January is National Mentoring Month - a very important time at BEST Kids! We take this time to recognize all our dedicated volunteer mentors for the countless hours they spend simply being there for their mentees. Though 'simply being there' doesn't sound like a tall order at first, it is safe to say that a mentor's responsibilities are anything but simple. A BEST Kids mentor is charged with walking alongside their mentee through the mountains and the valleys of life. As with the rest of our world, there were many valleys over this past year for our mentees AND our mentors. In spite of all that was thrown at our country this year, our mentors continued to show up for their mentee. Whether it was the mentor who learned how to engage their mentee virtually or the mentor who attended our Solidarity Sessions to learn more about what it means to be anti-racist, our mentors showed nothing short of dedication, care, and love to their mentees. During this National Mentoring Month, we hope our mentors feel extra love and appreciation from their BEST Kids family!
In a world that has been feeling more divided than ever, and that has forced us to distance in order to preserve our physical safety, finding ways to remain connected has become even more critically important to maintaining our overall health. This connectedness comes in the form of being able to stay connected to the internet and other basic needs during times of extreme economic hardship for so many. We are proud to say that through emergency funding from local foundations, we were able to provide $20,000 of basic needs support to help our mentees and their families to weather these tough times through assistance with tablets, groceries, rent, utilities, and educational support.
This connectedness also comes in the form of feeling the power of relationship with a mentor and with peers who can relate to some of the hardships that have only been intensified this past year. We’ve maintained these critical relationships virtually and safely in person this past year that has opened up a whole new world of mentor and mentee engagement with one another including countless tik tok videos, lots of outdoor time, and a variety of online games. We’ve also continued to offer our Peer Group activities monthly including yoga workshops, virtual cooking classes, art projects and so much more. Our mentors have been able to deliver summer and winter care packages to their mentees filled with activities, books, snacks and more to help brighten the day for each youth in our program. None of this would have been possible without the strong support of the community we are connected to.
Despite all of these positive outcomes, this year has undoubtedly been very stressful for us all. We’ve had to push through significant funding losses, staffing reductions, the trauma of continued racial injustices, and what feels like constant pivoting in order to keep things going strong. One of the things that has kept us going through it all is hope.
There’s a quote about hope from one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” It has been hope that has helped us to continue to innovate and better respond to the changing needs of the youth and families we serve. It has been hope that has had us rethink the way we do thinks and plan ahead strategically for a brighter and more impactful future. And it has been hope that has helped us connect more deeply with those in our BEST Kids family and in our community.
As we close out this memorable year, I urge you all to keep hope forefront and a motivation to continue to care for ourselves and also for others in all we do. We thank you for being part of our family of support and we appreciate how you’ve continued to generate hope for us all over the years, but especially this past year. I wish you all a wonderful and safe holiday season and let’s all hope that next year will bring us even more to celebrate together.
We are traditionally accustomed to taking a moment around this time in the year to express thankfulness and gratefulness for what we have. People express this through a myriad of ways, including feasting or gathering with loved ones. But it is safe to say that this year is quite different. Being able to celebrate this time of year with loved ones may not be an option for many of us. I don't think anyone has experienced a Thanksgiving or holiday season quite like this one. I, for one, am simply grateful that I have made it this far into the year - a year which has forced me to take stock of those things that I still have that are important to me and keep me going. Our youth and families teach us this. Our young people, who are eagerly awaiting permanency within the foster care system, demonstrate resilience and endurance every day. They know too well what it feels like to experience setback after setback and find themselves still standing and moving forward with those things which are most important.
We at BEST Kids have had to learn a little bit about that this year. From navigating a global pandemic, to racial injustices that directly affect our young people, to large funding cuts, we have definitely had our share of adversity this year. But even in the midst of it all, we find ourselves grateful for those things that are most important, especially our community of amazing mentors. We have seen our mentors continually step up and support whether that be learning how to video chat so they can keep up virtually with their mentee, asking the hard questions about race during our Solidarity Sessions this summer, or soliciting donations among their networks when BEST Kids expressed the urgent need for funding. We've had such a hard year but we are so grateful at the same time!
I am so proud of our staff, our community, our partners, our supporters, and our youth for making Art of the Matter: The REMIX a huge success, in my opinion. For this to have been our organization’s first time ever having a virtual benefit concert, I must say it was a true pleasure to see everyone come together to make it happen. What I value most about the process and experience is the community partnership, community engagement, and community empowerment it took to bring what once was simply an idea into full fruition. It goes to show the impact that people coming together in support of a cause as important as empowering youth in foster care through one on one mentoring can make.
To date we have raised $49,214.74 towards our goal, which speaks volumes when a pandemic and world challenges are currently happening. It is amazing what community can do when we come together. We had just over 13,000 views of the show that we are aware of, and that is only including the days the show actually aired. This does not include the views that have continued to happen since the completion of the show because it is still viewable on our website. Spreading awareness of our cause was one of our main goals and I believe we did indeed achieve that in a major way.
I can’t exclude the fact that being a part of the show and wearing multiple hats as co-host with KyleOnTheMic, performer as Dan’Talisha Nicole, and Development Director of BEST Kids was an absolute blast! It was hard work for sure, but was well worth it all. Ultimately, I must say I am well pleased with how everything turned out and just want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to every single person involved no matter what capacity. We could not have done this without YOU!
And lastly, I just want to say that it is not too late to donate and continue to spread the word about the event and our cause here at BEST Kids. We work extremely hard to continue to support our youth efficiently and effectively to the best of our ability. Please feel free to encourage people to watch the show by visiting bestkids.org/live.
Again, THANK YOU!
It has been one year since I joined the BEST Kids team and it has been an incredible journey ever since. I feel very fortunate to work with brilliant youth and committed mentors. Looking back on just this year, I am astounded at what we have gone through as a community. However, I am even more impressed by the collective effort in support of the BEST Kids mission. The global pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on countless lives and especially on the lives of our young people. Yet despite these difficulties, BEST Kids mentors have been unwavering in their commitment to our youth.
During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for our young people to have a mentor they can turn to. Many of our youth are facing an array of problems that have been compounded by COVID, including the deficiencies of distance learning, isolation from peers, and complications at home. No mentor can solve these issues, nor should they be expected to, but the consistent presence of a mentor has been an immense source of relief for our mentees. Our youth often feel more confident in their ability to deal with the numerous obstacles in their path when they have an adult friend walking with them.
Supporting mentors and mentees has reinforced my conviction in the transformative power of mentorship to bolster the human spirit. The BEST Kids community has confronted challenges of our time with courage, from extending additional assistance to families in response to COVID, to engaging in meaningful conversations about race. I have no doubt our community will continue to work confidently for our youth despite the troubles that may arise. And with ART of the Matter around the corner, we have a wonderful opportunity to invite our family, friends, and professional networks to share in the joy of mentoring youth in foster care.
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