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Currents - May/June 2012 Annual Meeting 2012 Remarks from Mary Pender Greene, Sheilah Mabry, and Kri
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Annual Meeting 2012

Opening Up New Dimensions of Mentoring and Networking is Focus of Keynote Address

The Annual Meeting Planning Committee, chaired by Chapter First Vice President, Gwen Butler, intended to draw out the special significance of mentoring to the profession and its vital role. New professionals frequently cite the need for mentors, and the recipients of the Chapter’s Emerging Leadership Awards report that the key ingredient in their own development was the mentors they have had. Emerging leaders also talked about barriers to forming mentoring relationships, especially when supervisors or others hold back. Given the mutuality involved in mentoring, the theme was not just for new professionals, it was for all of us.

Mary Pender Greene’s keynote presentation was simultaneously practical, creative, challenging, personal and deep.

What she presented was a “how to”, a road map on how to use all of our relationships, close friends, acquaintances, people much more senior than ourselves, to network, and get for ourselves the support, knowledge, insights, clarifications, that we need at any given time, and for the long run.

In recommending creating a personal board of directors, the focus of May’s approach to mentoring, she gives opens up dimensions to both the notion of mentoring and networking, and it puts the responsibility for this on ourselves. She is telling us: don’t wait for a mentor to come to you.

It also lays out a challenge: making the connections that are available to us can be intimidating, especially if we are uncomfortable revealing our own doubts or felt shortcomings, requiring us to go beyond our comfort level. But going beyond one’s comfort level may be essential to what is required to be a social worker, to carve out a meaningful career, and collectively, sustaining the profession.



Mary Pender Greene


A Virtual Personal Board Of Directors (VPBOD) Is A “Must-Have” For Navigating All The Stages Of A Successful Social Work Career

Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, CGP, Psychotherapist; Career/Executive Coach; Organizational Consultant; Professional Speaker; NASW-NYC Past President; Former Assistant Executive Director, JBFCS; 2012 Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker

In the field of social work, having a mentor is just not enough.
A Virtual Personal Board of Directors is a true asset that gives you access to a wealth of resources.

A virtual personal board is a select group of trusted and respected advisors who can offer creative solutions to complex social work challenges. It is your own “professional posse” – people who can give you the unbiased truth in many situations. Your VPBOD can also help you maintain your professional goals and keep you true to your vision as a social worker and mental health professional.

You will get support and help with difficult choices, transitions, ethical issues and crises. Navigating the learning curve will be much faster than if you were on your own.

The board is “virtual,” meaning that it does not meet. Members are unaware of one another. Their only connection is you. Since most desirable board members are very busy, it is very important that

their virtual role be only an occasional request by you -- whether by phone, e-mail or live chat. The objective is to assemble:

1) A mix of both personal and professional contacts
Individuals you hold in high regard but may not know well. Having a balanced mix
of board members is crucial.

2) A variety of people with different relationships to you
Individuals who can offer unbiased support, guidance, expertise, wisdom – and a vast range of ideas.

3) A group of social workers and other professionals
Individuals will vary in ages and career stage. The right combination will offer an opportunity to get many different perspectives.



Kristy Perez


Effective Social Work Practice Means Reaching Beyond Ourselves

Kristy Perez, MSW, SEEK Counselor; Program Director of Urban Male Leadership Academy, Baruch College, Student Development & Counseling; 2012 Annual Meeting Panelist

Throughout my personal and professional life, I’ve been blessed to have many individuals serve as mentors, guides, positive role models and resources all with the intention to nurture my growth and development as well to push me out of my comfort zone. I am clear that I would not be who I am today without the unconditional support and guidance I received over the years. However, while developing these powerful and authentic relationships, I tended to rely mainly on them for my personal development rather than on navigating the complexities existing within the professional arena.

It really wasn’t until I accepted the position as the first Program Director of the Percy E. Sutton SEEK’s Urban Male Leadership Academy Program at Baruch College that I quickly discovered how critical it was for me to be intentional in cultivating professional relationships outside of my immediate work environment in order to support me in effectively designing and advocating for a program that develops and promotes the academic excellence, social consciousness and leadership skills of Black and Latino male college SEEK students at Baruch.

In all honesty, I did not set out to work primarily with Black and Latino young men, however, when presented with the opportunity, I chose to take it on because I recognized the systemic exclusion and invisibility of Black and Latino males in higher education. I also recognized that I had a responsibility to ensure that I developed a program that would not only honor and affirm who these men are, but also address, within an anti-racist and anti-oppressive lens, the institutional barriers and racism present within higher education. As a result, I had to go beyond myself in order to do this work.

Over the last several months, the focus of my mentoring relationship with Mary Pender Greene has been learning to affirm, embrace and trust my voice.

I am naturally a soft-spoken individual who would rather work behind the scenes and not call too much attention to myself. I am also introverted and shy, but my role as the UMLA Program Director regularly calls for me to speak to and attend meetings with college administrators, as well as develop relationships with individuals who can and want to contribute to the UMLA Program.

Many times, I am faced with resistance and the oppressive institutional barriers when advocating and putting the experiences of Black and Latino males onto the table. And, it is in this role where I’ve been most confronted with my own limitations, fears and insecurities as an advancing professional woman of color.

However, in my work with Mary, I am learning not to internalize this and instead name and claim who I am. As a light-skinned, petite Latina, I recognize there are certain perceptions of me, as well privileges I have. Rather than view this as a set-back, I can embrace who I am and assert myself as a powerful professional woman of color. This is not an easy task, especially when navigating and being confronted daily by systems and individuals who believe otherwise. This is why it is critical to create and nurture one’s “Virtual Personal Board of Directors”.

Although I am fortunate to have a strong support system within my work environment including the SEEK Director and founder of the UMLA Program, Dr. Angela Anselmo and social workers Raquel Williams and Susan Wong, the task of manifesting my vision of creating transformative and affirming educational experiences for Black and Latino young men requires me to expand my network and resources. It requires me to step out of my comfort zone and thus, call and rely on the individuals within my “Virtual Personal Board of Directors” (VPBOD) to ground me and challenge me as well as affirm who I am and what I stand for.

Within the UMLA Program, we stress to our young men the need to build social capital and relationships in order to succeed academically, personally and professionally, as well as combat oppressive systems. And thus, I too must do the same and model the power of engaging with mentors, and cultivating and nurturing professional relationships. For example, in structuring the UMLA program, I consciously called upon, included and developed professional relationships particularly with professional men of color who work directly with Black and Latino young men. Two such critical key figures who also serve as UMLA facilitators are social workers Andrew Lawton and Maurice Lacey.

I want the men with whom I work to see and know that professional growth and development is a life long process and although it is not easy, they do not have to do it alone. Several of our most active UMLA student leaders attended the NASW Annual Meeting on May 7th, representing the entire Percy E. Sutton Urban Male Leadership Academy Program. I extended the invitation in order for them to witness and participate in this inter-generational gathering and dialogue around creative mentoring and VPBODs, and thus share with the rest of the UMLA students.

Collectively, we are expanding ourselves and modeling what is possible. Additionally, I wanted them to witness first-hand the positive impact of my mentoring relationship and process with Mary Pender Greene.

As social workers, it is important for us to include the communities we work with as much as possible in transforming oppressive systems and institutions, allowing them to witness our own process and struggles, and demonstrate a willingness to be vulnerable in front of them. I believe we all must consciously reach beyond ourselves in order to effectively do what we do every single day.



Sheilah Mabry


The Value of Mentorship

Sheilah Mabry, LCSW-R, Director, Bronx Domestic Violence Services, JBFCS; 2012 Annual Meeting Panelist

To quote the African-American writer, Langston Hughes, whose work has been dear to my heart: “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”  

I have been mentored in various ways for a lot of years. I hear many people say that: “I am a social worker and I have been mentored by social workers.” But I have to say that I realize, since I have gotten older, that I was mentored by social workers early on as a youth in a youth program. What is interesting is that I never heard them call themselves social workers.

A quote shared by Mary Pender Greene that “a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought that they could” rings true for me. So, although we may be interested in creating personal and/or virtual boards to help us professionally, keep in mind that there are many young people that need to know early on that somebody believes in them. Since I was young I have had many people at different points, recognizing just how special I was -- and I am. I have been able to do more than I ever thought possible, because of them.

This started with family members who mentored me early on, including my Aunt Kitty and my Cousin Michael. My Aunt Kitty, who is now eighty years old, was a secretary for the NYC Human Resources Administration’s Head Start Programs and she told me: “There isn’t anything wrong with being a secretary, but I want you to be the boss.

I have been mentored by a lot of people who showed me various ways to be a leader and a mentor to others. For instance, when someone sees the great in another person, not just where they are challenged, that’s a gift. The ability for a mentor to take a person’s challenge, show that person how to grow from it by focusing on the person’s strengths, and then give the person space to grow, is critical.

There are things in my life today that I still am challenged by, and there are things that I am still learning. For example, just last week, I was dealing with money and budgets and got a lot of help around this – learning together with a lot of people, in a team, about why these issues are so important. Now, I’ve known about the importance of understanding budgets in programs for many years. However, I need people who can show me why it’s important and can model for me how to operate most optimally within one, and this is exactly the kind of mentoring that Mary has provided for me and others over a period of time.

An important thing about mentoring is that it is about the relationship – it is not necessarily about an agenda. A mentor wants you to be the best person you can be for you. The gift of mentoring is that you do not always see it, but you know that you’ve done something with somebody in the world, and they are going to pay it forward. A lot of people who have worked with me or on me have not seen the fruit of their labor, however, my mentoring relationship with Mary has been an exception to that.

I have known Mary for many years. The first time I met Mary was at a social work paraprofessional job fair for people who had not yet gotten their Masters Degrees, and she was working on bringing People of Color into the agency at the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services. I had my Bachelors Degree at the time and I saw this little woman with this power (you know how James Baldwin was powerful, yet he was small?) and she said to me then: “I could help you get a job now, but if you go to get your Masters, I will be able to do more.” Mary’s approach has modeled for me that the successful mentoring relationship changes over time.

In choosing members of your personal board of directors, it is important to recognize that people are busy. Some people may know they are on your board and others will not, so understanding that you may not have access to those people all the time is critical. I am very busy, but there are people who call and I don’t care what time it is; I will answer. Mary modeled this for me. Good mentoring is about knowing and appreciating the depth of the relationship.

I know that Mary is very special, but I know that Mary has people – family and friends – who have chosen her, or whom she has chosen, to be in her life. This has allowed her to do what she has been able to do, and it has magnified other people. Likewise, there are people in my life – family and friends – people who I have chosen or who have chosen me. When I was nine years old at a youth center that was predominantly Black and Latino, we did “Snow Black and the Seven Dudes.” That was a form of mentoring, so mentoring can sometimes be done by a collective. Currently, the People Institute for Survival and Beyond is a collective in which I feel mentored, nourished and loved.

I work with all kinds of people. I mentor all kinds of people and I am mentored by a range of people, but what is really important to me, especially in the day to day, in the thick of the thick, is that I have people in my life who are conscious. Because of the stuff that I deal with, the stuff that I take on – as a person of color, as a woman who is not straight, as a woman who is bisexual, as someone who came up from a poor economic background – I could not do what I do without the people in my corner. I need people to understand that many people have sacrificed, blood, sweat and tears, so that I can be where I am, and there is a responsibility for that.

Without the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, I could not do what I do, or be who I am. I couldn’t do it without my teams at the Jewish Board. I couldn’t do it without the Women of Color Group of the People’s Institute Northeast. I know that nobody does anything by themselves, and I believe that a collective is a vital part of our work as social workers.


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