The Institute for Transformative Mentoring (ITM) is a program at The New School – Center for New York City Affairs. The Institute for Transformative Mentoring (ITM) is a dynamic training program focused on the development of Credible Messengers (formerly incarcerated men and women) working in the social services fields throughout New York City. These mentors help young people navigate community violence and avoid the criminal justice system. Credible Messenger mentors are community members with relevant life experience and social capital that give them the authority to challenge the norms and change the thinking of those with whom they work. In the justice context, Credible Messengers come from the same neighborhoods as the participants they support, have a history of justice-involvement themselves, and are engaged in their own healing and Transformation.
New York City is increasingly employing Credible Messengers to engage young adults involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. These programs serve thousands of young people through youth justice, violence interruption, and after-school programs. For the programs to be impactful and norm-changing, they must provide alternatives and opportunities for both participants and credible messenger staff for lawful, gainful employment and build productive and healthy lives for themselves and their families.
Credible Messengers are hired to act as agents of change in young people’s lives. They also become staff at human services agencies and must adapt to an entirely different set of norms. City agencies and providers have made investments in staff training and coaching. The Institute expands on these offerings and fills an unmet need for professional development for this vital workforce.
The Institute for Transformative Mentoring offers an intensive, semester-long training course. The Institute is intended to help Credible Messengers heal and enhance their practical skills so they are healthier, more knowledgeable and better able to help others. ITM is structured using restorative justice practices and interactive learning to support participants in engaging deeply with the material and each other. This course covers trauma-informed care, youth development, history of mass incarceration and a social justice framework, and career advancement. Students engage in activities, role play exercises, and develop lesson plans and strategies that they use in their daily work with young people.
Credible Messenger mentors serve young people citywide (with a focus on high-poverty, justice involved areas such as the South Bronx, Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and Jamaica). Current participants are employed by Artistic Noise, Child Welfare Organizing Project, Children’s Village, Community Connections for Youth, Exodus, Friends of Island Academy, Good Shepherd Services, KAVI, LifeCamp, Osborne Association, and Phipps.