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.
Last week I brought to your attention the effect of the school to prison pipeline on black youth. The twitter conversation that followed brought up an important fact–mentoring alone is not the solution. As commenters have mentioned, there are systemic and institutional oppressions that are working against black youth, especially in the education system. It is intimidating to imagine tackling these large systems. We just have to remember that we make up the system, the government, the society. Changes starts with us. I strongly believe that everyday individuals are more than capable of inciting change. It takes energy, heart, and faith; but, it is possible. So, although small things, such as mentoring, may seem insignificant in the grand scheme, it is doing something. It is raising us out of our apathy.
Diane Latiker is a prime example of how a concerned resident, with an open heart, began to show the youth in her community the best of themselves. Kids Off the Block is located in one of Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods, Roseland. Diane works with the young men and women of Roseland to build a positive, safe, and creative environment for personal development. Kids Off the Block provides positive alternatives to youth to help them avoid the juvenile justice system. Similar to Polished Pebbles, she helps black youth see themselves in a new light. One that counters the harmful stereotypes. This self-esteem boosting mentoring style is not limited to organizations. It is something that all adults are capable of. Perhaps then, these children will move into another pipeline, the pipeline to careers. All children should grow up believing they have strength, endurance, confidence, and capability.