Thanks to Carmen Andino-Talavera, FLY’s CAFA (Court Appointed Friend and Advocate) Mentor Program Manager, Santa Clara County, and Felicia Cantu, FLY’s Leadership and CAFA Mentor Program Manager, Alameda County, who shared a recent FLYlight (what we call our highlights) with all of us. Using technology to overcome the separation caused by the current shelter-in-place orders, their teams jointly hosted FLY’s first-Ever Virtual New Mentor training via Zoom for 18 future mentors. The event even included a panel of current and former youth, who provided laughs and inspiration as they spoke and then answered questions about their experiences in the program. 

On behalf of the CAFA Mentor Program teams, we wanted to share a recent FLYlight. Due to the shelter-in-place orders in our counties, we’ve all had to come up with creative ways to keep the “FLY magic” going and to do our jobs from a distance. We are very proud to share with y’all that we recently hosted our first-Ever Virtual New Mentor training via Zoom, and it was GREAT.

We had 18 future CAFA mentors join us for this cohort. (See our group photo above.) During our closing circle volunteers made the following comments:

 “I’ve never been in such a safe space before. Thank you for providing that.”
“I really feel like I am part of a family.”
“I felt like I was so at home & so welcomed.”
“The energy you all have at FLY is so uplifting.”
“It’s great to know I’m not alone in the process.”

They expressed such deep gratitude for being a part of the FLY Family, and that is the magic that we all carry as members of this FLYmilia who do the work together.

The training consisted of many different topics and learning exercises. For example, we gave a detailed introduction to the processes and complexities of the juvenile justice system and how it’s different from the criminal (adult) justice system. Because 90% of FLY youth are youth of color, we also talked about how and why youth of color are over-represented in the system locally and nationwide.

The training included special exercises to help the volunteers build understanding and empathy for the difficult life circumstances of our youth. Then we had an amazing panel full of youth voice with four youth (two from Santa Clara County and two from Alameda County). Of course their stories of how that FLY magic helped them painted the picture for these future volunteers even better.

One of the youth said, “My mentor just makes me want to be a better me.” And all of the youth did what they always do: bring laughter and inspiration to anybody listening to them.

Special shout-out to our CAFA Mentor Program teams for putting in WORK to pull off this first-ever Virtual New Mentor Training series. Another special shout-out to our COO Ali, and to Anna and Ryan on our admin team, for grounding our mentors in FLY’s agency vision and how they fit into that picture. Ali was able to drop in for a segment of the training and with the help of his team created a video to support that message.

Although HOW we do the work might look different during these times, the WHY stays the same and we continue to spread hope and love, even when we probably feel a little worn down ourselves. So “High 5” to everyone at FLY for still making things happen!

Both counties are still recruiting mentors and matching them with youth. So if you know anybody amazing, please send them to our volunteer page!

In Community Spirit, 
Carmen & Felicia