Can Mentoring Break The Prison Pipeline?

School To Prison Pipeline

By Tamara Meyerhoff, Polished Pebbles Intern

My mentoring responsibilities aren’t limited just to working with the school age -girls and female college students in Polished Pebbles.  I also find a tremendous about of satisfaction mentoring college/graduate interns as well.  I’m proud to share this blog post that was written by one of our summer interns Tamara Meyerhoff.  Tamara is a senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is majoring in Social Work with a concentration in Family Studies. This summer she attended the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture in Hyde Park. Through her classes she was able to experience the culture of Chicago, from the South Side to the North Side. Tamara also completed two part-time internships–one with me at Polished Pebbles, and the other with United African Organization.

As national news continually reports the alarming increase in gun violence in Chicago, I’d like to share with you this infographic from Tavis Smiley Reports on PBS. The school to prison pipeline is the education and juvenile justice system working in tandem to incarcerate mostly lower class minorities. According to the article, schools will unfairly target minority students to be criminally charged for minor acts. As the graphic shows, in 2013, 70% of in-school arrests were of black or Latino youth. Even more shocking, black and Latino students are 3.5 times for likely to be suspended than white students.

The author believes that this harsh reality affects the self-perception of black youth. By constantly being surrounded by a negative stereotype, they start to believe they are nothing more than that stereotype—violent, aggressive, hot-tempered, and criminal. Polished Pebbles is one organization working to fight against the cycle of the school to prison pipeline. It does this in a subtle way. The Polished Pebbles curriculum changes the way African-American girls perceive themselves as young black women. One high school student reported, “Before Polished Pebbles, I had a horrible attitude. Now, I learned that I have to control my attitude because those same people can help me with my future”. Listen to Polished Pebbles success Pertesha share her story through the foster care system. Furthermore, these girls have dreams of becoming doctors, dentists, and even accountants.

These girls have grown because they were surrounded by role models who told them they are capable and deserving individuals. As the article has shown, this is where the school system has been failing black youth. It is here that organizations, communities, and individuals can begin to break the school to prison pipeline.

Share with us in the comments below what can you do in your community to help one youth from entering the school to prison pipeline?

tamara meyerhoff

Tamara Meyerhoff, Polished Pebbles Intern







Mentee Introduced FLOTUS Now Heading to College!

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“Well there you go, and that’s what the south side of Chicago produces!” -First Lady, Michelle Obama

Could you imagine having the opportunity to formally introduce the First Lady of the United States as a freshman in high school?

Well, Polished Pebble mentee Deneen Borner did, & she’s heading to college at Mississippi Valley State University this Fall and we need your help to make sure she can get there!

In 2011, Polished Pebble mentee, Deneen Borner, had the privilege of introducing First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Mentoring Summitt in Washington, DC. The First Lady’s reaction to that introduction spoke accolades to the work we do with girls. She simply stated, “well there you go, and that’s what the south side of Chicago produces.” This comment spoke to the impact of our mentoring model and the possibility to extend our reach to more communities. You can check out Deneen’s speech below!

We couldn’t have been more proud of Deneen, after giving such a stellar speech. And, she continued to impress us as she beat the odds for the next four years, attending high school at Harlan Community Academy in Chicago, maintaining a 3.7 GPA, joining the National Honors Society and the Young Business Development Institute, and maintaining a part time job. Although she’s had a lot of personal obstacles to overcome, she’s excited about starting college.

Please donate to ensure that we can support Deneen with transportation, fees to get Deneen get to her college orientation, and final move in date. With such an excellent start, we can only imagine how far Deneen will go! Please help reach the stars!  DONATE HERE!

Thanks in advance

Mentoring College Students On The Power of Relationships!

tlc what about your friends

The girl group TLC sang about it 20 years ago, and it’s still a challenge on college campuses everywhere, that’s right making and breaking friendships.
In my latest blog series for JET,  The Freshman Memoirs , I feature current college students and the lessons they learned throughout their college careers.  This serves as an excellent way to mentor incoming freshman so that they can be aware of the steps of a successful college career.  This week, I highlight the experience of Nyia Fairley, a sophomore at Hampton University who shares her experience of maintaining a lifelong friendship in her first year of college.  Check out Nyia’s story in JET here.
Interested in learning more about how I can connect and work with students on your campus?  Send an email to, and check out this brochure for Polished Pebbles, The College Edition here.


Only 18% of Black Girls Proficient in Reading?

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Today, I’d like to share a story written by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu in the “Black Star Journal” which is entitled, “Have Black Girls Been Overlooked?” “The Black Star Journal” is the news and events archive of The Black Star Project, an organization in Chicago led by Phillip Jackson.  Kunjufu’s article highlights alarming statistics about the dire situation that many black girls are facing as they are being educated in schools across the country such as, high rates of illiteracy, high drop out rates, and some of the highest rates of school suspensions.  For many us that have been closely involved with working with African American girls, this is not news.  In fact, I’ve blogged about some of the research that this article is based on months ago.  I share this today not as an attempt to object to or criticize the President’s National Initiative to support black boys, “My Brother’s Keeper.”  Nor, should this be considered as an endorsement for much of the debate in the social media movement #WhyWeCantWait.

No, I am merely a mentoring practitioner who wants more in our community to recognize how much ALL of our youth, including our girls, are in need of support, resources, and advocacy in ensuring that our schools are providing our children with adequate educational opportunities.  Because if it’s true that only 18% of black girls are proficient in reading, then etiquette lessons, girl empowerment conferences, and fun field trips are not enough to remedy this tragedy!

Mentoring Our Young Ladies on College Campuses!

Shemiah Curry
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In my latest blog series for JET, The Freshman Memoirs , I feature current college students and their various experiences throughout their college careers. This week, I highlight the experience of Shemiah Curry, a rising junior at Bennett College in North Carolina.  Shemiah, a White House intern, shares how critical it is to carefully read your financial aid award letter, or be sorry! Read Shemiah’s story here!
Interested in learning more about how I can connect and work with students on your campus?  Send an email to, and check out this brochure for Polished Pebbles, The College Edition here: