The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is a nonprofit community-based planning and organizing program rooted in the Roxbury and North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. Formed in 1984, residents of the Dudley Street area came together to revive their neighborhood, which was devastated by arson, disinvestment, neglect and redlining practices.
The mission of DSNI is to empower Dudley residents to organize, plan for, create and control a vibrant, diverse and high-quality neighborhood in collaboration with community partners. DSNI focuses on three strategic areas to help revitalize the neighborhood: community economic development, leadership development and collaboration, and youth opportunities and development.
In an effort to offer Dudley area youth better opportunities, DSNI piloted its first mentoring program, Stronger Leaders Brighter Future. The program officially started during National Mentoring Month (January) 2013 with a kick-off Celebration on Jan. 12. I organized the fun and creative event where mentors and mentees had the chance to meet each other and get to know one another while participating in a range of activities and eating lunch together. There were silly games, ice-breakers, team-building exercises as well as a general overview of the mentoring program. 12 mentors and seven mentees spent about three hours together learning about each other and the mentoring program.
The celebration was a great experience where mentors and mentees were able to interact before being matched. At the end of the event, all the mentors and mentees were asked to fill out a form which included questions around their interests and asked them if there was anyone they felt a particular connection to or could imagine being matched up with. These forms and my observations during the event helped us make 14 matches to date! The event taught me the importance of making sure that all mentors and mentees feel like they are part of a larger group of matches. When the matches are comfortable with each other, I believe they are more likely to reach out to each other for resources and tips and not rely solely on the program coordinator for support.
After just a few weeks of meeting with their mentors, youth have shared that having a mentor has given them the opportunity to get to know an adult from the community on a personal level and feel more supported on a daily basis. Once matches have had more time to develop their relationship, youth will begin working with their mentors on identifying goals they would like to achieve and setting up a plan on how to achieve them.