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Opening Plenary
9:30 - 9:40 AM


Inclusice Mentoring Practices



10:00 - 10:15 AM

Registration & Networking

10:15 - 10:30 AM

Featuring: Brenda Jiménez (MENTOR New York) & Rolanda L. Ward (Niagara University)

10:30 - 11:15 AM

Panel Discussion: Mentorship's Role In Supporting Youth Mental Health
Featuring: Ashleigh Cieri (Compeer of Greater Buffalo), Daniel Robertson (Say Yes Buffalo), and Jack Kavanaugh (GLYS Western New York)

Young New Yorkers today are navigating significant mental health challenges, from anxiety and depression to loneliness and the impacts of trauma. In this dynamic panel discussion featuring Ashleigh Cieri, Director of Programs at Compeer Greater Buffalo; Jack Kavanaugh, Executive Director at GLYS Western New York; and Daniel Robertson, Director of the Boys and Men of Color Initiative at Say Yes Buffalo, we'll be addressing the crucial role of youth mentorship in tackling these pressing issues head-on.

Delve into the profound impact of loneliness on teen mental health and how mentors can offer essential support. Our conversation will showcase evidence-based strategies for enhancing mental well-being through mentorship, with a strong emphasis on creating empowering environments that amplify young voices.

11:30 AM - 12:45 PM

Workshop 1: Creating Safe Mentoring Spaces for Boys and Young Men of Color
Presented by: Antoine Johnson (National Fatherhood Initiative) and Daniel Robertson (Say Yes Buffalo)

In this session, Antoine Johnson of the National Fatherhood Initiative and Daniel Robertson from Say Yes Buffalo will explore creating joyful and inclusive mentoring spaces for youth, with an emphasis on building "safe and brave environments" for boys and young men of color. The pair will showcase the joint initiative between Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network and Say Yes Buffalo to foster open conversations about mental health and effective stress management strategies. Join us to learn impactful practices for developing these crucial support spaces and gain insights into how these efforts can enhance young people's mental well-being.

Workshop 2: Building School Mentorship Networks for Academic Success
Presented by: Daniel Russell and Garrett Richardson (Bridge the Gap)

Join Garrett Richardson and Daniel Russell, Founders of Bridge the Gap, as they share key strategies for schools to use mentorship to enhance academic and attendance outcomes. Emphasizing the 'power of proximity,' this session will explore how building mentoring networks within schools and communities can foster environments where all youth thrive. You’ll learn about developing mentoring champions and community hubs designed to support young people through culturally competent practices and positive youth development, empowering youth toward success in education and life.

1:00 - 2:00 PM

Lunch & Panel Discussion: The Significance of Credible Messengers in Youth Mentoring
Featuring: Brittany Washington (BBBSENST), Garrett Richardson (Bridge the Gap), and Jack Kavanaugh (GLYS Western New York)

This panel will explore the crucial role of credible messengers in mentoring, particularly those who share lived experiences with their mentees. Featuring Brittany Washington, Director of Programs at BBBSENST; Garrett Richardson, Founder of Bridge the Gap; and Jack Kavanaugh, Executive Director of GLYS WNY.


Our discussion will address strategies for cases where direct experience alignment isn't possible, emphasizing the importance of cultural humility and best practices to ensure a supportive and empowering mentor-mentee relationship. Key topics include navigating sensitive conversations, such as when a young person comes out to their mentor, and highlighting the significance of curiosity and open-mindedness in mentoring relationships. Join us to discover insights on building impactful, inclusive mentoring connections that prioritize the well-being of the young person.



Antoine Johnson

As Program Success Director for National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI), Antoine raises awareness among human service organizations of the system of complementary services and resources NFI offers and provides training and technical assistance to NFI partners. Antoine is an experienced human service professional with a passion for supporting father inclusion in human service organizations. He also has experience launching a grassroots fatherhood initiative. At NFI, he enjoys building relationships with practitioners and organization leaders to create father-inclusive ecosystems where children and communities can thrive. Antoine received a Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Services, concentrating in community and mental health, from the University at Buffalo, NY, and an Associate’s Degree in Humanities and Social Sciences from Niagara County Community College (Sanborn, NY). He is a husband and father of two young children.


Ashleigh Cieri

Ashleigh Cieri (she/her) started her mentoring journey in 2004 as a volunteer mentor to an at-promise youth in her hometown of London, Ontario. A few years later, she mentored a youth in foster care during her time living in Lansing, Michigan. Thinking she would attend law school is what brought her to the United States, but the youth that she mentored were who led her to the field of social work. Ashleigh faced her own childhood with many traumas and losses, and in adulthood, realized that she could be the mentor that she wished she had as a child. With over 15 years of experience in the field of social work and mentoring, Ashleigh currently serves as Compeer of Greater Buffalo’s Director of Programs where she oversees community, school-based, higher education and peer support mentoring programs. She holds a Master’s in Social Work degree and is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, where she trains community members how to recognize signs of mental health challenges and provide support to others. Ashleigh is a graduate of the University at Buffalo's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Key Persons Leadership Development Program. She is also a Cohort 10 graduate of the Health Foundation of Western & Central NY's Health Leadership Fellows program, and a participant in the 2023 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring in Portland, OR. Ashleigh is devoted to making sure all youth have caring adults in their lives and that they never feel alone. She resides in Buffalo, NY, with her husband, and they are parents to three girls. Antoine received a Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Services, concentrating in community and mental health, from the University at Buffalo, NY, and an Associate’s Degree in Humanities and Social Sciences from Niagara County Community College (Sanborn, NY). He is a husband and father of two young children.


Brittany Washington

Brittany Washington is a young professional who is a product of successful youth and professional mentoring programs. These experiences ignited a passion to serve humans in impactful ways and motivated her to pay it forward for her community. Brittany has over 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit sectors. This, coupled with her education of two Master’s degrees—an MBA in Innovation and MS in Global Enterprise—has allowed her to be creative and strategic in her leadership and programmatic approach.     Brittany has facilitated multiple youth and education programs within the Western New York area, as well as in Philadelphia, PA, and Atlanta, GA. Brittany has a host of experience working with youth of all ages with diverse backgrounds, unique adversities, and special needs.     Brittany is currently serving as the Director of Programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara, and the Southern Tier. As the head of the Program Department, she plays a key role in the senior leadership and decision making for her team and agency.


Daniel Robertson

Daniel Robertson is a native of Buffalo, NY, the proud girl dad to Laila Robertson, and currently serves as the Director of the Boys and Men of Color Initiative with Say Yes Buffalo. Over his 10 years with Say Yes Buffalo, Daniel assisted with the progression of the Say Yes Summer Camps, created and launched the Say Yes Buffalo Scholar Mentoring Program and worked as a Family Support Specialist. His diverse background includes over five years of higher education and twenty plus years of extensive training and professional experience in the areas of youth development, mentoring, and implementation of programs. His students and parents respectfully refer him to as “Mr. D” or “Mr. Daniel”. His colleagues acknowledge his passion and commitment to affording disadvantaged youth with the same opportunities that he was given to reach his goals as a male of color. A graduate of the University at Buffalo where Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Medaille College. Daniel was selected as a member of Resetting the Table’s 2023 Buffalo Courageous Neighbors Facilitation Training Cohort, focused training in the theory and practice of facilitating courageous and constructive communication across political divides. As a Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Leader of Color Fellow, Daniel engaged in a 5-day intensive leadership development training provided by the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Daniel is humbled and honored to be recognized by Buffalo Business First as a 30 Under Thirty Honoree, along with recognition from CAO’s Education Task Force, the Grassroots Organization, Ballin For a Cause, Inc. and the Communities of Giving Initiative due to his valuable contributions in the field of youth services and the community. In February 2023, Daniel was awarded the IDEA Award from Business First for his work related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Awareness. Most recently, Daniel was recognized as a Transformative Leader during Mayor W. Brown’s MLK Day Ceremony in January 2024. Committed to the community service Daniel serves on the Tapestry Board of Trustee’s, the Johnny B. Wiley Board of Directors, a Partner/Mentoring Coordinator with the Buffalo Police Athletic Club (PAL), Mayor W. Brown Gamechangers Program and a Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Daniel’s continued ascension has tasked him with what he refers to as “the most challenging and important work of his life” … continuing to improve the life outcomes for boys and young men of color. Entrusted with the responsibilities of promoting and elevating the voices of young men, changing narrative, advocating for policy changes, creating meaningful learning opportunities, and building young leaders through mentorship are now the very fabric of Daniel’s work.n

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Daniel Russell

Daniel Russell co-founded Bridge the Gap, a consultancy firm that develops its clients into Bridge Builders for young people via impactful mentoring practices, and is the Director of Civic Leadership Development at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE). At Bridge the Gap and LEE, Daniel works with school districts, institutions of higher education, and youth serving organizations to develop leadership capacity to create a space for youth to be heard and supported through their transitions in the education system or the inequities they might face. Daniel was recently appointed to the state of Maryland’s Citizens Review Board for Children Governor Wes Moore’s office. He also successfully led turnaround efforts in a network of underperforming New York City schools using evidence-based strategies as an Executive Director with The Johns Hopkins University School of Education. This included efforts to maximize the impact of $10+ million in annual grant funds operationalizing a system-wide socioeconomic community outreach and integration campaign. Daniel’s portfolio of work also includes instructional design as he works to implement critical workforce development skills and digital literacy programming for adult learners. He holds instructor certifications from the American Red Cross in CPR, First Aid, AED, and Lifeguarding and often facilitates classes for various organizations and communities. He is a recipient of the Johns Hopkins University Kevin Cuffie “Above and Beyond” Award and received an official citation from the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office for excellence in education. Daniel has a Master’s degree in School District Leadership and is a member of The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Scaling for Impact cohort. Daniel began his career as a high school Spanish teacher in Baltimore City where he was recognized as “Teacher of the Year”. He continues to serve as an advocate for youth and a champion for education reform.


Garrett Richardson

Garrett Richardson, better known as "Mr. G" to the youth he serves, has committed his life's work to improving life outcomes for historically underserved youth, especially boys and young men of color (BYMOC). During his time in K-12 education, Garrett has designed various co-curricular programming both during and after school to support students in need. In the summer of 2016, he designed New York City’s first My Brother’s Keeper High School Chapter in Queens. President Obama launched MBK in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color. In two short school years, the Queens program matched 100 boys to in-school peer mentors and improved participants’ daily school attendance rates by an average of 8% compared to the previous school year. This initiative inspired Garrett to create his consultant agency, Bridge The Gap, in 2018. Bridge The Gap (BTG) is a small but mighty team of education and youth service professionals with nearly 40 years of experience transforming organizational culture through culturally competent training for staff and social-emotional supports for young people facing significant challenges in school and/or in life. Their clients include The New York City Department of Education, the City University of NY, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and New York State’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. In addition to leading Bridge The Gap, Garrett is a member of the Social Services team at Bloomberg Associates, the philanthropic consulting arm of Michael Bloomberg’s charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies. In this role, he works with client cities to improve the quality of life for residents, taking a strategic, collaborative and results-oriented approach to make cities more equitable. His work includes the management of municipal efforts that are part of The Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge. Previously, Garrett served in a multitude of roles focused on making demonstrative improvements to the life outcomes of youth from historically underserved communities, especially boys and young men of color. As an education consultant with over a decade of experience improving key performance indicators at persistently struggling schools in cities across the Mid-Atlantic, Garrett brings a wealth of knowledge around youth engagement and positive youth development to Bloomberg Associates. During his time in K-12 education, Garrett designed various programs and campaigns to support students with the greatest need, earning public endorsements from some of New York State’s Education Department’s highest-ranking members. Prior to joining BA, Garrett served as the Campaign for Black Male Achievement’s (CBMA) Membership Services Manager where he built national membership recruitment campaigns for CBMA’s 11,000 global members and executed high-quality brand marketing experiences for international partners such as Nike and PricewaterhouseCoopers.


Jack Kavanaugh

Jack Kavanaugh is the Executive Director of GLYS Western New York, a local organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Jack holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University at Buffalo, with nearly 20 years of experience working with youth and youth programs across New York and in Philadelphia and Baltimore. In addition to GLYS, Jack works for the UB School of Social Work with the field placement office, and is a faculty member with the Institute for Nonprofit Practice.

Daniel Rob
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