iCouldBe Statement on #BlackLivesMatter and Racial Justice

To Our iCouldBe Community:

How are you?

Like so many of you, we are grieving, angry, disappointed and exhausted to find ourselves once again facing glaring systemic injustice in our country. Our hearts are broken for the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the many murdered innocent Black people before them.

At iCouldBe we unequivocally support the broad need for systemic change and racial justice in America. We also know that it’s critical to engage in our own self-assessment. We must examine our individual and collective privilege and what that means in the way we work with each other and how we serve our mentees. It’s important that all youth-serving organizations ask hard, and often uncomfortable, questions, especially white leadership since up to 80% of nonprofits are run by white executives. And it’s imperative that we don’t just ask these questions now when racial injustice is dominating the news, but continually as an integral part of our work.

What is iCouldBe asking of the thousands of young people in our program? What are all of us in the youth development, youth leadership and mentoring fields asking of the kids we serve?

We ask mentees to stay in school, but their schools are not adequately funded to provide the structure and support that most adults would demand for their own children.  We ask mentees to apply to college, but we know that high tuition costs and institutional barriers keep many people from earning their degrees. We ask mentees to explore and prepare for careers even though if they achieve their post-secondary education goals and apply for a job in their field of choice, they will likely be paid less than white peers and overlooked for promotions.

What. Are. We. Doing?

At iCouldBe we grapple with these questions and continually evaluate and reassess our approach and our programs to make the most significant impact.

But the work is never done—and it shouldn’t be. As an organization that supports a community of largely Black and Brown students, we must fight against systems that don’t support, and are often hostile to, our mentees. Black lives matter not just in moments of crisis in the spotlight, but in the everyday work when no one is watching. It’s our duty to constantly re-evaluate what we are as a mentoring organization, and to provide space for each member of our team and our community to assess, challenge, and evolve our professional and personal beliefs and actions.

Where do we go from here?

We invite our partners, mentees, and mentors to join us in conversation and collaboration as we commit to the following goals:

  • Approve the pending succession plan proposal to transition the Executive Director position to M. Michelle Derosier, our current Chief Program Officer. Kate Schrauth, Executive Director, believes, “It is time to lift up and prepare our Black and Brown colleagues and trusted advisors to lead the movement that has, in fact, always been theirs to lead. In early February, I reached out to Michelle to ask her to be my partner in a succession plan that would result in her promotion to the Executive Director position. She took her time to reflect and pray and now, together, we will make it happen.”
  • In summer 2020, members of the iCouldBe Board are engaging in a training series that focuses on best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion in board recruitment and retention. The board is committed to equitable board recruitment and ensuring diverse leadership.
  • To our mentees: We will work to expand your voices in our strategy and decision making, by inviting you to have a seat at the table with the Board of Directors, management and through more frequent focus group interactions.
  • To ensure our work does no harm to the youth we serve, iCouldBe will engage with our youth and experts in the fields of mental health and wellness, and trauma informed youth services to analyze and improve our curriculum and programs.

Where we go from here is, we admit our flaws, we enact the change we control, we speak truth to power, and we fight for justice that has so long been denied. Above all, we must show up for young people to support them in reaching their goals and to amplify their voices.

 

 

 

Meet iCouldBe’s Summer Interns!

This past April iCouldBe was selected to host two high school interns who applied to the AIME Summer Internship Program in California. For this internship program students applied, were interviewed and the students accepted earned scholarships and course credits for their efforts. For six weeks interns Rachel and Ahmed joined our team to focus on mentor recruitment, social media and a full curricular revision. From the start it was our intention to involve Rachel and Ahmed in the organizations’ most rigorous projects and to avoid assigning them basic administrative duties. To their great credit, Ahmed and Rachel did not disappoint! Their work ethic, communications and networking skills surpassed our expectations and their work was of the highest quality and a tremendous help. We feel so fortunate for their service to iCouldBe and wish them success as they enter their senior year in high school. We know they will both go on to do great things for many years to come.

Meet Rachel

My Internship Experience:

Hi, my name is Rachel and I am a rising senior in high school. I was looking for an internship opportunity for the summer and saw that my high school was offering business opportunities. So I went through the application and interview process and was accepted into the program. Then I was matched with iCouldBe through the program because they saw my interests included networking and communicating with people.

Through my internship at iCouldBe, I was able to learn more about the mentor/mentee relationship and why it’s important to have one. Because iCouldBe is located on the other side of the country for me, I have been working at home, contacting the staff through emails and calls. Although I have been working remotely, there are many advantages and flexibility that comes with this privilege.

This internship experience was meaningful because I was able to learn more about myself and I was also able to gain work experience inside a company. I was able to work on skills like collaboration and communication as I still had to work with other people despite being remote. There were multiple tasks where my partner and I had to rely on each other for information and data. I have had a great time interning for iCouldBe, whether it has been going through the iCouldBe curriculum, attending webinars, or analyzing survey results.

Why iCouldBe Matters:

iCouldBe is a program that not only emphasizes mentor and mentee relationships, but also aids in planning students’ futures. It’s a program that I would recommend for all high schools, because all students can benefit from the service that it provides. At my high school, everyone graduates and goes to college, but often we are confused with our goals and plans for the future. iCouldBe is an outlet that can help students find their passions and dreams. There are also helpful tips like writing cover letters and building resumes. I believe that it would benefit everyone and help create a stronger base for a successful career and life!

Meet Ahmed

My Internship Experience:

Hello, my name is Ahmed and I am interning with iCouldBe.org. The experience from this internship has been amazing. From the beginning, I had the chance to further develop my soft skills and other skills that I’ll need for any job. Reaching out for support, communication and collaboration have been the most important things throughout this internship.

The most important factor of this internship was that I was treated as an adult, not just an intern. Everyone at iCouldBe cared about my opinion and reviewed my feedback which made me feel like I am working with professionals and not only adults who are trying to make interns work. It was my pleasure working with such professional people that made me feel that I can be important and can create change anywhere I go. Thank you iCouldBe staff.

Why iCouldBe Matters:

Mentoring in high schools is the most needed thing right now. High school teaches us a lot of things but not about our future. A mentoring program in every school would be able to help students be independent in life after school. We need mentoring programs like iCouldBe.

I think that my school needs a program like iCouldBe because there are not enough counselors in the school to help everyone. With iCouldBe, students would have the opportunity to learn about interests and hobbies. The fear of failure after high school is dangerous and mentoring is the way to get past that fear.

iCouldBe can help with much more. I know top students who have the grades, but they don’t know what they want to do after high school. Really smart students are lost in all the choices after graduation. iCouldBe helps improve perspective and thoughts about life after high school.

Welcome two new iCouldBe board members!

We are delighted to announce that we have two new members on the iCouldBe Board of Directors. Sy brings expertise in multimedia strategy and producing social-justice focused content and Matt brings expertise in non-profit finance.

Sy AbuduSy Abudu

Digital & Multimedia Strategist – New York Civil Liberties Union

Sy Abudu is a Brooklyn-based multimedia strategist who specializes in producing educational and social justice-focused content. With nearly a decade of experience in the nonprofit and education sectors, she is currently digital and multimedia strategist for the New York affiliate of the ACLU, where she produces video, motion graphics, design, and photo content. Sy earned a BFA in film and television from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife, Kait, and their cat, Pesto.

Matthew Estersohn

CPA – Marks Paneth LLP

Matt is a senior manager with the Nonprofit, Government and Healthcare group of Marks Paneth LLP. Matt specializes in providing audit and tax services and has extensive experience with schools, social service agencies, advocacy organizations, cultural institutions, community development organizations and private foundations. He has led training seminars in various accounting and auditing matters for nonprofits. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and has a bachelors degree in Economics from Cornell University.

Welcome Sy and Matt to the iCouldBe team!

Mentoring Youth in a Divided Nation – advice from Jean Rhodes

This week Jean Rhodes, a leading expert on youth mentoring, published an article on Mentoring Youth in a Divided Nation. Rhodes provides helpful insights to help mentors navigate difficult discussions:

If a mentee raises a topic in the news, the mentor should ask the young person what his/her opinion is on the issue and why. This helps the youth to clarify where s/he stands, what s/he understands about the topic or might still need to learn. Listening to the mentee’s views also sends a message that his/her opinions are worthy of respect, that adults should pay attention and take those ideas seriously.

Mentors should share their point of view as well. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree, as long as the exchange is respectful

Rhodes also provides a list of websites that are helpful for conversations around today’s topics:

  • Listenwise
  • Moving Stories
  • Learning Media
  • Kids Voting USA 

Read Jean Rhode’s full article on Mentoring Youth in a Divided Nation.

Welcome to new iCouldBe Program Manager Liz Ward!

We’re delighted to welcome Liz Ward as a new Program Manager at iCouldBe.

When Liz was in high school she dreamed about being a writer. Her first mentor was her Journalism teacher who taught her that hard work and perseverance pay off.

Liz received a Bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University. She first started working with underserved populations as a City Year New York corps member and senior corps member. After City Year, she spent the next few years working with high need communities, students, parents and community based organizations.

Today, Liz serves as a Program Manager at iCouldBe, where she manages a portfolio of schools and serves as a liaison between mentors, mentees, and teachers.

When she’s not managing programs at iCouldBe, Liz enjoys spending time with her family, baking and learning yoga.

Liz, welcome to the iCouldBe team!

 

Using virtual mentors to expand offline networks and grow career aspirations

Julia Freeland at the Christensen Institute spoke with iCouldBe’s Executive Director Kate Schrauth about how technology can expand students’ networks.

Here’s an excerpt:

Julia:  In our research we’re focusing a lot on how relationships – or social capital – are critical levers for social mobility. Is iCouldBe’s model building students’ networks  both on and offline?

Kate: We do see that bear out. Within iCouldBe’s curriculum, mentees work on a number of activities that help them become aware of, and practice, networking skills. These activities have mentees practice these skills with teachers and other adults who can help them reach their educational and career goals. A thoughtful, goal-oriented and professional approach to networking skill-building helps mentees improve relationships and build social capital. In the most recent analysis of mentee pre-and post-surveys from the 2016-2017 academic year, mentees report that prior to the program 63% have natural mentors (in their offline lives) while after the program, that percentage grows to 81%.

iCouldBe was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss the positive outcomes of virtual mentoring with Julia Freeland at the Christensen Institute. Read the full article here.

 

iCouldBe Launches New Curriculum with SAP

iCouldBe has partnered with SAP to create a new multi-year in-person mentoring curriculum. The first year of the curriculum was piloted in 2015-2016 and fully launched in the 2016-2017 school year, and this academic year we are delighted to launch the second year curriculum to schools in Boston, San Francisco, and Vancouver.

The new curriculum includes an orientation and nine activities focused on team-based mentoring. Professional mentors participate

with their teams in-person three times during the program, and on non-mentor days, one mentee per team takes a lead role to encourage peer mentoring and leadership skills.

The year one curriculum provides grounding in mentoring skills, self insight and career exploration. The year two curriculum guides mentees to create their own Public Service Announcement (PSA) about how their school and community can help students overcome a challenge.

The curriculum was developed by Madeline Giscombe with Wendy Siegelman and includes illustrations by Lisa Decker.

Here’s a quick overview of the new year two curriculum!

Mentors join their mentee teams three times during the program, and help the teams develop a concept for a public service announcement about a common challenge students face and how their school and community can help solve that challenge.

The mentee teams learn how to convert their public service announcement concept from a brainstorm, to an outline, to a storyboard, to film!

Throughout the program, mentees have time at the end of each activity to write privately in their personal ‘film log’ so they can apply what they have learned about mentoring and problem solving in their own lives.

A big thank you to SAP for their vision and support and thanks to SAP employee mentors for their commitment to working with their mentee teams!

iCouldBe Featured on American Graduate Day!

On Saturday October 14th iCouldBe was delighted to participate in American Graduate Day 2017!

Broadcast live from Tisch WNET Studios in NYC on public TV stations across the country, the 6th annual American Graduate Day examined the vital role mentorship plays in improving high school graduation rates, and explored diverse pathways to academic and career success and workforce development opportunities.

We invited Marisol, an iCouldBe mentee from 2016-2017, to visit New York City and participate in the American Graduate Day program and surprised her on live TV when her mentor Neal arrived to meet her in person for the first time.


iCouldBe Mentee Marisol arrived in New York City for the first time and headed to the WNET studio at Lincoln Center.


Marisol’s sister, teacher and the iCouldBe team watched from the viewing area.


During Marisol’s interview, her Mentor Neal Backsman, arrived to surprise her. Since iCouldBe connects mentees and mentors online, this was the very first time they met in person.


Marisol discussed how they focused on developing a roadmap for Marisol’s future education and career while they also developed a meaningful and trusting relationship.


Neal shared how much he had learned from Marisol throughout the mentoring program and shared his experience as an AT&T employee who has been supported and encouraged by his company to be a mentor to 6 mentees over the past four years! 


As they completed the iCouldBe activities, Marisol told Neal about her plans to get a Nursing Assistant certificate before she even graduated from high school, and her plans to apply to nursing school and her goal to travel the world. Neal  helped Marisol research a career as a traveling nurse and Marisol is now excited to pursue that as a potential career option.


Marisol and Neal had an incredible time with the welcoming and warm team at WNET.


A huge thank you to WNET, Neal and Marisol, for an amazing American Graduate Day experience with iCouldBe.

See the video here!

Click below to see iCouldBe mentee Marisol and mentor Neal on WNET’s American Graduate Day

Introducing Talisa Anderson, Our Newest Program Manager! 

Talisa helps iCouldBe manage communication with stakeholders, risk assessment, and synthesization of data. She’s passionate about seeing mentees breathe life into their dreams with the encouragement of their mentors.

When Talisa was young she dreamed she could be a cultural ambassador who traveled across continents immersing herself in all the shades of beauty the world has to offer. Her first mentor was her high school guidance counselor who believed in Talisa’s voice and vision and taught her to use both to positively impact the world around her.

Talisa received a BA in International Relations from Tufts University and has since worked to empower marginalized communities and promote cross-cultural exchange in schools and non-profits in Asia, the United States and Western Europe. Over the past 9 years, she has advocated for survivors of trauma with the Crime Victims Treatment Center, counseled ESOL adults at University Settlement, and mentored low-income youth at George Jackson Academy.

When she’s not connecting with teachers and mentors, you can find her meditating at a yoga class, exploring cities near and far with friends, and enjoying the company of her wonderful family.

Welcome to the iCouldBe team Talisa!