“I say ‘PEACE’ a lot. It’s an acronym I use: ‘Positive Energy Always Corrects Errors,’ and I say that to kids. They laugh at it, but it gets them to thinking.”Dionté Prewitt, who preaches “PEACE” to his kids, is the first mentor working under contract with Will Green at Mentoring Positives.
“A lot of times when I first meet kids,” he says, “they’re like, I wouldn’t say, defensive, but kind of shut down – they don’t speak much. I have to probe and ask questions. A lot of times they’re kind of negative, like when they socialize…maybe cursing or just using bad words…I do see a lot of change, especially when the kids are with me…after a while, the kids are – man, they are very good: they start to tell me about stuff they learn; they tell me how positive they are during the week. I can
definitely see a difference on that level…I’m still trying to hammer…that the whole point of the mentoring is not just to be good and do what you’re supposed to do
when you’re in the presence of adults, but try to do it when you’re on your own.”
Besides working with individual kids, Dionté is in charge of coming up with curriculum for “Skills Development” groups, where young men learn about life skills.
One of the most important parts of the curriculum for him is discussions about how to cope with growing up without a father – things like how to reconnect with your dad; how to talk to your mother about what your dad was like; and how to deal with your emotions if you feel your dad and yourself don’t connect. Dionté and Will both grew up without their fathers, and they can, as Dionté put it, “look into their [kids’]eyes and let them know that we’re there with them in that aspect, and just try to let them know that it’s OK to be bitter…but we also try to get them to reconcile, if they can, with their dads.”
Conflict resolution and anger management were the second curriculum subjects Dionté mentioned. He finds the kids often play with each other by being jokingly insulting or overly aggressive, which can lead to fights. MP tries to teach the kids how to communicate without being aggressive or demeaning, and how to be proactive about potential arguments or fights; how to find the right person to talk to at school about potential fights, someone who can help defuse it; and how to be positive with each other by giving a hug or a compliment rather than ribbing or ranking. Dionté introduces positive role models for African-American young men,
including local people who come and speak to the boys, such as Johnny Winston, Jr., who is a firefighter, and Officer Lester Moore of the Police Department. He also talks about historical figures who accomplished important things, trying to find more obscure people who the kids haven’t already heard of, as well as the more famous figures.
Dionté’s hopes for the future of MP are that it might get a facility to use as a comfortable headquarters and home base, where kids can check in, use a computer lab, maybe some classrooms and a gym. He’d also like to see more African-American mentors involved so that the kids can have those positive people in their lives and believe in positive career options for themselves. He feels that the development of MP, in the almost four years he has been with it, has been “amazing.” He’d like to see it grow and receive the recognition it deserves for its uniquely effective programming for youth. In addition to his work with MP, Dionté is also employed as Recreation Coordinator at the Salvation Army. He has a wife, Stephanie, and a daughter, Demetria, 6, and son, Origin, 2. He has a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from UW Eau Claire.