National Impact Community: Oakland, CA
About The Mentoring Center
“We engage youth in a different way, in a more comprehensive way,” explained Celsa Snead, Executive Director of The Mentoring Center. Founded in 1991, The Mentoring Center (TMC) was created to serve as a technical assistance and training provider for Bay Area mentoring programs. “Thirty years ago we were founded to address the issue that more African American young men were going to prison than college, that was a big issue then and is still a big issue now,” shared Achebe Hoskins, Director of Programs.
The Mentoring Center provides life coaching, case management, leadership development, and Transformative Mentoring to boys and young men of color impacted by the juvenile and criminal legal systems through an integrated and evidence-based strategy of violence prevention, intervention, and reentry. Transformative Mentoring involves both group mentoring and one-on-one support. Snead explained, “you really have to meet basic needs first and take care of young people before you start. What the pandemic illustrated, and continues to illustrate is that the systems are not functioning in a way that benefits and supports young people and are very harmful… and the young people in the area are suffering. The pandemic has revealed how dysfunctional and harmful many of these systems are.”
TMC has served more than 800 mentoring programs in its 31 years of operation in the Bay Area and has worked with more than 25,000 youth and volunteer mentors. As a direct service provider, TMC focuses on adjudicated, detained and other systems-impacted youth and young adults between the ages of 13 to 30 through their Transformative Mentoring groups, life coaching, and juvenile justice programs. Snead noted that the Mentoring Center is “as inclusive and expansive as possible in terms of who [they] serve.” The whole organization is funded and founded on serving the community, but specifically young men of color. “MBK helped us specifically focus on serving the population of boys and young men; under 21, and most under 18 to really engage them during their adolescence and the transition years to being an adult.”
Addressing the Needs and Realities of Justice Involved Youth: An Expansive Approach
Transformative Mentoring is an evidenced-based approach focused on transforming the mental framework of a disrupted human development cycle. Snead shared that the organization “created Transformative Mentoring to address the needs and realities of justice-involved and impacted youth populations.” The TMC curriculum is designed for character development, cognitive restructuring, spiritual development, life-skills training, anger management, and employability skills. Most importantly the TMC approach is centered in love and healing and supports the emotional, mental and social health and wellbeing of our youth and young adults. Hoskins shared that “you have to integrate love into what you’re doing, and it makes a whole big difference, because it’s not there.” According to Snead the pandemic “forced us to really get back to the basic principles around working with young people. At the base of everything, you have to take care of your youth before you can expect any sort of development that’s healthy and positive…there’s no point in talking about fun activities or curriculum if a person’s emotional health is destroyed.”
Additionally, Transformative Mentoring is designed to support other positive outcomes for youth, including but not limited to: educational achievement, employment, violence prevention.
The Mentoring Center collaborated with local community-based organizations and other partners to provide services to boys and men in Oakland impacted by violence. The organization provides services to youth and young adults impacted by violence and the juvenile and criminal legal systems. The Collaborative also provided services and support to young men returning to the local community, who are released from the Division of Juvenile Justice (where TMC currently provides in-facility Transformative Mentoring). Through partnerships with other youth-serving organizations, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and the Alameda County Office of Education Opens in a new tab, TMC’s intent is to continue to build this model out and provide Transformative Mentoring in more locations. According to Snead these partnerships leverage their long-standing work with The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color in Alameda County Opens in a new tab. Noting that “as soon as our then mayor signed on to MBK, it really helped concretize those relationships, and really bring everyone together as a formal partnership.”
Oakland-Alameda County Alliance
Formed in 2011, the Oakland–Alameda County Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (BMoC) is a statewide Alliance, that consists of public systems leaders and community partners who focus on identifying and implementing programs, practices and policies for improving outcomes for boys and men of color in education, health and employment. “We have attended and supported causes around youth in the legal system, school discipline issues, mass incarceration, especially how young people are treated or not treated as adults in the system.” Describing the nature of how the collaboration came together, Snead described that everyone “really had to know their own strengths and agendas, and really sort things out early on, all while keeping youth at the center of what we were planning.”
In describing their approach to youth-adult partnerships in pushing for policy change, Snead stated “[we] put young people at the center of the collaboration, and how to build it… really engaging young people in the creation of what is meant to serve them, centering young folks and their voices throughout the process.”