Partners for Youth with Disabilities Receives James G. Connolly Tribute Fund Grant

BOSTON – Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) was presented with a grant from the James G. Connolly Tribute Fund at the 12th annual Champions of Mentoring breakfast. The breakfast was hosted by Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) earlier this summer to honor individuals and organizations that have shown an outstanding commitment to mentoring and youth development.

This year Connolly grants were awarded to two organizations, PYD and Enroot, to enhance their mentoring work with immigrant and refugee youth. They were selected as the result of a competitive RFP process.

“At PYD, we’ve long known that many youth with disabilities also have experiences of trauma, and that many come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. When these identities collide, it can compound the issues that many youth with disabilities already face–especially their feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy–and impact the realization of their potential. To have supports like the Connolly Fund that recognize how these dual and multi-faceted aspects of self interact is truly tremendous. Our gratitude is mighty,” said PYD Founder and Executive Director Regina Snowden, who accepted the award at the event.

The grant will be used to bolster existing staff skills, create two new training workshops, and train PYD’s mentors and partner organizations in an effort to better engage and serve immigrant and refugee youth.

Named in honor of MMP’s late board chair, Jim Connolly, the Fund honors his memory and dedication to mentoring by supporting projects that are aligned with MMP’s mission of providing all Massachusetts youth with positive adult relationships. Since 2010, the fund has awarded more than $200,000 in grants to mentoring programs.

Jim Connolly’s belief that all youth should have the opportunity to reach their full potential directly aligns with PYD’s mission and this project. We believe that all youth have strengths and abilities, and that it’s important to change people’s assumptions, expectations, and attitudes in order to create a world where youth with disabilities have full equity of opportunity.

Also at the Champions of Mentoring breakfast, MMP presented the 2017 Champions of Mentoring awards to Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester) and Tom Caron of NESN, and two Dorchester youth, Shelby Destin and Taya Hopkins, each received $20,000 educational scholarships for persevering through adversity with the guidance of a caring adult.

About Mass Mentoring Partnership
Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) is fueling the movement to expand empowering youth-adult relationships to meet the needs of communities across Massachusetts. MMP serves hundreds of mentoring programs and youth development organizations statewide supporting thousands of youth in mentoring relationships. www.massmentors.org

About Partners for Youth with Disabilities
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. To learn more, visit www.pyd.org.

PYD’s online mentoring expansion continues

Thanks to funding from The Milbank Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be expanding Campus Career Connect (C3), PYD’s new online, professional e-mentoring program to support an additional 50 college students with a disability across the state of Massachusetts. This new grant will expand the program, which was originally available exclusively for community college students thanks to a generous three-year grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

According to the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy, people with disabilities continue to have an unemployment rate over two times that of people without disabilities. While higher education often improves employment opportunities, college graduates continue to face barriers when seeking employment, which can lead to unemployment or underemployment.

The C3 network was designed specifically to support young adults with disabilities in improving their employment outcomes, including securing internships and jobs in their field of choice. Through the network, college students with disabilities will access professional and peer mentors to increase their networks, receive advice, and gather support about achieving goals. They will also participate in topical webinars related to employment readiness, and engage in live networking and interview opportunities. Professional mentors have been recruited from a variety of industries thanks to a partnership with the Massachusetts Business Leadership Network, a program of UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits.

According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “We are so grateful that Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and The Milbank Foundation have invested in the power of mentoring for college students with disabilities. At PYD, we have experienced the transformative value of mentoring for over 32 years, and we know this opportunity will have meaningful impact for college students with disabilities who are ready to take the next step in their career.”

Campus Career Connect is now open to any college student with a disability from Massachusetts or attending school in Massachusetts. Sign up now at c3.pyd.org!

Advocacy, Allyship, and the Power of Mentoring

This blog post was written collaboratively by Eli Wolff (Partners for Youth with Disabilities) and Mary Hums (University of Louisville). Eli and Mary have both worked in the area of mentoring for social change and have been part of the organizing team for International Mentoring Day. This post was originally published at MENTOR.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

How do we find ways to support, enhance and mentor advocacy movements built on a foundation of allyship and unity for underserved, minority and disenfranchised groups? How can mentors and mentees promote allyship in their relationships and in their broader work of commitment to social justice?

All too often minority groups feel as if they are fighting on their own, in isolation. All underserved populations and movements need to have a framework for reaching out to others for solidarity, unity, and allyship and mentors can play a powerful role in establishing that framework. In an effort to build more inclusive communities, however, mentors need to be informed and empowered to facilitate a methodology of allyship. In order to do this, it helps to have a baseline definition of allyship.

Allyship is about bridging the gap between those with privilege and those without it. A person doesn’t need to know everything about the group they’re supporting in order to be an ally. They just need to commit to standing up for others even if it costs them a few moments of social discomfort. (Teaching Social Justice, 2016)

The principle of “Nothing About Us Without Us” should take center stage to reinforce how an underserved population must be central in representing itself in all settings. The disenfranchised group should be at the forefront of defining, articulating and advocating for their rights and needs. When advocacy is led and directed by members of the underserved population, then inclusive communities of allyship can evolve. This strategy allows majority, privileged populations to work seamlessly with advocacy initiatives and projects that advance the rights and dignity of all. The fact is, allies must speak up in matters pertaining to social justice, whether that is related to disability, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

In any advocacy movement for minority and underserved communities, there is a need to grow and learn from history, and mentors play a key role in this process. Learning does not only refer to knowledge about social justice but also includes learning how to advocate across social justice areas. Leaders and mentors from different movements need to be open to supporting each other and must also model that behavior to their mentees. We can all hopefully learn about allyship through positive mentoring relationships, and this transfer of knowledge and empowerment can help to inform and create a broader inclusive social justice movement rather than one that reinforces separation and silos.

Mentors and mentees have the opportunity to join forces and advocate together, to directly represent underserved populations or to act as allies in solidarity. Mentors and mentees must hold each other accountable to work with others, rather than acting and speaking for others. This strategy aims to build movements based on unity and solidarity rather than isolation and separation. When we all work together, we lift each other up.

When reflecting on how mentors can play a role in promoting social justice, ask yourself the following questions: How do you advocate for and with underserved populations? How do you mobilize allyship for social justice? How do you infuse allyship into your mentoring strategies and approaches?

What does PYD mean to you? #IamPYD

On March 12th, PYD began its #IAMPYD campaign by bringing our traveling canvass to Access To Theatre, PYD’s theater arts program for teens and young adults. Participants added their art to the canvas, expressing why they are involved and what they like most about PYD. The canvas is currently filled with a rocket ship, flowers, and other colorful drawings, including proud declarations of personal identities and why PYD is important to them.

Thanks to Mary Grace, Jackie, Juan, and Olivia of the Boston University PRLab, three peer leaders shared their experiences and how PYD has impacted their lives. The following are excerpts and photos from the interviews and the young artists’ process.

“I like being a peer leader for Access To Theatre and Making Healthy Connections because I enjoy expressing my individuality through theater and having fun! I love it because it is a space where I don’t get judged.” – Lizzie Gray

“My favorite thing about being a peer leader is being with my PYD family and those that I love the most. I also like helping others” – Josh Jones

“Partners for Youth with Disabilities has helped me be a better human being. It helps me be more independent as a man and it teaches me about social skills, and how to be ready for the world. In my personal life, it helps me be prepared for anything, because it unlocks that [treasure box] of opportunities and it helps me express who I am as an individual. It helps me learn more about myself and learn new things about different people. Everyone has a story and you never what they are going through unless you sit with them and learn their story. PYD has helped me with that. I’ve been involved for nine years now. I love PYD and thank them for doing that. If PYD didn’t exist I wouldn’t have learned to be as sharp, strong, independent, and intelligent, and I woudn’t have learned all these acting and theater skills. It is so cool to express being silly, but also being artistic and consistent at the same time. Some words that describe me are fearless, risk taker, ambitious, strive for greatest, loving, loyal, dedicated to family, dedicated to my peers, dedicated to being myself, honest, caring. Anything you need I’m always there for you. That’s what describes me.” – DJ Robinson

Join us at the Party for PYD on May 18th to hear DJ perform an original rap!

We’d like to thank Blick art for the kind donation of the canvas.

Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior

An adult speaking to a teenage boy in a calming wayBehaviors are the result of the interactions of two things: the characteristics we possess as people and the characteristics of the situation we face. The theory behind the iceberg model of childhood behavior is that there are many things that influence the way that children act and react: skills, knowledge, experience, social role or values, self-image, traits, and motives. Some (the most conscious) of these characteristics can be seen outright – “above the water,” if you will. The more subconscious or unconscious characteristics are the ones working behind the scenes — “underwater.” It is a mixture of all of these characteristics that will shape a child’s behavior—meaning that the cause of the behavior won’t always be apparent.

The tip of the iceberg—the conscious characteristics that children have in their toolbox—are skills, knowledge, and experiences. Skills represent what children can do innately or things they have learned to do over time. Knowledge is what they know or have come to understand as they’ve grown. This knowledge is shaped by their experiences, which help build both the knowledge and skills available to them in their personal toolboxes.

Under the water, however, are the unseen forces that can shape their behaviors. This portion consists of four large components: their social role and values, self-image, traits, and motives. Continue reading “Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior”

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