Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First Day Reflections

It's official: After filling out paperwork, setting up my own desk, learning how to log-on to the computer system, and even starting a blog it is really beginning to feel like I am part of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Before I go on talking about my first day, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Karina Walker and I am incredibly excited to be the 2010-2011 fellow to CC, T/MC through the Northwestern Public Interest Program (PIP), a fellowship that places recent Northwestern graduates into jobs in the public interest sector. I graduated from Northwestern two weeks ago with majors in Cultural Anthropology and International Studies. I am originally from Spokane, Washington, but have since fallen in love with Chicago (although I still shiver at the thought of the windy city's weather in February). I have long felt passionate about empowering youth, and I have had opportunities to volunteer for programs working with kids living on the streets in South America, youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Washington state, and kids from Chicago's suburbs. I am thrilled to now be employed in a realm that so directly ties to this passion.

When I came in today, Dan immediately got me started looking through the wealth of information available through the Cabrini Connections websites. I enjoyed reading the operating principals set out by Cabrini Connections. As Dan told me and as this set of principals reinforced, Cabrini Connections seeks to revamp the way that tutor/mentor programs operate by applying business models to the non-profit framework. With a clearly outlined goal of getting comprehensive tutor/mentor programs into every impoverished neighborhood in Chicago, CC, T/MC commits to the same strategies and standards as leading businesses such as capacity building, research/development, and ongoing evaluation. As I looked through these files, I began to understand with new clarity that for tutoring and mentoring programs to be effective, every community member must play an active role: some as donors, some as visionaries, some as mentors or tutors, some as business leaders, some as political leaders, some as active parents, and some as volunteers.

In delving further into the importance of networking to a broad range of individuals, Dan and Bradley encouraged me to create my own "Asset Map" of the people, skills, and institutions I bring to my new position. As I began charting my own network, it became even more clear the wide span of potential connections and potential supporters every individual has to offer.

Although I have barely begun to touch the resource library available through Cabrini Connections, I am already learning so much. Perhaps one of the most important personal lessons from my first day on the job, however, is that growing into my new position will take more than filling out insurance forms or picking out office supplies to fill the drawers of my desk. It will take time to learn the complexities of the best practices for tutor/mentor programs, grasp the intricacies of Chicago's neighborhoods, or increase my own network. It should be a full and exciting year!!


  1. It is great to have you with us and to see how well you communicate these ideas. Maybe because of you people will look back in 50 years and see how a better world was created, and the role that Tutor/Mentor Connections in many cities had in this process.

    Dan Bassill
    Cabrini Connections
    Tutor/Mentor Connection

  2. Just a quick welcome from me, too -- you've found yourself a terrific spot in a terrific program where you can make a real difference -- congratulations, and more power to you!

  3. Karina, you've chosen a superb organization to do your fellowship at. I've been following educational organization around the country for a number of years, and Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Connection is one of the most inspiring -- and most effective - organizations I've come across.

    Sometime I'd love to do a fellowship there myself.

    Phil Shapiro, Public Geek
    Takoma Park Maryland Library

  4. Thank you all for your kind welcomes! Charles and Phil, I agree that I have ended up at an excellent organization--I am realizing with fresh clarity each day that Tutor/Mentor Connection is truly unique amongst non-profits.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and I hope to keep connecting with both of you!