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”

PYD Expands Mentoring Opportunities to Community College Students with Disabilities on a National Scale

Cartoon mentor and mentee connected via wifiBOSTON, MA – Over the next three years, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be launching a new online, professional mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities across five states.

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. Thanks to a three-year grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities is planning to address this issue by expanding professional mentoring opportunities to community college students with disabilities in five states.

PYD will offer e-mentoring to 330 young adults with the goal of improved employment outcomes through partnerships with Business Leadership Networks in Massachusetts (Work Without Limits), Connecticut (Connecticut Business Leadership Network), Maine (Maine Business Leadership Network in partnership with the Maine Chamber of Commerce), Wyoming (Unita County Business Leadership Network), and Kansas (Greater Kansas City Leadership Network), as well as community colleges in these areas.

Community College students 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 fairs hosted by the Business Leadership Networks.

According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “For 31 years, PYD has witnessed the transformative power of mentoring in the lives of youth and young adults with disabilities in their efforts to gain employment and achieve independence. We are thrilled to be expanding our program model beyond Massachusetts through e-Mentoring. We know that this effort between many collaborating partners will result in increased employment opportunities for the participating young adults.”

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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.

About Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The foundation has contributed more than $15 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives. To learn more, visit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s website at www.MEAF.org.

Stories from our 2016 Mentor of the Year

At Mentor Appreciation Night this fall, we honored Richard Cohen with our Mentor of the Year award. Over the past 4+ years, Richard has been an exceptional mentor for four young adults. We are grateful for Richard’s passion for and contribution to the lives of his mentees. When accepting the award, Richard highlighted the times spent with his mentees and shared what makes the experience of mentoring so special for him:

[Lightly edited for clarity]

About 25 years ago, my wife Judith and I lived in New York State. And Judith was working in a high school, I was working alone as a woodworker.

For the high school, Judith instituted a community service program. One of the programs that she created was for a high school class that goes into a psychiatric hospital once a week. It was a tremendous success. The kids loved it and the patients loved it too. And the kids wrote papers about it and it really inspired me to see what might be available in doing this kind of thing.

And once I started, it became very clear to me that there is more love, friendship, fulfillment, interest, fun, and all the best stuff in life through doing this stuff. So, I wanted to continue to do it and I don’t want to stop. I hope the people I interacted with got out of it as much as I did.

I do want to highlight just briefly each of the four mentees I’ve had, because they are real highlights for me to experience, being with them.

So, the first one was a young man named Alex. Before we were matched, I remember Steve suggesting I should become Alex’s mentor because we both like Rock and Roll, and that maybe I could relate to that.

So, Alex and I met and I learned that he had met Ringo Star through Make-A-Wish. And his bedroom walls were plastered with his music posters. We decided that we would get together and try playing music and singing songs. And I’m a rudimentary guitar player, and the only feedback I got was from Judith was from the other room, “You have to tune it first!”

So I went very excitedly to meet Alex at the Ivy Street School, and the first day, we agreed to meet at this time, they said Alex couldn’t see me. And the next three times I went, that same thing happened each time. I was getting a little discouraged.

And then Alex’s mother got a hold of me. A mother’s love is the strongest power on earth. And she basically explained to me how he had had brain cancer as a child. She also told me that Alex had Tourette’s and had depression and migraines daily, and was always exhausted from his medication.

Thankfully, I was patient because and we got to the point where we could get together. Some days he could do 15 minutes or whatever, and that was that.

And the day that I will always remember is when he found his voice. He was singing a few songs, and then he got very serious. And he said, “Richard? Do you think we could do Wild Thing?” So I started off, dun dun dun dun dun. And he goes, “Wild Thing!” He belts it out.

And as he is doing that, the wonderful woman who runs the school, walks into the room and goes, “You make my heart sing!” And it was so amazing, we were trying to do this, and it was frustrating, and there’s the three of us celebrating, and that kind of stuff is very cool when it happens.

I was very sad when Alex moved away, but then Steve hooked me up with somebody else. He knew I was a woodworker, and had somebody who was also into woodworking. Andrew’s grandfather, who he dearly loved had passed away, was a very talented furniture maker and had a home shop. So Andrew and I had a chance to study and appreciate his grandpa’s work, and I think it helped him get people through bad times. Andrew’s mom once asked me what it’s like woodworking with Andrew. If you don’t know Andrew, you would think this is an odd thing, but if you know him, you understand exactly. I said, he’s a very loving guy. That’s Andrew — you spend an hour with him and you feel differently. So it’s a new experience of woodworking.

It is interesting the word partnership in this thing. But another component to being Andrew’s mentor was that, Carl and Jennie, his folks, are the most world class parents and have supported me in every way, being with Andrew, understanding Andrew, and I know that they and Andrew will be friends forever, I hope.

And one other thing: Andrew loves PYD and has participated in all kinds of stuff here. And I always thought he would make a sensational mentor. So look out for him.

And then there is Jake.

Steve told me there was this guy who was, among other things, interested in music and I thought maybe we would play music together. It was interesting, when I first met Jake, it was not easy to understand him. But, he was, from the get go, one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.

Jake has non-verbal learning disorder of sorts which caused him a lot of anxiety and frustration. And the thrill of being with him is that I’ve seen the responsibilities he has taken upon himself and how much he’s grown. Understandably, initially he was very concerned about his disability. Could he find medical help? Counseling help? But, now he talks about things like meditation and prayer and even things like self-acceptance.

So frankly, I’m in awe of you, Jake, and how you’ve hung in there. And I look forward every week to being with you and I learn something new each time.

But the last match I wanted to talk about is current and, it’s kind of challenging. It is with a young man who really has not had any family or education, either. But he’s a very sweet person, and before we were matched, Steve explained to me that his interests were rap music, which I’m not too conversant with, and basketball, which I used to love to play 55 years ago. So, I told Steve, you know, you better mention to him that I’m 70 years old so that, when we get together, he’s not disappointed if an old man shows up.

So anyhow, I met with Juan and I explained I don’t play ball anymore, but we would go for a walk, get a slice of pizza, and see where it all went.

So the next week, I go to meet Juan and I was real happy to see that he was at the door to let me in. And he happened to be holding a basketball.

So, we went on our walk and then went down the street and over to a park, and next thing you know, we’re on a basketball court. It was one of the hottest days of the year, but we shot baskets for an hour. And for the next 8 weeks, I couldn’t wait to play.

So he actually became my mentee, without even saying a word to me, or without even knowing he did it. He showed me I had a disability called “I can’t because I’m too old.”

He taught me to not play that card.

Since Juan hopes to become a chef, when the weather got bad, we made some pizza and some cookies. The guys in Juan’s house who were all sort of, like, big football sized guys, but they appreciated the food we make a lot. Juan has become very popular.

But I’m just so grateful to be a part of an organization like this and have people like that to help me, and it’s a partnership, and I want to thank you.

International Mentoring Day: Mentoring for a Better World

Muhammad Ali with a small childThis post has been co-authored by Eli A. Wolff, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and Mary A. Hums, University of Louisville.

We celebrate International Mentoring Day on January 17 while honoring the legacy of Muhammad Ali on what would have been his 75th birthday. Reflecting on the power of mentoring and how it contributes to creating a better world is a useful exercise any day, but particularly on a day that acknowledges a great man and his great life.

Mentoring teaches us to lift each other up, creating powerful positive long-lasting relationships along the way. Mentoring reinforces the benefits of enhancing the lives of all people, and can be especially uplifting for individuals who are isolated, excluded or at the margins. Mentoring has been and will continue to contribute toward fostering development, peace and human rights. Mentoring can build a more inclusive and better world for all.

Mentoring is a powerful tool for raising awareness and understanding diversity and inclusion, helping us to recognize the importance of advocacy and being advocates for ourselves and others. Mentoring, whether formal or informal, reinforces the power of relationships and contributes to creating a better world.

Mentoring relationships help us to broaden our lens for diversity and inclusion, allowing us to see others as people first while moving beyond labels and stereotypes. Mentors and mentees can help each other to redefine “normal” and move to “typical”, creating visibility for individuals or communities previously living as invisible to greater society. Through mentorship we can expand our minds, hearts and vision toward race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, culture. This is the power of mentoring. All are welcome in the mentoring space.

Mentoring also brings light to what it means to become an advocate for a better world. Together, mentors and mentees learn that being advocates for oneself and others embodies strength, leadership and empowerment while honoring different advocacy styles, approaches and tactics. Advocates can proactively mobilize and vocalize for change or can use role modeling in a subtle yet profound approach. Some advocates may be demanding and push for change, while others may pull for change simply by modeling through the lived example of their everyday lives.

The power of mentoring is transformative for individuals and communities. Both informal and formal mentoring challenge us to do better and be better in our personal lives and in our lives as citizens in our local, national and global communities. Formal mentoring gives us the structure to interact, engage, create and foster intentional relationships where people develop personally while achieving goal-oriented life outcomes. Informal mentoring is profound in the seamless way that knowledge, lessons and ideas can be transferred within and between generations. Informal mentoring is ongoing in our lives, an essential element of the human condition, manifesting itself through parents, friends, teachers, partners, grandparents, and community leaders.

Muhammad Ali lives on as a worldwide mentor. We can all continue to learn from his legacy of advancing diversity and inclusion, his strategic advocacy for a better world and how he engaged people globally through formal and informal mentoring. In the words of his widow, Lonnie Ali, “Mentors are special gifts to the world. They encourage, motivate, reinforce, and guide others to reach their own individual greatness. After all, mentors have the power to transform lives.”

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