Packet for Teens with Disabilities

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