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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The final panel discussion for the more than 650 youth mentoring advocates in Washington, D.C., for the 2013 National Mentoring Summit focused today on mentoring young people who have learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (LD/ADHD). Featured speakers were Eye to Eye Co-Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer David Flink, as well as mentors and "Think Different Diplomats" Matt Barnett, Chelsea Guild and Isaiah Walker. 


As the only national mentoring program pairing kids with LD / ADHD with similarly labeled college students, Eye to Eye encourages labeled children to become their own best advocates. With 38 chapters and growing, Eye to Eye's grassroots, boots-on-the-ground approach to mentoring uses partnerships with parents, communities, schools and universities to create a network of advocates surrounding the child.  


Flink told the audience, "We have a vision that one day, all learners will be recognized. Everything we're learning here together today can make a difference in the world."


Matt and Chelsea, both college students, and Isaiah, a college graduate, charmed the audience with their honest and inspirational stories of overcoming their learning challenges, which include dyslexia and ADHD.
The Summit session panel included Matt Barnett and Chelsea Guild, Eye to Eye mentors; Tammy Tai, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership; David Flink, co-founder of Eye to Eye; and Isaiah Walker, Eye to Eye mentor.

"The kids we're working with are going through the same thing we went through. It motivates me to sit with them and say, 'We're going to get through this,'" said Matt. "What we have in common with our mentees is the struggle that we can relate to," noted Chelsea. "It creates community and lets you know you're not alone. Once you overcome a disability, you can overcome anything." Isaiah said that, in college, after a school official suggested he get involved in an art organization, he met the 10-year-old dyslexic boy who finally freed him to say aloud that he, too, was dyslexic. "In that moment, we shared a commonality."


Flink referred to Matt, Chelsea, Isaiah and all of the mentors volunteering through Eye to Eye as "bearers of hope." He said, "We don't need to fix these kids. They need resiliency, which is why our organization transitioned (from tutoring) to mentoring."


As a call to action for the Summit's attendees, Matt said, "All I needed was someone to say you're as smart as everyone else if you're determined and work a little harder." Chelsea said, "Just believe in us. Believe that we are equal. We're smart; we just go about learning in a different way." Isaiah added, "Make it a social contract. Everybody learns differently. Be sensitive to the issue, and educate others."


This year's National Mentoring Summit theme is "Mentoring Works: Inspire. Achieve. Advocate." Bank of America, Ernst & Young, Viacom, BNY Mellon, Mustang Leadership Partners, LLC and State Street are among the corporate sponsors of this exciting event.


Summit Convener MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership is joined by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Harvard School of Public Health and United Way USA as the Host Committee members. 


The event also provides the culminating moment for the 12th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, which is the national media campaign to raise awareness about mentoring produced by the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR and CNCS. Thousands of programs in all 50 states participate in National Mentoring Month events, also recognized locally by many public officials and promoted by media and the private sector. 


About MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership

MENTOR is the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. MENTOR's goal is to help young people by driving investment of time and money in high impact mentoring and promoting quality mentoring through the development and delivery of standards, cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art tools.


MENTOR carries out this work in collaboration with a network of local Mentoring Partnerships nationwide and more than 5,000 mentoring programs and volunteer centers throughout the country, serving more than three million children in all 50 states. MENTOR works to ensure our youngest citizens have the support they need through mentoring relationships to succeed at home, school and, ultimately, work. For more information, visit  www.mentoring.org.


About The Corporation for National Community Service

The Corporation for National and Community Service's mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Last year, the agency engaged more than 5.5 million Americans in results-driven service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit  NationalService.gov.


About The Harvard Mentoring Project

The Harvard Mentoring Project (HMP) of the Harvard School of Public Health was launched in 1997 to mobilize the national media and leading Hollywood studios to promote the growth of mentoring as a public health intervention of proven effectiveness for positive youth development. HMP is an initiative of the School's Center for Health Communication, which is dedicated to promoting the adoption of healthy behaviors through mass communication. The Harvard Mentoring Project and MENTOR created and spearheaded the first-ever National Mentoring Month in January 2002. For more information, visit WhoMentoredYou.org.


About the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. OJJDP supports states and communities in their efforts to develop and implement effective and coordinated prevention and intervention programs and to improve the juvenile justice system so that it protects public safety, holds offenders accountable, and provides treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the needs of juveniles and their families.  For more information about OJJDP, visit www.ojjdp.gov.


About United Way USA

United Way USA is comprised of more than 1,200 community-based United Ways in the U.S., and it is part of a worldwide network of nearly 1,800 United Ways in 40 countries and territories. It advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all, by focusing on education, income and health - the building blocks for a good quality of life. United Way recruits the people and organizations from all across the community who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. LIVE UNITED is a call to action for everyone to become part of the change. For more information, please visit: LIVEUNITED.org.


About National Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month is a national campaign to recruit volunteer mentors, spearheaded by The Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Held each January, the campaign highlights the crucial role played by mentors in helping young people achieve their potential. The campaign's goals are to mobilize larger numbers of community volunteers to serve as mentors to young people and to promote awareness of the power of mentoring to enhance a young person's prospects for leading a healthy and productive life. Research shows that mentoring programs have beneficial and long-term effects, increasing the rate of high school graduation and college attendance and decreasing the likelihood of substance abuse and other risky behaviors. For more information about National Mentoring Month, visit www.nationalmentoringmonth.org.
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