Wendi Russo 

Being honored with Tyiteana at the MN Swarm Lacrosse Game for my Mentoring work with Kinship. 

Tyiteana and her mother had never heard of lacrosse before, so they were amazed at the excitement generated by the crowd and the fun music that kept everyone energized for a big win by the SWARM!   Tyiteana was also so very excited to meet the cheerleaders!

Kinship of Greater Minneapolis Volunteer Recognition Banquet.

With my mentee Tyiteana. (above)  The children saw a magician perform, had a delicious pasta dinner with ice cream and the mentors dressed as Heroes.  I felt that "Princesses" are considered Heroes in many little girls' books, so I came as Mrs. Minnesota Princess!  The kids loved it!


Be an Everyday Hero:  Mentor a Child

January is National Mentoring Month: Barack Obama is supporting and encouraging Americans to become Mentors to the needy children in our neighborhoods.  Get involved today at www.kinship.org.



As an alumni of Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, I mentored Daisy, a now 13 year-old who dreams of becoming a special ed teacher so I was excited to hear from some of the Bigs and Littles who shared their extraordinary stories with us, illustrating the power of mentoring. 

During the BBBS Annual Meeting, Judge Glenda A. Hatchett was the keynote speaker and did a wonderful job of inspiring us all! Ms. Hatchett told us a story of a young boy who came to her courtroom multiple times and wondered how have we gotten to this place where a child would rather join a gang?  "Turning point was a man who mentored him and it changed his life"  She also mentioned the statistics:

* Every child who drops out of school is 3 1/2 times more likely to get a record.
*and is 7 x more likely to be dependent on welfare

Her message was "Invest in our Children, it will make a difference"-research proves that a caring adult in their lives decreases drop outs, increases grades, decreases criminal behavior.
"We have the ability to make a difference in children's lives. This is critically important work."

Of note, BBBS has recently instituted 2 new programs, One being the Amachi program, a Christian based mentoring program for children of prisoners.  Amachi means "Who knows but what God has brought us through this child." the second is that now families can mentor a child through BIG Families!  That is what I do currently with Kinship!  Only created a year ago as the result of demand. The Big Families program engages a primary mentor in a relationship with a primary child with a supplemental role for the mentor’s family. By participating in the Big Families program, family members can spend quality time together in an activity that transmits values and models compassion.Become a Big Brother Big Sister or read more about the mentoring relationships they offer at www.bbbs.org.

Princess Party for Tyiteana & Chloe's December Birthdays

Cinderella visited and read them a story called "Fancy Nancy" and gave them goodie bags--Tyiteana's little sister Taniya wore a new pink dress!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Twin Cities Annual Meeting
Radisson Plaza Hotel Mpls

President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Gloria Lewis and Judge Glenda A. Hatchett with me --they both showed up wearing exactly the same beautiful suit without planning it!

Quotes from Kids being Mentored throughout our State:

Sebastian, a kids board member for Mentoring Partnership of MN. 

"Please become a mentor-you may not realize it, but you make a huge difference in people's lives."

"My Mentor has changed my life, I never thought about other people, my mentor has changed my life and showed me how to do the little things to be kind to another person"  -Sebastian, 15

"You dont' always want to tell your parents stuff...I can confide anything in my mentor"

"Mentors help you define yourself--it made me become a stronger person" 

"If an adult notices you and gives you an affirmation, it's even more (important) than just coming from your friend."
"My mentor steered me in the right direction--she coached me into not doing anything wrong" 

"I feel really special"  --Jackie, 16
Just some of the comments I heard from Mentees on the Kids Board during this conference.

Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring Success story 18 years later as told at the BBBS Annual Meeting!

Maurice and his mentor Scott--a remarkable tale of Maurice googling his mentor 18 years later and emailing him to let him know what an impact he made in his life during their 2 year mentorship!
Their story brought tears to my eyes and gave me hope about the impact I may be making with Tyiteana-- I won't know the results of being her mentor now, but I may hear about it in the future!

Here is the email that Scott received from Maurice a year ago:
Scott Schwefel............. I have been looking for you for over 10 years of my life. My name is Leonard
Maurice Draine other wise known as Maurice Draine. You were my big brother from the ages of 6-8 years old.
I remember that you had a wife named Linda and she was always very nice to me. You guys also lived in Edina. You also had a baby girl named Mackenzie who was about 1 year old at the time. I remember when she fell and broke her leg when she was very little.
Scott, I'm not sure if you every wonder what happen to little Maurice Draine but I'm doing great and I'm all
grown up now. I'm 27 years old. I have an A.A degree and a B.A degree and I'm married to an East Indian
Princess. We do not have any children yet.
Scott, I would love to take all the credit for the maturation of myself by I can't. Those two years that
you were my big brother you were more like a father figure to me. Those were the BEST two years of my
You are one of the reason that I turned out the way I did. No one can tell me any different either. I wanted
to invite you to my high school graduation, college Graduation and my wedding. But I couldn't find you to
save my life.
I remember every single time you came to pick me up and we did things and went places that I had never
been to or even  knew existed. You opened up my little world and showed me I could achieve better, and I
I'm not sure if you remember, but when you were my big brother, my family lived in the ghetto. I'm proud to
say that I'm a long way from the ghetto. I'm actually moving to West Hollywood in three months. Finding you
tonight was actually perfect timing. One day real soon, I would love to meet you in person to show you how much I've grown. I would also like to thank you personally for everything you did for me.  You helped me find my true self and made me look at things in a different way.

Sincerely,  Maurice Draine
As an aside, I met Maurice's sister below at the Youth in crisis series.  She also was mentored as a child and is now a Board Member for Kinship!!!   The power of mentoring x10---Children who are mentored tend to give back to the community and become mentors!!!  Give back the support you were given and mentor today!

 Minnesota Mentoring Partnership's Kids Board--what an amazing group of kids who spread the word about the importance of mentoring and how it has changed their outlook and lives- Their advice? "Give mentoring a chance before you know whether or not it's good for you--We need you guys (mentors)" "You have a responsibility to give back to the kids in your community"

"Mentoring Across Generations: Connecting Today's Volunteers with Today's Youth
All mentoring organizations shared ideas on how to recruit new mentors, to take advantage of the Baby Boomer Generation to get them involved in Mentoring and to share the benefits of mentoring to our community.  Mentoring relationships support families and children in times of transition like Military deployment and parental incarceration.

The seminar with the mentees made the largest impact on me.  Their message to older adults and baby boomers is "you have a lot more to offer than you think you do" -it's a great way to connect with young people if you don't have any grandchildren. 

They said they like having a mentor because they like them unconditionally, you can talk to them, have a role model--"I'm looking for someone to look up to" "They take me to do things I can't do with anyhone else in my family"--" I moved into a new area with no friends"  " I didn't have many friends." One 15 year old said "My mentor told me to go into sports and came to every game and told me to come over once a week to do homework.  Now I have a B+ average, not D's and F's "  
If their testimonial isn't inspiration enough, I don't know what is!  Adjectives to describe these kids: vulnerable, articulate, intelligent, compassionate, eloquent.

Westminster town Hall forum at the Westminster Presbyterian Church co-sponsored by Kinship.  Pastor Gregory Boyle helps mentor teen gang members to "feel their worth"     Below is David, one Father Boyle's  Rehabilitate Gang Members, now expecting a child with his wife and employed with  Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.

"When the soul feels its worth" was the through line during Father Gregory Boyle's  speech to a filled church today. 

"Gang Violence is about a lethal absence of hope, until you appear--and the soul feels its worth." Father Gregory Boyle

Father Boyle created Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, to help teen gang members to choose a better life for themselves, by working, creating a family and a life of living honestly as a productive member of the community.  He believes in creating a community of Kinship where these ex gang members' "souls feel their worth" --Kinship mentoring is a mentoring program he believes is valuable to the children in our community.

Father Gregory helps rehabilitate these teens by befriending them and offering them work opportunities, tatoo removal and mentorship as long as they do not go back to a life of crime or gang life. As a leading advocate and activist for gang and violence prevention, he is giving hope back to at-risk youth 12-25 years old through his mentoring and Silkcreen company where rival gangmembers work side by side.

The success of his program is being looked at by Minnesota leaders as a possible model for future rehabilitation centers in Minnesota for youth involved in crime.  You can hear the full talk from Father Gregory Boyle on NPR at http://wordforword.publicradio.org.

Kinship Mentor Halloween Party
Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina with Tyiteana

Kinship's Monthly Mentor/Mentee event!  We had so much fun carving pumpkins, playing musical chairs, making pumpkin cookies and spider crafts and Tyiteana won Musical Chairs!  Her sister also joined us along with my butterfly daughter!



Danni Epps, Miss Minnesota International 2007 was recognized at the BBBS luncheon with her little sister

Youth in Crisis collaborative & Performance series  "I couldn't live at Home"-to recruit more mentors and mentees (Below  Leslie, Board Member of Kinship and I)

The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest and the Public Library held an unprecedented multi-media and interactive program to present the images and voices of Minnesota's young people who "cannot live at home" through dance, spoken word, music, theater, film and new media.Sha Cage (Poet, community organizer and co-found, MN Spoken Word Association) was the curator of the talent. I was the spokesperson for Kinship Mentoring, interacting with the audience members before and after the performances to recruit mentors for our 150 waiting children.  

Coming up September 2008!!

September 27, 2008
Kinship Golf Tournament and Fundraiser - Kokonis Golf Club in Paynesville
Our largest fundraiser of the year to help support the matches---do you have any thing to donate to our raffle? 

Lots of golfing was had by all!  Tons of money was raised by local businesses that help support Kinship as well as by donations made by all golfing participants.   Here's  a picture of me and Nancy Torrison, the Director of all of the Ambassadors.

September 9, 2007 Kinship Mentor/mentee Annual Picnic 2007

My Mentee, Tyiteana and I at the Picnic...She had fun jumproping and doing a balloon popping contest!  She also wrote me a beautiful thank you note and presented it to me today!  I met her auntie and granny today too!

January 5th All Day event:  2008 National Mentoring Month Kick off Celebration sponsored by the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota

Tyiteana and I are so excited to be among the few chosen mentee/mentor pairs to attend this event at the Science Museum on behalf of Kinship of Greater Minneapolis.  We visited the Science Museum and performed a few science experiments! 

The popular Discovery Channel show The Mythbusters, were the featured guests for the 2008 National Mentoring Month (NMM) kick-off celebration at the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Saint Paul RiverCentre.  

Tyiteana's favorite part of the Science Museum was going on camera to do the "news"!


January 24 "Thank your Mentor Day"-a Harvard Mentoring Project NMM initiative.

Honor the individuals who encouraged and guided you and who had a lasting impact on your life.   Think about individuals in your lives---family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors, employers, friends--who encouraged you, showed you the ropes and helped you become who you are today.  Too many young people do not get enough of that kind of support; mentoring programs can help fill the gap, but need more volunteers.

Four ways to Honor your mentor:

* Contact your mentor directly to express your appreciation

*Pass it on by becoming a mentor to a young person in your community

* Write a tribute to your mentor for www.mentoring.org to post

* Make a financial contribution to a local mentoring program

Go to www.whomentoredyou.org to see video clips of prominant individuals from various fields sharing recollections about important mentors from their childhood & young adult years.

Big Brothers Big Sisters "Evening on the Nile" 10th Annual Awards Gala to raise funds to recruit more mentors February 23, 2008. 

Shop NBC donated a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings to be auctioned off!  Thank you Shop NBC!


Kinship Dinner & Auction Fundraiser

April 25, 2008

My husband will be donating another inspiring Italian dinner to this event as well as myself, with a few goodies from Shop NBC!  Each match Kinship makes costs $2,500 within the first year! Tickets are $60 and raffle donations are welcome!  visit www.kinship.org

Weekly Event: See Tyiteana--my mentee!!  Painting at "Paint Your Plate" in Edina with another Kinship match!

Spending time with Tyiteana is my main responsibility as a mentor.  Some weeks we'll go to the pool and swim and others we'll simply go to the playground to play.  Time is the toughest thing to give- but it's the most important thing to help our children feel special and cared for.  The other important thing is dependability and reliability.  Kinship prides itself on maintaining mentoring relationships for an average of 3 years --Much higher than the national average of 1 year!

I think Kinship has longer matches because Kinship helps provide ideas for low cost activities along with free tickets to certain activities to make it easier for mentors to come up with new things to do with the mentees as well as keeping in touch during the relationship, not just dropping out of sight after the match is made!

The number one indicator of success for a child is a good relationship with a nurturing adult. - Fortune Magazine

Bachman's Pumpkinfest September 2007 --My daughter and Tyiteana are having a ball picking out pumpkins and going Pumpkin bowling!


If you are planting for a year, plant grain

If you are planting for a decade, plant trees.

If you are planting for a century, plant people.

                            - Old chinese proverb

host, shop, wendi, russo, wendy, mrs minnesota, mrs minnesota america, mrs minnesota 2008, mrs mn, kinship, mentoring, shop nbc