News (and Blog) en Copyright 2015 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Creating Change With Service and TEAMwork Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Students in the TEAM Mentor Program recently exemplified this idea, creating service projects that touched all corners of Memphis and countless lives. As part of the 8th grade curriculum, scholars from The Soulsville Charter School, KIPP Memphis Collegiate School and Power Center Academy partnered with 11 community organizations to create and implement service learning projects. These projects encouraged the scholars to think critically about ways to serve the Memphis community, while also promoting a sense of civic engagement and responsibility. Representatives provided overviews of their organizations’ needs, but it was up to the students to create, plan and implement the projects. Mentors served as advisors, keeping the students on track. The National Youth Leadership Council, a national organization promoting service learning, defines service learning as “an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.” It combines instruction with volunteerism, allowing students to create real-world guided service projects that impact their local community. Combining the TEAM Mentor curriculum with meaningful community service allows scholars to learn about their role in bettering society and the process that goes into planning events. Each TEAM spent two months creating and implementing unique service projects: 1. TEAM Pretty Hustlers of The Soulsville Charter School worked with Carpenter Art Garden to build a compost bin and conduct activities with neighborhood children. 2. Scholars from KIPP Memphis Collegiate School partnered with Greenlaw Community Center to serve meals to the homeless. 3. Power Center Academy TEAM Kreative Goddess Squad led a forum at their school with Facing History & Ourselves on stereotypes, cliques and labels. 4. The Foreign Thinkers TEAM learned about HIV and STD prevention with Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and hosted a community health fair for their peers at The Soulsville Charter School. 5. KIPP Memphis Collegiate School scholars collected toiletries and essential supplies for seniors and delivered them with MIFA on the Meals on Wheels route. 6. TEAM Dreamcatchers of Power Center Academy worked with the Church Health Center to host a Physical Fitness Day for their peers, featuring a discussion on the importance of health and fitness. 7. The Soulsville Charter School TEAM Six Kings partnered with the Salvation Army’s Purdue Center of Hope and held a basketball skills clinic for shelter residents. 8. Scholars at KIPP Memphis created a recycling campaign for their school with Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy. They also planted trees at Shelby Farms Park as part of the 1 Million Trees Campaign. 9. Power Center Academy scholars partnered with Clean Memphis for the March Watershed Stewardship Challenge and cleaned Nonconnah Creek.  10. TEAM No Fail Zone of The Soulsville Charter School raised over $250 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by selling tickets to a basketball fundraiser featuring teachers and mentors playing against the scholars. 11. Scholars from Power Center Academy decorated FedExFamilyHouse for Easter and assembled welcome packages for the residents. The projects culminated with the 3rd Annual TEAM Mentor Service Learning Championship Finale, where each group presented their project to their family and peers in hopes of being named Service Champions. TEAM Foreign Thinkers placed first, receiving tickets to the Grizzlies vs. Pacers game on Wed., April 15, while the Clean Memphis and Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy teams placed second and third, respectively. All, however, left with a renewed sense of community engagement. “To us, giving back to the community means improving it,” said Cortasia Lott, a Soulsville Charter School scholar that worked with Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! “Many of my friends have told me they know a lot more about STDs and HIV now [after our service learning project], which was our goal.” When speaking in terms of scholarly growth, “[The biggest improvement was] confidence in themselves, being confident and being experts in HIV and STDs and things of that nature,” said Chris Francheschi, education outreach for Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! “At first they didn’t have that confidence. They were scared and it was a touchy subject, [but] they put in the hours and dedication to learn the subject and teach others.” It’s safe to say that Margaret Mead would be proud of these students. | 4/21/15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Finding Fulfillment Through Empowerment Purpose Realized A nondescript green door sits in a shopping center on South Mendenhall, sandwiched between a vacant flower shop and small general store. Behind this door, Adrian Winfrey, executive director and founder of GirlzLife Empowerment Program, remembers the journey that brought her here. Flash back to 2006: Adrian Winfrey is working for a children’s ministry. The work is great, but something is missing. What do you do when you feel your work isn’t your calling? “I wasn’t necessarily fulfilled with children’s ministry and I didn’t think that was my purpose,” Winfrey said. “There was no particular reason why the desire was so strong [to start GirlzLife], it just was there for whatever reason. I don’t know.” GirlzLife Empowerment Program, a member of the Grizzlies TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership, tasks young women with overcoming the challenges and socioeconomic factors faced in their homes, schools and communities that negatively influence their behavior and help to create positive change within them. Currently, 21 girls are served in the program: 12 in the GirlzLife center and nine at Veritas College Preparatory Charter School.  A report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an extension of the United States Department of Justice that guides federal juvenile justice issues, found that truancy starts early and is related to substance abuse, high school dropout and social isolation.  According to Winfrey, she wanted to work with girls that were in these beginning stages of trouble, before they were too far off track. Flash forward, today: GirlzLife Empowerment Program is in its second year, and Winfrey hasn’t looked back. Growth Behind the Green Door Creating your own mentoring program isn’t easy, but when Winfrey was developing Girlzlife, she stumbled across the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring from the National Mentoring Partnership. The program’s teaching concepts were also identified using the 40 developmental assets, defined as the building blocks for healthy development in adolescents, to teach support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, commitment to learning and positive identity and values.  With the handbook’s help and the developmental assets, she was ready to open the green door in about six months. “I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know where to start,” Winfrey laughed. “I didn’t know what to do, and just happened to come across it. That makes it a whole lot easier.” Winfrey worked with the district attorney’s office to find girls between ages 13 and 15 on the cusp of trouble. Recruiting mentors was the biggest struggle, she recalls; out of about 50 women to show interest in mentoring, they ended up with about 15. GirlzLife fills the gap for lessons that aren’t necessarily taught in schools. The most popular of the eight programs administered by GirlzLife is Generation Change, a financial series designed to help the girls see how money works in a real context. “They really had no clue what it takes to run a household, how much money you could actually make on a job, what expenses you could have as an adult,” Winfrey said. “They had no clue about what mortgage would be, or taxes taken out of your check, so it was really exciting. We did budgets and they got a chance to really find out what their parents are dealing with.” Tiara’s Turn When Winfrey reflects on her journey, she’s still not sure what ignited the drive to get her here. Needless to say, countless empowered young women are thankful for Winfrey’s vision. One success stands out in particular to Winfrey. The girl, Tiara, came into the program as “the worst one, worst attitude, very angry, wanting to fight basically every girl in the program,” Winfrey noted. Vicki, the girl’s mentor went to Tiara’s school, talked to her guidance counselors, worked with her mom and helped her improve her grades. Today, Tiara is an honor roll student, a cheerleader and is pledging a high school sorority. Results like this are the reason Winfrey does what she does. While the majority of girls are only required to stay a year, the retention rate is indicative of the program’s overall success: every girl present at the founding of the program is still participating. In the end, that’s what the program is all about: giving girls a second chance to empower themselves. | 3/27/15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Breaking Barriers With Opportunity Statistics show that only 6% of Memphis high school students graduate college-ready. But with a little push and some help from the College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL) program, a unique class of students can become first-generation college students. MIFA-COOL is a college readiness and life preparedness program for first-generation college student and is part of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA). The organization has supported the independence of vulnerable seniors and families in crisis throughout Memphis for over four decades. COOL currently serves 76 juniors and seniors at George Washington Carver High School and Booker T. Washington High School with GPAs between 2.0 and 3.0. Oftentimes, students with these GPAs tend to fall through the cracks, thinking that college isn’t for them. Furthermore, COOL students and their peers face multiple barriers that stand in the way of making it to college: access to technology, limited financial resources for tests and applications and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities to make it in college, to name a few. Nationally, there are 478 students for every one counselor, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. That means school guidance counselors have limited time to spread among many students, particularly ones that fall in the middle of the grade spectrum. COOL fills that gap by providing one-on-one attention to students in an area they saw had the greatest need, Andrea Hill, COOL Program Manager, said, hoping to “really help broaden their horizon and give them the opportunity to even think about college as an option.” COOL helps students break down college barriers with a guiding hand. When a student doesn’t have a computer or the internet to complete the applications, COOL provides access. When a student can’t afford the ACT testing fee, COOL pays for the test. When students are not sure what forms are needed for the FAFSA or even what that is (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid), COOL has workshops on completing them. When students have trouble with scholarship essays, COOL meets one-on-one to help knock it out and look for other scholarships. When students need a support network to help with the transition from home to college, COOL helps prepare them for success in college and, eventually, career. Overall, COOL walks students along the path to becoming first generation college students. To help further prepare students for college, COOL plans to introduce a mentoring program featuring COOL alumni. In addition to this, Hill also shared future plans to implement a leadership program for the COOL students and a parent institute. By expanding the support network, Hill hopes COOL’s push helps students see everything in front of them and take advantage of their opportunities. “They have options,” Hill said. “We have to really open their eyes … to be able to achieve what they want to achieve.” | 3/20/15 Blog, 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Providing Young Memphians Their Stage, One Rhyme at a Time Spoken word poetry is an art form that has the power to excite, give insight and unite.  Words become less a form of communication and more a means of inviting others into the speaker’s truth, creating a moving connection. Over the course of four months, local spoken-word artists helped students develop their written and performance skills during “Write On, Speak Out!,” a newly-created Hattiloo Theatre poetry mentorship program funded by the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation. Hailing from across the Greater Memphis area, 16 high school students came together to discover themselves in the context of their community and change societal perceptions of identity and who a person should be through the freedom and autonomy that spoken word provides. For some, that discovery was passionate; for others, painful; for all, powerful. “We started the program with a group of kids who performed their poetry, many for the first time, at their individual school poetry slams,” Calley Anderson, program coordinator at Hattiloo Theatre, remembers. “They were timid and far from performance-ready at the time, but they had the courage to step to a microphone and tell their truth.” The high school program aids in college preparation and essential skill-building through the medium of spoken word poetry, enhancing the students’ writing, performance, presentation and communication skills before taking the stage. Further cultivating their talent and helping foster confidence in their own creativity, students are also assigned one of four local mentor-poets that work with them in one-on-one and group sessions. These mentor-poets guide the students through a number of workshops designed to develop their written and performance skills, including lessons on self expression and using spoken word to comment on unique local or personal issues; exploring the voice and body as political texts; and helping mentees develop confidence in their work. The program also places an emphasis on preparing for the college application essay, furthering the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring that Memphis students graduate college ready. According to Anderson, the students’ progress was nothing short of phenomenal. “They have become the embodiment of spoken-word artists who unabashedly tell their truths to a room full of strangers and do it with the performance and articulation skills that we have coached,” said Anderson. “It is a stunning process to see that expansion, to see how passionately and whole-heartedly these kids jumped into this program. They trusted their mentors and they trusted us as program coordinators to steer them in the right direction. Yet, in many ways, they steered us. They showed us the depths of potential, the reach of the human spirit, the ferocity of language, and the power of mentorship.” That depth, reach, ferocity and power was on full display at the Write On, Speak Out! Showcase on Feb. 14 – 22, demonstrating each of the students’ talent, creativity and hard work. The students touched on themes including gender identity, racial discrimination, ambition and the relationship between religion and science. “My mentees really responded to the one-on-ones, and the outings built bonds amongst peers,” Tim Dotson, one of the mentor-poets, said. “It wasn’t until seeing the showcase rehearsals that I began to see the kids taking ownership; performing and giving life to art they created.” The program culminated Feb. 27 and March 1 with the Poetry Slam Finale at Hattiloo Theatre, an annual city-wide spoken word contest for 9th – 11th grade students that recognizes and rewards personal expression and effective public speaking based on real life experiences. The finale saw twelve students take the stage, vying for the honor of being named the 2015 Memphis Grizzlies Poetry Slam Champion. This year’s winner was Shanterica Reed, an 11th grader at Memphis Health Careers Academy. She received a $500 college preparatory stipend and a new Apple MacBook Air. “In writing this poem my biggest inspiration was my struggle: what’s real to me and what moves me. I have never had a ‘normal’ life. I have been talked about plenty and I figured either let it control my destiny or prove them wrong,” Reed said of her inspiration. “That’s why it’s easy to write, because I’m writing my truth and telling my story.” Hattiloo Theatre’s mission is to develop a black theatre that is accessible to, relevant to, and reflective of a multi-cultural community. Visit for more information. | 3/5/15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 GrizzFIT Kids Bootcamp Teaches Fitness and Life-Skills According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years, and today 1 in 4 Memphis children suffer from obesity. A study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine also found links between exercise and increased academic performance, and with the decline of physical activity programs in schools, many students are missing out. The GrizzFIT Kids Bootcamp strives to fill the youth fitness gap. This initiative for Memphis area 8-14 year olds that embodies the idea that exercise, mental health and social well-being work together in an environment where physical activity leads to positive influences in children’s lives. The program officially began its spring season with the GrizzFIT Draft Combine on Jan. 27 as part of NBA Fit Live Healthy Week presented by Kaiser Permanente. Over 160 participants from all three bootcamp locations came together for the first time to run through a series of fitness challenges on the Grizzlies Practice Court. The kids set personal baselines in push-ups, sprints, broad jumps, speed and curl-ups, which will be compared to baselines taken later in the program to show progress. The program is now entering its third week of eight weeks of physical activity, team-building exercises and nutrition lessons. Each week, the Bootcamp focuses on three aspects of fitness: physical, social and mental. Physical fitness is the main aspect of the program, and students learn this through proper exercise techniques and fitness challenges. Social fitness comes through the participants’ positive interactions with each other, teaching them the importance of teambuilding and building a network of social support. Mental fitness is instilled through holding oneself accountable for schoolwork and an at-home nutrition activity, in which students have to make healthy decisions and keep a log of their wellness behavior. The 90 minute bootcamp sessions are led by coaches that guide the students through these three aspects. Weeks focus on power, speed, agility, strength and core, introduced through group and individual exercise techniques. Students are also tasked with logging their wellness behavior at home, ensuring they are thinking about nutrition and fitness even outside the program, as well as character challenges, requiring them to demonstrate life and leadership skills throughout the week. The GrizzFIT Kids Bootcamp is part of GrizzFIT, a platform that promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to make nutritious food choices, exercise daily and have fun doing it.  The program operates out of three locations around Memphis: Downtown at Streets Ministries and Tom Lee Park at Beale St. Landing, Midtown at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, and Graham Heights at Streets Ministries and Kingsbury Elementary School. | 2/27/15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Staxtacular: A New Spin On A Classic Record The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is filled with legends: records of legendary soul musicians line the walls of the Museum and, as the former site of Stax Records, countless artists have recorded chart-topping hits within the walls. The Stax legacy continues to this day at the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School, where Stax uses the power of music and opportunity to shape young people’s lives and keep valuable history alive. Benefitting the non-profit Soulsville Foundation and in partnership with the Memphis Grizzlies, Staxtacular 2015 Presented by Suntrust brought together the worlds of basketball and music, raising $200,690.  The Grizzlies core four Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph hosted the sold-out event, leading Staxtacular 2015 to be one of the Soulsville Foundation’s most successful events to date. At the annual fundraiser, roughly 640 party-goers had full reign of the Stax Museum and parts of the Stax Music Academy. In addition, the evening offered plenty to do, including auctions featuring Grizzlies memorabilia, travel packages, original artwork from local artists and much more.  The talented Stax Music Academy students performed throughout the night, from soul performances in the Museum to a Jazz Jam in the Academy, followed by a spirited performance from the Bo-Keys and Stax Records legend William Bell. The food rivaled any fine dining experience: pyramids of fruits and desserts, made to order tacos and pasta and even sushi were available around almost every corner, looking almost too good to eat. When not enjoying the food, music or drinks (the exclusive Staxtini was a popular hit!), guests mingled with the entire Grizzlies team roster. Staxtacular helps fund the work happening at the Soulsville Foundation.  Funds raised support the tuition-free Soulsville Charter School, provide the need-based Soul Children Scholarships for Stax Music Academy attendees and ensure the continued operation of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. So what makes the Soulsville, USA community so unique? Students in the Stax Music Academy have performed at home in Washington, D.C. and abroad in Germany, Italy and Australia, spreading the unique Memphis sound the Stax Academy promotes across the nation and the world. Serving more than 2,500 students, the Stax Music Academy teaches vocals, instrumentals, music writing, production and other aspects to help students lead the Memphis sound into the next generation. Next door is the Soulsville Charter School, serving 530 students in grades 6-12 that provides an academically rigorous but music-rich environment for learning. Founded in 2005, the Soulsville Charter School’s first graduating class in 2012 had a 100% college acceptance rate – and so has every class since. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays tribute to the soul legends that recorded at Stax Records, and remains the world’s first and only soul music museum showcasing Memphis soul to a new generation. The idea for Staxtacular was born in 2005, when former Grizzlies players Shane Battier and Brian Cardinal and their wives, inspired by the Stax Records legacy and encouraged by the Soulsville Foundation’s work with at-risk young people, offered to host a fundraiser. A hit every year since, Staxtacular is now hosted by current Grizzlies players and remains one of the most popular fundraising events in Memphis, raising over $1 million since its inception. The Soulsville Foundation is a Memphis, Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and the Soulsville Charter School. In addition to operating the world’s only soul music museum, its mission is to provide leadership and financial support that promotes and utilizes the music and heritage of Soulsville USA to develop young people for lifelong success. For more information, visit | 2/18/15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 The Coach’s Changing Role In the hit NBC series Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor was the quintessential coach-mentor: strict and moral, but fair and dedicated, a strong and level-headed mentor figure for his kids, many of whom lacked guidelines. Parents have probably longed for someone like Coach Taylor, someone who wasn’t just a coach, but a teacher, mentor and leader. The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation partnership with Up2Us, the leading organization promoting and training coaches in sports-based youth development (SBYD), is advancing sports as a tool to address the critical social issues facing our youth. SBYD focuses on using sports as a solution to youth and community problems by providing coaches with the necessary training and support to coach kids not only in sports skill building, but also in character skill building. Coaches learn how to congratulate successes while encouraging constant growth, create safe spaces that teach emotional and physical safety, and foster the social support of a team. Starting this year, all GrizzFIT coaches will be required to complete SBYD training through Up2Us. The coach’s role is to leverage sports to build strong and meaningful relationships with young people, helping to prepare them for success in college, career and life, and the training will further their commitment and development to mentor effectively. GrizzFIT promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to make nutritious food choices, to exercise regularly and to have fun doing it. Within the GrizzFIT platform lies the TEAM UP Youth Sports Partnership, a coalition of community organizations that use sport as a catalyst for youth development. Fully embodying the coach’s changing role, partnership organizations Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM), Streets Ministries and Grizzlies Prep are a part of a dedicated force committed to making SBYD training mandatory for coaches. “They (Up2Us) treat character and leadership and resilience and all the different components that go into life and personality as much a skill as they do the sport,” said Joel Katz, manager of the TEAM UP Youth Sports Partnership. “Winning is important, and the training will not say it isn’t, because it is. But it’s understanding how to win, it’s understanding what it takes to win, it’s getting kids to believe in the process.” Katz sees the required training as a way to redefine the coach’s typical role, and his enthusiasm for the possibilities is infectious. GrizzFIT is deep in many communities, and the training is seen as a way to bridge youth sports and mentoring. Many times, recreational coaches are volunteers and don’t have any formal training or professional development. The SBYD training helps demonstrate how coaches can also be mentors, utilizing the special relationship between coaches and kids to reach past sports skills and into life skills. In a program like GrizzFIT, where many participants may not have access to positive role models, the training helps coaches fill a void. Coaches often come out of training with a new energy and appreciation of coaching. By learning new coaching techniques that can be directly applied to their teams, they become more confident in their own abilities, a confidence that is then directed to the kids. Sports can be a catalyst for driving leadership development, and with SBYD training, coaches will understand how to draw out, expand and ultimately create future community leaders. | 1/29/15 Blog, 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Teaming Up For Mentoring To recognize the role that mentors can play in children’s lives, the Memphis Grizzlies hosted “Mentor Night at FedExForum.” That evening, the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South, Inc. partnership was announced and over 400 mentors and mentees attended the Grizzlies vs. Suns game on Jan. 11. The Grizzlies Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South, Inc. (BBBS) partnership helps ensure Memphis youth have access to reaching their full potential. Diane Terrell, the executive director of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation and Community Investment, and Elliott Perry, chairman of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation board, joined George Cogswell, BBBS chairman of the board, and Adrienne Bailey, BBBS president and CEO, on-court for the presentation of a ‘TEAM UP’ plaque, signifying the new partnership’s emphasis on teaming up to help Memphis children find encouraging adult mentors. In honor of National Mentoring Month, over 400 mentors and mentees participated in Mentor Night, receiving tickets, dinner and recognition. Bigs and littles (the BBBS terms for mentors and mentees) performed pre-game interviews about their relationships, and mentors and mentees from Streets Ministries took to the court to shoot some baskets in Assist 2 Win. Mentor Night saw the launch of Dinner + A Game, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. The Grizzlies Foundation has long supported Memphis-area youth organizations through the Tickets For Kids program, which provides tickets for Grizzlies games, and Dinner + A Game is an extension that also provides attendees with healthy dinners. The game featured a ‘Mentor Zone,’ a central space in the International Paper area that gave local mentoring organizations a place to talk about their organizations and sign up fans as volunteers. Representatives from Virtue Quest, Streets Ministries, Agape Child & Family Services, Grizzlies Prep and the TEAM Mentor Program were on hand. Armed with iPads to ease the sign-up process, several prospective new mentors were signed up and dozens more left with information on how to volunteer. The Grizzlies Foundation also introduced the ‘I Was That Kid’ public service announcement campaign. Depicting the challenges urban youth face in their own words with Grizzlies players Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter relating to their stories, the call-to-action series encourages youth mentoring in Memphis. The campaign is one aspect of the Grizzlies’ ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative, which aims to recruit 5,000 new mentors by 2020. The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation is dedicated to providing quality mentoring programming to ensure that all of Memphis’ youth have access to strong mentors. Being someone who matters is what mentoring is all about. The night recognized and celebrated hundreds of mentors that have donated countless hours to their mentees. | 1-23-15 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Finding New Pathways To Success Terrion Mayfield, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School, paused to think about what kind of effect his mentor has had on him. Because of his mentor, Mayfield is applying to college and had done things he never thought possible, like YoungLife, a Christian youth program, and out-of-town camping trips. Though Mayfield is grateful to his mentor for all these things, he’s most thankful for helping him straighten his path.  “[My mentor] replaced the position of my father and gave me a sense that there was somebody I could come to,” said Mayfield, a five-year veteran of Streets’ Pathways mentoring program. “I can look around at my surroundings and see how I would have been if I didn’t have a mentor, because I still see people that I grew up with and I was doing the same things they were in sixth and seventh grade, and I got a mentor, so I grew up kinda different, and they’re still on the same path. It helped me compare and contrast my life between them.” Streets Ministries began in 1987 as a youth outreach effort with just a van and a basketball, and today provides a home-away-from-home for over 1,200 students in the Downtown and Graham Heights neighborhoods of Memphis. As one of its many programs, Streets operates an education-based mentoring program called Pathways. Mentors and mentees spend an hour a week together, whether it’s getting dinner, reading together or going to Memphis Grizzlies games. Currently, approximately 65 mentors and 69 mentees take part in the program. Studies from the National Mentoring Partnership found a number of positive impacts from having a mentor, such as lower rates of skipping school, illegal drug use, higher rates of college enrollment and volunteerism. “One thing I noticed is there’s an increase in broken families, increase in fatherlessness, increase in kids who are being raised in really traumatic environments,” said Ryan Thomas, a five month mentor. “[I can be] a positive voice and be someone who actually lets the kid know I care about him. Sometimes, if you have that, it can turn a person’s life around.” Through the Pathways program, students are able to see life with a more optimistic perspective, according to Reggie Davis, executive director of Streets Ministries. They gain social, academic and cultural context through the mentors, who expose them to areas outside their community. Mentors also provide students with a helping hand or listening ear when life gets tough. What sets Streets’ Pathways program apart from other mentoring programs is its focus on a more practical curriculum. While there are weekly reading and math requirements, Streets emphasizes finding out what students love and making a career out of it.  “There’s so many other educational opportunities they may not know about,” said Maggie Zambetti, middle school education coordinator at Streets. “Part of that is saying ‘What do you want to do?’ and what are goals that we can set that are very attainable. How can we create stepping stones, you know, just some basic things.” Another tenet of Pathways is a data-driven focus on student literacy levels. Mentors are given testing tools to see where their mentees’ reading levels are, and are able to track progress throughout the year. Once mentors are able to see just how far behind reading level their mentee may be, “the investment immediately changes,” Zambetti said. This investment goes far beyond just education, however. Noel Douglas experienced this firsthand through her mentee, Hannah, a seventh grader that Douglas has been mentoring at Streets for over two years now. The defining moment in their relationship came just a few weeks ago when Hannah came to Noel for advice about the way her boyfriend had been treating her. “I’m like, okay, he needs to be treating you like a princess … so I taught her how to break up with him. She came up to me and was so excited she had broken up with him,” Douglas said. “The relationship I have with her is so rewarding, and I love it that when I go to Streets she always wants to give me a hug and wants to talk to me. I would encourage anyone to be in a mentoring relationship at Streets. It’s really unique and special and it’s definitely rewarding.” Davis noted that sometimes mentors do not think they can make a difference in a child’s life, but he stresses that will fade away as the mentor and mentee begin a relationship. “There is a change in mentors once they come in. Most of the time it’s ‘Yeah, I wanna do something and make a difference,’ but I don’t know if people really know they can make a difference,” Davis said. “They start to build a relationship with a young person and they see positive change and things start to click and happen, and that’s encouraging.” | January 9, 2015 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00 Enchantment, Lights, Spectacle and More The holiday season presents the perfect time to experience amazing happenings in and around Memphis. There is an overwhelming amount of activity to enjoy, including countless parades, shows and events. As kids are out of school, it’s also the perfect time for mentors and mentees to gain some quality time. But with so many things to do, how can you narrow down the choices? Here are some of our favorite holiday activities. 1. A Christmas Carol, presented by Theatre Memphis What better way to bring in the holidays with the seminal Christmas classic? In this tale, Ebenezer Scrooge sees the true spirit of the holidays through visions of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. Good thing Scrooge had some great mentors on his side to show him past his bitterness! Playing now through Dec. 23 at Theatre Memphis. Matinees are at 3 pm and evening showings are at 7 pm. Prices: adult - $30, student - $15, children 11 and under - $10. 2. Memphis Botanic Gardens Snowy Nights: Taking a walk down Playhouse Lane through themed lighting and a musical light show sets the tone for Snowy Nights, but that’s just a small portion of things to do. Groups can create icicle ornaments, complete scavenger hunts in the Snowflake Forest and much more. Even better, there are campfires on the patio for roasting s’mores. And if you forget your s’more kit, don’t worry: they’re available for purchase at the event. Running every night until Dec. 30 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens. Times are 5:30-8:30 pm, with last admission at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $7 for members and $10 for non-members. 3. Memphis Zoo Lights What better mentor and mentee activity than Memphis’ biggest lights display? Ride through the Zoo Lights on the tram, hang out with Santa in the Courtyard and witness the marvelous Magic Mr. Nick Illusion Show. There’s also a Ferris wheel and camel rides, plus ice skating! Running 5:30 – 9:30 pm every night from Dec. 19 – 30 at the Memphis Zoo. Tickets are $6 for members and $8 for non-members. Ferris wheel, camel rides and ice skating cost extra. 4. Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees: The annual Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees at the Pink Palace, benefiting Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, is a great destination for mentors and mentees. Visitors can stop by the Penguin Pals, explore the Gingerbread Village and much more. Plus, you know you’re helping a great cause. Visit on Dec. 19 until 9 pm to witness the forest sparkling at night. Running through Dec. 31 at the Pink Palace Museum. Hours are 9 am – 5 pm Monday – Saturday and noon – 5 pm on Sundays. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.  5. Cirque Dreams Holidaze If you really want to reward your mentee, the Cirque Dreams Holidaze is the perfect Christmas gift. Blending classic Cirque du Soleil acrobatics, Broadway music and dance and a holiday theme, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is the perfect show for mentors and mentees who want a bit of spectacle with their theater. Performances are Dec. 26 and 27 at 8 pm at the Orpheum. Ticket prices range from $48.50 - $78.50. | December 18, 2014 Blog, 2015-04-21T21:18:54+00:00