Encouraging Mentees to Become Self-Advocates

Jan 14, 2021

“My voice has power.” 

In the fall of 2018, Casa Chirilagua staff gathered to cast the five-year vision plan of the organization. What took place in our community center became a series of conversations to get the pulse of the Chirilagua neighborhood. From the conversations, and the help of neighbors, three areas stood out: creating access to mental health, forming a stronger leadership pipeline, and building confident community advocates in Chirilagua. 

The following summer of 2019, mentors were trained on how to encourage mentees to become self-advocates in their community. We created the bounds of self-advocacy as an easy read for mentees of all ages: “I advocate for myself knowing I have a loud voice and I will use my voice to empower myself, my family, my friends, and my community. I will speak up in times of need, judge fairly, and use my voice to speak out against the injustices around me. My voice has power.” 

Although an easy read for students, building self-advocacy can be a hard challenge to overcome. At the time, this was no easy feat for a Casa Chirilagua mentee named Tania, a rising 6th grader. Tania is naturally soft-spoken and light-hearted. She was overwhelmed with the transition as she was entering middle school, navigating a new schedule, and finding her footing as a self-advocate. 

Alongside Tania, helping her navigate this new system was Leigh, Tania’s Casa mentor. Leigh continued to encourage Tania to become a self-advocate. Through their mentorship, Tania began to express her needs confidently in the new school system over the course of the year. 

Recently, Leigh mentioned that she attended a school meeting with Tania, her dad, and teachers. She went on to say, “the teachers all spoke highly of Tania, one mentioning specifically that Tania does a good job of advocating for herself.”  

Leigh continued, “I was so happy to hear this since we’ve talked about advocating via Casa! When Tania and I talked later, she read the Casa advocating paragraph and smiled knowing that she is doing just that.” Tania’s faith to step forward in advocating for herself is an encouragement to our community and a reminder that we are reliant on God to meet all of our needs. 

This January, we focus on being reliant—the supernatural intervention of God’s provision. We believe this includes the social-emotional needs of our mentees, whether it be in this season or the next. It is evident that God’s provision is strong in Chirilagua. We see that in Tania, Leigh, and our community.  

In this season to come, we are reliant on God’s provision for more matches and influence in the neighborhood.

Celebrate National Mentoring Month with Casa Chirilagua by seeing how you can step in to become a mentor through our program by visiting https://casachirilagua.org/en/mentor/

– Jose Martinez, Mentoring Director

*Some names have been changed for privacy.

We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

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Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.