Thursday, April 21, 2011

Conference Countdown: One Month Away!

The past few weeks have been very busy at Tutor/Mentor Connection with the conference just a month away. Our partnership with the conference host, Victory Apostolic Church, has been an excellent experience thus far. The pastors, staff, and members of the church view the conference as a ministry to the many programs supporting youth throughout the greater Chicagoland area. Although we are a secular organization, it is energizing to work with individuals who share and value the TMC's goal to help mentor rich volunteer-based programs become more available in all high poverty areas of Chicago and its suburbs.

Registration for the conference is available online, so please visit the conference website to participate in the valuable two-day event on May 19th and May 20th. Attendees are welcome to participate for both days ($80 registration fee) or for a single day ($50 registration fee). Please contact me with any questions or for information on group and scholarship rates.


Thursday Afternoon Keynote:
Phillip Jackson
, Executive Director of The Black Star Project

Friday Afternoon Keynote:
Senior Pastor Andrew D. Singleton, Jr., Victory Apostolic Church

More keynotes coming soon!


"Childhood Lead Poisoning: An Urgent Problem in Greater Englewood
Jean Carter-Hill
Executive Director,
Imagine Englewood if...

"E-Mentoring: A Case Study in Innovative Recruitment and Retention"
Oliver Miller
Community Engaged Scholarship (CES) Coordinator, Community Partnerships Department, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

"Process for Transforming Performance"

Rose Mabwa
Manager, Mercy Housing Lakefront

"Reducing Barriers to Academic Success: Motivating Students to Learn"

Ylonda M. Ware

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Naelewa Counseling Services

"Sing Your Own Blues Tune for Tutors"

Bonni McKeown

Teaching Artist, Chicago School of Blues

Miss Taj

Teaching Artist, Chicago School of Blues

"Threats to Income Tax Exemption"

Jay Readey

Executive Director, Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc.

"Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Panel"

Christy Beighe-Byrne

Director of Mentor and Volunteer Services, Chicago Youth Centers

Joel Newman

Director of Community Partnerships, Big Brothers Big Sisters

More workshops coming soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Project Cabrini Green

Yesterday I walked past the last standing high-rise of the Cabrini Green housing development. The demolition of this building began last Wednesday, and already the windows have been knocked out leaving each room exposed to the elements and to the view of outsiders.

As I looked inside, I saw that some rooms and hallways are tagged with graffiti; others are adorned with carefully painted colors indicating the most recent occupant’s aesthetics. I felt intrusive and strange peering into these now vacated rooms. I can’t quite imagine the violation I’d feel having a stranger stare into the exposed windows of my childhood home. I also can’t imagine how much that stranger would fail to understand the memories and stories I associate with each room and hallway.

Not surprisingly, the demolition of the Cabrini Green buildings is controversial amongst its former residents. During the demolition process, a group of art students from the Art Institute of Chicago have been working on a public art installation with young people who formerly lived in the Cabrini Green houses. This public art piece tries to capture the myriad of sentiments that youth who formerly resided in the housing project feel toward Cabrini Green, the demolition, the Chicago Housing Authority, and life in Chicago.

Students from Cabrini Connections have been involved in this art project, entitled "Project Cabrini Green," and last month Cabrini Connections hosted a two-day workshop for the project. As the Project Cabrini Green website explains: “On March 28th, two days before the beginning of the demolition, 134 self-contained, battery-powered LED modules were placed inside 134 of the building's vacated apartments. The lights will blink every day from 7pm to 1am CDT, for the four week duration of the demolition, and will be gradually erased with the building. Each blinking light has a unique pattern. These patterns are a visual translation of poems written and recorded by the youth who attended workshops developed and instructed by Tichy, Appel, and students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

You can listen to the recorded poetry and spoken word of these students by going to the Project Cabrini Green website, clicking “Home” and then selecting any of the blinking lights. In addition, a live-feed video of the demolition can be viewed on this site over the next few weeks.

Project Cabrini Green is a reminder that the Cabrini Green housing development will long be remembered by its former occupants and by the community. It will be interesting to see the ongoing legacy of Cabrini Green in the years to come. Although the houses will be entirely demolished within the month, the families and former occupants still need support and services. Cabrini Connections has been an important source of support for students and families in the Cabrini area since 1993. Hopefully, the doors to the program will remain open as a positive outlet for former residents of this community in the years to come.


Today is the last day to support a Cabrini Madness team! If you are so compelled, please visit the Cabrini Connections website to learn more about the program and how you can get involved.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Become a Speaker at the May Conference!

Planning for the May 19th-20th Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference is well underway!

We are excited to announce two of our keynotes. Our Thursday lunchtime keynote will be Phillip Jackson, Executive Director and Founder of The Black Star Project. The Black Star Project is designed to help children and students realize their educational potential through programs that connect men with their children, programs geared toward college preparation, and programs focused on parental involvement. Mr. Jackson has received national recognition for his contributions to eliminating racial and academic achievement gaps, and we are honored to have him joining us!

Another of our keynote speakers is Jordan Hestermann, founder and executive director of Becoming We The People which works toward ending poverty. Ms. Hestermann led a popular "Networking 101" session at our November 2010 conference, and we're excited that she'll be presenting another interactive all-group training on how to best maximize networking opportunities during and after the conference.

In addition to these keynotes, we also have a variety of workshops already in place. Visit the conference website for details and updates on keynotes and workshops in the weeks prior to the conference.

We are still looking for additional workshop presenters. Please see the list of suggested topics below, and contact me for more information!

Workshop suggestions:

* Program Spotlights: Do you want the stage for 10 minutes to briefly tell about what your program is doing? Become part of a workshop/panel that showcases different programs serving the Chicago region or Northern Indiana.

* Tutoring and /or Mentoring - Train the Trainer: What resources do you use to train and support volunteer tutors and mentors? Share your expertise so others can build their own capacity based on what you are doing in your own organization.

* How can volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs be part of Drop-Out Prevention strategies? Program leaders, researchers and/or workforce development leaders are invited to talk about this topic.

*Role of Faith Communities and Business in mobilizing support for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. These articles on the T/MC website point to the role intermediaries can take in helping tutor/mentor programs grow. Who is doing this well and will share their ideas?

* Fundraiser events: We invite tutor/mentor programs to share their experiences in organizing fund raising events.

* Funders of Tutor/Mentor Programs: Foundations that fund tutor/mentor programs are invited to attend and present information about funding guidelines. New donors are invited to attend and learn ways to add support for tutor/mentor programs.

* Empowering Volunteers as Fundraisers: How is your organization empowering volunteers to be part of on-going fund raising? The Cabrini Madness event of Cabrini Connections engages more than 100 youth, volunteers and friends. Who else would be interested in talking about their experience in this area?

* Blogging Best Practices - This link points to blogs written by many different people who share ideas related to learning, fund raising, non profit management, etc. Included are a few blogs written by tutor/mentor programs. Dan Bassill writes about blog exchanges on his blog.

* Volunteer Panel: Veteran volunteers are invited to share why they stay involved, how they advocate for their program, what they wished they knew before becoming a mentor, and how to create a meaningful volunteer experience.

* Student Retention and Recruitment Panel

* Strategies for Keeping Program Alumni Involved

* Building a Healthy and Active Board of Directors and Advisory Council

* Strategies for Measuring and Evaluating Program Success

* "Taking advantage of the summer months"- Who has a strategy for engaging tutors/mentors and youth during June-August? How can programs best prepare now for a great start in the Fall?

*See the list of additional topics that could be part of the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.