I was truly my pleasure to sit down for this Everyday Heroes Kandid Spotlight with Yaniece Spencer & Rafiah Hickson, Co-Founders of B.O.S.S. Mentoring Inc., a community-based program in Camden, New Jersey.
Childhood friends, Yaniece & Rafiah, founded...
I was truly my pleasure to sit down for this Everyday Heroes Kandid Spotlight with Yaniece Spencer & Rafiah Hickson, Co-Founders of B.O.S.S. Mentoring Inc., a community-based program in Camden, New Jersey.
Childhood friends, Yaniece & Rafiah, founded B.O.S.S. Mentoring in 2017 to fill the void in services for young boys/adolescents.
B.O.S.S., is an acronym for “Boys Of Sustainable Strength” and the mission of the program is to educate and support young men by providing workshops, life skills and career development through individual and group mentoring.
The program currently serves boys aged 8-18 in Camden City & Camden County through weekly group and individual mentoring using a group of dedicated male volunteer mentors.
This amazing program is based on 5 focus areas:
Marian Wright Edelman said. "Service is, the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time,” and these two young ladies and the program they created are the literal embodiment of that quote.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, a volunteer, doing some type of activity with the program participants or to donate, you can visit their website or any of their social media pages below:
To contact them for more information:
B.O.S.S. Mentoring is a 501c3 non-profit and all donations are tax deductible!
Intro: “Welcome to the Kandid Shop” by BUSS_TE (Anthony Nelson)
Outro: “Boys To Men” by New Edition
B.O.S.S. Mentoring Everyday Heroes Spotlight
Kandidly Kristin: Hola podcast nation. It's your girl, Kandidly, Kristin. And this is an Everyday Heroes, Kandid Shop spotlight episode, where I get to shine a light on ordinary people doing extraordinary things in and for their community. Today, I have the pleasure of sitting down with Yaniece Spencer, and Rafiah Hickson co-founders of B period O period S period.
S period, Mentoring Inc. A community based program in Camden, New Jersey. B.O.S.S. Is an acronym for boys of sustainable strength. And the mission of this program is to educate and support young man by providing workshops, life skills and career development through individual and group mentoring. Rafiah Hickson is a native of Camden, New Jersey, a licensed clinical social worker, and an active member of Delta Sigma theta sorority, Inc.
New Jersey garden city, alumni chapter. She is a strong believer in advocating for youth by connecting them to resources, to transition successfully into adulthood. Yaniece spencer is also a Camden, New Jersey native and an active member of Delta Sigma theta sorority, Inc. New Jersey Garden, state city.
Garden city, I'm sorry, alumni chapter. Yaniece is also the owner of Y S S graphic designs. She loves working with children and helping them become productive young adults within their communities and beyond both Yaniece and Rafiah envision boss mentoring, Inc becoming a well-known program that will enhance the lives of boys, not only in the city of Camden, but throughout the state of New Jersey and the world.
So, welcome. Welcome. Welcome ladies to the kandid shop.
Rafiah Hickson: Hello, thank you for having us
Kandidly Kristin: You're so welcome. I really am super excited and honored to shine a spotlight on the both of you and your program, because I'm a Camden city, native myself. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to rep my hometown and wonderful things that are happening there.
So, let's just get into it. Tell me how you two met. And either one of you can go, but if you could just say who you are. So, my listeners know who's talking, that'd be awesome.
Hi, this is Rafiah Hickson. Yaniece and I met, primarily when we were children middle school age, both our parents worked for the juvenile justice commission, and we'd been childhood friends. that's pretty much our background story. We kind of met through our parents.
Okay. All right. And both of you are Delta Sigma theta sorority same
chapter. was that by design coincidence?
Yaniece Spencer: this is Yaniece, I think it was kind of coincidence, not necessarily by design we both did not attend the same college. but it just so happened that because we're in the same area, that's kind of our local chapter.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. All right. So, take me back to the infancy of BOSS Mentoring. How did it come to be?
Yaniece Spencer: Go ahead Rafiah.
Rafiah Hickson: This is Rafiah Hickson. Yaniece came to me with the idea she wanted to start our program for youth I think primarily, you know, in the future, not saying that it can't happen, she wants to open up a homeless shelter for youth.
And we kind of thought about starting with a mentoring program. Um, she bought the idea with me and of course I was on board because you know, working with youth that's primarily what my experience was in, and you know I wanted to give back to the community. We talked about it for a while. We kind of, struggled on whether or not we wanted to focus on boys versus girls.
And, you know, after a deep discussion, we decided to go with the boys primarily because. within a city, we felt like there were a lot of programs geared towards the girls and not necessarily a lot, to promote the growth of boys. So thus we, developed BOSS Mentoring Inc. Yaniece came up with the name and then from there we've been going ever since.
So, um, 2017.
Kandidly Kristin: Oh, I was just about to say, when did you launch 2017. Okay. Yes. All right. Right. So, what was your model for the program? It kind of reminds me of big brother, but not.
Yaniece Spencer: I don't think we had a particular model. Honestly, we just said let's figure out how we can develop some type of mentoring program.
so, we researched, you know, different things in the area and saw where we thought the need was. We originally started in a middle school. That was our first step of trying to gain access to children. and from there, after our first year we realized that we weren't able to reach as many children as we will, like, because we were only able to reach the children in that particular school.
so, then we branched out and we had a location that we were able to start using, where we were able to reach children, not only at that one particular school throughout the city of Camden and throughout Camden
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. your target demographic is it middle school. It it's like, what are the ages of the young men that you work with primarily?
Yaniece Spencer: so
our age range is eight to 18. currently we have ages eight to 16 in our program.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. because your program involves bringing boys and mentors together, did the pandemic affect you at all? And if it did, how did you overcome that part?
Rafiah Hickson: This is Rafia. So primarily, when a pandemic occurred, we kind of figured out how we could keep going.
We went virtual for the, for the beginning of the pandemic. And then as you know, as the numbers went down and then kind of got a little bit better, we started meeting, in person outside so that it could be safe for everybody. So, you know, I know, uh, fortunately for a lot of companies and a lot of programs in general, the pandemic was a hard hit for people, but for us, we, just kind of brainstormed how we could keep it going and, you know, like, Schools, we went virtual, we were meeting virtual, still going to our program setting.
but it was really satisfying and rewarding once we were able to get back in person because you know, kids need that social interaction. So, we kept going pretty much during a pandemic nonstop.
Kandidly Kristin: Did you see, a difference in, I guess, How the boys were, affected by being virtual versus being in person, like, did it have an impact?
Did it, did they fall off of the program model? Did you see any of that?
Yaniece Spencer: I can say we did have some children that fell off, not many. I want to say honestly, maybe two or three. but then we realized that children were just tired of zoom, which I think we're all more tired of zoom by that point.
So even though they may have been on the zoom, their participation may have been elsewhere. They may have been playing a game or other things in the home. so that's why we tried to include that outside model where we can't be in close quarters, but we can be outside and socially distance, you know, once the weather got.
Kandidly Kristin: Right, right. Well, that's awesome. I'm glad that you were able to still provide the services that you do during that tough time. So, Yaniece. Tell me about the different services and programs that you guys provide through your, boss, mentoring program
Yaniece Spencer: so, our primary, program is group mentoring, where we all get together on Mondays from six to 8:00 PM.
We meet with our three groups. We have eight to 11, I'm sorry, eight to 10 year olds, and then 11 to 13 year olds and then 14 to 18 year olds. So, we have three particular
the children come in, they eat dinner, they get snack, they get in their particular groups and then they discuss whatever the topic may be for that day.
Or if there's a field trip or activity or whatever that may be on that particular day, they do that.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay, so you dinner and snacks.
Yaniece Spencer: All right. Yes. We also have one-to-one mentoring on an as needed basis. if a parent feels the need that their child may need one-on-one on whatever mentor that they may, I guess, cling to the most, or have a better relationship or rapport with that mentor will then.
Whether it's contacting them through a week, staying in touch with a parent, finding out what's going on. some of our mentors even pick, some of the boys up throughout the week, maybe take them to different, activities, whether it's a movies or go walk the mall or, attend sporting events just to kind of engage with a child and, stay on top of what's going on in their lives.
Kandidly Kristin: Awesome. Awesome. and Rafiah you were going to say.
Rafiah Hickson: primarily our program is focused around five focus areas. So those focus areas include physical and mental health awareness, life skills, financial literacy, academic success, and cultural competency. So pretty much, Yaniece mentioned those three groups that we have, whatever topic that we're covering, our mentors lead the session based on those topic areas.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. And how long is your program?
Rafiah Hickson: Yeah. So, we meet on Mondays from six to eight for 2 hours.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. And you find that to be effective with the boys in terms of it being enough time? How did you pick the two hour sweet spot?
Rafiah Hickson: I definitely feel like it's been effective when we did our pilot program within the school setting.
it wasn't as consistent. So we were, I think, on a bi wasn't it biweekly Yan?
Yaniece Spencer: I think it was bi-weekly.
Rafiah Hickson: Yeah, it was biweekly. And then, once we opened it up to for Camden city and Camden County in generally
Yaniece Spencer: we started, so we still were biweekly for
Rafiah Hickson: remembering biweekly and then the parents and the children, requested more time.
And that's when we started going weekly.
Kandidly Kristin: Well, that means you is doing something, right. So, speaking of parents, that's a good segue. How involved are the parents of the kids in your program?
Yaniece Spencer: Our parents are amazing, honestly. I think we have very supportive parents right now. We have roughly, I think we have close to 35 kids right now.
We just added a few more within the past few weeks. So, we have close to 35 kids right now and I can say. What
Rafiah and 90% night, maybe 95% of our parents are very, very supportive of our program is supportive of what we do, they give us, you know, positive, positive, and negative if needed feedback on what we need to do to, you know, maybe add something.
Or actually right now, our parents are requesting another day a week. Um, but we have very, very supportive parents. We have a parent parenting group where the parents meet once a month, with different speakers, the last speaker we had full on, mental health and suicide prevention. and you do have different topics that come at different people that come in and speak to the parents.
we also started a parent group chat where the parents are able to talk to other parents in the group, engage on different activities that are coming up within a city or within the county. So
Kandidly Kristin: for this. Listen, anytime a parent is asking for more days, that means you guys are really, really doing something.
Right. So, yeah. So, your mentors, who are they and what does it take to be a BOSS mentor?
Rafiah Hickson: This is Rafiah. So pretty much how the mentoring process works. All our mentors are volunteer. we have a process that they go through where they fill out an application. First, they fill out a pre, interest form. Then once we meet with them, you know, we get pretty much just like a mentor interview where we get to know who they are, kind of what they want to, um, get out of being a volunteer within our program and pretty much getting an idea what their experience is in general.
And with youth, once we do that, they go through the background check. Once they get clearance for that, they have mentor orientation where we go over, uh, guidelines, how to effectively work with the youth and then pretty much, it's pretty much set selling from there where they're able to interact with youth.
We kind of give them leeway to plan their sessions, as long as it's within our five focus areas. so that's pretty much the process of how. Sign up to become a mentor within
Okay. And Yaniece, who, who are these guys like? What's their, educational, professional background or is it just a range of different guys?
Yaniece Spencer: it's a range. some of our mentors work within the educational field or with. developmentally disabled, people, some of our mentors, I'm trying to think of looking at our list, work within, different city offices. we have a mentor that is a correctional officer. we have a, I'm trying to think.
Yeah. Most of them are between education working with those, people that may be in different mental disabilities or mental Capacities. And then, like I said, the correctional officer.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. and this is a question for each of you to answer. What do you see as being the biggest issue that comes through the door from your, boys?
Rafiah Hickson: This is Rafiah. Uh, I would say it's a variety of things. One. social interaction, a lot of our kids, um, some of our kids because of the pandemic, particularly that, that, eight to 10 range group, they were, they were remote a lot of the times, for majority of the pandemic, you know, they're just really going back into what, in school settings.
So just really. social interaction, social skills and structure. our program is very structure and a lot of times, a lot of kids regrets because of the pandemic. So we are, able to come in to kind of work on those skills, build that structure, so that their kids can be successful not only within our program, but within other settings as well.
Kandidly Kristin: Nice. and Yaniece where do you think the biggest, maybe the biggest, but what do you see the majority of, in terms of the issues that the young boys in your program come in with?
Yaniece Spencer: I can say that a lot of the, or I can say some of the boys come into the program just without that sense of a male figure in their home
Yaniece Spencer: a lot of our boys are raised by. Primarily mothers are females or, have sisters in their lives, but haven't that lack of, a male or a positive male in their lives. I think our program is able to give them that sense of, Hey, I'm a male, just like you. I come from a city similar to you and look where I am, look what I accomplished.
Um, so them just coming in, being able to see a male that can tell them when the. So then when they're wrong and make sure that they're going in the right direction. I think that plays a big part.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. Now, two of the five core components of your group, I kind of wanted to expand on the, financial literacy and cultural competency, because I think that's missing across the board in, most public and private school education. So talk to me about. What those two pieces of your program look like? Like what are you teaching them in terms of financial literacy and especially cultural competence?
Rafiah Hickson: So, for that financial literacy piece, I think is really essential that kids are able to build those skills early on, because like you mentioned, a lot of times we're not taught that.
And so, we are an adult. So, we partnered with TD bank where they came in to do financial literacy lessons, where they talked about, creating a savings. Managing checkbook. we talked about stocks, those types of things, so that they, you know, could get a basic understanding of. What it means to be financial competent when it comes to being an adult or just in general, you know, a lot of the times specifically with our teens, they get to a point where they might get a job.
So, they need to kind of have that mindset where they're able to save for things that they might want, that they necessarily can't really depend on their parents for now that they are working, they have the skills to that.
Kandidly Kristin: I think that's so important because we send these kids out here and just suppose they do land a really good job. And now they've got all this money with no clue how to manage it.
Yaniece Spencer: Definitely true. and then on a cultural competency, and I can say, I think we honed on that a lot. within the past two years specifically after the George Floyd incident, everything that was going on, with COVID and being in a house and seeing how, you know, black lives didn't matter to certain people I know we did. Poster boards where the boys had to say, what the, what did that look like to them? What does Black Lives Matter look like to them? And we had them reference, they had to represent it in different lights, whether it was a sign, or some explain what it meant. but I think with that, we're able to just have them gain competence in who they are. We have a few children right now that are struggling because they're being bullied in school by people that don't look like them. So just telling them the importance of being who you are, being confident in your skin, being able to walk with your head high and not let anyone around you tell you that you're not good because of the color of your skin because of who you are. And our mentors are very, very strict when it comes to, black history and after being African-American or being, you know, even, black and brown Latinos, just being comfortable in who you are
Rafiah Hickson: one thing I want to add to that. Last mentoring year and you know, like Yaniece mentioned, you know, with the George Floyd, it's always been an issue, but yeah, I think with the George, when that George Floyd incident happened, it, it definitely shines light to not only the US, but the world. so, we had a lawyer actually come in to talk about safe interaction with the police, which is nice.
I think it's very key. Honestly, we're not taught those things. And those are definitely, tough conversations to have with your child. So, we did have a sessions strictly on safe interaction with the police. What are your rights, what you should and should not do.
Kandidly Kristin: Right. Ah, that's awesome. That, Ooh, that piece is amazing because we have conversations with our boys. I'm a mother to a son and just trying to tell him how to interact with the police and what they can, and can't do what your rights are, it's important, super important. So, I appreciate y'all for that. And did you want to add something Yaniece??
Yaniece Spencer: Um, no.
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. So, my next question to you guys is what is on the horizon for BOSS Mentoring? And like, do you guys have any events planned? I think we're coming to the end of this pandemic and the world is going to open up again. So, what do you guys have, like in the pipeline or for growth of the program?
Yaniece Spencer: Our goals are endless. We can talk this for the rest of the day. Yeah. I mean, we have big goals. Some that we don't want to put out into the atmosphere yet, but the main goal was just to grow, to become better at what we do to be able to service the boys and that we service. And not only the boys, I know I've been talking with Rafiah over the past few days. I got think we're going to really be working with parents and just being able to be that supportive backbone that they need to be able to raise the boys. What they want to raise them, you know, how they would like to read them to be, but just grow our program, I mean, I think that's, that's the number one goal growing our program.
Rafiah Hickson: Yeah. We're, we're definitely, you know, looking to expand, reach more kids. And also, like Yaniece mentioned that parent aspect is very key.
, just giving parents the tools to effectively communicate with their child address, any issues that, you know, may have. required those tough conversations. So, equipping them with those skills, in a sense, and really, I see in a future boss, mentoring not just us serving youth, but being like a wrap around, space for the whole family in general.
we're, always looking for more mentors. So, if you are interested in mentoring, you can visit our website at boss mentoring dot org or email email@example.com. So, we're always looking for more positive males to work with our youth. even collaboration's, you know, there are a lot of nonprofits, a lot of people within Camden city and Camden County in general, doing great work.
So. Any way that we could, um, you know, not recreate the wheel in a sense, if you have a service that you feel like you can offer to our parents and youth, we're always open to that
Kandidly Kristin: is well awesome. Awesome. Now, any plans for boss mentoring to extend other counties? Cause I'm in Burlington County and I actually have somebody that I would want to link you guys up with from this county.
That's doing some similar. but I'll talk to you about that after the interview, but any plans on expansion and if you don't want to put it out in the atmosphere yet, that's fine. But
Rafiah Hickson: yeah, I think expansion
Yaniece Spencer: oh, go ahead. No, I was going to say currently we do have. Kids that are in other counties. We have some kids that come from Gloucester County and Burlington County that do come to our program, but we definitely would love to expand.
But again, it's all based off of the mentors that we have. We just want to make sure that we have the correct amount of mentors to be able to properly service, the youth that we're serving. So, but we definitely would love to expand.
Kandidly Kristin: Nice. Nice. Nice. And Rafiah you took my last question from me, because it was going to be, to tell my listeners how they can connect with you and your program.
To use your services or to be a mentor. But if you could just tell them again, and guys, if you're listening to this, remember this is a nonprofit, even if you can't be a mentor or be physically, involved in the program. You can always donate your money or resources, whatever you have to the program.
So, either one of you can just one more time, give my listeners how they can connect with.
Rafiah Hickson: Yes. So, if you are interested in becoming a mentor or even a volunteer, doing some type of activity with our youth, you can visit our firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can email email@example.com.
We are all social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at boss, mentoring, New Jersey, and know, we are a nonprofit. organization. So, if you are willing to donate, you can visit our website to do so as well.
Yaniece Spencer: Yes. I just want to make one correction. Our social media platforms is BOSSmentoringNJ so I think all our social media, is boss mentoring,
Kandidly Kristin: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And all of that, when this show goes out to the world will be. With clickable links in the show notes. So, if somebody is listening and they didn't write it down and didn't catch it, it will be in the show notes as well as all the information that I can fit in there about your program.
So, listen, I thank you guys so much for taking time out of your day to chat with me. I'm like super excited about your program. I know that it has the potential to be. Not just statewide, but worldwide, because it's an awesome program and boys need it. Like they really do. There's, there's a lot of stuff out here for girls.
Oh, speaking of girls, is there ever a time when you can see a replication of this program for young girls?
Yaniece Spencer: And it's funny. So, for me and I, and I wanted girls to begin with, but for me, I honestly personally would say, no, I, I liked the boys. Like I'm okay with not doing girls. There are girl programs that we typically refer our parents to, that is doing similar work.
But for me, I would honestly say no. What about you Rafiah
Rafiah Hickson: yet? I mean, if it comes to the point where it's a need, most definitely, but you, you know, when creating programs, you kind of got to look for what's the need for the community. And I feel like there are already resources for the girls. So, like Yaniece mentioned, we'd typically just refer to those programs that we have developed partnerships with.
Kandidly Kristin: Well again, I appreciate you ladies sitting down with me today. This has been an amazing conversation and I just thank you all so much. So, in wrapping this up, Marian Wright Edelman said. "Service is, the rent we pay for being it is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time. And you two ladies and your boss mentoring program are literally the embodiment of that quote.
So, I thank you for every young boy out there who may be reached by your program in your community and beyond. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your program with me and my listeners.
Rafiah Hickson: Thank you again for having us
Kandidly Kristin: Oh, you're so, so welcome. All right guys, that's a wrap on this Everyday heroes Kandid spotlight again, all a BOSS, mentoring Inc's contact info will be in the show notes.
So, if anybody needs or wants to reach out, please do donate. even, if you don't need the services, send them something to support. Cause it's an amazing program. And if you or someone, you know, or an organization you know, is doing extraordinary things in their community, send me their info so I can shine a spotlight on their program as well.
So, as I say, at the end of every episode, guys, I want you to keep it safe, keep it healthy and keep it kandid.
Executive Director/Executive Director of Operations; We are both Co-Founders
Link to Program Biography:
Link to personal biography:
Y. Spencer: https://www.bossmentoring.org/copy-of-staff-board-of-directors
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