TINA and RODNEY CULBREATH

Why are local school systems more comfortable accepting problems rather than offering solutions? Several articles over summer months featured the I’M JUST ME MOVEMENT (JMM), a direct response to the crisis going on in our schools and communities. The Movement may enrich resource opportunities already provided by the school systems to address their concerns about lack of equity or safety, and instill a culture of inclusion, diversity, and overcoming adversity. This 501©3 not-for-profit youth mentoring program provides education, training, and mentoring. It is the only minority-led nonprofit on the Our Health Campus. Our goal is to identify and mentor youths who face turbulent transitions to adulthood and offer a positive support system to avoid the pitfalls that can derail their lives. Local school systems have been reluctant to let us contribute. Why not explore this resource further, certified individuals who work with youth in crisis, especially as dropout rates rise?

Family Peer Recovery Specialists (trained by Virginia Department of Behavioral Health) are approved by the National Mentor Program, hold numerous certifications, operate an evidence-based program, and offer individual and group sessions in the community. We would like to be part of the answer.

Even as expensive “experts” work with educators (but not students), retreat to review problematic community data (that elicits more questions than it answers, according to Superintendent Van Heukelum), implement a summer program for at-risk youths in 8th and 9th grade (WPS: $840,846), schools continue to accept bullying, stereotyping, and exclusion (last year 20 dropped out; 30 didn’t graduate) despite educators’ best efforts. Teachers teach; mentors support and promote positive school attendance and behavior while addressing struggles interfering with student achievement.

Unresolved experiences elicit destructive behaviors contributing to young people falling through the cracks at school or becoming entangled in juvenile court systems. Working with incarcerated youths (Juvenile Detention Center--nearly 300 since November 2017), our goal has been to keep them from further brushes with the law while learning proactive coping strategies. Our programs serve as an alternative to more serious sentencing and may be an option: over 100 youth in the court system currently need JMM services, but at this time, there are no state funds available. Outside the prison system, WPS and FCPS have mainstream and alternative programs, both filled with youths who meet defeat in a school environment they find hostile and belittling. Why not offer them hope?

Our organization could be a lifesaver for young people who consider detrimental ways to cope and families often equally traumatized and needing resources. Why not offer an opportunity to make dramatic change and live life forward? Consider the costs: school mentoring program vs jail? Do the math. Let’s interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and build healthy communities by taking a chance on a local organization with community leaders who are able and willing to assist: I’M JUST ME MOVEMENT.

Tina and Rodney Culbreath are the founders of the I’m Just Me Movement, a non-profit organization located on the Our Health Campus.

Tina and Rodney Culbreath are the founders of the I'm Just Me Movement, a non-profit organization located on the Our Health Campus.

(2) comments

rodzare12

corrected version on my post
We are just one resource, on the list of the many organizations that see our community in need and problems we can solve together. We have to find ways to empower the voices of our youth and young pepole....It's not about us, Tina and I, just happen to have been those youth and young people that we talk about. If you were to sit across from us as children, without mentors- you’d most likely not come to the conclusion that we would be in a situation to empower youth. It was a mentor that saved our lives! Yes, it was more than just that mentor, there were teachers who could reach us, and not just me, also reach my family—Helping my mom with the resources needed to help us.

People don't realize —It is so much more than just mentoring it is being authentic, and commonalities. This is where the hope and the possibilities come in. Youth and young people are dealing with issues not only in school, but with life itself. Life comes with barriers, and some young people will not make if they are not we not reached sooner than situations are more critical. The reality of not finishing school, becoming hooked on drugs, or even joining a gang or worst suicide. School systems should focus more on providing a place of success and not failures. For youth to be successful in life and in most cases breaking down generational stigma—we must build bridges to the future not pipelines to prison. Helping to understand and process through the underlying trauma that some youth and young people are facing and going through in life, helping them make with a plans with a support system. Youth and young people have to be assured that he or she is of value, and we as adults must be that example. Setting forth a future that they can see themselves in and assuring them that they are not environmental factors - but that they are their own hopes,aspirations and dreams.... -Rodney

rodzare12

We are just one resource to the many organizations who see a community in need and problems we can solve together.We have to find away to empower the voices of our youth and young pepole....It's not about us, we just happen to have been those youth and young people we talk about and when you sit across from us we were once those kids and without that mentor investment in me I most likely wouldn't be here. It was more than just that mentor but it was those teachers who could reach me and not just me but my family and helping my mom with the resources needed to help us.People don't realize It is so much more than just mentoring it is being authintic and that is where the hope and the possibility comes in. Youth and young people are dealing with issues not just in school and it is life itself that comes with barriers and some will not make it if we not reaching them before it is a critical risk of not finishing school or becoming hook to a drug, or joining a gang or worst suicide....we have to one day change the school systems to a place to of success and not failurel but a place to prepare our youth to be successful in life and in most cases breaking down generational stigma, we must build our youth a future not pipelines to prison and understand the underline trauma that most youth and young people are facing and going through life with a plan or support system. A youth and a young person has to be insured he or she is of value and we as adults most be that example and set forth a future they can see themselves in and know they are not their enviormental factors but they are their own inspiration and dreams.... -Rodney

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