Tiara Whitfield partnered with MENTOR Virginia as the DEI Training & Curriculum Consultant beginning in June 2021 and joined the team as the Training & DEI Programs Manager in November 2021. T is a Training & Development specialist with over 15 years of experience in program operations, instructional design, and course facilitation for both youth and adult audiences. T’s interest and experience in mentoring date back over a decade when she ran her first mentoring program while sharing office space with the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA. She is pleased and humbled to be in this full-circle moment as the field of Mentoring, along with global society, intentionally shifts to change paradigms of equity and inclusion.
With an undergraduate degree in Business, a graduate degree in Education, and coursework in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, T has a seasoned career working to evolve the current pedagogical framework that misinforms marginalized youth and oppresses generations of families and communities by designing realistically inclusive educational systems, creating access to safe spaces for vulnerable and needed conversations, and supporting aligned efforts and initiatives. Known for her keen problem-solving abilities and charismatically connecting people and resources, T is a creative professional who brings perspicacity, research, grit, and customer service to each project. T is a LUMA Human-Centered Design Practitioner and certified by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.
Tiara is Ma Dukes to three amazing daughters (Priyah, Keatin, & Trystan) and she is also the Founder & Creative Director at AdoLESSONS LLC, an educational incubator that provides Training & Development services to individuals, families, and businesses in the Greater Richmond area.
Kinshasa is currently serving as the Marketing and Communications AmeriCorps VISTA with MENTOR Virginia in Richmond. She is assisting with the development of marketing and communications strategies in order to connect with mentoring partners and raise awareness of current trends in youth mentoring. Prior to starting her service with MENTOR Virginia, Kinshasa served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity in the ReStore. While in this role, she coordinated volunteers, managed their donation database, and created an employee handbook. Kinshasa is passionate about helping others, and frequently volunteers with youth and elderly in her community. She has also assisted the Resident Services Coordinator for her community with planning and coordinating homework club field trips. Kinshasa looks forward to giving back to the community during her time of service with VISTA.
Tashara S. Void began her mentoring journey while in high school when she created a mentoring program for the young, Black women of her predominantly white institution. The program was a peer mentoring group where the junior and high school students mentored the freshmen and sophomore students. She went on to create a community-based mentoring program for students aging out of the foster care system.
She served three years as an AmeriCorps member developing and implementing mentor and volunteer management programs in school districts, non-profit organizations, and corporations across the state of Virginia. Two of those years were spent with Virginia Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR Virginia’s former name), which makes her appointment to this position a full circle moment. Tashara’s fourth year of AmeriCorps service was spent increasing collaboration among non-profit, governmental, and community organizations to increase revitalization efforts in housing, education, employment, and health on the Westside of Atlanta. Prior to her service with AmeriCorps, she was an intensive in-home and group home counselor.
Virginia Patterson joined MENTOR Virginia as a Youth Impact Coordinator in August 2021. She will develop procedures and establish a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to leverage youth voice and decision making in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s mentoring field. Virginia has experience with planning and assessing specific projects utilizing student focus groups. In her role, she will provide the youth advisory council an opportunity to engage in dialogue related to programs and services as well as advance youth initiated mentoring statewide. She believes that youth should not only be the object of a conversation but active participants. Virginia established and sustained a mentor program during her tenure as a school administrator.
Virginia obtained a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in Special Education from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Art degree in Elementary Education. As a former teacher, assistant principal, principal, and director she has always kept students as her focus, and she is very passionate about empowering youth to make meaningful contributions to their community.
At this time, some areas of Virginia may not have mentoring programs, or if there are programs, they may not be open and accessible to young people of all ages, abilities, or needs. If there is no mentoring program in your area, caregivers have some options for finding a mentor for their child.
1. Talk to your child’s school. School counselors or other school officials may know about programs, resources, or people that can help find a mentor for your child.
2. Explore local resources. Your community may have other types of youth development programs or resources (including faith-based organizations) that your child could join. Staff or volunteers from these organizations may know of other programs, resources, or people that can help find a mentor for your child.
3. Tap your networks. Think of all the people you know in your community, at work, and through your child’s school. Is there anyone you could ask to become a mentor to your child? MENTOR Virginia provides training to new mentors, even if they are not mentoring through a formal mentoring program.
4. Tap your child’s networks. Especially if your child is older, it may be helpful to ask them if there’s anyone in their life (teachers, coaches, someone from church, local leaders, etc.) whom they think could be their mentor. This resource can help youth map out their social networks.
5. Start a program. If you know there’s a strong need for a mentoring program in your community, either you or someone you know may consider starting a mentoring program. Partnering with organizations that are already serving youth in some capacity can be a helpful place to start. MENTOR Virginia has resources that can help.
Mentors are not meant to take the role of parent, guardian, or teacher. A mentor is not a disciplinarian or decision-maker for a child. A mentor’s main role is to spend time with the young person doing positive and fun activities that can help the mentee determine and achieve their goals. By doing this, the mentor becomes part of the team of caring adults who support the healthy development of your child: parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, faith leaders, and friends. The possibility for new opportunities and positive youth outcomes often grows as a young person’s web of supportive relationships grows.
All children benefit from the support of caring adults, not only within their family but at school and in their communities. Growing up isn’t easy, and there are many roadblocks along the way that can cause difficulties for youth. Sometimes caregivers don’t have all the answers, and sometimes young people need someone outside the family with whom to share their thoughts. Having a variety of people positively involved in a child’s life provides them with new opportunities and experiences that will help them grow and gain self-confidence.
You may be able to think of adults—a teacher, a coach, a pastor—who helped you out when you were a child, encouraging you through rough spots along your road to adulthood, or just showing you a new way to look at your world. Although you may not have been part of a formal mentoring program, this person was a mentor for you.
A mentor can give your child someone else to talk to—a safe, concerned, and responsible friend who can help sort out a problem or just listen and be supportive. A mentor can also help your child thrive in school by encouraging engagement in their studies and after-school activities, and by helping your child to think about their future goals and dreams.
Mentoring programs are strongly encouraged to follow national best practice standards (called the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring) to ensure that they are safe for youth. When determining whether a mentoring program is safe, you may want to ask program staff the following questions:
—How does the program screen their mentors? All mentors should be required to go through background checks and an interview process, and it’s helpful if the mentoring program also completes reference checks. If the mentor will be driving any young people in their car, a driving record check should also be completed.
—How does the program train their mentors? All mentors should be required to participate in a training before they are matched up with a young person, ideally lasting a minimum of two hours. This training should help mentors understand their role and how to engage in a safe mentoring relationship.
—How does the program monitor matches? Programs should provide ongoing support and monitoring to matches for the duration of the program. This may look different for different programs, but in general, program staff should be checking in with mentors, mentees, and caregivers on a regular basis to see how things are going and whether there’s anything the program can do to help. Staff should also be available any time you have concerns or questions.
—What policies does the program have in place? Ideally, programs will have numerous policies in place to promote child safety. Some of these policies may include guidance on mandatory reporting of child safety issues, inappropriate behaviors, program requirements, social media and image usage, overnight visits and out-of-town travel, confidentiality, transportation, among others.
There are also steps you can take to ensure your child remains safe while engaged in a mentoring relationship.
—Read the program’s policies and procedures and ask questions about how the program handles safety if you have concerns.
—Don’t allow your child to participate in any unapproved activities with their mentor (for example, if the program doesn’t allow mentors and mentees to travel out of town together, help ensure all activities remain local).
—Talk to your child about how to stay safe when they are away from home.
—Ask your child often about how their mentoring relationship is going, and ask probing questions if you think something may be wrong.
—Report any concerns to mentoring program staff immediately, such as a change in your child’s behavior or a concern about how the relationship is going.
Research shows that having positive and ongoing support from several caring adults other than family members contributes to youth’s healthy development and can help them become more self-confident. Mentoring can help young people improve their grades and attitudes about school. Mentoring may also help students improve their classroom behavior, reduce absences, and enhance career prospects. And having a mentor can also help things go more smoothly at home as the youth experiences more successes and becomes more confident.
Mentors are as varied as the people in our community, but they all share in their desire to make a positive difference in the life of a young person. Nationally, 18 percent of all volunteers—11.5 million Americans—are involved in some kind of mentoring activity with young people. The majority of mentors (67%) are under the age of 40. Mentors are likely to be working full-time, taking time from their workday to volunteer.
Each mentoring program recruits mentors that align with the program’s goals. For some programs, that means that mentors may come from specific industries, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Some programs may recruit mentors will specific lived experiences, such as adults who were formerly involved in the foster care system. The majority of mentoring programs recruit mentors from all backgrounds and experiences. If you are looking for a mentor with a specific background or set of experiences for your child, you can let the mentoring program know upon enrolling your child.
Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee. A mentor can become a friend who can provide opportunities for gaining new skills and experiences that will help your child learn, grow and be successful. All children have the potential to succeed in life and can benefit from the demonstrated effects of mentoring, some of which include:
—Consistent school attendance
—Improved academic skills
—Access to new resources and experiences
—Additional support in developing new behaviors, attitudes, and ambitions
—Increased ability to seek and keep jobs
—Enhanced parent-child relationships
Mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as substantial as those for their mentees, and that mentoring has enabled them to:
—Achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves
—Improve their self-esteem and feel they are making a difference
—Gain a better understanding of other life experiences and develop a greater appreciation for diversity
—Feel more productive and have a better attitude at work
—Enhance their relationships with their own children
Above all, a good mentor is willing to take the time to get to know their mentee, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship.
Simply put, mentoring benefits everyone. All young people can benefit from a caring adult mentor—someone who says, “I see you, I got you, we’re in this together.”
In Virginia, a majority of mentoring programs work with young people who come from underserved communities that are systemically disadvantaged by laws, policies, and practices that shape disparities in opportunities and access in the United States across race, gender, class, and other identities. Research shows that having a mentor can make a powerful difference for youth who are impacted by systemic disadvantage, especially when the mentor shares the same gender and race as the young person.
Before becoming a mentor, there are a few things to understand about the role of mentoring. Most of us have had a teacher, supervisor, or coach who has been a mentor to us and made a positive difference in our lives. Those people wore many hats, acting as delegators, role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. Mentors assume these different roles during the course of a relationship, and share some basic qualities:
—A sincere desire to be involved with a young person
—Respect for young people
—Active listening skills
—Ability to see solutions and opportunities
When you join a mentoring program—and before you are matched with a young person—you will receive intensive training aimed at helping you understand and prepare for your role and responsibilities. Then, throughout your mentoring relationship, you’ll receive ongoing training and support. That training and support should address the majority of your concerns. If it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to ask questions!
Committing to mentor a youth comes with a lot of responsibility and may feel like brand new territory. You may worry that you won’t know how to do it. Try thinking about your background; you may have already been a mentor in informal situations. Maybe you helped a niece or nephew with schoolwork or listened to a youngster who thought nobody cared. In each instance, you were acting as a mentor. By joining a mentoring program, you are simply formalizing your commitment to help guide a young person. At the same time, you get the benefit of comprehensive training and ongoing support.
In general, being a mentor does not require any special skills. In fact, you probably already have what it takes! The most effective mentors are those who are patient, committed, and passionate about offering extra support to a young person. Successful mentors are consistent and caring, and help their mentees problem solve, practice good communication, and explore new experiences and ideas.
Some programs may recruit mentors from specific industries, such as STEM fields, to help achieve the program’s goals. Additionally, some programs may recruit mentors with specific lived experiences, such as former involvement in the foster care system. The majority of mentoring programs recruit mentors from all backgrounds and experiences.
Many mentoring organizations require that volunteers commit to the program for one year, usually for about an hour per week. Research demonstrates that a longer-term commitment provides the most benefits to the young person. That said, most mentoring programs will work with volunteers to find the most convenient time for mentor-mentee meetings. Schedule and time commitment also depends on the type of program that you volunteer with. For example, school-based programs meet at the school, during the school day, while site- or community-based programs may meet at a community center after school or on the weekends.
Tiffany has over 12 years of experience in community development and youth and family programming. She has worked at Communities in Schools of Richmond and the YMCA of Greater Richmond in youth development roles. She has a passion and commitment to social justice, education, and working with individuals and families through a trauma informed care lens. Tiffany is a part of the Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network, and volunteers with Comfort Zone Camp as a grief group facilitator.
In addition to serving as a Technical Assistance Consultant for MENTOR Virginia, Tiffany is also a contractor with Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC), an organization that works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success through inclusion. In her role, Tiffany facilitates educational programs on diversity and inclusion for schools in the Greater Richmond area, including retreats, forums, professional development, and customized workshops. Tiffany works full-time as a Behavioral Specialist for Richmond City Public Schools focusing on social emotional learning, restorative justice practices, and counseling for youth.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education with a minor in Nonprofit Management and her Masters degree in Social Work with a certificate in School Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She enjoys reading, watching action/suspense movies, and spending time with her partner Ellis and two dogs King and Duchess.
Alexandra is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she studied International Social Justice and Religious Studies. Alexandra found a passion for volunteering early and has volunteered with multiple organizations that focus on an array of different causes. Now serving the African American Alumni Council’s Mentoring Program at VCU through AmeriCorps VISTA, she’s learning the importance of mentoring in the lives of youth and the mentors who guide them. The AAAC’s Mentoring Circle is proud to offer African American/Black students the opportunity to connect and learn from African American/Black alumni; and Alexandra is proud to have been given the opportunity to strengthen the program for the future generations to come.
Cailey is a recent graduate of Dickinson College where she studied Political Science, Spanish, and Social Innovation and spent a semester in South America. Service has always been incredibly important to Cailey and throughout her undergraduate years, she worked for Dickinson’s center for community service, creating service opportunities for her peers and building partnerships with the local community. Cailey hopes to use the skills she will develop as a VISTA in a future career in nonprofit work and social change.
A deep believer in service that disrupts cyclical inequalities, Cailey is thrilled to work alongside Casa Chirilagua to support social safety nets for the predominantly Central American community Casa serves. As a VISTA Mentoring Program Coordinator, Cailey will focus on building capacity in Casa’s mentoring program by implementing sustainable systems and enhancing support for middle and high school aged mentees.
In her free time, Cailey enjoys homey things like yoga, crafting, cooking, and taking care of her plants and looks forward to music, art museums, and trying new restaurants when it’s safe to do so again.
Allyson F. Roberts has over 16 years of experience working in the field of youth mentoring. She worked with the Virginia Community College System for nearly 8 years, spending most of that time as the Assistant Director and Mentoring Coordinator for the Great Expectations program. Great Expectations is a program for students who have aged out of foster care with the purpose of providing support, a positive example, and encouragement to the foster care students to continue in school. The program works toward ensuring that every former foster youth in Virginia has a post-secondary credential leading to a family sustaining wage. The Great Expectations Education Program for Foster Youth was launched in 2008 at 5 community colleges. With Allyson’s leadership, the program was able to grow to include a total of 21 community colleges by 2017.
Prior to this position, Allyson was the Program Director for Virginia Mentoring Partnership (now MENTOR Virginia), a nonprofit organization that helps new and existing mentoring programs grow their quality and impact based on the Elements of Effective Practice, and trains volunteers to be qualified mentors. Allyson was with Virginia Mentoring Partnership for 8 years, first as a trainer and then as the Program Director.
Her previous professional experience includes working with Children’s Services doing protective service, adoptions, foster care, and abuse work. She also has worked as a mental health counselor for adults in a hospital setting where she specialized in group work and individual counseling. Allyson has a Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Social Work from Penn State University and a Masters in Adult Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.
My name is Andrea Wiegard, and I am currently serving as Mentoring Program Coordinator VISTA at ForKids in Norfolk. I have moved back into the Hampton Roads area this summer, moving from Orlando, FL where I lived for five years. My path to becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA is probably not the typical path. After spending years staying at home to raise my daughters, I wanted to become involved in helping my community as well as sharpening my office skills, utilizing my business/mass communication degree that had been underutilized in the recent past. I am appreciative that VISTA and ForKids has given me that opportunity.
My goal for this year is to develop and implement a successful mentoring program for children that we serve at ForKids. Ideally, we will have quality mentors that can enhance and build a relationship of support and friendship, while exploring new opportunities with their mentees.
I have a passion for Disney, the beach, Virginia Beach SPCA, and generally being outdoors as much as possible. I have two daughters: one has a political science degree from JMU and is a VISTA alum, the other is in the arts program at VCU and will graduate class ‘23.
Hello! Arya is beyond honored to be a part of AmeriCorps VISTA this year. A native of Northern Virginia and the product of immigrants, the importance of education and public service was engrained in her at a young age. Thus, Arya could not think of anything more worthwhile than AmeriCorps service in her beloved second home of Richmond, Virginia. Her work with MEGA Mentors involves assisting Chesterfield County Public Schools with virtual learning and making sure no child gets left behind. In addition to adjusting to virtual learning, Arya hopes to curate a successful model of virtual mentoring for underrepresented and marginalized youths in the school district.
Arya proudly graduated from the University of Richmond in 2020 with a B.A. in Biology, Healthcare Studies, and Anthropology. Her past education includes a semester study abroad at Queen Mary University of London, and Pre-K to 12th grade at Fairfax County Public Schools. After her service with AmeriCorps, Arya looks forward to departing for Peace Corps service as a Secondary Science Teacher in Mozambique.
Briana serves as the Mentor Program Coordinator VISTA at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA. During her service she will be working with three different mentor programs within the college. Each one focuses on a different student demographic group and their needs. The goal of each program is to promote and enhance their academic experience while they are at Germanna.
Briana is a 2019 graduate of James Madison University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a focus in Public Relations and Humanitarian Affairs. She is also a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Briana is thankful for the opportunity to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA this year and hopes to leave a lasting and positive impact on the Fredericksburg community.
Antonio Mielak has spent most of his time living and working in Virginia, since moving with his family from California as a boy. He has volunteered extensively throughout the country with different children’s anti-poverty and advocacy programs. He has worked in several aviation management roles as an enlisted air traffic controller for the navy, a teaching assistant at Hampton, and as a lead-agent and supervisor for airline ground operations at the Richmond International Airport.
He began a Service Year with AmeriCorps in 2019 as a literacy tutor in Richmond and continues to serve in the 2020-2021 VISTA cohort with MENTOR Virginia.
He enjoys playing tennis, reading, writing, and supporting advocacy work. He is an active member of the National PTA, the NAACP, and the Virginia Press Association. Antonio attended Hampton University, where he studied English Arts and Aviation Management.
Jessie Fittro first became involved with a mentorship program in her community as a young college student. Her time with the program began to challenge many of her views about herself and others, and the human systems that make up our world and impact how we each experience it, often so differently. She continued to grapple with the complexity, depth, and urgency of these matters while she completed her bachelor’s degree from Gordon College. Upon graduation, she pursued a career in the nonprofit sector before taking some time to work in other fields to develop various skills; however, she deeply missed the passion that she had felt working in a more direct way with vulnerable communities. She is very grateful to have the opportunity to spend a year with AmeriCorps where she hopes to learn and grow more from her work with the nonprofit organization, Abundant Life, that she is able to serve.
My name is Ayannah, I am an alumna of Virginia State University where I studied Health and Physical Education with a focus in Sport Management. I recently received my master’s degree in Sport Management at Virginia State University as well. I am serving as the VISTA STEM Mentoring Coordinator with the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Richmond’s East End. I love, and I am very much inspired by the people of Richmond, VA. A year with AmeriCorps is an amazing opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization and give back to the RVA area.
During my service, I am working with the Boys & Girls Club to build a group mentoring program that brings adults and teens together to learn and connect over exciting activities in the fields of science and technology. I hope to help create a sustainable program that will diversify the young minds of the RVA children.
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Yvonnia is a recent graduate of Old Dominion University where she studied Communications and Women’s Studies and developed an interest in Marketing. During her time at Old Dominion University, Yvonnia also spent a great deal of time mentoring for about a year and a half.
Combining her interest in marketing and mentoring, Yvonnia decided to become an AmeriCorps VISTA at Computers4Kids. She is very excited to be able to give back to the community by serving as a VISTA in her hometown.
During her service, Yvonnia will work with the C4K team to write a communications marketing plan focused on community outreach and youth voice, and to build a mentor retention plan.
Alexa is a proud alumna of the University of North Carolina, where she studied psychology and history. While working at UNC’s Child Development Institute as an undergraduate research assistant, Alexa discovered her passion for working with children and families. Upon completing her year of service, Alexa plans to follow her passion by earning a Master of Social Work degree and becoming an elementary school social worker. Working for Communities In Schools of Chesterfield as the VISTA Mentor Coordinator is an exciting opportunity to work within a nonprofit organization, learn from experienced student support staff, and support Chesterfield students and families.
During her year of service, Alexa is working to build a workplace mentoring program that will prepare students for post-high school careers by connecting them with supportive industry mentors and skill-building opportunities. She hopes to bring students and local businesses together to develop an impactful and sustainable program!
Stephanie has 4 years of nonprofit and state government experience in training development, volunteer management, and program coordination. A two-time AmeriCorps VISTA alumna, Stephanie first joined the MENTOR Virginia team in 2016 as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, where she supported a cohort of 13 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA national service volunteers working with mentoring programs throughout the state of Virginia. She rejoined MENTOR Virginia in 2020 as a technical assistance consultant, where she supports ongoing AmeriCorps VISTA projects through technical assistance.
In addition to TA consulting, Stephanie serves as a Coach Project Coordinator for Noom, where she leads health coaching training grounded in the principles of Motivational Interviewing, Appreciative Inquiry, and Nonviolent Communication. She is passionate about holistic wellbeing, advocating for the power of national service, and building sustainable and equitable solutions to social injustices.
Stephanie holds a Master of Education in Nutrition Education from Framingham State University and a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Lafayette College. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) and is preparing to become a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC).
Bianca Myrick is a native of Petersburg, Virginia, and the founder of Pretty Purposed, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering girls ages 9-14 through mentorship and activities that promote their physical, social, and emotional development. As a middle grades educator, Bianca has a passion for working with adolescents and saw a need in her community for a safe space where girls could grow and glow. As the founder, she continues to work with her team to build organizational capacity and increase opportunities for girls. Drawing upon her own life experiences, she knows that navigating through life as a woman can be challenging, and she believes everyone could use a mentor.
Bianca is a fierce advocate for building social, emotional, and conflict resolution skills that encourage healthy relationships. Domestic & intimate partner violence education is a passion of hers and she been a guest speaker for various events and organizations such as The YWCA Richmond, The James House & Petersburg Sheriff’s Department’s Walk a Mile in My Shoes Event, and the United States Army’s nationally known SHARP Summit, always speaking through the lens of encouragement and authenticity.
She is a 2010 graduate of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia State University, where she is currently an adjunct instructor empowering her freshmen students with tools to be successful in life. She has a masters degree in public administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, and hopes to receive her certificate in nonprofit management soon through the Duke University/Cameron Foundation Learning Series. Her goal is to continue nonprofit leadership and build her consulting career. Bianca enjoys reading, dancing, and having fun outdoors with her nine year old son.
A champion of youth leadership, mentoring, and academic enrichment programs, Rameka has more than 25 years of experience advocating for the growth and success of young people. A warm-natured, committed, and trusted leader, she has utilized her wide range of professional skills, including sharp problem-solving abilities and attention to detail, to help individuals and organizations overcome obstacles and achieve results. As a former Big Sister of Rhode Island, Program Director of Providence Summerbridge, Director of Kidz Klub, Director of Student Life at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, Program Manager of Mentors, Inc., Program Director of Eyes Wide Open Mentoring, and current James Farmer Scholar Instructor at the University of Mary Washington, Rameka is well-versed in applying research-based practices to strengthen and empower individuals, families, and communities. Rameka’s motto, “Students come first,” has enabled her to receive a host of awards and recognition in the communities that she has served.
John Harris specializes in program evaluation and survey development with a particular focus on assessing match characteristics. He has worked as an independent consultant supporting mentoring programs since 2000. He joined the MENTOR Virginia team as a Technical Assistance Consultant in 2016. The National Mentoring Resource Center’s work dovetails perfectly with John’s mission to make high-quality evaluation and consultation useful and affordable to all mentoring programs.
John is the lead author of the Match Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ) and the Youth Mentoring Survey (YMS), which are recommended by the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) and used around the world. His publications have focused on mentoring relationship quality and include peer-reviewed journal articles, toolkit contributions, and the chapters, “Assessing Mentoring Relationships,” in both editions of the Handbook of Youth Mentoring (DuBois & Karcher, Ed.s). In 2015, John partnered with the School Volunteer Program (now EdConnect) in Australia to develop an evaluation toolkit that won a National Social Impact award.
John earned his Masters at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education many, many years ago. He currently works and lives in Fairfax, VA, with his wife and two wonderful kids.
Melody is an alumna of Virginia Commonwealth University where she studied French and Spanish, and developed an interest in social policy and social justice issues. In further pursuit of those interests, she is earning her graduate degree in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University and serving as the VISTA STEM Mentoring Coordinator with the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Richmond’s East End. A year with AmeriCorps is an exciting opportunity to work within a non-profit organization and give back to the city that she calls home.
During her service, she is working with the Boys & Girls Club to build a group mentoring program that brings adults and teens together to learn and connect over fun activities in the fields of science and technology. She hopes to contribute to a sustainable initiative that has a positive and lasting impact on the lives of young people in Richmond.
My name is Emily Bolinger, and I am proud to be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Peter Paul Development Center in the East End of Richmond, Virginia. I am a recent graduate of James Madison University (GO DUKES!) where I double majored in Sociology and Anthropology, from which I decided I would like to dedicate my first year post-grad to exploring my passions for non-profit work and the humanities by serving a year with AmeriCorps. My primary initiative at Peter Paul is to help grow their mentoring program by increasing its capacity to ensure its longevity, as well as to help it expand from their central community center location to the surrounding elementary schools. Day by day, I am enjoying my job and the surrounding city more; I cannot wait to see what the future holds, for myself or the residents of the East End.
I recently graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia with a B.A. in Psychology, and completed my summer internship with the Parenting Education Programs at Fairfax County Department of Family Services. I stayed on at DFS after my internship, and currently work as an AmeriCorps VISTA as the Assistant Study Buddy Coordinator. I am passionate about working with kids, and hope to attend graduate school next fall to get my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and become a play therapist. In my free time, I enjoy going to my rec center, babysitting, dog-sitting, hiking, and teaching myself guitar. I am excited for a fun-filled year as an AmeriCorps VISTA!
Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Lynsey is excited to be living in the beautiful rolling hills of Charlottesville, VA. She currently serves as the Volunteer Coordinator at Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries, a community-based nonprofit in the Prospect Neighborhood. Lynsey graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in May with a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies, a course of study which opened her eyes to the inequities that plague the United States school system for those of lower socioeconomic status. She decided to spend this year working toward and learning more about community development through AmeriCorps before continuing studies in occupational therapy. Lynsey experienced first hand the transformative power of mentor relationships for both mentee and mentor as a Younglife leader in college. She is passionate about creating and supporting those relationships at Abundant Life in a way that will lead to mutual flourishing and understanding. Lynsey believes that in a world that is so often divided, relationships have the power to build bridges, affirm dignity, and broaden perspectives in individuals thus spurring integral changes to the community as a whole. She loves to read, explore the outdoors, go on a good walk or run, spend time with loved ones, and cook good food among many other things.
Jessica, a recent graduate of Appalachian State University, works to promote and advance partnership efforts. At ASU, Jessica took part in Alternative Service Experience programs that enabled her to engage in social justice causes, including socioeconomic disparities and racial inequalities. She also served as the Fundraising Chair for the most successful ASU Dance Marathon to date. Jessica received a degree in Communication Studies while double minoring in Sociology and Leadership Studies. Her academic and volunteer work reinforced her commitment to make a difference in the lives of others and played a big role in her desire to serve.
Tammie is the owner of Flawless Imperfections, LLC. She provides a safe supportive non-judgmental environment to a journey of emotional empowerment. Over the past 13 years, she has empowered women through coaching, public speaking, and domestic violence peer counseling. She has facilitated hundreds of workshops on forming healthy relationships, conflict resolution, effective communication, teen dating violence and sexual responsibility. Her workshops have been facilitated in women’s groups, public schools and juvenile correctional facilities. Through her work, Tammie has delivered training to over 500 youth annually. In addition, she contracted with a government agency as a field manager under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and traveled to various youth correctional facilities to conduct interviews with adjudicated youth regarding placement at the facility.
In 2008, Tammie founded Mentor, Encourage, Lift and Love, Inc., a community based organization providing life skills, educational workshops, and mentoring to teen parents. Between, 2008 and 2009 the organization hosted a diaper drive delivering over 4,000 diapers and baby wipes to a local transitional home in Odenton, Maryland.
Tammie has been interviewed on several local radio stations and newspapers. In November 2008, she was interviewed as a Comcast Newsmaker for her work with teen parents. Tammie has received several awards for her commitment and dedication to the community. The awards included the “Diva in Charge Award,” “The Educator Serving the Community Award,” “Circle of Grace Award,” and “Woman of Inspiration Award.” Her public speaking engagements have included Dwight C. Jones Mayors Day of Recognition, AmeriCorps State and National Symposium, and the National Governor’s Association Winter Meeting.
Tammie is a certified National Motherhood Facilitator, Girls for a Change Coach, and Maryland Mentoring Program Coordinator. She is an AmeriCorps alum, Adult Representative for Chesterfield’s County Youth Citizen Board for the Bermuda District, and a member of Chesterfield’s County Domestic Violence Task Force. Tammie is a wife and mother and resides in Chester, VA with her family.
Ashley Williams is a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) with 11 years of work experience within the field of education, mental health and juvenile justice in Central Virginia. She has implemented therapeutic interventions, programs and professional development trainings that combine mindfulness, movement, social-emotional learning techniques and mentoring in various settings including secondary schools, higher education institutions, detention and juvenile correctional centers, behavioral health programs, non-profits and adult education programs. Ashley is the Owner of bareSOUL Yoga & Wellness that offers daily yoga classes, private individual and group classes, educational workshops and yoga therapy sessions and other offerings that foster individual awareness, community building and holistic wellbeing. Ashley serves as a technical assistant consultant for MENTOR Virginia and a member of the Leadership Metro Richmond Class of 2019. In 2018, Ashley was recognized as Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 and Richmond Magazine’s Daring Woman of 2017. Ashley lives in Church Hill, RVA and enjoys learning and exploring all parts of Richmond, Virginia.
In her role, Katelyn is instrumental in supporting and enhancing the recruitment and non-profit partnership efforts. A passionate advocate for social justice and youth development, Katelyn graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Business Economics. While attending UCI, she worked with diverse groups of individuals — from first generation students to international students — through her participation in mentorship programs, club sports, and leadership organizations. During her service year, Katelyn hopes to make her organization more well known in the community, alongside advocating the importance of mentorship. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing by the pool, exploring new eateries, baking sweets, and catching up on TV shows. Katelyn has visited more than 10 countries and hopes her curiosity leads her to continue travelling throughout her life.
Hope Davis is a native Virginian from Spotsylvania. During her time at Marymount University, she studied English while performing with the university’s theater group and working with the Peer Mentoring Program. As a Peer Mentor, she was able to see how mentoring and education go hand-in-hand. During her year as a VISTA, she will be serving in her hometown at Germanna Community College, where she hopes to build a mentoring program that helps students realize their potential and allows mentors to feel supported by the program and by each other. In her spare time, Hope enjoys reading, writing, and yoga, and one day hopes to work in either theater or publishing.