Well, January/February has been hectic as all get out. Shifting schedules and kid availability has us always nimble and on our toes. A blessing for me is that I have completed all my classes on my PhD journey and am simply doing dissertation research which is easier than class work! The focus of my dissertation is how volunteer’s values in a juvenile detention setting affect youth. I think the biggest thing I’m pondering this month is that the more we do to narrow our social distance with the youth, the more successful we can be as mentors. Whether that is religious mentors, group mentors, or secular mentors, the result is the same.
What do I mean by social distance? Social distance is the divide of lived experience. If you are a white, relatively financially comfortable, highly educated person meeting with a youth who is not white, who struggles financially, and has been lost to the education system, there is more work to be done to fully understand the socio-economic lived reality of that particular youth.
Narrowing the social distance comes in three ways.
Lived experience. If I was from a background similar to the youth, that nearly wipes out the social distance. There is still differences in age and cultures (a Gen-X and a Gen-Z or Gen-Alpha) that must be accounted for.
Socialized experience. I have been working with incarcerated people for 20 years this year. That means I have a lot of socialization in this area. Again, it doesn’t wipe out the differences but mitigates against the divide if I have not hardened my heart to their lived experiences.
Education. You can educate yourself on techniques that narrow the social divide such as trauma informed care, CBT, motivational interviewing, and other tools. These tools generally help us slow down and listen better. Education can also come in the form of learning about the lived reality of other micro-cultures in the United States. For example, a recent survey found that 42% of White Americans say that racism against Black people is NOT a problem. That’s a big chunk of the population. But if you ask Black people the same questions, the answers are quite different: 78% say racism against Black people IS still a problem. That tells me that there are two different perceptions in the population. That’s where listening skills and education can help narrow the difference so that we can more effectively meet youth where they are.
To that end, we are going to embark on an educational program that helps us meet youth where they are by utilizing Mentor Washington’s “Becoming a Better Mentor” curriculum. We believe that all adults that go into juvenile detention facilities are mentors to youth: spiritual, religious, secular, and group mentorship. This training is open to anyone who is a mentor of youth.
The training program will be 12 months long with a new topic each month on third Thursdays at 6:30 pm.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. You’ll see the monthly topics when you register and can choose which meetings to attend.
JoJo and I hope to see you next month!