From Role Model to Role Mentor: How a Typo can Re-Frame the Impact of Mentoring Relationships

When preparing for an upcoming event, I made what at first glance was as a typo. I wanted to say “adult role model” when referring to mentors but instead role “adult role mentor”. I starting panicking since it was sent to VIPs; however, I recollected my thoughts and looked at my mistake only to see it become a mentoring epiphany.

It quickly dawned on how this mistake makes more sense in PYD’s line of work that the former, especially when we associate of the term “role model” as someone to be idolized or even as inspiration porn. The common talk today is to see fewer role models and more motivators. A role mentor, in my interpretation, takes the essence of illustrating guidance and support that others find influential and mimic that in their own work, adapting to that passion for forming durable and consistent mentoring relationships inter-generationally even.

The key aspect of mentoring has become more critical in forming healthy relationships with a young person whose experiences may be different or similar to yours and how you can support them on their journey. At PYD, our mentors are trained to help set goals, serve as a resource broker, aid in educational or job readiness skills, and be an open, consistent, reliable, and active listener (a term which we nickname as ORCA). For youth with disabilities, have a mentor who can manifest those skills is what helps illuminate their power and potential. It becomes a transferable skill to the mentee who is aiming to become more involved in their community and their personal growth.

If I were to create a definition for it, a role mentor is someone who volunteers their time and willingness to pass on these traits in training mentees to be role mentors in their community. I think of Reverse Mentoring, where the mentee teaches their mentor a skill that’s valuable to them. This was, for me, an example of having a role mentor as the sense of mentoring was passed on to the mentee. Critical mentoring, a term defined by Torie Weiston-Serdan (2017) that “places youth at the center of the process”, makes it so that those learning experiences are felt between the mentor and the mentee, maybe turning the mentee into a mentor is multiple capacities.  

It feels weird crediting a typo, something that is my ultimate vice as a writer, for sparking this cathartic realization as we rethink and re-frame mentoring in a global scope. As you have seen in our social media campaigns, we have been using #illumentors to refer mentors and mentees who have achieved the goals they have set through being driven and motivated by mentorship relationship. They illuminate the room as mentors in their own way, whether they be a parent, a youth, or a volunteer. Rather than putting those accomplishments on a peddle stool, let’s see if we can learn those skills actively and retroactively to promote an inclusive and equitable brave space! 

Tag @PYDBoston with an example of a role mentor in your life who inspired you to be a #illumentor? How was that impacted your goal setting and overall growth as an individual? 


Weiston-Serdan, T. (2017). Critical mentoring: A practical guide. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

The Puzzos, PYD Legends Honorees 2018

The Puzzo Family

It is our joy to honor Steve and Nicole Puzzo at Party for PYD 2018 this May 10th! Steve and Nicole are raising two thriving daughters, Chloe and Stella. Stella has Spastic Quadrapalegia Cerebral Palsy. The entire family enjoys the great outdoors, whether skiing or at the beach.

Both Chloe and Stella have been a driving force behind their parents’ work towards inclusion. Nicole shared with us, “Inclusion is important to me because it’s about education and removing stereotypes of individuals with disabilities.” Inclusion is “educating people that we are in this together. Supporting each other is truly the best gift you can give.”

As parents, Steve and Nicole bring their energy, focus and firsthand knowledge to PYD and the community.

Some years ago, Nicole founded Stepping Stones for Stella, a non-profit that provides buggies to children with disabilities. More recently, she co-founded befree, LLC, an accessible clothing line. Check them out here!

Steve is Partner in Mergers and Acquisitions tax at PwC and has been Treasurer of the Board of Directors of PYD for the past 6 years. Through his service, he continues the loyal partnership between PwC and PYD. A PwC Partner has been in a leadership role at PYD from our very beginnings. Back in 1985, John O’Connor, then-Managing Partner at PwC helped PYD obtain our 501 (c)(3) status as a non-profit organization. We are incredibly grateful to Steve for continuing the strong legacy.

The Puzzos emphasize that there “is always more than one way to do something.” Stepping Stones for Stella and befree are prime examples of that! We at PYD feel extremely fortunate that the Puzzos lead in the work to illuminate the potential of all youth with disabilities and grow more inclusive communities. Please join us in celebrating them this May 10th at our annual Party for PYD! You’ll meet the entire Puzzo family there. And at the event, you’ll even get to check out a Stepping Stones for Stella buggy and befree zipOns that are part of our auction thanks to the Puzzos!

Making a snowman!

Vibhu Sharma Party for PYD 2018 Honoree

Vibhu Sharma, 2018 Legends Honoree next to a tree and fenced garden area


At our annual Party for PYD on May 10th, 2018 we are honoring four amazing individuals/groups. The first honoree we’d like to introduce is Vibhu Sharma, Co-Chair of the Leadership & Mentoring Taskforce of UNICEF’s Global Partnership for Children with Disabilities & Youth Disability Rights Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network.

Vibhu, born and raised in Delhi, India, is currently a Masters student of Inclusive Education at the University of Edinburgh. And she has a Bachelors in English Literature.

Years ago, when she first listened to others with visual impairment discuss their experiences and challenges with education, accessibility and inclusion, she knew she just had to work with them. Specifically, children who are blind or visually impaired. She is most dedicated to equal opportunity and peer inclusion.

Vibhu has a lot of energy and found her voice from an early age. She’s the first student in India to have taken her board exams in an inclusive way through a screen reader. What’s more, she persuaded the Central Board of Secondary Education to provide all students who are visually impaired with exam questions in an accessible format. 

Vibhu speaking in a group circle

Regarding mentoring, Vibhu shared: “proper mentoring enables youth with visual impairments to become aware of what options exist for them, and how best can they achieve in life. It also helps them develop their potential.”

We are excited to highlight Vibhu’s courage as an example for our mentees, mentors and the entire community, locally and globally!

Come celebrate Vibhu and our other honorees at the Party for PYD, May 10th!

Celebration of Friendships with Chef Napoli

On Saturday, February 10 from 2-4pm, mentors, mentees and staff from Partners for Youth with Disabilities, as well as the BU PRLab team had the pleasure of attending and participating in PYD’s first Chocolate Workshop. The workshop, taught by Boston’s famous pastry chef, Lee Napoli, was also known as “A Sweet Celebration of Friendships.” The goal of the workshop was to share the chocolate making experience with mentors and mentees and bond these relationships more tightly. A big group of participants, including five mentees, seven mentors, and the PYD team, were guided by Chef Napoli in making and decorating gourmet chocolate truffles.  Each participant took home their very own chocolates from their inspiring “chocolate making adventure,” but not before putting in quite a bit of work.

Making the Chocolate Truffles:

  1. Usually, you would have started by making the ganache, but thanks to the efforts of Chef Napoli, all of that was already made, panned, and waiting for the teams when they arrived. 
  2. Scoop the ganache into balls with a melon baller, roll them until they are round, and put them on a tray where they will wait to get decorated.
  3. Break and then cut GIANT chocolate blocks so they could be easily melted into liquid.  
  4. Dip the ganache balls in the melted chocolate and make sure that they are completely covered, then slide them onto the tray with a fork and get ready to decorate.  
  5. Now, the chef can either drizzle white chocolate, or drop some sprinkles onto the candy, but make sure it’s done before the chocolate coating dries.  
  6. Once the chocolate balls are dried, package them into little boxes, take them home, and indulge!  

Every attendee enjoyed preparing and decorating the chocolates alongside one another, but enjoyed getting some quality time in with their friends and mentors even more. Each mentor and mentee pair collaborated to create their special chocolates.

One mentor who participated, Sandeep, was very pleased with the inaugural Chocolate Workshop, “having mentors and mentees come out for the chocolate workshop is very special. We were making an absolute mess, but we were smiling all the way through. It was a wonderful event, we had a great time, and I don’t think anyone can wait to eat these truffles.”

Chef Napoli was very happy with the event as well. “It was a very special experience for the mentors and the mentees, and it was the first time for the PYD teams to enjoy this kind of gourmet culinary experience.”

Chef Napoli also said, “I teach people all the time; I love to teach. The more challenging, the better”, sharing her experience about the workshop. The chef claimed, “It is a very nice afternoon,” which she said with the same friendly smile that was shared among all who attended the event. It was quite generous of Chef Napoli to have donated her time and chocolate to help us learn. The final chocolate products tasted even better than they looked; a testament to the type of teacher and person she is.  

Heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Chef Napoli from PYD, each mentor and mentee pair, and all of the volunteers for participating and truly putting the icing on the truffles and sweetness in mentoring!

John, Mentee and Chef Napoli


This article written with <3 by PYD’s BU PRLab Team of Spring 2018.

With many, many thanks to Chef Napoli of Chocolee Chocolates for her generosity. To host your very own chocolate workshop (including birthday parties & corporate events) contact Chef Napoli at

PYD Ready to Run its 2017 #GivingTuesday Campaign

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday! Most everyone knows about Thanksgiving. Less may know about Giving Tuesday—the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, it’s November 28th. Gratitude is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving, while Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to show how grateful you are to your community by offering help along with a pinch of love.

For those who are not familiar with Giving Tuesday, it aims to celebrate people’s generosity. And asks you to act! The holiday was created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation in the hopes of encouraging more people to give to non-profits locally, nationally and internationally. Since then, large and small organizations alike have  embraced the day.

As a non-profit organization that illuminates the potential of all youth with disabilities, PYD seeks financial donations, in-kind gifts, volunteer support and many other types of contributions. On Giving Tuesday, our focus is to raise monetary funds through donations to continue our award-winning mentoring and inclusion programs that empower youth of all abilities.

We have received amazing support on Giving Tuesday’s of year’s past, and would like to give back to donors in a unique way this year. A customized thank you art piece will be sent to everyone who donates to PYD on Giving Tuesday. We realize that while words may have limits, art has no boundaries. Therefore, in addition to a thank you note and special gift, we will be creating unique thank you’s using one-of-a-kind art pieces specially provided by the Westford Academy Community Art Club. Art can convey a lot of emotion. We hope to use our thank you art to deliver our happiness and gratefulness to you.

“Girl with a heart” drawing by student from Westford Academy’s Community Art Club


Giving is a beautiful thing. We invite you to make a donation, and hope to inspire you to give generously to PYD on Giving Tuesday for a bright, inclusive future. You may give securely here. Or reach out to Nicole directly if you would like to make a gift:, 617-556-4075 x17.

If you would like to help PYD in another way, consider becoming a volunteer. If you’re inspired artistically, you can create your own piece of art and share it on social media, tagging @PYDboston with the #IAMPYD hashtag.  By sharing your own artwork, you can encourage others to join us for a good cause.

This post was written by  Yuxin (Cathy) Dai, Yidan Gao, Lavinia Fung and Samantha Santoro of the BU PRLab. Edited by Nicole Malo.

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