Mentoring, the Massachusetts state budget and a state house staffer’s personal story

This post was written by MMP's Manager of Government Relations and Field Resources, Elena Sokolow-Kaufman

Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) administers a state-funded grant program each year called the Mentoring Matching Grants .This year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allocated $350,000 to MMP, which has been distributed to 27 programs across the Commonwealth to assist them in their work of matching and professionally supporting youth with volunteer mentors.

Each year we advocate for increasing this critical source of funding, which is the only state funding dedicated specifically to mentoring programs. This year, though, we have been fighting off cuts to the program, which faces a $100,000 reduction for next year if we are not able to convince members of the budget conference committee that it is a worthy investment.

As MMP continues to advocate and organize others around this funding, we wanted to share the story of a state house staffer with a personal connection to mentoring. She shared this story with us in the hopes that it would move others to rally around our cause of bringing more state resources to mentoring programs in Massachusetts.

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The night Jackie and I met we played the board game Clue. Blue was my favorite color, so I was Miss Peacock. Jackie was my "Big Sister." We were matched through the mentoring program Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

[caption id="attachment_1197" align="alignright" width="128"]Untitled Courtney Elgart, staff director for State Representative Tom Sannicandro[/caption]

My childhood wasn’t great. Both of my parents struggled with addiction and its accompanying demons. My mother wasn’t around a lot and my father thought I would benefit from a healthy relationship with an adult woman. So he signed me up for a Big Sister and, when I was six, Jackie entered my life.

All week I looked forward to my afternoons with Jackie. We would go to the arcade or the ice rink. More than having fun, Jackie allowed me to be a kid. It was the first relationship I had with an adult where those roles, adult and child, were clearly delineated.

A year after we met things took a turn for the worse at home. The Department of Social Services decided I needed to be removed from my home. Jackie and her partner stepped up and let me come stay with them. It was supposed to be a few weeks; I never left. After fostering me for a few years, Jackie and her partner adopted me at age 11.

While my story’s ending is atypical, the critical role my mentor played isn’t. Jackie showed me a new world of possibilities. She taught me how to have healthy relationships; she taught me responsibility. Jackie was my rock - stability in the often chaotic world of my home life. She also taught me the value of serving others, the supreme importance of giving back to your community. That’s how I ended up where I am today, a public servant, working in the Massachusetts Legislature.

We all have mentors in our life that guide us, shape us, and help us reach our potential. For at-risk kids, like I was, these mentors are even more important. Supporting mentoring programs like Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a critical investment in our kids’ futures. Mentoring is important to each kid whose life is changed by the relationship. But that’s not all: mentoring strengthens communities by helping youth become the best they can be through giving them access to the resources and support to make their dreams a reality.

Want to support mentoring in Massachusetts? Please join MMP and the mentoring field in Massachusetts in our fight to preserve funding to the Mentoring Line Item. Contact your legislators to voice your support and add yourself to our advocacy list to receive updates and action alerts.