Mentoring Summit Recap ft. Open Field

Justin Forzano, Founder and CEO of Open Field, was a Summit Fellow at this year's National Mentoring Summit.  Here, he sounds off on some of his key takeaways and why the Summit can be a useful tool for professional development and program planning.

What were your top 3 takeaways from this year's mentoring summit?  

My top 3 takeaways from the mentoring summit are:

  • Get youth/mentees involved at all levels of program development. One organization shared their experience with having youth serve on their board of directors and having their own youth council that assisted in decision making.

  • Recognize, validate and consider the historic context when working with Black and Brown people in the United States. The systems of oppression that built the country are still in place and in order to support young people to thrive within/despite them, it's more than just building them up as individuals.  We must consider ways we can impact and ultimately dismantle these systems.

  • Relationships are everything and simple interactions can leave a lasting impact. We never know how we will impact someone, so the more our Everyday Mentors are aware of the power they wield and are supported in developing positive relationships with youth, the better!

How will you directly apply what you learned to your day-to-day program work?

The impact on our day-to-day programs and operations will look like this: more youth involvement. We will create a youth council here in Pittsburgh, similar to the ones we have in Cameroon, and give them a more active role in the planning and development of programs. I also intend to talk with the Board of Directors to identify ways we can incorporate youth involvement at higher levels of organizational growth and strategy. 

What would you say to other local programs who may be considering a trip to the Summit next year?

I would definitely encourage colleagues in local mentoring organizations to attend and participate in the Summit in the future. Obviously, the 2021 Summit looked very different from last year (pre-pandemic) and I am optimistic that the 2022 event will be in-person and I hope to attend. It would be great to have a solid Pittsburgh contingent present!

Download our free encouragement cards to send to a young person in your life!

TMP teamed up with Fred Rogers Productions to create encouragement cards that make it easy to check in with a little note and a smile!  Featuring some of our favorite Fred Rogers characters – including Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat – these cards can be downloaded and printed for a quick snail mail check-in.  You can also screen shot them to email or text to your young person.  Click here to download them!