Inspiring people to experience the power of their dreams
Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                     October 2010
Can Mentoring Work Wonders? Yes it can!

President Barack Obama said in honor of the 2010 National Mentoring Month:

  • The great poet and author Maya Angelou didn't discover poetry until her mentor took her to the tiny library at her school and challenged her to read every book in the room.
  • Co-founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, was an incorrigible troublemaker until his 4th grade teacher took him under her wing and convinced him to focus on math instead of mischief. That turned out pretty well.
  • Ray Charles first discovered his gift for music when, at the age of three, his next-door neighbor taught him how to play the piano.
  • And it was the enthusiasm of her mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, that drew Dr. Carol Greider to the groundbreaking work in genetics that would win both of them the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Interview of Dr. Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate, 2009

Interview of Karen Mathis, President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Interview of Akwasi Oppong, Mentor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest

Interview of Tony Lashley, Sidwell Friends Student

Book Summary: Happy Peasants, Miserable Millionnaires
Dear Reader,

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others"
– Gandhi

There are many ways to lose – and find – yourself. One such is by becoming an e-mentor to a buddy; see my teen-to-teen mentoring program E-Family Worldwide at
www.e-familyworldwide.org. We can change a life – not least our own. Come try!

This issue of Empower includes interviews on mentoring with the President and CEO of the 100 year old mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters, BBBS, as well as with an experienced BBBS mentor of 7 years. This is a terrific way to give back to the community.

It also features an interview on community service with a 2009 Nobel Laureate. Then there’s a write-up on a Sidwell student’s recent community service experience. And finally, a summary of a recent book about happy peasants and miserable millionaires.

Lara Mitra, Editor
Stanford Universirty

Two Children, Mali
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Lara Mitra: How did it feel to be told you had won the Nobel Prize?
Dr. Ostrom: I was very surprised to find out I had been awarded the Nobel Prize. I was not expecting it. It
was a great honor and a great surprise.

Lara Mitra: What are the implications of your research for community service or volunteerism?
Can communities be relied upon to look after the less privileged among them?
Dr. Ostrom: There are no automatic processes that lead groups to engage in community service. What we
know is that when there are individuals who take some of the responsibility for getting people together and
discussing their needs then communities can, and do organize, for that purpose. It is not an automatic
process. Once they get started and begin to get one activity undertaken, they usually can involve other
groups and move on to still others. What is key is getting the trust established that they are actually doing
something and that others will contribute and that together people will make a difference.

Lara Mitra: How can the power of the "commons" be harnessed to address social (not just
environmental) problems? Can you give an example?
Dr. Ostrom: We are looking at the commons as they may relate to healthcare at the initiative of some
scholars who are working on better ways of coping with our healthcare system. While the relationship
between a doctor and a patient is usually "private," if doctors find ways of networking more effectively
with local hospitals, e.g., if doctors have access to patient information across hospitals, etc., they can
reduce the costs of healthcare in a community while at the same time increasing the quality of the service.
This is a recent development, and we will have some further work on this in another 2-3 months.

Lara Mitra: Your work shows that people are capable of acting in the common interest rather than
just their own personal interest. Are there any steps governments or the private sector can take to
ensure that they will?
Dr. Ostrom: No, there are no definite steps. However, if a local government starts taking a real interest
and backs the efforts of neighborhoods and voluntary groups then that can make a big difference. In
Indianapolis, for example, the local government engaged in a rather major tree planting effort. The city
planted the trees at the city's cost. Then the problem was how to get them watered so that they would
survive. Different neighborhoods took this on in different ways, but those groups that decided to meet
regularly every Saturday and water the trees in their neighborhood found this to be the most satisfactory
way. That got them together and talking and learning about other neighborhood activities that needed to be
taken on. In this instance, the city's effort to add more trees to the city started a process that in some
neighborhoods has led to still other voluntary activities.

Interview of Dr. Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate,
2009 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences
The first political scientist and first woman ever to win this prize!
Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                   October 2010
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Dr. Ostrom’s Nobel Prize Winning Research Refuting the “Tragedy of the Commons”

Based on her and colleagues research in Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, and other countries, Ostrom shows that "When local users of a forest have a long-term perspective, they are more likely to monitor each other's use of the land, developing rules for behavior." Whereas the "Tragedy of the Commons" had led people to believe that private property was the only effective method to prevent finite resources from being depleted, according to Joseph Stiglitz, Ostrom has demonstrated the existence of social control mechanisms that regulate the use of the commons without having to resort to formal property rights. "What we have ignored is what citizens can do and the importance of real involvement of the people involved," Ostrom explains.

From:http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/reclaiming-the-commons; and http://www.stwr.org/economic-sharing-alternatives/elinor-ostroms-nobel-prize-tragedy-of-the-commons-rip.html

Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                      October 2010
Nobel Prizes: What Are They?
From Encyclopædia Britannica
  • The Nobel Prizes are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards given for intellectual achievement in the world. Using a fund bequeathed for that purpose by the Swedish dynamite inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel, they are awarded annually since 1901 ―to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind,‖ one each for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace, and beginning in 1969 for Economic Sciences also.

  • Each Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money, the amount of which depends on the income of the Nobel Foundation (A sum of $1,300,000 accompanied each prize in 2005).

  • Some prizes have been declined by their winners, and in certain instances governments have refused to allow their citizens to accept them. Those who win a prize are nevertheless entered into the list of Nobel laureates with the remark ―declined the prize.‖ Motives for non-acceptance may vary, but most often the reason has been external pressure; for example, in 1937 Adolf Hitler forbade Germans in the future from accepting Nobel Prizes because he had been infuriated by the award of the 1935 Peace Prize to the anti-Nazi journalist Carl von Ossietzky, who at the time was a political prisoner in Germany.


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Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                       October 2010
Lara Mitra: What have been BBBS's biggest achievements in the last few years?

Ms. Mathis: Educating the public that children in our programs (those of single,low-income and incarcerated parents) can achieve in school and succeed in life.

Lara Mitra: How do you ensure a steady supply of good mentors?

Ms. Mathis: Partnerships -- fraternities, Univision, African Methodist Episcopal church -- have been a great way for us to recruit male mentors, particularly African American and Hispanic mentors. Young boys from these backgrounds disproportionately represent those waiting to be matched.

Lara Mitra: How do you ensure a good match between mentors and mentees?

Ms. Mathis: A great deal of attention is devoted to the entire matching process, from the initial screening to the final pairing. Beyond that, we provide ongoing support and supervision to the Big, the Little, and the Little’s family. We offer training and advice to help ensure that the match is working for everyone involved. It is this web of support that helps maximize the likelihood that the Big Brother Big Sister relationship will thrive. Such support differentiates us from other mentoring groups. It's why our mentoring lasts long and is effective.

Lara Mitra: What are some of the challenges BBBS faces and how do you plan to address them?
Ms. Mathis: Educating the public that we need funding as well as mentors...that

Interview of Karen Mathis, President and CEO of
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of America
funding allows us to serve more kids. We will soon launch Start Something, an effort to reposition the focus of our organization and attract more donors by convincing them that mentoring can help kids achieve their potential. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx2l8K6xNKM

Lara Mitra: How do you measure the success of BBBS?

Ms. Mathis: By the length and strength of mentoring matches. Both are showing improvement.

Lara Mitra: What changes, if any, do you plan to make in your program over the next few years?

Ms. Mathis: We plan to develop more mentoring partnerships in school districts with high dropout rates.
Interview of Karen Mathis, President and CEO of
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of America.

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Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                     October 2010
Interview of Akwasi Oppong, BBBS Big Brother and
Member of the Board of Directors, BBBS of Central Mass/Metrowest
Big Brother Akwasi with Little Brother Danny
Lara: How long have you mentored a child through BBBS? How long have you stayed
with the same child? What kept you going?

Akwasi: I was first introduced to BBBS in 1997 when I heard a report on President Clinton’s Summit for America’s future which was championed by General Collin Powell and which dealt with the importance of making a positive difference in children’s lives. This was the very thing I had always wanted to be part of. In May 1998, I was matched with my little brother, Danny.
Even though my role in the organization changed over the years, I was always an active mentor to my little brother. I stayed with him for about 7 years which was longer than most, but this little brother deserved extra attention due to medical and family conditions. My motivation for staying so long with my little brother was knowing that a child’s life was being touched and the difference was very evident.

Lara: What difference did you see in your buddy as a result of your mentoring?

Akwasi: Danny had developed great social and people skills, his grades had gone up and the organization strongly recommended I stay with him to sustain the progress. One highlight was when I participated in Danny’s school on community reading day when professionals come in their uniform to read books to elementary school children. I kept it a total secret from Danny, so when I showed up in his classroom with a book and all I could see on his face was ―What are you doing here?‖ I made the class aware that I had come there to honor my little brother, Danny.

Lara: What difference did you see in yourself as a result of your mentoring?

Akwasi: My mentoring experience started when I was in college and I learned personal responsibility, leadership, and how to be a mentor, and I even believe I learned some parenting skills which I am using today with my own daughters. I like this question because it has always been my selling point in functions to recruit volunteers. I always emphasize the skills the volunteers will themselves acquire through being mentors.

Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                   October 2010
Lara: How can the BBBS mentoring program be improved?

Akwasi: I believe building a greater community for the Big Brother and Big sisters through events where they can exchange ideas and also build camaraderie will help boost the confidence of many young people to continue mentoring. Online social networking sites are making this possible now in some way, however, creating many opportunities for the mentor to develop and have a sense of belonging will go a long way. Furthermore, having more activities for the children or buddies will offer them more opportunities to meet other children like them. I must say a lot is being done but, as with other things, there is always room for improvement.
100 Years of Big Brothers Big Sisters
For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential through pairing them up with adult mentors in a one-to-one relationship.

It all started in 1904, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement.

Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters operates in all 50 states of America—and in 12 countries around the world.

Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, looked at over 950 boys and girls from eight Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the country in 1994 and 1995.
Interview of Tony Lashley, Sidwell Friends School Student
Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                     October 2010
Lara: What were your specific responsibilities at the Family Infant and Child Care Center?

Tony: I helped assist the teachers and classroom assistants engage the kids (who ranged from two to five) in a array of activities, from playing sports with the them to reading them stories to helping feed the younger children.

Lara: What, in your opinion, was your main contribution to the children there?

Tony: I think that my most valuable contribution to the kids was the ability to be a good role model. Few know that I spent a year at the Family Infant and Child Care Center when I was little because my food allergies and eczema were so severe.
I understood what most of the kids were going through and could relate to them quite easily.

Lara: Did your volunteering experience change you in any way? If so, how?

Tony: My volunteering experience made me appreciative of the opportunities I had been handed, as I saw many kids who reminded me of myself when I was much younger, but they did not have the opportunities I had.
Lara: Do you have any suggestions for improving the program? How could it be made more effective?

Tony: I think the program could be improved through more publicity as it as an excellent program that is relatively cheap compared to private alternatives, yet it still has faced some financial difficulties.

Lara: How did it feel to be selected Arc of Montgomery County, 2009 Volunteer of the Year?

Tony: It was a tremendous honor to receive the award knowing that I was able to give back a little piece of all the Arc of Montgomery had given me.
Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                     October 2010
In her recent book ―Happiness Around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionnaires,‖ Carol Graham discusses what determines happiness and misery and which of these might contribute to human progress. She finds that some people can adapt to tremendous adversity and be happy, while others can also have virtually everything – including good health – and be miserable. She suggests that because poorer people have lower expectations, they can be more content with their current positions and therefore, be happier. Yet Graham theorizes that unhappiness can be beneficial in motivating one to change his/her circumstances for the better as in the case of an ambitious but frustrated CEO who works hard to get what he thinks he should have. The conclusion Ms. Graham draws is that happiness depends on expectations and on the ability to adapt, and the implication for public policy is that certain aspects of happiness (such as the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives) are worth pursuing, while others (such as contentment that leads to complacency) may not be.
See ―Happiness Around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionnaires,‖ Carol Graham, OUP, 2010.
Happy Peasants, Miserable Millionnaires
Book by Carol Graham; Summary by Lara Mitra

Interview of Tony Lashley, Sidwell Friends School Student
Did You Know?
  • What you have in relation to what you want determines contentment.
  • What you want in relation to what you think you should have determines expectation.
  • What you think you will get in the future more than what you have (hope) determines happiness.
Based on: ―Happiness Around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionnaires, Carol Graham, OUP, 2010.
Carol Graham, Book Author
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Empower                                                                        Issue 5                                                                    October 2010
Page 9
Toney Lashley: Arc of Montgomery County
2009 Volunteer of the Year
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Dr. Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate
Approximately half of the children were randomly
chosen to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister.
The others were assigned to a waiting list.
The matched children met with their Big Brothers or
Big Sisters about three times a month for an average
of one year.

Researchers surveyed both the matched
and unmatched children, and their parents on two
occasions: when they first applied for a Big Brother
or Big Sister, and again 18 months later.

Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in the program, were:

• 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
• 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
• 52% less likely to skip school
• 37% less likely to skip a class
• 33% less likely to hit someone

From: http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5961035/

Community Service Opportunities



Lara Mitra

Dr. Elinor Ostrom
Karen Mathis
Akwasi Oppong
Tony Lashley
Carol Graham
Lara Mitra

Special Thanks To:
David Connell, Director of Community Service, Upper School, Sidwell Friends School