Peer Mentor Spotlight: John Joshua William Oxenford

John began working for The NAN Project during our first virtual Peer Mentor Training during the summer of 2020. Since training, John has shared his incredible story with hundreds of students across Massachusetts! One of our Peers Coordinator, Manny, sat down to chat with John about his work with us, his interest in acting and music, and his advice for other Peer Mentors.

Hello, John. Thanks for joining me today. Can you briefly tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve had a lot of success in acting despite my mental health challenges and difficulty with substance use. I’ve managed to survive and now things are better than ever. I recently graduated from Bunker Hill Community College with an Associates in Arts and Theatre. My favorite playwrights are William Shakespeare and David Mamet. I play music and I work out regularly to stay fit. Fitness and music are a huge part of my life. The NAN Project has also helped me hugely.

Sounds busy! How does being a Peer Mentor at The NAN Project fit into all that you do?

Being a peer mentor helps have something active to do and stay involved. The people here help me feel respected and wanted and it’s awesome to work with everyone. Supporting the other peer mentors to write and share their Comeback Stories while motivating them to improve their skills makes me feel helpful to the team. Four years ago, after I came out of the hospital my major goal was getting a job, and NAN has been great for me because it is something I enjoy doing. I recently finished reading and notating a method acting book consisting of the first two volumes of the Konstantine Stanislavsky method, a Russian acting method that was popular in America in the 1950s. This has helped me improve my acting to bring real life emotions to the stage and during presentations with The NAN Project.

Before you became one of our star Peer Mentors, did you ever have a mentor?

It’s interesting because I am diagnosed with schizophrenia,and I feel I have special connections to people I may have never even met! Martin Luther King was someone I got shivers listening to. I am constantly getting different inspirations from different people. I guess you can say I have many mentors!

What strategies do you use to deal with your own mental health?

Having a steady treatment plan keeps me healthy. Going to the gym and making music helps me too. Meditative Mind is a musical project that helps me a lot as well. Meditation is something that I am making a goal to do more often. One of the things I love is playing guitar; right now, I am working on a solo project of metal music. I’ll also occasionally play some rock, blues, or post-rock/post-metal. I hope to get my music recorded and find other musicians to play with once COVID is over. 

You recently attended one of our Peer Mentor Trainings, and helped train a new group of Peer Mentors. What was that like? 

During our peer mentor training at YOUForward in Everett this December, I supported one of the trainees to write their Comeback Story. I found it inspiring, because they had so much resilience. They were not afraid to share their stories despite the bullying they went through. I thought this was powerful and that their story could change the lives of many young people.

What do you hope for in your own future?

I have a goal to work in peer counseling. I’d like to continue to work with The NAN Project while studying for the Certified Peer Specialist training. I also would like to become a fitness trainer, continue my career in acting, and become a professional musician. I’d love to have my own band to play with and it’s been a goal of mine for a long time. I think it would be interesting to see where my journey takes me and I am not letting doubts or fears stand in my way.

What else do you like to do in your free time, when you’re not working, acting, or making music?

I enjoy playing board games. Some of my favorite games include sudoku, solitaire, and chess. I also enjoy watching the Premier Soccer League. It is one of my favorite hobbies.

What advice do you have for future or soon-to-be Peer Mentors?

I remember starting off really nervous! This helped me figure out what I needed to do in order to be actively listening. I told myself, “Don’t get nervous, everyone on the team has been through it too. Ask questions, and if you’re feeling nervous, reach out to the Peer Coordinators and Senior Peer Mentors. Trust that everyone really wants to help.” This has really helped me stay in touch with my teammates but also improve my presentation skills.

Thank you, John! 

John has a very calming presence to him. He is non-judgemental, making it easy for our new Peer Mentors to feel comfortable around him. He is dedicated to his family and works very diligently and intentionally. He is a great addition to The NAN Project, and we love having him be a part of our team. He has come very far in his journey and we can’t wait to see him continue to expand and flourish!

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