Become a mentor TODAY!

January is National Mentoring Month in the US. Each year, advocates of mentoring rally to get more funding for mentoring programs, showcase the impact that mentoring has on young people, and recruit more mentors during this month.

In this recent interview on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Run the Jewels rapper and social justice activist, Killer Mike, reminds us again why mentoring is so crucial for young people. Take a few minutes to watch this important message:

“Find a child…help them by mentoring them…teach them the path you were taught to help them be a successful human being. It grows you as a human being to have empathy and apathy for someone who doesn’t look like you.” – Killer Mike

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Star Wars: Review by Matteo Baratta-Senza

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A Short Review by Matteo Baratta-Senza


After much waiting and speculation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was finally released on December 18th, 2015. I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket, due to the generosity of the Railroad Street Youth Project staff. Their Youth Operational Board had purchased ten tickets for youth who could make it, to see TFA in 3D at the Triplex Theater. It had rained all day, and I arrived at the theater damp and eager to see the film which everyone could not stop talking about. Around two hours later, as a stumbled back out into a slight mist and removed my 3D glasses, I was speechless. At first I was absolutely in love with the film, and claimed that JJ Abrams had done a splendid job, but as the infatuation wore off, I began to notice something horrible. I had just watched Star Wars: A New Hope.

Many people have made the joke that the two films, although more than twenty years apart, are strikingly similar in plot, but this overused dig still rings true nevertheless. There was so much that was right with this film, but sadly, in the end, the good was overshadowed by the overly referential nature and recycled storytelling. We have encountered a planet (or moon) sized super weapon twice before in the Star Wars films, and each time they were defeated by a single structural weakness. So when fans discovered that there was to be a third such super-weapon in The Force Awakens, they were outraged, and rightfully so. This was not the only similarity, in fact, many fans have analyzed A New Hope  and The Force Awakens side by side, finding countless recycled plot points, characters, and locations. There was so much potential to take fans on an adventure through new parts of the galaxy yet to be seen in film on the search for Luke Skywalker, but instead the film’s potential was squandered on forced humor, uncomfortably chunky exposition, and a plot that sort of gives up and throws in the towel an hour in.

While there was a lot of disappointments with The Force Awakens, but one thing that I still found enjoyable was the overall “feeling” of this film. When looked at from a purely aesthetic standpoint, TFA really feels like a Star Wars film. That was what I really fell in love with, and is what stood out to me about the film. Sadly, it is not enough to redeem the feeling of disappointment that came with the weak plot, cardboard characters, forced humor, and the sickening feeling that the entire film was produced only to set up the next two. We can only hope the coming films will be better, and not glossy remakes of the original trilogy.

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Hip-Hop Dance + Music Session with Open Thought Productions

Today, we had the incredible opportunity of having Open Thought Productions. As part of Mahaiwe‘s school residency, artists Baba Israel, Yako 440 and Ken Fury came to the Youth Project to share with us some tools and tricks of the trade.Hip hop session 6

Baba and Yako worked with Matteo, Donovan, Tymell and David to write rap lyrics, taught basics of beat boxing and how to work a turn table.
Hip hop session 2

While Matteo and Donovan were working on the music, Ken Fury choreogrpahed a breakdance routine with LJ, David, Georgia, Luiza and Sonam. We learned some essential break dancing moves, such as two-step and freeze. At the end of the 3 hour session, we put the music to the moves. Shout out the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and our board member Dave Barrett for this amazing opportunity. It was a great way to spend a day off from school on a rainy day. More pictures and maybe even a video to come! Stay tuned!

Hip hop session 1

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Most Exemplary Match Award Winner Jacob Robbins on Being a Mentee at RSYP

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I would like to say thank you to the Railroad Street Youth Project for this honor and all that you do in inspiring young people to greatness. Today, I’ve been asked to speak to you about the importance of intergenerational relationships. Looking out I see a lot of young people here today, in particular some high school students. I’d like you to listen carefully to what about I am to say to you next: life is not a race. It’s not about going to the best college, getting the best grades, and getting the best job. Life is about having unique experiences that help change how you see the world and your perspective on life. My freshman year of high school I was in need of some change. Even though that was a short three years ago, I still look at that time and how much I’ve grown since. Entering high school was one of the scariest experiences of my life. It was a time when things actually finally mattered: your grades, who you went out with, who you’re friends were, and all that kabookey. I was getting caught up in the whirlwind of it all: I had to take the hardest classes and try to become friends with the “coolest” people. I was getting myself down and into a rut. I wasn’t happy with who I’d become. I yearned for some change in my life, something different. Something new. I got that chance when, by chance, my guidance counselor recommended I meet someone from Railroad Street and get involved in their mentoring program. I thought that it would go nowhere, but yearning for something new, I signed up and struck up a wonderful rapport with the women from Railroad Street.

When I met my mentor, Bobby, I knew I was in for a real treat. From the moment we met we clicked immediately. He just got who I was and who I wanted to be. Over these past three years, Bobby has been there for me through and through, giving me advice on things, helping me with opportunities, and always lending an ear when I needed to talk. I am not trying to imply, however, that I am not close with my parents or that they’re not in the picture all the time. If anything, I am rather close with my parents, but like every teen in America, there are things I’d rather not talk to them about. Personal things that an adult perspective can offer and that’s where Bobby would come in. Whenever there was something in my life that could use an adult’s perspective, Bobby was there.  And what I’ve found is that perspective piece is the most important element to intergenerational relationships.

Having someone in your life who has more miles on their track than you do can change the way you see the world. It can make you rethink the most biggest of things and make them the pettiest. Having someone who’s been through more than you have is reassuring when you yourself are going though something. But most importantly, having someone in your life who is wiser than you, means that you learn to think in new ways. I once heard someone say people are just peoples. I think this applies most in high school. Everyone wants to get to the top. Everyone has something in their lives. But it’s about your ability to pause from the everyday and think about the person you are and who you want to become. Knowing someone who’s lived more (and I don’t mean that in a numbers sense) than you have and seen more than you have reminds to do that. And when you’re with that person, whether it be a coach, a coworker, a family friend, a relative, or a mentor, they serve as a living example of that, by sharing with you their experiences, and their wisdom. And you walk away a much better person. And you have a friend for the rest of your life.

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