Don’t tell Mentoring Positives Executive Director Will Green that Darbo-Worthington is a troubled neighborhood … not with all of the positivity he sees over there on Madison’s east side. The first annual Mentoring Positives Back To School Walk For Peace Saturday, Aug. 22, at Worthington Park will be a showcase of what Green says are all the wonderful things going on in that neighborhood.

“Aaron Perry [the first African American Diabetic man to ever finish an Ironman] thought it would be a great idea to do a Peace Walk in Darbo so we looked at the landscape and found out that we wouldn’t have to actually close out any streets. We could use the bike bridge to get over to the north side,” Green tells Madison365 in an interview at the Salvation Army in Darbo. “It’s a 3-mile walk.”

The walk through the neighborhood streets will emphasize the importance of at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, and will engage and encourage our youth to get off on the right foot this coming 2015-2016 school year.

Green founded Mentoring Positives in 2004 to serve the many at-risk youth in the Darbo-Worthington area. Mentoring Positives is a referral-based mentoring program that serves families in and around Dane County. Their goal is to improve youths’ behaviors in the home, school, and community so they will not engage in criminal behaviors that ultimately lead to juvenile detention, jail, or prison and, thus, to break the cycle of recidivism for high-risk youth.

Mentoring Positives Executive Director Will Green with wife Becky
Mentoring Positives Executive Director Will Green with wife Becky

Green’s initial intentions were just to have a Peace Walk, but then he realized what a great opportunity this could be to bring people together around health, around getting ready to go back to school, and around community. “I thought this would be a great opportunity for Mentoring Positives to bring people together to start talking about being successful in school,” Green says. “Education is one of our priorities.”

The health and family resource fair portion of the Peace Walk will offer free tables to area local health agencies that will give them a chance to get their information out. “A health fair is great to have in a low-income neighborhood like this that has been supposedly challenged for 30 years,” Green says. “My big goal is to get a lot of the residents out to the party and have them voice their opinions on what we should be doing here.”

Mentoring Positives is looking to do more around health issues in hopes of lessening the tremendous racial disparities that exist in Dane County. “I know a lot of black men who have had health problems. I’ve had health problems myself and have been working on things,” Green says. “As you know, my mother [Muriel Pipkins] passed when she was 46 from cancer. Health is something that we need to work on in the African American community and I just thought it would be great to have a health component to the Peace Walk.”

Former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray will make opening remarks at the event. There will be games, music DJ, great food, and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for those ages 14-20. “We are receiving great support for this event from MMSD [Madison Metropolitan School District] and Dane County Human Services along with Black Men That Run,” he says. “It is really going to be a great event for these kids.”

Green knows that his Peace Walk and Health Fair is competing with many different things during event-heavy Madison weekends. The 100 Black Men of Madison are hosting their Backpacks for Success on the same day at Demetral Park, also on the east side. “There’s no reason that people can’t go to both. They can pop right on over to the Peace Walk after the backpack event,” Green smiles.

“It’s going to be a fun day. I’m hoping that next year we can do it up in a bigger fashion, but I’m just happy that we’re going to be doing this in this neighborhood,” Green adds. “When it’s all said and done, it’s going to come down to these neighborhoods that people are trying to fix. I think we’re well ahead of the game here in Darbo. There’s a lot of positive things going on. We have people engaged.”

MP Butterflies perform at the Overture Center.
MP Butterflies auditioned for Overture Center’s Rising Stars talent search, and made it through to the second round on August 29.

Plenty of positive things are going on in Darbo-Worthington. Mentoring Positives has been doing its Play-Eat-Grow program this summer in Worthington Park. Mentoring Positives staff and volunteers provide family-friendly activities all summer long including flag football, baseball, Frisbee, dancing, and double dutch. They put on weekly picnics with free food for kids and families in the park and they have a small plot of land where they teach kids gardening skills.

“We’ve started a music group with different guys playing guitar, drums, and keyboards. We started a chess group and a dance group – the Mentoring Positive Butterflies,” Green says. “The MP Butterflies actually just performed down at Overture Center where they auditioned in the Rising Stars Program. They got called back! They’ll be going back down there on Aug. 29 for their second audition.”

Mentoring Positives’ Off The Block Salsa, designed and made by young men at Darbo-Worthington, has also been a hit. Mentoring Positives kids grew their own tomatoes and peppers on an acre of community garden and cooked them into big batches of salsa.

“The salsa has been a huge success. People just love it,” Green says.

Off The Block Salsa has been flying off the shelves.
Off The Block Salsa has been flying off the shelves.

You’ll be able to pick some Off The Block Salsa up at the Back To School Walk for Peace this weekend … just in time, Green says, for football season and football parties.

“You don’t have to be from the neighborhood to come to the party. We want to get as many people involved as possible,” Green says. “We’re looking more for social capital more than anything. We’ve been having some good engagements in the neighborhood and we’re looking for more.

“We’re really coming from the focus of empowering people in the neighborhoods … that’s the beauty of Mentoring Positives right here in the neighborhood,” Green adds.

The 1st annual Mentoring Positives Back To School Walk For Peace will be held Saturday, Aug. 22, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Worthington Park, 3030 Darbo Drive.
For more information about Mentoring Positives, please visit their website.