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The National CARES Mentoring Movement, an organization committed to healing and transforming the lives of Black children growing up in communities impacted by poverty, by recruiting Black men and women to mentor them; Columbia University School of Social Work, one of the world’s leading research universities; and Columbia University’s Black Alumni Council (BAC), the association for current and future Black alumni from all schools, affiliates and generations of Columbia, announced their partnership at a garden party on Sunday, August 6th at the home of Dr. Michael and Hasoni Pratts in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. 

Over 100 people attended the event, “A Gathering for our Children: Reclaiming their Joy,” for a late afternoon of cocktails and conversation. CBS news correspondent and New York Times Best Seller, Michelle Miller, moderated a conversation between Melissa Begg, Dean of the School of Social Work and Stephen Powell, Co-Executive Director and Chief Programs and Partnerships Officer of CARES. The discussion focused on the shared mission to support youth in developing their toolkit for mental wellness. 

The first partnership of its kind between CARES and a University, this collaboration will support the recruitment of mentors from our alumni as well as serve as a practicum site for social work graduate students committed to the wellbeing of communities and individuals.  

“Columbia School of Social Work is committed to finding new ways to engage community partners that will enhance the trust of the mental health profession,” says Melissa Begg. Social Workers are the largest group of mental health providers in the nation, uniquely trained to understand how systemic inequities impact the wellbeing of communities and individuals. We are overjoyed for this partnership.”

“With over 4000 alumni, The BAC is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate on such a dynamic event that mobilizes our alumni family and University towards better support for our young people,” says Riley Jones, IV. The seeds of this partnership will bear fruit for a future where mental health and wellness receives our community’s full attention.”

“Right now, our children need all of us to come together to ensure that they feel heard, loved and treasured,” says Stephen Powell. “We are thrilled to partner with Columbia School of Social Work and the Black Alumni Council to build an ecosystem of support so that our young ones can heal and achieve their goals.”

With over 175,000 mentors and 300,000 children who have been impacted by their programs, this partnership will support CARES efforts in ensuring that the demand for increased mental health services can be met. “My life’s work has been to uplift the next generation,” says Hasoni Pratts. “We are excited to be part of this moment, by opening up our home for such an epic movement.”

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