Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How being Mentored changed my life #LatinoBigs

When I heard it's National volunteer week I couldn't help but share my story of who mentored me and why It is very important to mentor a young person, if it wasn't for a young man that walked into my school one day and said he was starting a program called SPARK, I can honestly say I don't think my life would have turned out as it has.
His name is Cecil Moniquette and he was the person who mentored myself and other's from my school, their was a group that he knew needed a bit more attention and I was in this group.

Mr. Moniquette ,was and is a person that understood that speaking to a person and not talking down to them would get more results, he helped me out a great deal more than he would ever know or understand. I had asked him once why are all these bad things happening to me and he said why not? I looked at him as if he had lost his ever loving mind and I said to him why would you say such a thing, he explained to me that why shouldn't I go through so much hardship that all of us go through some rough times and that we must be strong and take each lesson and learn from it and not do the same and to help if we ever see someone going through the same. At the time I thought he was crazy as all get up and go, but as time passed by I started to understand what he meant though at the time it sounded a very harsh to me I can see what he meant and what he said.

My Mentor: Cecil Moniquette

His mentor-ship to myself and the group was essential he helped us to see the big picture, he motivated us to want more out of life to help others even if we are in pain because they maybe in even greater sadness.  MrMoniquette  made such a difference in my life that my children whom have never seen him know of what he has done in my life. So needless to say that my children looked for him on all social media sites to see if we could reconnect after 25 years of not seeing each other.

And the day that I heard from my best friend Lisa that she had found him, I was so glad and I made sure to reach out to him and we didn't get to speak to each other until two (2) years later from the initial meeting on facebook.I wanted to share with him how I missed him so and how much he had impacted my life because he mentored me and showed me that their is hope even in a hopeless situation, what he taught me in his program I have also taught my children and made sure to let them know that Mr. Moniquette was the one who taught me this.

We did give him a hard time I make no bones about this, heck we were kids testing the water's but he made sure to take hold of the reins and bring it back home. I have to share that we did get to speak to each other via-cell phone and it was such an emotional meeting we both were speaking over each other at times because we were so happy to hear from each other, I wanted to let him know that what he did for me 25 years ago did not go in vain that because of what he did for me my life changed in such a way that even I am surprised as I didn't believe in myself as a kid and I felt I had no self worth.

Myself: Brazilia Moda
 I made sure to tell my mentor that he is one of the reason why I kept going and his words guided my life that God had a plan for both of us, him walking in that day to the gym to speak to all of us about his program over all the cat calls from the girls in gym class.I played it as a hard headed kid who didn't listen and was just in his class to pass the time, little did he know I was listening and he did reach me and the life lessons he showed me and the group I kept to heart.

In my Mentor's words, what the program he was involved in meant to him and what it was about....

S.P.A.R.K: School Prevention of Addition thru Rehabilitation and Knowledge
SPARK was founded in 1971 to deal with a drug emergency in the New York City public high schools. I was assigned to Bushwick H.S. because it was one of the schools in 1983 suffering with these type of problems.  The program pioneered intervention and prevention approaches that were specifically designed for an adolescent population. The SPARK process went beyond the surface symptoms to identify underlying psychological causes. SPARK countered substance abuse with supportive counseling and positive peer influence. Open and forthright communication cut through defense and denial. Young adults clarified their values and altered their problem-solving strategies. SPARK produced “significant behavioral change.”

SPARK empowers adolescents through information about drugs and alcohol, counselor/peer empathy, sharing experience, and coping together with pain and guilt. It empowers adolescents through individual and group participation to overcome isolation and alienation and to develop self-awareness and a sense of belonging. It also empowers adolescents through positive role models and constructive values.

SPARK professionals are selected on the basis of their caring posture, competence and commitment. They combine personal concern with human relations skills and diagnostic insights. The SPARK counselor functions as a friend, surrogate parent, mentor, and positive role model. SPARK’s own training institute orients SPARK professionals. Staff development is a continuous process at SPARK. Skills are refined and reinforced in workshops, seminars, and ongoing evaluations. 

The SPARK staff at that time consisted of one person, Cecil Moniquette who was an important element in the delivery of services to students, school staff, and the community. He provide substance abuse workshops, identify and refer students “at risk,” engage in short-term supportive counseling, and organize school-wide and educational events. He was the substance abuse information resources for the school and community. He also organize and facilitate developmental groups, counsel individual students, consult and confer with school administrators, and assist parents/guardians with problems associated with drugs and alcohol.

Our group will never forget him as he was and is our mentor he is above all our friend, to my dear friend Cecil, never think your mentor ship has gone avail it has fallen on good ground and we are all better people, parents, partners and friends because of this. So if you are thinking of being a mentor, do so with out hesitation.

National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate people doing extraordinary things through service. Make an extraordinary difference in a Latino child’s life by becoming a mentor. It changes lives, I am a result of being mentored and directed on the right path. Our children need a boost in self-esteem and encouragement to believe in themselves. Only an adult can provide this kind of guidance and consejos, which can come in the form of sharing a personal story about the difficulties of algebra or how you relate with the hardships they are going through. 

Latinos have a strong heritage of volunteering in their neighborhoods and places of worship. You can have a big impact now that will not only help one child, but help your entire community. Let’s celebrate National Volunteer Week on April 21-27 by giving back to our youth. 

If you would like more information and want to know how to volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister today check out the links below. Mentoring a child will make a difference in their lives and yours as well. 

This is part of a supported campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Big Brothers Big Sisters.  However, all opinions expressed are my own.



  1. Mentors do play a huge role in our lives and so glad you were able to reconnect on Facebook. Welcome to Collective Bias!