Taos Municipal Schools

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Non-Violence Works                                                                                                                           

NonviolenceWorks, Inc. (NVW) (formerly Men Engaged in Nonviolence, Inc.) has been a proud partner to the Taos Middle School (TMS) for over 7 years. Over this time period, in close collaboration with TMS principal’s office, school social workers, school counselors and teachers, 240 TMS students have been served. Many of these students have received continued services year after year during their time at TMS. The services have been composed of two major aspects: Individual Mentorships and Support Groups. The services initially were only for males, but 2009 the program evolved in order to be able to provide services to females as well.

The Mentorship and Support Groups Program is a gender-specific intervention for at-risk boys and girls. These students are “at-risk” of academic failure, gang involvement, juvenile delinquency, premature sexuality, and substance abuse. The mentorship program pairs adult volunteers with students identified by schools as likely to benefit from an adult friend and role model. The mentors make a one-year commitment, pass a background check, receive their initial training, and then meet weekly with their mentees. Parental permission is required, but parental participation is comparatively rare. Detailed intake procedures ensure a good match between mentors and mentees, and care is taken to gently introduce mentees to the mentoring experience.

There is no specific agenda for mentoring – simply showing up and modeling care and concern is the most important ingredient. Mentors are encouraged to build a genuine relationship with their mentees, dividing the hour between friendly, bonding activities (talking, shooting hoops, board games) and educational activities (tutoring, surfing the web, chess). In many cases this is the first safe and dependable adult relationship the child has ever had. When the teaching staff reports a need for tutoring, a mentor may spend half the hour - or more, if the mentee is willing – helping with academics. However, we find that most mentees show significant academic improvement whether or not tutoring is involved. As self-esteem increases and oppositional defiant behavior falls away, performance tends to improve spontaneously.

Continuing education for mentors is given on a monthly basis. Trainings have included Emotional Intelligence™, Love and Logic™, Nonviolence Communication™, Motivational Interviewing™, cultural sensitivity, and understanding the effects of early trauma. Mentors receive peer support at the weekly “brown bag lunch” and are regularly monitored and supported by our staff.

The Program staff works very closely with school principals, social workers, teachers, coaches and behavioral management specialists to maintain a team approach and to ensure that each child receives appropriate type and level of services. In a few cases parents are included. At times, our most vulnerable mentees who are at higher-risk need additional support services – in these cases our Program staff in collaboration with the mentors act as child advocates to insure that these needs are met. Our program has also made strides into serving the children of the Spanishspeaking immigrant community, utilizing the members of our staff or mentors who are bilingual.

The support group format is comprised of the following: a circle of chairs with adult then youth sitting alternately. The groups are genders-specific: male groups are composed of men and boys, and the female groups of women and girls. The group focus includes issues and concerns of the youth from the preceding week as well as a curriculum that gives instruction and practice on

communication skills and emotional intelligence. The youth have the opportunity to interact and build robust relationships with adults as well have the chance to observe the adults genuinely expressing their feelings and sharing their vulnerabilities. The focus is strength-based – utilizing praise and encouragement, as well as holding the youth accountable for their actions and language.

For the past 7 years, the NVW Media Campaign has run a social marketing campaign in partnership with The Taos News that promotes nonviolence, responsible parenting, and volunteer service. Included below are some of these Ads featuring TMS students with their mentors.

Rigorous evaluations are conducted every year for youth participants in both the Individual Mentorships and the Support Groups, indicating that 77% of the students show significant improvement in the areas tested (which are academics, anger management, communication skills, decision making skills, and self-esteem). 80% of our matches continue into a second school year (compared to 40% average nationally). The average duration of mentee participation is 3 years and growing and for mentors 3 years and growing. Note: we believe that with additional staff support we can increase even further the performance of the mentees.

The Mentorship and Support Groups Program is supervised by Clinical Director, Sande Hawley-Grano, LPCC and Director of Operations, Simon Torrez. Three on-staff coordinators, Mike Martinez, Todd Gravelle, and Dan Lobato directly run the day-to-day aspects of the Program.

Numbers Served Annually at Taos Middle School

For 1:1 mentoring which is done by screened and trained volunteer community members and/or

1:1 clinical mentoring by licensed clinical NVW staff members. Mentorships meet for 1 hour

weekly throughout the entire school year. Primary focus is social-emotional support and

secondary focus is academic tutoring. Note: many of the mentorships continue across multiple

school years.


2008 – 2009: 34 students.

2009 – 2010: 29 students

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