Moore: ‘We have no idea what type of jewels are sitting inside our juvenile justice system’

Brian Smith | Staff PhotographerWes Moore, New York Times best-selling author of The Other Wes Moore, delivers Thursday’s morning lecture in the Amphitheater. Moore spoke about reform needed in the juvenile criminal justice system and how civic involvement can help steer children away from a lives of crime.
Brian Smith | Staff Photographer
Wes Moore, New York Times best-selling author of The Other Wes Moore, delivers Thursday’s morning lecture in the Amphitheater. Moore spoke about reform needed in the juvenile criminal justice system and how civic involvement can help steer children away from a lives of crime.

They came of age in the same neighborhood of the same city, both spent time in the juvenile criminal justice system, both had behavioral problems. They were both fatherless. But the two young men named Wes Moore would ultimately follow completely different paths — one became a Rhodes Scholar, a White House fellow and a decorated veteran. The other would spend life in prison for murder.

Wes Moore discovered his own name in a headline in The Baltimore Sun, referring to a suspect in a jewelry store murder. After the suspect was convicted, Moore wrote him a letter, asking the man why he committed the crime. What followed were many more letters, which turned into prison visits, which formed the basis of Moore’s book, The Other Wes Moore.

Moore delivered the Thursday morning lecture in the Amphitheater, the fourth in this week’s series on “Crime and Punishment.” His father passed away when he was 3 years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his two sisters. They moved to the South Bronx, N.Y., where his behavioral problems led to an arrest when he was 11.

But things turned around when his mother sent him to military boarding school. He finished high school, joined the Army and attended community college and then Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins, he took a criminal justice class that required an internship.

“I wanted to work with kids, because I knew my own personal background,” Moore said. “I wanted to work with kids in Baltimore in the juvenile criminal justice system, and I started looking around for who’s doing this work that I should do my internship with. And I started noticing that there was no one working with this population.”

Moore decided to change that by starting an organization called Students Taking A New Direction, or STAND!, in which students at Johns Hopkins University mentor kids ages 8 through 14. Twelve years later, the program is still in operation.

Moore believes that continual, consistent investment in the futures of children through education and mentorship is the key to lowering crime rates and juvenile delinquency.

“What I question is why we find it rational to put forward $13,000 per student in Baltimore for their education, but to incarcerate someone, we will pay over $80,000,” Moore said. “What I want to question is how we’re thinking about the entire process.”

Sixty-nine percent of the adult prison population, Moore said, is made up of repeat offenders. This includes those with juvenile criminal records who grew up and moved on to other offenses.

“If we can figure out ways to deal with the juvenile criminal justice system in this country, we will immediately and inherently figure out ways of figuring out the adult prison population within this country,” Moore said, “by simply choking the pipeline.”

Once juveniles get caught in this pipeline, it’s nearly impossible for them to escape, Moore said. And he believes that is detrimental to society as a whole.

“We have no idea what type of jewels are sitting inside our juvenile justice system,” Moore said. “We need to figure out a way to focus that energy and attention to what [the kids] can actually do.”

For example, the other Wes Moore — the one serving a life sentence — was organizing and running a complex drug ring in West Baltimore by the time he was 15 years old, calculating sales and shipments in his head without ever writing anything down.

“I can’t help but think what could have happened, had we done a better job of directing that energy and directing that natural intelligence?” Moore said.

Moore believes that, along with a societal obligation to help juvenile criminals, Americans should realize it is in their best financial interest to help juveniles steer clear of a life spent in and out of prison. The United States spends $514 billion per year on a criminal justice system with a 70 percent recidivism rate.

“I don’t know anyone who thinks this is working,” Moore said. “If my iPhone worked 30 percent of the time, someone from Apple is getting a phone call. I’m calling them and I’m letting them know that their product isn’t working.”

The $514 billion doesn’t even include the opportunity costs, Moore said. Shrinking the prison population would increase the number of productive citizens who are taxpayers, homeowners and small business owners.

Luckily, Moore said, there are realistic solutions to these problems. Community intervention, rather than lockup incarceration, has been proven to work. In Missouri, juvenile criminals are housed in smaller, community based houses, where a focus on mental health is central to the corrections process.

“We know that hurt people hurt people,” Moore said. “If we can figure out ways of addressing that hurt — not necessarily in a criminal justice or in a punitive way, but in a supportive way — we know that we can do a much better job of addressing the needs of our kids.”

Referencing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Moore encouraged the audience to embrace the label of “extremist” if it means fighting to improve the lives of their families and neighbors.

“I stand here and urge everyone in this audience to become extremists, for love and for justice,” Moore said. “As a nation, we can never have an honest conversation about the future of our country if only a sliver of the population is part of that conversation.”

Q&A

Q: Wes, you talked about just now the importance of having that conversation flow, and part of what you’ve done with that conversation is — you referenced the Young Reader’s program yesterday — is take what you wrote in The Other Wes Moore and adapted this into a book for young people. Can you tell us a bit more about that conversation you do have with young people — how that may be different than the conversation you might have in this context with an auditorium of adults?

A: Yes, and first, thank you for the question — and first can I just say real quick to the organizers, asking me to speak after, you know, David [Simon] and John [Jeffries] and Nina [Morrison] and Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg. You know, I spent 10 years as a paratrooper in the Army, and this is what I would call an ambush. So I’m very, very humbled, by the way, to be in a part of this lineup.

You know, it’s interesting, because when I think about the conversation we have with young people — and that’s actually been one of the most humbling things about this experience — has been the work that we’re able to do with students all over the country. In fact — it was funny, I was saying yesterday — I was meeting with a group of students … and they’re asking questions, and they said, “So, what’s been the coolest thing about this whole experience?” They’re like, you know, “You’ve been on ‘Oprah.’ ” And they’re like, you know, “More importantly, you’ve been on ‘Colbert.’ But what’s been the coolest thing out of all of that?”

And I said, “Well, all that stuff has been fun and all that stuff has been cool, and that was never the point.” The point was to be able to engage and have these conversations with people who really are, in many cases, not only at forks in the road in their own lives — because … one thing I love to stress is: We’re all at forks in our road. I mean, decision-making doesn’t stop when you hit puberty. Decision-making doesn’t stop when you become legally allowed to drink. I mean, we’re all going to make decisions before the end of today that are going to help determine what our tomorrow looks like. All of us.

But it is about how exactly can we be involved and be engaged in this process. And one thing I’ve been incredibly inspired by is we’re now going on the second straight summer in a row that The Other Wes Moore has been the No. 1 selection for college students for their freshman year reads. We’re now going on years where you have both Discovering Wes Moore and The Other Wes Moore being made part of curriculum in schools. But the great thing about it is not simply just about the fact we have kids reading the stories; what we’ve now started saying is: Let’s do something with that. And so for schools that incorporate the book into their curriculum, we say that’s great. However, when we come and visit, we’re going to do a day of service together. We’re doing something in Baltimore … we have a collection of schools in Baltimore City that are reading the book, and we are literally having an entire semester of service projects that are all student-led and all student-run, all throughout the city of Baltimore, focusing on issues of juvenile justice to the homeless population to tutoring programs, and the students are selecting which programs that they want to be a part of. That has been the coolest thing about this whole experience, because that was the point. And to see it now come into fruition is just awesome. Just awesome.

Q: Can you speak to other intervention techniques that could be employed by parents and teachers to modify behavior of children to reduce criminal tendencies?

A: There are quite a few. And one thing I want to be clear about … There is no one-size-fits-all to helping children. It’s not like, you know, if we do this, then your kid will be just fine, and if you don’t, then they won’t be. Raising kids is amazingly complicated. I’ve got a 2-year-old; I’m starting to learn more and more now. And also, to be honest, for those who happen to raise kids in some of the most dangerous and precarious communities of our countries, it’s that much more complicated. I mean, I will debate with anybody who tells me that every child is born with the same amount of assets, because if there’s anybody who truly believes that, there are some communities in this country that I would love to take you to and hear you make that same argument.

But I do know this, that potential in this country is universal; opportunity is not. And that difference between potential and where we all end up is where we all come in. We have to do a better job of teaching that basic idea of empathy within our kids. We have to do a basic job of teaching basic educational foundations from early on in all of our kids, so we don’t have huge disparities about basic things like third-grade reading levels. But the other thing that I found to be actually incredibly useful, even with the kids we work with in Baltimore, has actually been this, and I was saying this actually to the young readers yesterday. One thing we’ve started doing about two years ago was actually start bringing some of our kids to different places around the city. And again, some of these are kids that are dealing with issues that you would not wish upon your worst enemy. Some of these are very real issues. But we bring our kids over to Johns Hopkins Hospital, and bring them over to the pediatric oncology unit, and introduce our kids — who think that it’s them against the world — introduce them to a 5-year-old with terminal cancer who’s got a huge smile on her face simply because you showed up to say hello to her. Bring them over to the burn unit and introduce them to a 7-year-old who has third-degree burns over 70 percent of her body, because just a few days ago her mother was getting high in the house and accidentally lit the house on fire.

Now turn around and tell me how tough you’ve got it. We have to add a sense of perspective and context in the life of all of our kids. We have to help all of our kids understand that despite any type of challenges that we might have, there are people out there who have it much tougher. And part of our responsibility is not even just to understand that, but to do something about it. When you place a child’s life in a sense of context, it’s amazing how their reaction to life transforms as well when they understand that it’s not all about them. And that, I think, is one of the most important things that we can do. People have asked me — they say, “What do you want your daughter to be?” and I’m like, “There’s nothing I want my daughter to be, there’s no job I would want her to have.” … The thing that I want my daughter to be is empathetic. If she does that, then that’s all I can ask for: to simply have a feeling of empathy towards the world.

And that, I think, is one of the most effective. You know, it’s not a “Scared Straight” technique … but it’s a technique I know that works, because when people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, they act accordingly.

Q: Does the U.S. government have a role to play in rebuilding some of the forsaken communities in America, or is it up to us?

A: It’s a great question, and the answer is: It’s both. Because here’s the challenge, I think, that what happens so many times in these conversations we get into either/or dynamics. And it’s like, it’s either this person’s fault, or people say: Well, the reason this community’s so bad is because it’s the mayor’s fault. Or it’s the governor’s fault, or it’s the president’s fault, or it’s the Congress’s fault, it’s the city council person’s fault, without ever once thinking, well, what’s our responsibility to do something about it, as well?

And so, the way I look at it — and it’s interesting, because I know that people have asked the story about — especially with The Other Wes Moore — is, they say, “Well, is it about personal responsibility, or is it societal responsibility? Whose responsibility is it?” And my answer is, it’s an intricate marriage of both, because you cannot talk about societal responsibility without understanding at the end of the day, these are individual decisions that are being made. And people need to be held accountable for their individual decisions.

However, we cannot talk about individual decisions without understanding that those decisions are being made in a societal context. And unfortunately, I think, what happens is a lot of people, they will try to make it an either/or equation as a way of shirking responsibility off of themselves. Or they’ll simply say, “Well, since that’s not my job, therefore I don’t have anything to do with it, or I have no responsibility to do anything about it.” So my answer to that is, it’s everybody’s responsibility. Does government need to be more involved and more engaged and more empathetic and sympathetic towards these issues? Absolutely. But at the same time, can we simply just wait for legislation to be passed to fix it? Can we wait for legislation to pass anything? For any legislation to pass? No. That responsibility also becomes ours. That responsibility to live in a community that we can be proud of becomes ours.

I refuse to wait for a vote to improve my community. I refuse to wait for a piece of legislation to do that, and I refuse to wait for an elected official to tell me that it’s time. I don’t have to wait for permission to do that. And that’s what I think becomes very important for all people to understand, is that as long as we feel like we all have a vested interest and we all have a role, then that’s what makes progress happen.

Q: What opportunities are available to released prisoners to be involved with the juvenile justice system?

A: There are initiatives — so, for example, there’s an initiative in Baltimore called the Safe Streets [Baltimore] Initiative, where a lot of ex-offenders can then get involved with juvenile offenders and help them to understand not just the consequences for their decisions, but also what other type of avenues and approaches they can take. You also have a lot of prisoners, Wes [Moore] included, who is actually doing work inside the juvenile justice population. So for example, you know, Wes and I do work together in the juvenile justice system, where he will then go and speak to the kids and let them know that this is not a game. That you don’t want to make this your life. You don’t want to make this who are you.

And Wes tells him the reality about his life — the fact that Wes has four kids that he hardly ever sees. The fact that when Wes was 32 years old, he because a grandfather. These are his realities. And so there are programs, and there are ways of being able to help share that, where you can have ex-offenders that help share … with the juvenile population about the realities of life and why you don’t want to make this your life. We also need … to think much clearer about what it means for a lot of offenders as they come back home.

Now, part of the reason that we have a 70 percent recidivism rate inside of this country are personal issues that people have to deal with, but also, other issues matter, too. Like how difficult it is for someone who’s an ex-offender to get a job, for the fact that if you have a felony record, that you can’t even apply for any type of federal or state or, in many cases, local jobs. And then good luck getting a job in the private sector, when that first box that you check when they say, “Do you have a felony record?” and you check “yes.” Your application generally goes in a special pile called the trashcan. If people can’t find consistent employment, they will find ways to feed their families, and in many cases, they are … the ways that got [them] in trouble in the first place.

So how we think about re-entry, how we think about recidivism, all that stuff is going to matter, because also, quite honestly, the more success stories we have of people who are then re-entering into the process, means the more success stories we can share with the juvenile population that is now going through their own process, as well, and the more we can enlist them and recruit them to be involved in that process. So … we just need to do a better job of increasing that pipeline.

Q: Please comment on how you see technology improving community and a sense of societal responsibility.

A: I am a huge technology advocate as a way of being able to address a lot of these issues. And I understand the concerns — and I’ll talk about those in a second — but the truth about technology is this is: We are able to communicate faster, we are able to touch people in ways that we were never able to touch people before, we are able to raise money for colleges and organizations in ways and mechanisms that we never had access to before. Technology, in many ways, is ways of being able to share information and share knowledge in communities where that type of communication never saw any light whatsoever. There is a democratization of information that’s taking place, and technology is really one of the main drivers behind it.

Now, I understand the challenges of technology, and that sometimes people use the platforms of technology for less-than-admirable reasons. I understand the fact that — we were talking about this earlier — the challenges of bullying, and how technology has made that that much more dire. Because the fact is … when I left school, the bullying stopped, because people couldn’t really touch you or couldn’t do anything to you. Now, because of a lot of social networking capabilities, bullying goes on 24/7. So I get it, and I understand the challenge, and I understand the need to be able to intervene when these types of mechanisms are being used inappropriately.

However, I could not be more optimistic about being able to use technology as a way to … drive lessons, of being able to connect communities and share information in a way that we’ve never been able to share information before. There’s something really special that we can take advantage of, both domestically and internationally. I just think we need to be a bit creative about how we can do that, and how we can also then control its usage to make sure that it’s being used properly.

Q: What was the change in your life that moved you from handcuffs at 11 years old to being engaged in your education? How were your expectations changed?

A: I can’t say there was one thing; quite honestly, my life has been a collection of two steps forward and one step back, and one step forward and two steps back, and three steps back, sometimes. But I know something that made a really big difference in my life, and one thing I’m a huge proponent of, is gaining a passion for reading. And it sounds simple, but I’ll explain.

So, I hated reading when I was growing up. I mean, I hated reading when I was growing up. But my mother was always trying to get me to read, and I just never wanted to read. But my mother knew I hated reading, but I loved sports. So what she did was she tried to figure out ways of being able to manage the two. So she found a book called Fab Five, and it was by a guy named Mitch Albom. And I’m not sure if you all remember, but there was a University of Michigan basketball team, back in the early ‘90s. So back then, back in the NCAA basketball, freshmen didn’t play. Freshmen sat. This University of Michigan basketball team was the first basketball team in NCAA history that all five freshmen — who were the top five recruits in the country that year — all five freshmen not only played, they started. And they didn’t only start, they brought their team to the national championship game in the first year. That had never happened before! And there was also something special about these guys … Back then, NCAA basketball was like, high shorts, pass the ball five times, pick-and-roll … These guys were fast-breaking, they had baggy shorts, they had bald heads … they changed the face of sports. Five freshmen changed the face of sports. And I loved these guys. I was obsessed.

And so my mother found this book, and she bought me this book. And I didn’t read. I went through this book in like a day. I was flying through this book. And I’m sitting there reading through the book, and my mother was asking me questions about it, and I’m defending these guys like I knew them. … But then my mother saw, maybe I’m onto something. So she started getting me more sports books.

And I started going through these books quickly. And eventually it wasn’t just about the sports books. It was eventually that I fell in love with the feeling of pages turning under my fingers. It was eventually because I fell in love with the feeling of — you know when you’re like 20 pages away from finishing a book, and the only thing you can think about all day is getting back to that 20 pages? And so my sports books eventually turned into these amazing pieces of literature. My passion for Mitch Albom eventually turned into a passion for James Baldwin, and Paulo Coelho, and Ernest Hemingway. I fell in love with reading.

I say to this day … I am absolutely obsessed with Alaska. I could tell you anything you need to know about Alaska. Truly … when it turns dark 20 hours of the day, which flowers grow most there, all this kind of stuff. You know how many times I’ve been to Alaska? None. Never been. But I fell in love with Alaska because Jon Krakauer told me to fall in love with Alaska. I fell in love with Alaska because of writers. I fell in love with reading because reading gave me a way of understanding that the world is much bigger than what’s simply in front of me. And while I think there was a lot of reasons and a lot of influences that helped to change my trajectory and make me really passionate about education, at the very top of it, I put the fact that I really began this really intimate and deep love affair with books. And that, in many ways, helped change the entire way that I think about the world.

Q: This person writes: “I’ve hired people out of jail who have been great employees. How can we educate employers to give people a chance once they get out?”

A: First, whoever wrote the question, thank you, thank you for that, because it’s not easy. In fact, I know later on today — I don’t know if you all know of Father [Greg] Boyle, so he’s speaking later on today, and if you all get a chance I really urge you to go see him. So Homeboy Industries, and in fact Matt [Ewalt] and I were saying earlier, I’ve actually eaten there twice. And literally, when you walk up, it’s shocking at first, because … you walk into the place where you go to get … your scones or whatever you’re going to eat, and the person who’s taking your order has tattoos all over their face! But they’re incredibly kind … like a regular conversation you’d have with anybody else, And eventually you kind of forget that they have tattoos all over their face, and tattoos all over their neck. But the point and the reason I bring that up is this: Why I’m so impressed with [Boyle], and why I’m so impressed with this work, is because quite honestly, the people who he’ll look to employ are people who, quite honestly, most people would never look to employ. They couldn’t even make it past an interview phase, because as soon as you walk up to this person, you immediately say to yourself: “That’s not who I want to represent my entity, my company, my organization,” whatever the case might be. And immediately, the prejudices have already begun.

I think what we want to remind business owners, I think what we want to remind nonprofit leaders, I think what we want to remind local officials, is how thin that line is between them and us. That none of us have been perfect, that none of us have lived lives that are completely spotless or flawless. But that at some point in all of our lives, someone believed in us even more than we believed in ourselves. At some point in all of our lives, someone was willing to look past every single second chance that we have blown and give us another. And if we can do that, we’re actually doing not only the deepest and the best things for our humanity, but I would argue for most of organizations, we’re then, in many ways, embodying what we’d hope our organizations would stand for.

I think there are other things that can and need to be done. … For example, in Maryland right now, there’s ideas of even allocating credits to people who hire people who are recent release … So I think there’s even structural things that we can even take a look at. But I think for the basic employer, it isn’t going to be about how do we drive a tax credit to push them to do “x,” “y” or “z.” It’s simply about, how do we ask them to open up their heart and understand that, you know what, if this person is a good employee, if this person is going to be loyal and honest and supportive of the mission, let’s not let a mistake or two that they’ve had in the past change that. Because it shouldn’t. And you’ll understand the impact not only on them, but what that will mean to their family and to their entire community, and how you can benefit from that, as well.

Q: This is another question from Twitter. What did Wes Moore say in his letter first to you that was so extraordinary?

A: Well you know, when I first wrote Wes — and literally, the first time I wrote Wes, it was like, “Hey Wes, my name is Wes, here’s how I heard about you,” and then I had all these questions that I asked him, so I really wasn’t sure even, A: If he would respond, or B: How you would respond to a letter like that? Because in retrospect — we actually both laugh about it now — because it was a kind of weird letter that I wrote him. But I had these questions that I wanted to ask.

And the very first thing that he wrote in the letter … he thanked me for writing him, because he says that when you’re in prison, you think that the whole world doesn’t think that you even exist anymore. So he thanked me for even just doing the basic thing of acknowledging his existence, and then he proceeded to just tick down every single question that I asked him: questions about Baltimore, questions about his life, questions about prison, questions about does he see his brother — ‘cause I knew his brother was actually the triggerman that day, so I knew his brother was incarcerated for life, as well.

And in the way that he answered the questions, I just realized how much more there was there. And again, without condoning the behavior, I just realized, as I stated earlier, that even our worst decisions don’t separate us from the circle of humanity. And if we’re not willing to learn from Wes or people like Wes, and lives like his, then we’re doomed to keep on repeating this. You know, in my opinion, the worst possible take away from tragedy is to act like it didn’t happen, because when we do that, we’re just inviting more tragedies to happen. And then we can sit there and we can light candles or we can sing songs or we can hold hands and we can scream “Why?” when the answer is because when we had a chance to address things that were leading up to this, we chose not to.

Q: Please give us more details about how STAND works. How do you recruit faculty and volunteers? Do the children come voluntarily, or are they court-ordered?

A: So, STAND was an utter work-in-progress. Literally, it was a handful of us that were like, “We’re going do this program.” And then we realized two things. One is, whenever people say to me, “I want to start a nonprofit,” my first reaction is, “Don’t start a nonprofit unless you have figured out that there really is no one in that space who’s doing it how you want to do it.” Because what you don’t want to do is create another “me too” organization. So it’s like, “Oh, I work with kids.” “Oh, me too.” “Oh, I do this …“ “Oh, me too.” And so really make sure that your organization is specific and focused and targeting on something that really isn’t being targeted on.

Perfect example — and I will get back to that question — my good friend Dan is a part of a board of an organization Venture for America, which is a fantastic organization. And when they went through the process of thinking about, how exactly can we generate growth in the American economy, part of the challenge as they were coming up with this idea was basically saying that we have so many of these talented young people who are finishing school and finishing MBA programs and finishing college, and immediately they head off to the major cities. Or they’re heading off to the consulting firms and the investing banks.

How are we then able to capture in on that talent and capture on that attention? So Venture for America basically says, we’re going take these top-notch students and ask them not only not to immediately run to the big cities, but go to the Cincinnatis, go to the Las Vegases, to the Baltimores. Go to the places that really need not only economic supports. And again, once you get there, we’re not going to place you with the big firms in the area. We’re going to place you with the small businesses, the people who are running the tire companies or the florists, or the people who are just literally one step away and maybe one jolt of energy away from hiring five people to now hiring 10. From hiring 10 to now hiring 20. But one of the first things they thought to do was essentially figure out, what exactly is the need, and then how exactly can we fill in and find that need.

The other thing that I think we did with STAND and how we actually look for people is, we work with both everyone from City Hall and also the juvenile justice facilities inside the area. Now, there’s two ways that a kid can get sectioned off to STAND or get appointed to STAND. One is post-adjudication. So once they’ve already been involved within the system, they can then come to us as almost an alternative to a sentence …

Or the other one is pre-adjudication, where the judge is then looking to determine what exactly a punishment should be. Generally, again, we’re talking about kids who are the nonviolent offenders, which are the vast majority of kids inside of the juvenile justice population. Once they then work within the juvenile justice population, they then work with not just one, but a collection of mentors. So in many ways, really hoping to reshape the whole definition of family that exists for that child.

So they work with multiple mentors who help with a multitude of different tasks and different options. And that mentor stays with them throughout, so it’s not like the mentor’s with them for a year and then they move on, but that mentor really stays with them throughout. Because the challenge is for a lot of our kids, the only consistency they have in their life is inconsistency. They’ve got parents in and out, they’ve got teachers in and out, they’ve got probation officers in and out of their lives. We want to stick. We want to let them know that, you know what, we’re all going to have challenges, were all going to have troubles. But we’re not going anywhere. And that, in many cases, has been the absolute model of both sustainability and success that we’ve been able to see.

There was one woman who I was speaking to — this was probably about eight months ago now — but she was from Edgewood, N.J., I guess [that] is an affluent area of New Jersey. And she’s a student at Johns Hopkins, and she was saying how she’s really interested in getting involved with STAND, but she’s like, I don’t know anything about these kids. I didn’t grow up in their environments, I don’t look like them, I’m not sure how I can help. And the response to her was simple. It was, do you plan on being consistent? Because if you say, at Tuesday at 8 o’clock, I will be there, and Tuesday at 8 o’clock you will be there, if you are consistent, I will take you 10 times out of 10 versus the person who lives around the corner from that person, who looks just like them, who at Tuesday at 8 o’clock is nowhere to be found. Because all you’re doing is, you’re making it tougher and you’re allowing that shell to get even thicker.

So the structure of STAND is, we work with all these different agencies to look for both referrals and then connections, and the only requirement, after training, the only requirement that I ask for the mentors is that they’re consistent. If they do that, then they’re the best mentors that we could possibly get.

—Transcribed by Nikki Lanka