Mass Mentoring Partnership, Inc.
National Impact Community: Boston, MA
Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), founded in 1992, fuels the movement to expand empowering youth-adult relationships across Massachusetts. They believe all young people have the right to have positive developmental relationships to reach their full potential. The Partnership serves over 275 mentoring and youth development programs, supporting more than 35,000 young people in mentoring relationships. They assess programmatic needs and organizational capacity and provide customized strategies that empower youth, families, and communities. Mass Mentoring Partnership is also working to highlight, connect, and convene people and organizations who are already mentoring boys and young men of color within the city. By offering training and technical assistance—and more importantly creating a community to share best practices—they’re working to break down barriers and toward policy and institutional change.
What it Means to be a Great Mentor: Consistency of Relationships
When asked about some foundational elements to be a great mentor Miguel Torres, Manager of Community Relationships, emphasized consistency. “When we look for mentors, we look for a person who can provide consistency in a young person’s life,” Torres explained “You do not need to be perfect or provide everything they need, but you have to be willing to stick with a young person in good and tough times.” MMP’s Quality-Based Membership initiative, launched in 2008, is a first-in-the-nation process created to promote high-quality best practices among Massachusetts youth mentoring programs. Now being replicated nationally, membership components are based on The Six Elements of Effective Practice Opens in a new tab :
The Six Elements of Effective Practice
An ongoing challenge with adult mentoring is a lack of consistent and reliable mentors. Many mentors come in and out of a young person’s life, which can be destabilizing and in some cases lead to more damage than help. Torres emphasized that developing an impactful and high quality mentorship experience is something MMP takes seriously. As a capacity building organization “we are in the business of building quality relationships, and we can’t just throw relationships at young folks thinking that the relationship is going to solve everything a young person’s going through. Not just any relationship works, and so we want to ensure that each mentor is able to express care, provide support, challenge growth and expand possibilities.” MMP believes that young people need more than one mentor to meet their developmental needs and often match youth with several adults in order to provide a web of support to increase the young person’s social capital and ensure all of their needs are met.
Shift During COVID-19: Crisis Creates Creativity
MMP responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by making sure that the basic and immediate needs of community members, especially young people, were being met. MMP coordinated a large network of service providers who were in close communication with boys and young men of colorBYMOC to develop a rapid response team that immediately pivoted to provide and deliver food, PPE, and hygiene products to those who needed it most. MMP also continued to build relationships directly with youth, as they shifted to virtual mentorship activities. They did this by holding a virtual drop-in center in which hundreds of Massachusetts youth came together in “Brave Spaces” to participate in a variety of educational workshops.
MMP continued to serve as a regional leader for other mentoring programs across the state offering virtual trainings and ongoing coaching. MMP did things differently during Covid and had many learnings along the way. President Mendez described some of the lessons learned. “Crisis creates creativity, and there were a lot of things that we reluctantly had to shed including some of our past assumptions of how to best engage with people. Before the pandemic, we believed that the most effective way to connect with folks is that you have to bring them together physically with trays of food. Obviously we could not do that during covid but we were still able to build deep and meaningful connections through other platforms.” Mendez also described how MMP was able to increase their reach across the state. “Pre-pandemic, a challenge about doing gatherings was we could not always provide the same level of service equally to all parts of the state. The remote platform has actually allowed us to reach more people across the state which, if you had said pre-pandemic, that this would work out, we would have thought that’s crazy.”
MMP had several key implementation partners including Youth Options Unlimited (YOU), who empowers young people from court-involved or at-risk backgrounds to succeed in the workforce. MMP provided ongoing support and the evidence-based Connected Futures curriculum for nearly 100 justice involved youth as part of YOU Boston’s summer workforce g program. The group has been meeting weekly since 2019. “We helped them shift their mindset from being criminal justice minded to being more relational minded.” MMP also Partnered with Starbucks to create a workforce mentoring program “so now young folks can not only have an entrance into starbucks and earn a living wage but also be connected to social circles that can support them in their development as well.” Noted Torres.
What the Future Holds: Going Deeper
In thinking about the future, President Mendez noted, “One thing the grant allowed us to do was work with our partners and test assumptions about our work. I think the real outcome is yet to come, which is being able to take our relationship-centered model and apply it to other communities and other programs in order to systematically change and transform how we do mentoring.”
President Mendez aims to leverage the larger collective consciousness shifts that have happened over the last couple years and continue to apply this to how people do mentoring. “Especially in response to this moment, we are pushing that our mentors’ need to have an analysis that explicitly centers the voices and lived experiences of the youth served through the program…One thing I’m not bitter about the pandemic, is that it’s given us that leeway to just name it. Moving forward we know that our mentors have got to come with a certain level of understanding of where a young person is coming from and no longer blame the young person for the conditions they’re in.”
Looking to the future, MMP will continue to build the capacity of organizations on the ground to uplift the voices of young people and help them thrive. “Mentors must give power to young people so that, when they tell us the narrative of their life, we believe and affirm them,” reflected Torres. “We must see and allow the youth to be who they are and be an advocate for them when the system is not working and give them the support to realize their potential and achieve their dreams.”