Advocacy in an uncertain economic time

By David Shapiro, Mass Mentoring Partnership CEO

A few odds and end that have been rattling around the brain that I thought I’d share…

A board member recently asked, “In this economic environment where the state says it has a huge structural deficit, is it worth advocating?” The response: now it’s more important than ever because if voices are not heard and impact is not seen, funding will disappear. You all have certainly made your voices heard.

And while the number is not big - $100,000 for the whole field of mentoring - we were really pleased to see the administration include mentoring funding in the state budget. This is a reversal of the last two budgets, in which mentoring was not originally included, and represents tremendous collective efforts to raise awareness of the impact of this state funding both with the administration, the executive office of education, and the legislature.

It was inspiring at Youth Mentoring Day at the State House to see so many of you and our legislative champions, and to see the buzz of activity as mentoring programs made their way through the building and the many resulting connections and actions that have resulted. This first-time expansion of our efforts has provided a great platform for us to seek a return to the Legislature’s proposed $250,000 in funding last year. Still not a lot, but we also know the impact of every match and the representative value of state government making an explicit investment in structured quality youth mentoring.

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I often wonder how to make the critical connection between “organic” mentors and structured mentoring programs. How to show a potential mentor or donor that the coach, teacher, uncle, or neighbor who appeared in their life as a key figure does not just appear in many kid’s lives, and that is the extraordinary work of mentoring programs. To create presence and relationship where there is none. To move a young person from isolation to connection.

It is not always easy to illustrate this linkage which is why I was thrilled when Channel 5 said they wanted to spend half a Chronicle program with their TV personalities returning to the “organic” mentors of their youth and the other half of the program focused on the structured mentoring programs in the field. It should provide the perfect illustration of this connection.

And on Sunday, March 14, Karen Holmes Ward and City Line will spend a segment with MMP board members Sheriff Andrea Cabral and Duane Jackson discussing the Mentors of Color Campaign. Hopefully, the awareness leads to more mentors and more funding for programs - that’s the point.

As always, we’ve got tremendous staff working on these issues and I just get to talk about the work. In the advocacy area, Elena is responsible for so much of the new expansion in this work and the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors made our State House event amazing. And on the media side, both Rhonda and Ingrid made these television pieces possible by serving as quick and effective partners to the two TV programs in helping them meet their vision.