DPR Hosts Events to “Mentor the Mentors” in Maryland

DPR’s Washington, DC, office spent the past few months providing the kids enrolled in the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center (MMYC) summer program with new and different experiences – from introducing them to Indian cuisine during a series of international presentations to hosting a series of sports clinics to whisking them away to the Chesapeake Bay for a camping weekend. In late August, the office decided to turn its attention to the team of AmeriCorps members who work at MMYC and help keep its tutoring program running smoothly throughout the year.

“The initiative – dubbed ‘mentoring the mentors’ – is a way to recognize MMYC staff who commit so much of their time and energy to leading the youth at MMYC,” said Jenn Bollenbacher, a marketing coordinator in DPR’s DC office.

Bollenbacher was among six DPR employees who organized and led two activities for the AmeriCorps members and MMYC staff. On Aug. 23, she, along with DPR’s Henry Ashton, Tim Maffett and Dan Crutchfield, brought a group of 14 AmeriCorps members to Torrid Paintball Sports in Clarksburg, MD, for a friendly battle on the outdoor field course.

A day earlier, the group was invited to Earth Treks’ Climbing Center in Rockville, MD, by DPR’s Information Technology Capability Lead, Bill McCracken, and Mike Kessler, a project manager, both whom have been climbing for more than 20 years. There, the group was treated to two hours of instructions, warm up and rock climbing, capped off by pizza for lunch.

According to Dianna Petitt, the DPR Foundation liaison for the Washington, DC, office, the events were paid for with discretionary funds provided to the office by the DPR Foundation in 2012 to help raise volunteerism within DPR and provide extra support to the designated organizations.

“There is a synergy when you take dedicated, motivated people, such as the AmeriCorps members, and pair them in an activity with successful people in the workforce,” Petitt said. “By using these discretionary funds, we hope to get more people from DPR involved while focusing on the people who do so much for MMYC.”

Both McCracken and Bollenbacher said the events were met with enthusiasm and appreciation from the AmeriCorps members. According to McCracken, the rock climbing event was such a success that they hope to repeat it for the AmeriCorps team and possibly host a similar event for the MMYC kids in 2014.

“We definitely plan on organizing more events like these in the future. Part of our 2014 planning process is to include activities geared toward developing the MMYC team,” Bollenbacher said.

McCracken added that he and Kessler originally met in a rock climbing facility in the 1990s and have been long looking for a way to introduce the activity to the DPR Foundation’s slate of events.

That thinking aligns perfectly with these types of mentor events, according to Bollenbacher. “I hope it also showed other employees that the DPR Foundation is able to support any type of engagement they want – it can be athletic like paintball or rock climbing, or it can be academic, artistic, historical, etc. We want our employees to know that the foundation cares about getting them involved in any way they want to be.”

MMYC, which provides educational support/tutoring, cultural enrichment, nutrition, summer programs and physical activities to middle school youth, is a member of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) family of organizations. LAYC is a multicultural, regionally based organization whose mission is “to support youth and their families to live, work, and study with dignity, hope, and joy.” Founded in 1968, LAYC was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1974 for the purpose of serving “at-risk” immigrant Latino youth. Since its inception, the agency has grown from a small grassroots recreation center serving primarily for Latino youth to a nationally recognized organization with a broader focus encompassing all youth and families across the District of Columbia and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland.

The Maryland Multicultural Youth Center is one of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $845,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2012. To date, the DPR Foundation has supported MMYC with grants totaling $285,000. In addition to participating in the summer program, DPR employees provide support and first aid/CPR and other training throughout the school year.