Beyond the Billable recently attended a reception at Mayor Menino’s 2012 reception for the Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC). Over the years the BBA has provided mentors for this initiative, and we chatted with two of them to find out how they feel about donating their time to the MYC. Here’s what we learned.
The BBA first became involved in what would become the Mayor’s Youth Council in 1990 through its predecessor, the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Corps. The Corps represented a public-private partnership among the City of Boston, the BBA and Northeastern University. The aim of the program was multifold – to show Boston youth how the city and its’ many institutions worked, to develop leadership, encourage community service and promote personal growth in today’s young people. The foundations of the MYC reside firmly in roots of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Corps.
Since 1994, the BBA has been proud to provide the MYC with lawyer-mentors. In addition to attending bi-monthly meetings at Boston City Hall, the mentors guide students through their program goals and help develop their skills in a variety of different capacities – including executing and leading meetings. Here at Beyond the Billable, we wanted to find out from our mentors what it means to give their time to the MYC.
Tonight, I begin my 8th year as a BBA mentor for the MYC. I participate because I support the BBA’s focus on helping Boston’s kids. Also, I like to think that my service honors the men and women who mentored me at a time when a professional career was anything but a certainty.
Our role as BBA mentors has numerous facets. Each year, the MYC representatives identify an issue or two that are important to their lives as teenagers. e.g., school nutrition, public safety and violence prevention, civility on the “T,” substance abuse, summer jobs, and after-school programs. With the help of the Mayor’s staff, the kids then design a program to learn more about the issues and to share what they’ve learned by “outreach” to their peers at schools, neighborhood libraries, and recreation centers. The mentors assist the MYC’s planning by steering the discussions to focus on the specific issue and goal. Sometimes, we ask questions to generate more thinking and discussion while at other times we try to answer questions, especially when the roles of law and government are pertinent.
Occasionally, we share an anecdote to illustrate a point. For example, a few kids scoffed at the notion of teens taking a minimum wage or no-pay summer job. I explained that I began working at 16 years old for $1.60 per hour. That employer is now a major client and I believe I was selected as its counsel in part because I had swept the floors. I also related how I volunteered many after-school hours working on a recycling program for my hometown, which in turn was the seed for a lifelong interest and career in environmental law. They now understand that our journeys begin with small steps.
I participate in Mayor’s Youth Council as a means to engage publicly with Boston-area high school students (a portion of the city’s population with which I would otherwise have little interaction) and to be a resource to those students as they embark upon their college years and begin to think about what they want to do with their lives.
The Mayor’s Youth Council has a lot in common with the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. It is a year-long program made up of members selected after a competitive application process. The key goals of Mayor’s Youth Council are to foster leadership among its members and to serve as a vehicle for outreach to the larger community of high school students in Boston. In addition to attending regular meetings, MYC members are involved in planning and carrying out a limited number of projects through the year (for example, this year, the Council conducted a resume workshop).
Being a mentor is a rewarding and low-stress activity that involves attending the bi-monthly Council meetings at City Hall and facilitating debate and discussion among Council members regarding issues affecting youth in the City of Boston. Outside of regularly-scheduled meetings, mentors are often involved in facilitating the Council’s special projects. This year, I attended the resume-writing workshop with another BBA volunteer and provided tips and feedback to high school students preparing resumes for summer jobs and college admissions.
The MYC consists of 36 students selected to represent their neighborhoods as volunteers on this citywide board. Many of these young leaders are selected to participate in the BBA Summer Jobs Program. Each class of the Council establishes an annual program agenda and works to meet these goals throughout the year. The 2011-2012 MYC class focused on issues of education, health, youth development, neighborhood safety, environment and communications. They held meetings with community leaders including the Executive Director of the Boston Youth Fund to discuss Boston’s teen job strategy and a representative from the Boston Police Department to address concerns regarding healthy and positive youth and police partnerships.