Karen’s Blog: Storming the Halls of Congress for Kids

By Dr. Karen D. Johnson

Last week I had the privilege of attending the MENTOR National Mentoring Summit in Washington, DC. Approximately 1,500 representatives of over 500 mentoring organizations from around the country gathered to advance their knowledge and build their network. The event kicked off with a Capitol Hill Day, where I joined with leaders from You Matter Too, Zuri’s Circle, University of Arizona School of Medicine, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona to meet with offices of Arizona elected officials. We met with representatives of Sen Mark Kelly, Sen Kyrsten Sinema, and Rep Debbie Lesko to ask for their continued support of the federal mentoring grant, encouraged them to join the Mentoring Caucus, and invited them to learn more about our work back home in Phoenix. I was proud to be at the table with these fellow leaders to advocate for the youth we serve. Please know that our representatives in Congress care about our work and are interested in supporting us.

The conference kicked off with two full days of workshops, plenary sessions, and exhibits. I had the opportunity to learn more about mentoring in the criminal justice system, about emotional intelligence and attunement, and about best practices for mentoring. At each session, I was able to talk with others who are working in similar organizations and who face similar challenges and opportunities. My NPFY colleague Emily also attended, so we had the chance to “divide and conquer” the sessions so we can bring back twice as much information home.

When I wasn’t talking to elected officials or attending workshops, I squeezed in as many sightseeing stops as possible. I toured the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Portrait Gallery, and Ford’s Theater and Museum. I was excited to see the new Obama portraits, the capitol rotunda, the original founding documents, and the house where Lincoln died. I tried to make the most out of the trip and enjoy everything our nation’s capitol has to offer. I’m grateful that I was able to represent New Pathways for Youth at the event and excited about the new ideas and relationships I brought home.