I recently had the opportunity to speak with Kalya Murray, Executive Director of Bethel Institute for Community Development, which runs In Your Corner mentoring program (IYC). Founded in 1992 by Bethel AME Church, Bethel Institute for Community Development, (formerly Generation Excel) began as an afterschool youth development program for high risk youth in the Greater Boston area. Its mission is “to provide educational and social services to high-risk youth and families in Greater Boston in ways that measurably transform their lives and the communities in which they live.”
The mission of In Your Corner (IYC) to prepare you men of color between the ages of 17 to 24, transition back into the community with a plan for a positive and healthy life style. It serves as a transition for youth, a place for them to go after initial re-entry. IYC began after conversations with the Boston Public Health Commission, Health and Humans Services and DYS.
IYC is designed to provide wider services through partnership. The main component of the program, mentoring, is supported in partnership with Mass Mentoring Partnership, MMP. MMP rigorously trains the Cornermen (mentors). Through a partnership with Massachusetts Community Outreach (MCOI) IYC is able to recruit Cornermen with lived experience, who want to give back, deter others from their paths and illuminate other paths. Job training and workforce development is set to take place in partnership with Commonwealth Corps.
After completing training with MMP this past spring, IYC was poised to roll out the first round of mentoring activities and matching in March, as the Shelter in Place policies were enacted. In response to the pandemic, the program has slowed down, like nearly all of our mentoring partners. Currently, IYC is pivoting to online. Most participants have access to technology whether through smartphones or Chromebooks provided by school departments. IYC is making contingency plans to address those with a lack of technology, but they hope to facilitate in-person meetings soon. There is no guarantee or idea of when we will get back to normal, and what the new normal actually looks like.
Mentoring, trainings, and workshops are driven by the desires of the youth, honing in on
their interests by exposing them to a variety of careers and topics that they are free to explore, as well as answering questions the youth have always wanted to ask. Undergirding the program is its focus on the socio-emotional development of the youth.
It is the goal that when one graduates from the In Your Corner program, that it is a celebration of the person taking the next steps in their life and health, but it does not end the relationship. In Your Corner follows up and offers the chance to rejoin for those who need it. They keep the door open because there is always room for mentorship, especially when a new issue arises. Our job as mentoring organizations is to provide help and resources to young adults, to empower them and help them realize that they are in control of their lives. One of our goals is to create a strong community and system where anyone can succeed. Hopefully, we can create a world where this is natural, but for now, organizations like the Bethel Institute are here to help us along the way.
The Bethel Institute continues to offer a variety of other programs such as their math and science programs in the summer and on Saturdays during the school year, and wellness centers in high schools. Regardless of the program or role, Kalya had this to say “in all of this (our programming), we are mentors, whether we are working with an individual or in a group. They’re (our participants) looking for guidance and a listening ear.”