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.