In 2004, Will and Becky Green started Mentoring Positives as a nonprofit organization to mentor and support at-risk youth in Dane County. “We knew from the beginning that we needed to find a way to help vulnerable youth become leaders in their community,” says Will. “We developed a program to do this through group mentoring, athletics, and entrepreneurship because, as we like to say, ‘the hook is the key!’ We guide our youth on a positive path of learning, practicing, and mastering socio-emotional well-being and leadership skills.

“Once we had the mentoring piece in place, we found we needed a way to generate income not only for the program to be able to serve the youth, but also so that we could provide employment opportunities for them.” They set up office in the heart of Madison’s Darbo-Worthington neighborhood and created Off the Block Salsas and Pizzas as a platform to inspire youth through social entrepreneurship while also providing job skills training and employment to those participating in the program.

In 2008, youth enrolled in the Mentoring Positives Leader Academy and worked with Will and Becky to create recipes for both a mild and a spicy salsa. The next year, the recipe won the first of many Battle of the Salsas at Metcalfe’s Market in Hilldale. Popularity continues to grow with these products, and today, the youth in this expanded program produce over 600 jars of salsa each month.

Photo by Off the Block

In 2016, a small group of Mentoring Positives youth began developing a frozen pizza product in collaboration with the UW People Program and UW Extension. In 2020, Off the Block frozen pizzas launched with an online store just as the pandemic hit. Despite the many challenges the pandemic brought, the program had a very successful first year, and it continues to thrive today.

Mentoring Positives students now work on every angle of the production process for Off the Block products. This starts with food science and safety training then leads into recipe creation and testing, naming, logo design, packaging, labeling, marketing, selling, and even conducting sampling opportunities at local events.

“Watching these students grow through these experiences has been amazing,” says Becky. “Their creativity is so exciting! Being able to give them a space where they can not only learn and receive mentoring, but where they can also create has been so important. Over the last 19 years, we’ve had to rely on other facilities, like FEED Kitchens and Christine’s Kitchen, for food preparation and storage. We’ve wanted our own space to be able to more efficiently serve the youth in our program.”

Today, Mentoring Positives houses Off the Block processes in their new space in the Ella Apartments on East Washington Avenue. This space is called Muriel’s Place in honor of Will’s Mother, Muriel Pipkins.

“My mom had me when she was 14 years old, and I never knew my father growing up,” says Will. “While in my hometown of Gary, Indiana, I was able to spend the last moments of my mom’s life with her, and that changed me forever. The loss of my mom really pushed me to become a social entrepreneur; I used that pain and turned it into passion to create impactful change in the Madison community. I took my mom’s initials, MP, and created Mentoring Positives. She would be so proud of what we’re doing with both Mentoring Positives and Off the Block, especially the way these programs are changing the lives of our youth. It’s amazing and humbling to see!”

After 19 years, Mentoring Positives has had hundreds of youths go through the program and has touched hundreds more families, local businesses, and community members. The following testimonials speak to the program’s success.

Photo by Off the Block

“I met Will Green when I was 11,” says Mo. “His Mentoring Positives group played basketball in the same place I did, and I realized if I wanted to play ball, I needed to join the group. I didn’t know it then, but before we played basketball, the whole group talked about life, school, family, and what it was like being a Black man. Now I know those talks were actually lessons, and those lessons kept me out of trouble. Many of my old friends fell into the system. But now I’m 24, and I want to mentor youth like Mentoring Positives did for me.”

Ania says, “Working with Mentoring Positives has brought me out of my shell, because I’m really shy. The girl’s group has helped me make lots of new friends and also taught me some working skills that will be great for me in the future.”

Serena says, “Mentoring Positives has built up my confidence. Before, I couldn’t really talk to people, but now, I love working with people at our pop-up pizza and salsa events!”

For more information about Mentoring Positives and Off the Block products, please visit

Photographs provided by Off the Block.

You can find Off the Block products at several Madison locations:
Willy Street Co-op (East, West, and North)
Metcalfe’s Market (Hilldale and West Towne)
Regent Street Market