Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Program Ambassadors

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked as a waitress for a restaurant in my hometown. It was a new restaurant struggling to build a clientele, and we were severely understaffed. On my first day of work I arrived expecting training, but instead the restaurant manager immediately put me to work waitressing tables—yikes! That entire summer working as a server, I never received training, barely knew the menu, and I did not once taste a single bite of the restaurant’s food. Customers would ask me for recommendations on my favorite menu items and I would always make some unfounded suggestions on the spot (I’ll confess I generally veered people toward the pricier entrĂ©es hoping to boost tips). I really couldn’t communicate anything worthwhile to the customers without having sampled the food myself and without more fully understanding the menu.

Generally speaking, one must taste and experience something before effectively explaining it to others. This is no less true in the world of philanthropy. One of the great strengths of having volunteers from so many sectors is that a wide variety of people have “tasted” our program and become ambassadors of our organization by sharing their experiences with their own co-workers, families, faith communities, and friends. When individuals share their passionate commitment to a program with those around them, they too can rally behind the cause.

In my first month at Tutor/Mentor Connection, I have had the chance to meet many people involved with our program: consultants volunteering as mentors, students from DePaul doing tech support for our computer labs, movie aficionados helping students in our film club make music videos, musicians lending their talents for the Tutor/Mentor Jam, and professional event planners helping with our benefits…they each understand the value of tutor/mentor programs precisely because they have witnessed the transformative effects these programs have on youth and adults alike.

Our volunteers effectively make tutor/mentor programs relevant to people in their own industries and sectors. They play a critical intermediary role getting others involved who may not otherwise realize how they can plug their personal passions, interests, or resources into a program for at-risk youth.

The restaurant I worked for several summers ago is now out of business…I am far more optimistic about the fate of Cabrini Connections, T/MC and the other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. So many people are continuously “tasting” what these programs are doing and then spreading the word along to their networks. The more people we reach with our mission, the stronger we become and the more we can accomplish together. Thank you for doing your part!

No comments:

Post a Comment