Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Season's Greetings from Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection!

2010 Holiday Sessions from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

I am excited to report some great news that we received last week: For the second year in a row, Cabrini Connections was recognized as the #1 Mentoring program across all 6 regions of Chicago!! Congratulations to
EL Da' Sheon Nix, Administrative Coordinator and Bradley Troast, Assistant Program Coordinator, along with all volunteers, students, staff, and donors for this huge accomplishment!

Cabrini Connections is a GREAT program that is clearly being recognized for its positive impact on the youth involved. Yet while Cabrini Connections is able to invest in 70-80 teens per year, there are an estimated 200,000 students in Chicago that would benefit from mentoring-to-careers programs. While there are over 200 programs in our Program Locator that operate within Chicago, these programs only reach a fraction of those 200,000 youth and many of those programs continually struggle for funding.

While supporting programs may seem a financial burden upfront, the number of youth not currently being reached by such programs could translate into staggering financial costs to society. As Dan Bassill writes in his recent blog, a study conducted by by Mark Cohen and Alex Piquiero from Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management asserted: “We e
stimate the present value of saving a 14-year-old high risk juvenile from a life of crime to range from $2.6 to $5.3 million.” If you look at the budget for a program like Cabrini Connections, the cost per student is close to $2,500 per year. That means that every $1 spent on a tutor/mentor program could save over $350 of societal costs later on! A program like Cabrini Connections is an investment in the positive futures of youth that may result in kids staying in school, staying out of trouble, and having opportunities to pursue the careers of their choosing.

When Tutor/Mentor Connection was founded, Dan Bassill realized that one great program in a city as large as Chicago is not enough. He also realized that there needs to be a strategic plan for helping tutor/mentor programs get started and for helping businesses and leaders realize the importance of supporting programs in their regions.
T/MC collects and shares research on the best practices of starting and operating tutor/mentor programs as a one-stop knowledge center for those building strategies to help youth from poverty to careers.

As this presen
tation states "No General Would Go to War Without A Map" and the war on poverty should be no different. We strive to create a "tipping point" that sets the actions in place to help every child (not just those reached by Cabrini Connections) graduate from high school and start college and careers by age 25. I encourage you to check out these links to build your own understanding of T/MC's strategy.

Thank you to the many people who have donated to our Holiday Fund. We are at almost half of our goal, and we hope that the generosity of our supporters will continue in the next few weeks. If you believe in our work and our mission, please show your support so we can continue to operate effectively in 2011! Thank you for all of your help!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Alarming Stastics that Call for Real Solutions

Today I came across a study by The Schott Foundation for Public Education entitled Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males. Looking at this report for the state of Illinois, the statistics are highly alarming:

In the state of Illinois:

  • 47% of African American males graduate from high school (versus 83% for white males in Illinois)
  • 52% of African American males are below basic reading level in 8th grade (versus 19% of white male 8th grade students)
  • 53% of African American males are below basic math level in 8th grade (versus 50% of white male 8th graders)
  • 18% of the state’s population of male African American students were put on out of school suspension during the 2006-07 school year (versus 5% of the state’s white male student population)
  • Over 6 times as many white male students were placed in Advanced Placement Mathematics and Advanced Placement Science classes as compared to African American male students (given their respective shares in the student population)

Needless to say, this paints a pretty bleak picture for the educational prospects of African American males in this state. In an era and in an economy when a college degree does not even guarantee a person's employment, less than half of African American males in this state are earning their high school diplomas. And realistically, the picture is not terribly bright for white male students either: 17% not graduating high school and 50% below basic math level is definitely disturbing.

Studies such as this highlight the urgency for programs that offer students one-on-one attention. Based on the data, students obviously need extra academic help they are not currently receiving in the classroom. But in addition to one-on-one tutoring, they also need people to offer them support, to model career opportunities they might not otherwise know about, and to believe in them as both a student and as a person. This blend of academic support and life coaching is what makes a one-on-one tutor/mentor relationship an ideal way to tackle the above statistics on the individual student level.

One of the interesting statistic to me is the difference between African American and white males in their likelihood of being placed in Advanced Placement (AP) math and science classrooms. The other statistics like differences between reading levels amongst white and African American males, can certainly explain at least a portion of this disparity. However, I think it is also an issue of access. Even Evanston Township High School District 202, located in an affluent and mostly white part of the Chicago suburb, Evanston, recently voted to eliminate its honors humanities courses for freshman. How much less access do kids from low income neighborhoods have to opportunities to be in these types of advanced classrooms where high expectations and high success rates are the standard?

The issues of unequal access are certainly relevant to tutor/mentor programs, too. The opportunity for students to receive this extra help is often limited by location, transportation issues, and even the ability to travel within safe neighborhoods. I have spoken to parents before who don’t want to send their kids to tutoring/mentoring
programs in their own neighborhoods, because they simply worry about the safety of their sons or daughters.

These problems are tied up in range of complex societal issues such as inequality, poverty, and segregation. But we can’t afford to merely feel defeated at these statistics. On an individual level, there are ways to become involved in tutoring/mentoring programs as a volunteer, donor, or advocate. On a broader level, we as citizens need to hold our politicians and leaders accountable to getting more resources and programs—like tutoring and mentoring programs—in all parts of Chicago.

As the Schott Foundation says regarding their maps displaying this information: “This new, interactive tool is designed to provide compelling graphic information that can be used to spark action and hold policymakers accountable for implementing the systemic changes needed to provide Black male students the opportunity to learn and succeed.”

Just as the Schott Foundation has made interactive maps to help educate people and “spark action,” Tutor/Mentor Connection is dedicated to using maps as a resource to guide the decisions of leaders and the voting

Read the Mapping for Justice blog article to see Mike Trakan's explanation of how maps can help point politicians to places in the city where tutor/mentor programs are needed and also to assets like churches and businesses within those communities that have a vested interest in helping youth in that neighborhood succeed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Global Collaboration Toward Global Impact

I wrote an entry last week explaining how former PIP fellow Chris Warren is still an important part of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection--in the form of his enduring connections to people here, the time he continues to volunteer toward the organization, and also the ongoing value that his past blogs and online contributions still offer anyone accessing T/MC operated sites.

As this last point demonstrates, one of the major benefits of an online information hub is that it is not confined by its location. While tutor/mentor programs are specific to the places where they hold programs and the populations they serve, an online learning network has a global reach that has the potential to coach any leaders from tutor/mentor programs, the nonprofit sector more broadly, and also leaders in business, politics, and religious institutions. The T/MC online PDFs, links to other sites, and maps are relevant to individuals in each of these sectors. (visit Tutor/Mentor Institute and Tutor/Mentor Connection to see for yourself!).

Since we collect information and share it online (and free!), people can access it from anywhere. A look at analytics that track visits to our websites emphasize that people do visit T/MC sites from many parts of Chicago, the US, and other parts of the world. In fact, T/MC websites receive 9,000 monthly visits and 150,000 monthly page views.

The T/MC online discussion forum, NING, even hosts groups dedicated to conversations surrounding tutoring/mentoring in many places including South America, Korea, Africa, Los Angeles, and India. I also had someone from Nigeria comment on my blog expressing interest in the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

In addition to connecting people from all around the world to each other, ideas, and best practices, we also have people reach out to us from a wide variety of locations about how they might contribute to the organization.

Last week, for instance, a woman from Toronto expressed interest in being part of the next conference as a speaker. She was extremely enthusiastic about T/MC and what it does and excited to look into traveling to Chicago for this event (read about the state of the conferences—we still need funding for them to happen!).

Another individual, Nicola Avery, has been helping us from the UK. Last week, she created a video illustrating the use of OHATS, a technology developed by T/MC to track organizational progress. As Dan Bassill writes in this blog post, this video demonstrates that people from all over the world can borrow ideas from T/MC and can also contribute their time and skills to the organization and its mission.

Closer to home, Katie Anderson, a graduate student at Dominican University, completed a case study of Tutor/Mentor Connection and its impact. The case study is very informative in giving a history of the organization and expressing the impact, successes, and challenges T/MC faces. You can read the Chicago Case Study here.

Each of these examples demonstrate how T/MC is actively working to make positive change in the lives of youth and adults on a global level. Likewise, the number of people contributing to the organization from near and far shows that T/MC is a unique leader in connecting people, ideas, and passion and funneling that toward helping youth to careers via tutoring and mentoring programs.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blast from the Past: '08-'09 PIP Fellow Chris Warren at T/MC

For the past week, the Tutor/Mentor Connection office has been extra busy! Chris Warren has been coming in each day helping T/MC with networking to Northwestern University student leaders, finding funding, and writing grant proposals.
Chris with CC student, Summer 2008.

Chris was the 2008-2009 Northwestern Public Interest Program Fellow (NUPIP) at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in the Assistant Program Coordinator role. He currently lives in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where he works as Development Officer at a school for pre-K through 12th graders. He also teaches English at this school.

Chris networking to potential NU supporters, December 2010.

Chris is proof of CC student Amari Roby's assertion that "here at Cabrini Connections we're like a family." Although he's out of the country, Chris continues to show great support for T/MC and his work this past week demonstrates his ongoing commitment to the T/MC's work toward "collective action."

I continually learn from Chris even though we are rarely able to connect in person. I frequently visit his blog. His entries--while they may be from a few years ago--continue to offer me insights into my role at T/MC by showing me what has been done in the past and highlighting effective ways to implement the organization's strategy. This is an example of how internet learning can create an organizational history to help train new staff and retain important knowledge and best practices.

It has been great to have Chris with us this week during his holiday visit from Guatemala! Be sure to check out his recent blog post encouraging NU Wildcats to support CC, T/MC efforts!

Thanks to Chris for all of his time and dedication over the past few years! Safe travels!

FUN SIDE NOTE: Chris and my brother were college (and even post-college) roommates! I first met Chris while visiting my big brother at Northwestern as a junior in high school. I will spare you photos of their college dorm room...
but I wouldn't dream of excluding this photo:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is a Beard Worth?

The answer to this question is A LOT if you're part of Beards for Kids, a fundraiser launched by Gabe Chapman, a Cabrini Connections mentor. This is just one example of a slew of fundraisers that have been started by volunteers, alumni, staff members, and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection supporters in the past few weeks to try to help us through this holiday season.

Beards For Kids "This holiday season I’m participating in the Beards For Kids 2010 Challenge. I’ll be growing a beard from now until the end of the holidays and have a goal of raising $10 per day for Cabrini Connections. Please help me reach my goal by donating here today: http://beardsforkids.org" -Gabriel Chapman

Santa's Naughty or Nice Charity Pub Crawl "HO HO HO - What better way to feel the joy of the season than to fill yourself with HOLIDAY SPIRITS and give a little something back to the community? For a donation of $10 (or more), you will get the company of some very fine individuals and a big red Santa hat (first 45 attendees)." -Elena Lugo and Melanie Munsey

Matt Golden's Fundraising Page "I have asked family and friends to help me raise $2,000 for Cabrini Connections in the month of December. I have set up a website on FirstGiving and have already raised $270! Hopefully, our contributions can help Charles Hill and other students continue to succeed at Cabrini Connections. http://www.firstgiving.com/mattgolden" -Matt Golden

One Month's Rent Campaign "Please support my cause by contributing an amount toward one month's rent for next year. We have a beautiful 4500-square foot space near downtown Chicago where all of our youth come to meet with their mentors. You can get a good sense of it here as I walk through in this video: http://vimeo.com/16755309." -Bradley Troast

Alumni Fund Page "I graduated from the program back in 1992 and I'm troubled to hear that it is in financial peril and there is the real possibility that it can close. This program was a key factor in my finally seeing what possibilities lay out there for me to be successful... They are currently doing that for so many of the Children of Cabrini and I'm not aware of many programs that do it in a grass root, no nonsense kind of a way." -Isaiah Brooms

Holiday Mapping For Justice Help Mike raise money to support the mapping project at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Birthday Wish "I'll be 64 on Dec. 19th, and I hope you'll donate to help me celebrate." -Daniel Bassill

These are each excellent examples of creative, fun, and non-traditional avenues for fund-raising. The wide range of individuals involved in DESIGNING and LEADING fund-raising efforts is also a testament to the various people impacted by an organization like Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. It is great to have so many people adding their voices, passion, and energy to the cause!

At the recent Tutor/Mentor Conference, I listened to a lot of conversations during workshops where staff and administrators of programs expressed that fund-raising wasn't necessarily their forte. A lot of energy needs to be put into fund-raising, but strapped for time and money to pay additional staff, many small nonprofits (like ours) do not have the capacity to have a paid person focusing solely on development.

It is exciting to see how the creative minds of a few individuals are turning everything from going out for drinks on a Saturday night to growing facial hair into both support for the organization's mission and a significant dollar amount to help keep the doors open.

Thanks to the exceptional individuals who are leading these efforts and to all those who are showing their support!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say Thanks to the Mentors in Your Life!

It's only a few weeks until National Mentoring Month in January! The month is a way to recognize and celebrate the mentors in our lives, consider opportunities to volunteer as mentors, and support mentor programs and their life-changing impacts on youth.

In the weeks ahead, think about the people who have been mentors and role models in your life. Be they formal mentors, teachers, professors, coaches, relatives...the list certainly goes on. I invite you to write and share brief tributes to any of these individuals discussing the impact your mentors have had on you.

You can submit these tributes using this online form, and I will post any "mentor thank yous" on my blog in the days leading up to "Thank Your Mentor Day" on January 25th.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Slideshow of Fall 2010 Tutor/Mentor Conference

Thank you to all who attended or volunteered their time at the 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference.

In order for the May 2011 Conference to happen, we need to raise $25,000 by mid-January 2011. Please read Dan Bassill's
recent post on the T/MC online forum to learn more.

Thank you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Closer Look: Conference Attendees, Evaluation & Impact

It has been nearly two weeks since the November 19, 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference, and we have continued to hear positive feedback from conference participants about how much they valued the event.

Yesterday, for instance, I received an email from Toinette Gunn, Executive Director of Partnership to Educate & Advance Kids (PEAK), who led a workshop entitled "Parental Power: Unlocking the Key to Successful Program Outcomes". As she said in her email,
"I just wanted to let you know that I’ve had 4-5 people reach out to me since the presentation to ask to meet with me or get more information." As this demonstrates, the conferences helps people who wouldn't normally connect share information and collaborate on goals that cross organizations.

These graphs display results of conference evaluations we asked attendees to submit at the
end of the day. Based on the positive responses (100% of those who took the survey reported that they learned new things that they can apply to their own programs!), it seems that the conference continues to be a valuable resource for organizations throughout Chicago and the Midwest.

Of course, these surveys are not able to capture what may happen as a result of the
conference. With more people connected to one another and sharing ideas, it is exciting to think of how tutor/mentor programs all over the greater Chicago area might benefit. Looking through the list of conference attendees, I have to wonder how many of the programs are running into financial difficulty at the end of this year. I know from Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections just how challenging the recession has been on small non-profits.

My thoughts are with each program as they
finish the year and move into 2011. I hope every program is able to continue their important work with Chicago-area youth.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Season Giving

Thanksgiving is over which means:

1. "Frosty the Snowman" came on the radio 2 times during my 20-minute grocery shopping trip.

2. My mom will urge my dad to put up holiday lights every day from now until December 24th when he decides to get out the ladder.
3. I am craving Christmas cookies 24/7.

Until this year, these have been some of the main things I have associated with the post-Thanksgiving weeks leading up to the holidays.

After having joined the nonprofit world, however, I realize that the weeks from now through the end of the year are some of the most critical days for nonprofit organizations to raise funds.

In these weeks comprising the "holiday giving season" more people donate to nonprofits than during any other time of year, so organizations like
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection rely heavily on people's generosity to get through the end of each year.

When depending on donations, it almost goes without saying that the economy is hurting nonprofits extremely hard. In my weekly PIP seminar, many fellows express how the recession is impacting their organizations. Several of our speakers have suggested that the "nonprofit world" is about 2 years behind the "business world" within the recession, meaning we are getting hit hard now and face more tough times ahead.

For Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, a lot is riding on the next few weeks of donations and grants. While the programs are solid (Tutor/Mentor Connection just had a
successful conference, and Cabrini Connections continues to bring in a packed room of students and mentors each night of tutoring), we are financially at a point where our future and the organization's survival into 2011 and beyond is uncertain.

We face an uphill battle, but if you look at the impact the organization has made in its 17 years, it is filling a critical role in the city of Chicago and in the
Cabrini community.

As it says on the
homepage of the Cabrini Connections website: "Thanks to the many people who have responded, Cabrini Connections has connected more than 500 inner city teens with 800 workplace volunteers. At the same time, CC has built a library of information and a collaboration strategy that is helping more than 200 other youth serving organizations in Chicago, and countless others around the country."

While the situation is certainly grim, there are reasons to be optimistic. Today we are stuffing envelops of "
Holiday Fund Raising Appeal Letters" to send out to hundreds of our supporters. We have also had a number of our students write appeals discussing what the organization has meant to them. They are definitely worth reading to get a personal glimpse at what the organization means to individual students. You can read Melissa Young's letter below and read all of the letters on our fundraising blog.

Please consider what you might do during the holiday season to help push us through this tough time and give us momentum to start next year.

You can
donate now, pass this holiday letter and response form on to your rich uncle (or anyone else), and register for eScrip so that your holiday purchases support Cabrini Connections (go to this website, and enter group ID 500025364).

Thanks for your support and happy holidays!


Letter from 11th grade Cabrini Connections student, Melissa Young:

Dear Reader,

My name is Melissa Young. I am a junior at Josephinum Academy. I started attending Cabrini Connections when I was in 7th grade. For the past four years at Cabrini Connections, it has been the best I ever had in my life. There are so many opportunities here. There is also so many people that help us achieve the dreams we have. They also teach us about the real world, such as an example, we have to be here on time, or if we are running late, or not feeling too good, they make sure we call in, and tell them our situation. There is an example of what would happen with a real job.

Cabrini Connections has so many things for us (students) to do, like clubs. We have video club, which I am in. There is also art club, tech club, and writing club. Fun stuff for all of us to do. Like I said before, I am in video club. I really enjoy it. They taught me how to use a camera, the many different shots, how to do a story board, and how to edit. I even got the chance to do some of the videos by myself.

They also take us on field trips like basketball games and college tours. Through this program I figured out what two colleges I am thinking about going to, which is Columbia College or DePaul University. As for the basketball game, I enjoy seeing girls play, instead of the boys. During or around Halloween I plan my own fundraiser. We called it the Halloween Bake Sale. Through this I learned how to fundraise events and know how to organize.

Last summer I was the lucky student to go on one of their events called the Golf Benefit. I was able to meet the chairmen of Cabrini Connections. I was also able to video tape everything and watch people play golf for the first time. You can meet so many people through this program. When I first came it was just me and my niece. Four years past, and I know mostly everyone, and they all know me.

Every Wednesday and Thursday we have tutoring night, which now I meet with my tutor Elena. She has been so great to me. She helps with homework problems or if I am ever in need of something. I am really glad that we met.

Now that I told you my story at Cabrini Connections, I really hope that in the kindness of our heart you will donate us some money so that all these wonderful things could stay open for children and teens like me. If you could I would really appreciate it. Thank you for reading my letter.


Melissa Young

P.S. Have a good day =)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conference Done, Connections Just Begun!

The Fall 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference took place on Friday and was a huge success with over 100 attendees and 20 workshops. You don't have to take my word for it--here are some reflections from a few conference attendees:

"Great individuals, passionate and inspiring to be here. It reinforces why we do what we do."

"I learned so much today and will be able to apply what I learned in our community."

"I really enjoyed the conference and the networking component. It gave me ideas and resources to walk away with to share with my mentees and organization as a whole."

Watch this conference video made by Bradley Troast, to get a taste for the day's events:

As you can see from this video and the comments of those who attended, the conference was a day filled with energy, new connections, information sharing, and people thoroughly dedicated to tutoring and mentoring programs. It was inspiring to be surrounded by people so passionate about their calling to help youth reach their full potential through quality tutoring and mentoring programs. The attendees ranged from a group of people from East St. Louis who are looking to start their own program in 2011, to individuals who have attended dozens of conferences over the years and who have been in the tutoring/mentoring industry for decades. I was inspired by the expertise of the veterans and the energy and vision of those new to the field.

Although the next conference is still six months away, it won't be long before the staff at Tutor/Mentor Connection begins planning for that conference. Organizing these biannual conferences takes money for space, materials, and catering, but the far greater cost lies in the man-hours it takes to facilitate these events, maintain databases of organizations to invite, and coordinate collaborative events throughout the year. Donations that come in before December 31st will help us this fiscal year as we begin planning for the 2011 conferences. Please show your support!

A big thanks to Dan Bassill, EL Da' Sheon Nix, Toni Pullen, Mike Trakan, and Bradley Troast from the CC, T/MC staff--everyone worked hard and put in lots of extra time and energy to make this conference happen! Thanks team!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Conference Agenda!

During the summer, we held a series of collaboration meetings at Tutor/Mentor Connection where staff of many programs discussed their needs. Based on feedback from those meetings, we are focusing a lot of the conference on marketing and branding for organizations, on networking, and on education reform as relevant to non-school programs.

Here is a list of workshops for the day, but be sure to check out the speaker bios and workshop descriptions for more detailed information. And don't forget to REGISTER NOW!

Welcome and Opening Address

The State of Tutoring and Mentoring in the Chicago Region

Daniel F. Bassill, President & CEO, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Group Networking Session

How to Maximize Networking at the Conference

Jordan Hestermann, Executive Director, Becoming We The People

First Morning Workshops

Imagine Mars: Exposing Kids to Careers in Math, Science & Technology

Rose Mabwa, Manager, Mercy Housing

Intro to Web Video and the Implications for Nonprofits

Brad Manilla. Director of Creative Development, let's dabble, LLC

Getting Your Student Ready for College

Alexandria Taylor, Director of College Access and Success, The Associated Colleges of Illinois

Tutor Training Tips Panel

Second Morning Workshops

Creative Marketing Solutions to Support NonProfits

Moderator: Eugene Breger, Director of Business Development, MarketSphere Consulting, LLC

Ash Blue, Founder and Main Writer, Ash Blue Design

Lynne Kurdziel, Founder and CEO, Luminate

Mark Shore, Founder, Shore Capital Management LLC

Exposure to Violence: Effects of Trauma on Students

Ylonda Ware, Clinical Therapist, Naelewa Counseling Services

Parental Power: Unlocking the Key to Successful Program Outcomes

Toinette Gunn, Executive Director, The Partnership to Educate & Advance Kids (PEAK)

Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Panel

Moderator: Scott McFarland, Resource & Information Manager, Serve Illinois Commission

Christy Beighe-Byrne, Director of Mentor & Volunteer Services, Chicago Youth Centers

Karina Kelly, City Director, Jumpstart

Joel Newman, Director of Community Partnerships, Big Brothers Big Sisters

Lunch & Networking Tables

First Afternoon Workshops

Marketing/Branding Panel

Chris Beebe, Principal, the Visionary Agency

Chris Huizenga, EPIC

Social Network Analysis of Tutor/Mentor Conferences

Kalyani Misra, SNA Volunteer, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Successful Special Events

Mary Gerace, Consultant, Mary Gerace Enterprises

Using Technology to Reduce Truancy

Ed Bates, Director of Prevention Services, PASS (Positive Alternative Student Services)
Terence Hodges, Outreach Specialist, PASS (Positive Alternative Student Services)

Second Afternoon Workshops

Creating Your Own Neighborhood Maps

Mike Trakan, GIS Map Developer, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Financing Higher Education: How to Get It, and How to Pay For It

Abel Montoya, Director of Outreach Operations, Illinois Student Assistance Commission

Update Your Status: Using Social Networking to Improve Organizational Branding

Jacquita Smith, Program Director, Camp of Dreams

University Partnerships

Closing Keynote Panel

"Waiting for Superman," Education Reform, and Non-School Programs

Moderator: Jim O'Connor, Project Director, Advance Illinois

Andrew Broy, President, Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Wendy DuBoe, COO, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

Mark Duhon, Founder & Executive Director, HighSight

Lisa Vahey, Founder, Chicago New Teacher Center

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Treat Yourself to a Shopping Spree!

Do you ever shop online, book online airfare or hotels, or buy Groupon daily deals? Read on.

You can help Tutor Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections through your regular online purchases (especially as the holiday season approaches!).

Just click this link to the
Good Shop website then enter Cabrini Connections as your designated organization. From there you can search for your favorite store, be redirected to that store's website, and then the retailer will donate a small percentage of your purchase to Cabrini Connections (no extra charge to you!).

Many large online retailers and companies are eligible (including Amazon, Best Buy, Banana Republic, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Priceline, and even Groupon), so I encourage you to make your purchases through this website and urge others to do the same.

Although it may only generate a few cents through a single purchase, it could really add up if enough of us do this!

Thanks for your help and now go shop 'til you drop!

Special thanks to my mom for sharing this website with me!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cabrini--Not Just Torn Down Buildings

A few weeks ago when I was walking home from work, I noticed a large crowd gathered outside of the convenience store on my block. I saw a student from Cabrini Connections and asked him what had happened. Soon, I learned that the owner of the store, Bassam Naoum or "Ollie" as he was known, had been shot and killed over the weekend. It wasn't a robbery because nothing in the store or register had been taken.

I attended a vigil that night outside of the store along with well over a hundred people.
I quickly discovered that Ollie had been a beloved part of the Cabrini community. We heard one poignant story after another of how Ollie would give neighborhood kids free snacks when they couldn't afford them, would say "pay me back later" to families needing food, and would always employ members of the community.

People at the vigil demonstrated disbelief, outrage and deep sadness about Ollie's tragic death. Several of the speakers made calls to action urging that the "violence must stop." Although I never had the privilege of knowing Ollie personally (I had only been into the store a handful of times), I was deeply moved by the strong outpouring of grief upon his death and the obvious impact Ollie clearly had on the Cabrini community.

A few days after the vigil, I found a column in the Chicago Tribune with the headline "Ollie's Death Marks Cabrini's End." While the column contains interesting information, I find the message conveyed in the headline and in sections of the article disquieting. Just because buildings are torn down doesn't mean that people disappear, unmet needs and social services are satiated, or that individuals no longer identify with the Cabrini community. On the contrary, attending the vigil along with a huge crowd of people from the area gave me a sense that Cabrini is far from gone.

As Dan Bassill's recent blog post discusses in detail, hundreds of families and school-aged students still live in the Cabrini neighborhood, and many more will be living in the area once plans for the Cabrini transformation are complete. When people think of Cabrini Green as a bunch of torn down buildings, it completely masks the urgent needs of the people living in this area. It also masks the urgent needs of programs and organizations serving these people.

Cabrini Connections has a long history of serving 7th-12th grade youth from the Cabrini area by matching them with caring adult tutors and mentors, offering assistance with high school and college applications, and giving them enrichment and learning opportunities. View the weekly "student spotlights" to learn about some of the almost 80 teens the program currently serves. Also stay tuned to CabriniBlog to keep up with what the program is doing.

The vigil for Ollie was almost three weeks ago now. Every day since, I walk by the store and there are still fresh flowers, new cards to Ollie, and candles lit in his honor. Cabrini Green doesn't seem dead to me at all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting with More than a Ballot

ELECTION DAY! This morning on my way to work, I dropped my completed ballot in the mailbox. Although I am a registered Washington state voter which means I must vote absentee, sometimes I wish I could go to the polls because there’s just something more momentous about waiting in line and voting in a booth.

When voting is as easy as making selections and dropping my ballot in a mailbox, I almost forget what a privilege it is to vote. Although I see voting as a critical part of civic responsibility, I also don’t think it’s enough to limit my sense of citizenship to election days. Yes, my vote matters and that’s why (however dorky this may sound) I had posters and books about women suffragists filling the walls and shelves of my bedroom growing up.

Yet I think it is of equal (or greater) importance to take daily actions that stand behind the types of votes I cast, the leaders I support, the laws I agree with, and the types of changes I would like to see in this country.

As I go to work each day or attend PIP seminars each week, I am inspired by those around me who I see taking daily actions to contribute to positive change. Although the work of politicians is admirable (at least in theory, if not always in practice), I have deep respect for those who stay out of the spotlight yet contribute to tangible changes in the lives of those around them.

I see Cabrini Connections mentors who spend hours each week with their mentees listening to stories about their days, helping them apply for high schools and colleges, taking them on special outings, and coaching them in algebra or physics. I see volunteers donating their technology skills to Tutor/Mentor Connection. I talk to program directors of other tutor/mentor programs who are busy and strained but still donate their time sharing best practices at our conferences. I see committed students in our program plan and organize fundraiser events like this past weekend's Halloween Bake Sale to help our program operate.

I admire each of these individuals for their alive since of citizenship.

Citizenship and supporting a cause takes votes, but I truly believe that making change happen also takes “behind the scenes” time, talent, and dollars. Please consider how you might “cast your vote” to support the work we do.