“I can still remember when it started 15 years ago here in Darbo at the Salvation Army,” says Will Green, founder and executive director of Mentoring Positives, a nonprofit that mentors and guides youth in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood on Madison’s east side. “It was hard to tell back then what this would look like 15 years later, but here we are. I knew that with my mom in mind that we would make a difference and I was determined, in her memory, to make that last forever … just in her honor.
“But, yes, 15 years later, I’m running into kids who are 22, 23 who are still talking about how long we’ve been in their lives …. That’s pretty amazing,” he adds.
Mentoring Positives is an innovative, referral-based mentoring program that has worked directly with kids and families for the past 15 years to grow strong, resilient youth leaders on Madison’s east side.
Year after the year, Mentoring Positives has continued to grow over the last decade and a half. Green dedicates his life work to his mother whose initials, M.P., are reflected in the name Mentoring Positives.
“Muriel Pipkins had me at 14 years old. She was just a caring soul and I had a special relationship with her,” Green says of his mother and his life growing up in Gary, Indiana. “She didn’t have much; she actually didn’t even graduate high school, but she worked as a CNA [certified nursing assistant] in a nursing home. She worked really hard and I just remember how she used to talk about helping those people. Man, she loved it.
“She was one that was always trying to take care of us kids with what little she had. She was a great cook. Amazing cook. She made sure that me and my two younger brothers knew how to cook, clean and do the laundry before we left the house,” Green adds. “She was a special person to me.”
Unfortunately, Green’s mom died of breast cancer at the young age of 46.
“I watched her take her last breath in Gary, [Indiana,] in 2003. It was just traumatic to me. I came back to Madison in 2004 and I just had to do something different,” Green remembers. “That’s when I created Mentoring Positives in her honor with her initials. I think about her through every individual that I come across and that is how I was going to let her live [on]. Just turning that pain into passion. Every day, every minute, I still think about her. She was such a special soul.”
Mentoring Positives 15th Anniversary Celebration Saturday, Nov. 16, 6-10 p.m. at the
Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus will be a chance to honor Green’s mom but also community leaders Gloria Reyes and Dr. Derek Johnson, who will both be presented with the Muriel Pipkins Award in her name.
“The 15th-anniversary celebration is really a great chance to honor some amazing Madisonians,” Green says. “Derek’s mom started our neighborhood association. Derek used to be a mentor for us. Gloria, of course, grew up in our neighborhood, too. We are looking forward to honoring them both with Muriel Pipkins Awards.”
Reyes was the first Latina elected to the Madison Metropolitan School Board and is currently serving as president. She is also co-founder and president of Adelante, a political action group aimed to prepare and support candidates of color to run for office.
“I am so honored to be given the Mentoring Positives Muriel Pipkins Award. This award means so much to me as it is named after Will Green’s mother who raised a son who has done so much for a community where I spent most of my childhood years,” Reyes tells Madison365. “I have witnessed Will Green push with resilience to bring resources to Darbo, a neighborhood that has been neglected for years. He keeps advocating for youth and is centered on doing what is best for our children.”
Dr. Johnson currently serves as the Assistant Director for Engineering Outreach for the UW-Madison College of Engineering’s Diversity Affairs Office. He holds a master’s degree in Education and a Doctorate degree in Higher Education Leadership.
“I’m very grateful and appreciative to Will Green and Mentoring Positives for recognizing me with the esteemed Muriel Pipkins Award. I also appreciate and thank Will Green for the work he has done in the Darbo-Worthington Neighborhood for so many years,” Johnson tells Madison365. “Darbo was my home for over 13 years, and I understand first-hand the importance and life-long benefits of mentoring programs such as Mentoring Positives. In fact, when I completed my bachelor’s degree and wanted to roll up my sleeves and help change lives through mentoring, Mentoring Positives afforded me one of my first opportunities to do so. Will Green and the Mentoring Positives team have been influential to the lives of so many of Madison’s youth that their work and dedication alone deserves all of the recognition.”
Green says that he has been following Reyes’ and Johnson’s careers closely and appreciate what great role models they are for the community.
“They have both accomplished so much in their lives and to hear them talk about Darbo and what life was for them growing up there is pretty cool. Look how successful they are coming out of that neighborhood, they make such great role models,” Green says. “No matter where you come from, you can accomplish great things if you have that determination and desire.”
Beyond the presentation of the annual Muriel Pipkins Awards, Madison-favorite DJ Chill will be playing music and keeping people dancing at the celebration.
“We will have youth that I was working with when they were 10 years old in the building and they will speak a little bit. We’ll have our [Off The Block] pizza and salsa there,” Green says. “It’s going to be a fun night as we talk about our successes over the past year; what we’ve done and what we hope to accomplish.
“We want a lot of people there,” he adds. “We really want to bring people out to support the Mentoring Positives Program and these two fantastic awardees.”
Mentoring Positives 15th Anniversary Celebration will be held Saturday, Nov. 16, 6-10 p.m., at the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus. To register for the big event, you can go to the Mentoring Positives Facebook page.