Putting a spin on Valentine’s Day and mentoring!

“Valentines…the only day a baby gets violent and shoot arrows at innocent bystanders and we think it’s cute.”

I’m attempting to write a witty intro for an interview I’m about to tape on Connecting Point, the WGBY show I host & produce…and this is the only one I can think of at the moment.

I don’t get the point of the holiday and refuse to celebrate it. Never have, never will– although admittedly, that’s been harder to live by recently as I’ve gotten older, less of a rebel and found someone that I actually care about. I kinda broke the rules last year though- and no, it didn’t involve a tall handsome Greek man. Just a handful of tween girls and some junk food.

Sadly, most girls think that Valentine’s Day must include a boy in some shape or form…and I’m talking girls that aren’t even old enough for high school or can even drive yet. The last thing they should be worried about is being with a boy. Last year I set about to change that mindset with some pre-teen girls I had been mentoring in my hometown back in NY.

We set up a spa night at a local church’s basement. We ate pizza. We wore mud masks and did our nails. My 2 year old niece was the makeup artist of the night.

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I may have thought I was teaching them how to stand apart from the “norm” or how to look past skin color and ethnicity and be friends with “that girl across the room” but instead they were teaching me. Everything silly from rap lyrics (they threw in the word ‘Greek’ as a nod to my ethnicity) to serious stuff like how prevalent peer pressure is nowadays especially on social media.

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Although I now live further west in the Pioneer Valley, I still look back at last year and relish that night not just as a way I could teach younger girls but also what they taught me. Sometimes when mentoring, you may think the child is receiving the benefit of the relationship and while you hope they grow and learn from it…you may be surprised to learn that we adults can benefit just as much.

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Mentoring is so important because if a child doesn’t believe that someone cares about them, they will in turn not care for themselves or the people around them and a general dislike for life puts them in a very bad place that can negatively impact them and those around. If, however, that child or tween or young adult has someone who believes in them, they are more likely to turn around one day and not just be a better member of society but also a mentor themselves.

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Like most other mentors, I could rattle off a list of people that touched and helped form my life: my dad, my mom, my grandparents, my teachers, my church, even my neighbors…but without all of their help, I would’ve never been able to reach out to a younger generation and “pay it forward.”

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So this year, whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or the ridiculousness behind it, find a way to be a mentor and impact someone’s life.

Just stay away from babies with arrows.

They might turn into pre-adolescent girls that’ll change your perspective on Valentine’s Day!

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*as originally seen here: http://massmentoring.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/putting-a-spin-on-valentines-day-and-mentoring/

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BFF = Best Furry Friend

They say dog is man’s best friend but if it were possible to have someone closer than a best friend, something tells me that’s how a correctional officer and his K9 partner would view each other.

A couple months ago, I visited the Connecticut Department of Correction’s K9 Unit in Enfield and met an extraordinary team of “officers”…and their human owners. (Any pet person would say their furry friends are really the ones in charge!)

These dogs are fearless and yet inspiring at the same time. They have no qualms about standing up, in between or for their human counterpart -the corrections officer.

Yes, everyone is familiar with the CO- whether through movies, a TV series or you may even know one in real life…but what you see on TV or from far isn’t always realistic. It might be surprising to learn that 31% of CO’s have PTSD- even higher than Iraq war veterans!

Maybe it’s that “out of sight, out of mind” theory– because we don’t see the CO as often as we would see a soldier or even police officer or firefighter, we forget the risks and stress they go through on a continual basis. While they are inside the prison walls dealing with what most of us on the outside would never want or could comprehend in our lives, they also must fight to keep their physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being …and at the same time, maintain the peace as much possible in a world where calm can turn to chaos at a moment’s notice.

The health risks are astoundingThe high rates of divorce, alcoholism and stress often go unnoticedBut not much is out there to understand and fix the problem.

So you can imagine the bond between a K9 dog and a correctional officer who are in this “fight” together. Peering from the outside in on my field shoot, I felt the bond but I’m sure no words or TV segment could explain the connection between these two.

Watch Connecting Point on 2/13 Thursday night at 7:30 to hear correctional officers express their love and concern… not for themselves or their own safety, but for their canine partners- and maybe it’ll bring a different perspective to the phrase, “A man’s best friend is his dog.”

p.s. I left the best part out- hear how Vested Interest was able to step forward and go one “paw” further in protecting these dogs who, in turn, protect their best friend- the corrections officer.

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