Meet one of the Youth Mentoring Collaborative's Consultants, Jasmin Spain. Follow along with this interview between Jasmin and Hannah McKinney, Manager of Communications & Storytelling.
Q. How did you first get involved with the Youth Mentoring Collaborative (YMC)? (HM)
A. "I first heard of the organization through my work with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which is a National Membership Organization. Of those organizations, agencies, or individuals who supported the success of Black Men and Boys across the nation. That’s how I first heard of MENTOR National, then I learned more about MENTOR North Carolina. I had participated in some webinars, some workshops, and things like that, but had never fully engaged with them. One of my mentors, Steve Vassor, made me aware that there was an affiliate. Larry Thomas, of Thomas Mentoring Leadership Academy out of Durham, made mention of Atrayus - I had never formally met Atrayus but had heard great things about him. Fast forward - there is a gentleman here in Greenville who was serving on the board for the Eastern region. He was transitioning out, and we had a phone call about me potentially taking over his board member responsibilities. I listened to it, and accepted it, but needed to have a conversation with Atrayus." (JS)
Q. What is your 'mentor' story? (HM)
A. "[I try to look over my life right now to see if I had a mentor that pretty much took me under his wing or possibly] I learned in an informal manner. That didn’t happen until I became a professional at the age of twenty seven (27). Dr. Randolph Williams - at that time I was working over at North Carolina Wesleyan College, and he became the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students while I was working there. He was the first person that I ever truly saw taking a liking to me, and who I took a liking to. Although it was a great work relationship, in which he is probably still to this day the number one higher education administrator, he also was very polished. He was a great example of a professional, but also his commitment to his family, and the community, very genuine and authentic brother. I don’t have the mentoring story of growing up being a part of a community organization, didn’t have a community person that took me under his wing to make sure I was doing the right things. It took about a quarter of a century for me to achieve that. I’ve always been that for others. Because I didn’t have it, I want to serve others that I know need it, so they didn’t have the same feeling that I had. My father left when I was young, I was raised by women. This has led to my work now with men, college-aged men, and some adult men, and my experiences with my mental health diagnosis. [I am succeeding with Bipolar II disorder/depression.]
My mentoring story is to create environments for Black men and boys - and not just Black men and boys, but boys and men in general. But being a Black male, there’s that other component because it’s relevant and personal to me. Ultimately my goal is to provide those spaces for them to grow and thrive and to provide something that I wish I had when I was growing up. Something that young men need, and that men wish they had. This led me to create my nonprofit U Good, Bro?! The question mark is asking “are you good?” The exclamation point is a positive affirmation of “you good, bro!” I also have a consulting service where I provide program and initiative development for black male initiatives, with a focus on men in K-12 and higher education. I am also a certified equity coach, so I provide diversity, equity, inclusion, and corporate competence training. I offer professional development courses, workshops, and things like that. My mentoring story is to be, to give, and provide what I didn’t have for younger and older men, to create a space to have conversations and address trauma." (JS)
Q. Why is this work (capacity-building, identity-affirming, youth mentoring) so important? (HM)
A. "Creating these environments for Black men and boys as they’re going through their adolescents and boyhood into manhood, providing these spaces to help prepare them. It’s important because “it’s better to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - paraphrasing Frederick Douglass. The earlier we can do what we need to do to help young men to prevent them from getting older and living unhealthy lifestyles or getting married and having children without dealing with the trauma of experiences that they had that produced some unhealthy behaviors and prevents them from having to mask their feelings as they get older. It addresses the prepares them for how to deal with the emotional aspect of things. Helps them address the stereotypes that men should always be strong, men should never show any weakness, men should not have any emotion except if it’s accepted. When I have conversations with men, I say society will allow men to be accepted if they fight, if they’re angry, but won’t accept them when men are sad, upset, or have to cry - all of that is a response of “you hurt my feelings.” You never hear a man be able to come out and say “you hurt my feelings.” My goal is to eradicate that. For men, it’s important because they are little boys that got older. Men were boys at one point in time. Sometimes that is where men have not dealt with the boy issues. Maybe they didn’t have opportunities or places where it was accepted, or received well. That’s a major component to it." (JS)
Q. Which of YMC's values do you feel most personally aligned with? (HM)
A. "Collaboration. The reason is that collaboration provides a lot of value and benefits in life. From the perspective of supporting one another, coming together to work alongside others is very, very valuable. I look at it like a mentor and mentee relationship, like, 'I may provide the finances, and you may provide the human capital. I have the network, you have the funds, and we put it together and make something beautiful. If your efforts are about social media, and my efforts are about supporting the psycho-social emotional well-being of Black males, we can talk about the utilization of media to present and promote a healthy image. We can collaborate where your areas of expertise help my areas of expertise.'
That’s collaboration. The number one question is, 'what is the problem we’re here to solve, and how can we work together to make it happen?'" (JS)
Q. What are you most excited about in the future of YMC? (HM)
A. "One is obviously connecting with my passion for supporting Black men and boys. Providing a more intentional service. The impact that I can bring to the table, working with the team, and collaborating, to support Black males and Black male mentoring programs. I look forward to learning from the team and how [everyone's] individual skills can be included. I’m excited to learn from the team how we can support one another and how we can advance this work. As we work together, and as we help the youth, there are those who operate or serve in a role where they provide leadership in these initiatives, that will benefit from the services we consultants bring to the table. I’m excited about us assisting the youth and us assisting the programs that help the youth. They have the passion, we have the expertise to help them get the work done to a higher magnitude." (JS)
Q. What is your area of expertise as a consultant? (HM)
A. "Program development. Collaboration. Being cognisant of the mission, values, and goals of different organizations, finding out what their needs are, and finding ways to collaborate and structure goals for the needs being sought after. Program structure, networking, and collaboration opportunities and awareness, as well as the psycho-social emotional aspect of things. Self-care is important while doing this work. Identifying and creating self-care opportunities for the leaders who do this work, because the work is very draining and demanding. DEI aspect of things as well. An equitable lens." (JS)
Q. Tell me a fun story about YMC! (HM)
A. "How I met Atrayus. I am a member of the same fraternity that Atrayus is a part of, which is Alpha Fi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. I have some close fraternity brothers in this area who went to the same college as Atrayus. Once I was aware of Atrayus’ name, I reached out to those brothers, and they were not only familiar but had great things to say about him. Atrayus supported a workshop series that I participated in. The first time I physically met Atrayus was at the [Youth Mentoring Collaborative Consultant Retreat. He was everything that people said he was." (JS)
Q. Tell me a fun fact about you! (HM)
A. "A fun fact about me is that I am a diehard New York Knicks basketball fan. I believe I am the only New York Knicks basketball fan in the state of North Carolina. Win-lose, draw, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna arrive with my boys. Over the last few decades we haven’t been good, but every year I tell people we are going to the championship. I am also a UNC hater because Michael Jordan is the reason that the Knicks didn’t make it to the championship in the 1990s." (JS)
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to share that we haven't covered already? (HM)
A. "There’s nothing wrong with having a therapist, and there’s nothing wrong with having to see a psychiatrist. There is a stigma around mental health, but that’s better than it was. They serve for different reasons. If financial challenges are a concern, it’s good to tap into the government to see what support they’re giving. Depending on the insurance you have, the government is providing free therapy right now." (JS)
This concludes the interview. To learn more about Jasmin and the rest of the team, visit Our Team.