Positive Men: Don Krause

“Encouragement”! That is the advice Mr. Krause has for male mentors. We need to encourage our youth, especially young girls to reach their full potential. “You don’t know how little you do can mean so much. It’s the words of encouragement, it’s that smile, it’s giving someone a compliment, it’s giving someone your advice…letting them know they can get through it”. He wants male mentors to know that there are many rewards for the time, effort, and resources you donate to community. Continue reading

Me?!? A Howard Alum Giving Props to Hampton University?!?

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Ohio State vs. Michigan; Alabama vs. LSU;  Grambling  vs. Southern University…..Colleges and universities are well known for their rivalries.  If you’ve ever heard the question “Who’s the REAL HU?” it’s referring to the rivalry between Hampton University and my alum, Howard University.  Of course, as a proud Howard alum I confidently claim, like the rest of the world should for that matter, that Howard University is the REAL HU, and not Hampton University!  Howard alum are very helpful and quick to let you know that Hampton University only reached “university status” in 1984 after formerly being known as Hampton Institute. So, how could they ever be considered the real HU?  Although,the rivalry between Howard and Hampton is largely friendly, out of fun, love, camaraderie,  and respect for a fellow historically black college and university….it’s usually pretty difficult to  find a Howardite, such as myself that will have a boatload of positive things to say about Hampton University.  But, in this piece Hampton alumni everywhere need to bask in this rare instance where I’m going to give respects to one of our ancestors who is associated with founding Hampton University.  And, why am I giving her props you may ask?  I can’t think of a greater example in demonstrating the FAITH necessary to support the education and mentoring others in dire circumstances, than the one set by Mary Smith Peake.

I just learned about Mary’s story in the Henry Louis Gates PBS special, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”  Mary Smith Peak, (1823-1862), was an American teacher and humanitarian, best known for starting a school for the children of former slaves in the fall of 1861 under what became known as the Emancipation Oak tree in present-day Hampton, Virginia.  Mary was also associated with the founding of Hampton University in 1868.

Mary Smith Peake, educator and co-founder of Hampton University

Mary Smith Peake, educator and co-founder of Hampton University

In the show, Gates and fellow researchers discussed how Mary was so passionate about teaching slaves to read.  She believed that liberating the mind was as important as freeing the body.  So, she taught slaves in secret, breaking the law, and conducted the lessons beneath the branches of this oak tree.  Her school grew quickly from a handful of students to 900.  The slaves were just as determined as she was, and wouldn’t let anything stop them from getting the lessons.  

But, the question is why did Mary take such a risk? And, why did she take such a risk in 1861, the beginning of the civil war?  At the beginning of the civil war, no one even anticipated that a union victory in the war would lead to the end of slavery.  The war wasn’t even about ending slavery at that point, it was moreso about the economic and political battles between the North and South on cotton production and manufacturing.  So, it wasn’t like Mary was just holding on for four more years, with the assurance that teaching these slaves to read would be in preparation for the end of slavery if the North won in 1865.   No, she was doing this work in the absence of any real guarantees.  She was doing the work based on hope, and based on her FAITH.   Mary and others saw it as an opportunity to use their talents and skills to uplift the community.  She believed that she was preparing the slaves to become full citizens…one day.  She had FAITH that her work in teaching them to read would transform the slaves’ lives, but also go towards changing the fate of the nation.  If that isn’t a great example of FAITH, in absence of any reassurance or evidence, then I don’t know what is.  faith quote

I’ve often said that being an entrepreneur helps build your FAITH muscles like nothing else.  When it comes to being a social entrepreneur and leader of a non profit organization, I think that statement can be amplified times ten.  I’ve encountered so many challenges in running Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program in the last four years.  It was a huge risk to leave my career in corporate America to pursue my passion.  And, it was such a huge risk to put myself out there and start Polished Pebbles with no real funding, no assurance of the necessary support, or that it would even be successful for that matter.  And quite frankly, it hasn’t gotten any easier to continue to grow our efforts mentoring girls and encouraging our community to do the same.  School and government budget cuts make servicing our communities in the same capacity, or greater, extremely hard.  How do you continue to commit to our girls, their families, our schools, when it’s hard to see how you can continue to commit to paying staff to do the work, and when it seems that the budget to do so is non-existent!

Family and friends know that when I get frustrated with the challenges in growing my organization, I often jokingly ask myself….”Now, why did I leave my job and my salary again?”  But, when I calm down and put things in perspective, I have to say to myself how can I not continue to persevere to be successful with Polished Pebbles even in seemingly dire circumstances such as the times we’re facing now.  I know that it’s been FAITH that’s gotten us this far, and it’ll be that same FAITH that will continue to transform the lives of the girls and communities we serve, and change the fate of education in our nation today.  Yes, I do get scared often, but how can I seriously consider giving up if I consider the life-threatening FAITH that our ancestors like Mary Smith Peake demonstrated to free us!  Just like Mary and her counterparts,  I will continue to see my work with Polished Pebbles as an opportunity to use my talents and skills to uplift the community.  And, just like Mary I must continue to believe that the work I do prepares our girls to fully realize the possibility of happy, successful, and prosperous lives.  And, that is a cause that worthy of the risks. 



Want to donate to Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program?  Click here: Donate to Polished Pebbles

Want to get more tips and insight on mentoring urban youth and girls? Share and follow,http://www.kellyfairthementor.wordpress.com.  Want to join us with mentoring at Polished Pebbles?  Email us at info@polishedpebbles.

A Tale of Two Girls From Two Communities

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Can we allow reality TV stars be the example of how women seem to NEVER get along?

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Do we as women in the community take the responsibility of doing the work to demonstrate for girls what REAL women working together looks like?

Examples of Women Working Together:

 Which example will we choose to exhibit for our girls? 

I’d like to share the story of two girls who both participated in Second Saturday’s Program of Polished Pebbles, the mentoring program I founded in Chicago.  The Second Saturday’s program is monthly workshop that is free and open to girls throughout Chicagoland, but it also includes a network of girls who participate in Polished Pebbles’ after school programs through out the year, at different partnering schools and communities.  Two girls from two different communities in Chicago, Altgeld Gardens and Dearborn Homes, met each other for the first time at the Second Saturdays Program, and struck up a friendship.  Let’s say their names are “Tenisha” &” Mariah.” That friendship that started at monthly Polished Pebbles meetings turned into calling each other, sending text messages, and even working together at the same summer job.

As funding for education and youth initiatives seems to be frequently under fire in under-resourced communities, at the beginning of this school year, it looked as though our service to three of the communities of girls we worked with for two years would be cut.  This meant that we would no longer be able to support the girls in the two communities that both “Tenisha” and “Mariah” resided in.  Potentially losing the opportunity to work with these girls was devastating, because we didn’t want to jeopardize the relationship we had built with the girls of these communities.  Additionally, many of our girls are facing so many challenges in their daily lives, including maintaining trust with people because they’ve been let down so often.  We didn’t want Polished Pebbles to be yet another group of adults who let them down and broke their trust.

When the word got out to the women who volunteer and mentor with Polished Pebbles they put their heads and resources together. The were firm in ensuring we would be able to continue to work with these girls no matter the obstacles.  Now, you must know this is a large and very eclectic group of women from different professions, backgrounds, neighborhoods, walks of life, veteran mentors, and women volunteering for the very first time.  But, all differences were put aside when the best interest of our girls were involved.  They raised the money to cover the costs for the girls to participate in the upcoming bowling trip, and the funds to bus them to our Second Saturday program throughout the school year.

Because of the support of these women working together, we are able to maintain our relationships with the three communities of girls .  Because of these women working together, the girls didn’t have to again experience abandonment and a lack of love.  The support of these women working together enables Polished Pebbles mentees to maintain their relationships with girls from different communities throughout Chicagoland that they’ve established in the Polished Pebbles Network.  And, because of these powerful women working together, the friendship between our two girls from two different communities, “Tenisha” & “Mariah”, is solidified even further.  Now, they can continue to SEE each other monthly and learn together at the Polished Pebbles Second Saturdays program-the place where they initially met.

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As the Role Models and mentors in this group mentoring initiative, Polished Pebbles, or any mentoring program in any city for that matter, it is our duty to foster a culture of seamless relationships of WOMEN and GIRLS Working Together in unison and purpose.  From this story you can tell we’re doing just that.  But, the work isn’t done.  We have to constantly work to make sure that we are modeling what strong working relationships, friendships, and networks of women should look like, and that starts with how we plan and prepare for the work we do with our girls! Demonstrating positive examples of teamwork is definitely a “Cornerstone of Effective Mentoring.”  We can’t let the poor and misleading examples depicted in reality TV series be the only examples of how our girls see women, and women of color ,interact.  It’s a lot of work, but I’m encouraged.  What a wonderful journey we’re embarking upon.  I couldn’t be more excited to journey with a greater group of women!

Got my bags packed!



Want to get more tips and insight on mentoring urban youth and girls? Share and follow, http://www.kellyfairthementor.wordpress.com.  Want to join us with mentoring at Polished Pebbles?  Email us at info@polishedpebbles.

“Lady K In Waiting” Welcome To Kelly Fair The Mentor!

k in waiting

For the last four years, with Polished Pebbles, I have been empowering girls throughout Chicagoland to find their voices by equipping them with effective communications skills, providing access to proper mentors, and exposure to powerful life experiences. It has been an awesome experience to reach over 500 girls with the assistance of numerous organizations, businesses, and hundreds of volunteers and supporters.  But, perhaps what’s been most amazing for me is the opportunity I’ve had to grow right along with the girls, personally and professionally. I often share with the girls that a big of part of my drive in starting Polished Pebbles lies in the truth that I too was a shy girl, and it took me until I got to college to really unleash my leadership abilities, and build my confidence.

I had a personal mentor of mine who always impressed upon me that “we’re always teaching, and we’re always learning.” I’ve had lots of growing pains building Polished Pebbles, and finding my voice in this new venture has been a journey.  But, I’ve come to realize now that we’ve learned a lot in creating Polished Pebbles and growing it from a single site group mentoring program with less than 20 mentors and only 2 girls at our first monthly meeting, to a program that has served 500 girls through 15 program sites serving University of Chicago Charter Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Housing Authority.  I feel impelled and that it’s my responsibility to our communities to share some of what we’ve grown through during this Polished Pebbles experience; this will include strategies that we’ve learned, and knowledge gained from staff, volunteers, partners, and of course our girls.

Every Thursday, you can expect a weekly update to this blog, “Kelly Fair The Mentor” including:

  • Encouragement and support in realizing the role each of us can play in impacting our youth
  • Tips and strategies on strengthening mentoring efforts in your communities
  • Insight from our rock-star staff, volunteers, and families, and of course our girls!

As I continue to grow and develop along with Polished Pebbles, I look forward to sharing the journey with you.



Worried About What You Have To Offer?

2013 open houseA couple of weeks ago at our Polished Pebbles’ Open House for interested mentors and volunteers, over 50 women made the commitment to challenge themselves to declare at least one thing that they have to offer the Polished Pebbles girls, community, and organization. They participated in a 7-day social media challenge were they included things like:

Picture 13Quite often far too many of us feel ill equipped to tackle the issues in our community, but the reality is that we have everything that we need for healing and empowerment! So, join us and declare at least one thing today that you have to offer the Polished Pebbles community, or the girls or youth in your community!  Is it your commitment, positive attitude, marketing skills, fundraising skills? What do you have to offer? Please let us know below in the comments section.

If you’re interested in volunteering or mentoring with Polished Pebbles in Chicago, email us at info@polishedpebbles.com. Our next mentor/volunteer orientation will be September 28th from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan Avenue) or visit the Polished Pebbles page for more information http://www.polishedpebbles.com.

Interested in mentoring in other communities across the country, please check out databases of other mentoring programs at National CARES Mentoring Movement http://caresmentoring.org/.

Mentor Moment: I Was Here

“I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time

Know there was something that, meant something that I left behind

When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets

Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget. I was here…”

Sometimes I like to start my session playing the melodic Beyonce tune “I Was Here,” not because Bey knows how to get the party started, but to remind the girls that our legacies begin here and now in Polished Pebbles discovering, defining, and delivering our voices to the rest of the world.

When I tell people I work for a girls mentoring program they often think I’m some type of crusader equipped with nail polish, friendship bracelets, unlimited relationship advice, and a pink cape.  That idea could not be further from the truth. I‘m actually just a south side girl with tons of flaws, and not nearly enough “right” answers, icebreakers, or time to achieve every objective. I’m sure if you ask any of my “pebbles,” colleagues, or interns they will all have something different to say because everyone has a different perspective as to what Polished Pebbles is all about.

To understand the Polished Pebbles organization you must first understand the name.  The name Polished Pebbles is inspired by a quote from Susan Taylor, Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine’s last book, All About Love, were she talks about the strength of relationships propelling our personal growth. The quote is, “Like pebbles in a bag we all polish one another.” And polishing one another is truly what we do.  When I say polish, I don’t mean adorning the girls with pencil skirts and pearls, but empowering them to be bold and fearless change agents. Changing what and how they communicate to the world first and taking what they have learned back to their classmates, families, and communities.  School administrators and parents are some of the first to notice the changes in our students so developing and maintaining substantial relationships with school administrators and parents has been crucial to ensuring the success of our girls.  Also, if we are going to be honest, I’m on a journey of self-discovery alongside the girls. Everyday that I work with the girls I’m teaching them to discover their voices, and I am undoubtedly fine-tuning my own voice and better understanding my strengths and weaknesses. Trust me, there is nothing like a 7th grader helping you take a self- assessment to understand what you are not good at.

I met Kelly a year ago and decided to join the Polished Pebbles team. I immediately knew I was joining a “different” type of team. While sitting in Kelly’s very pink office she began pouring into me the confidence to share my personal story with my students. The reality is that no one wants to be vulnerable, not even with a 7 year old. However, being an authentic leader required me to share my own insecurities, failures, and triumphs. Those hours with Kelly helped me to understand that asserting my personal power meant telling my story.  Kelly and I have had more Iyanla moments that I can count and as a result, I was polished professionally and given opportunities to hone my grant writing and partnership development skills when others had not given me that opportunity.  These experiences were not just my experiences but it is the Polished Pebbles experience. It wasn’t just about polishing the girls but about each and every one of us, students, staff, and volunteers included, leaving this experience better than when we came.

Slide1Chanta Williams graduated cum laude from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Chanta serves as a Workshop Facilitator and Development Associate for the Polished Pebbles Girl’s Mentoring Program. She honed many of her development talents serving as a Junior Associate Intern at Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates non-profit consulting firm. Serving as an independent educational consultant she has assisted designing successful one on one peer-mentoring program for the Chicago Scholars, designing and implementing curriculum for various Chicago area college access and youth programs.