Friday, July 27, 2007

Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Week 3 is winding down and I can't believe it's almost August 1st! Lately, my life at Cabrini Connections has been contacting all of the tutor/mentor programs in our database and making sure their information is up to date and that they have completed the program survey. While most of the organizations have been quite responsive about completing the survey and making sure their information is current, I've had less success convincing the programs to join our Yahoo group for recruiting volunteers to be tutors and mentors ( in case you're interested in joining!)
However, there are many great ways to network online if you're trying to recruit tutors and mentors, like I am:
The first way, that my boss, Dan Bassill showed me is Classroom 2.0, sort of a Myspace for people who are working in the field of education and technology. Our group in Classroom 2.o is found at:
Another site is:
Which is yet another social networking site.
I'm finding that a lot of programs I talk to who don't have websites (some don't even have e-mail addresses) are reluctant to be integrated into sites like these. But this is another one of those cases where everybody benefits.
Another interesting part of the Tutor/Mentor Connection website is the library links, where you can read other people's blogs about recruiting volunteers and fundraising. They're actually very interesting and offer a glimpse into the world of non-profit:
An especially interesting blog, that actually points to a wiki group as well, is one that Dan has referred to his on blog at
The blog can be found at:
and addresses several important issues in working with underprivileged youth, especially preventing dropping out of school.
I really encourage everyone to go to these sites just to see how people are working together and communicating about helping underprivileged youth succeed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hong Kong Intern's Blog

Oh, and just to let everybody know. I added my colleague, Paul Wei's blog to my favorite links. Paul is an intern from Hong Kong Baptist University who will be with us for two months. He's a great guy and I think his observations about working in an American non-profit are incredibly insightful and interesting. Enjoy!

Business School Connection

One of the more interesting projects I've been given in these past three weeks is to maintain our Business School Connection, a concept that was launched last year by a fellow through the University of Chicago Graduate School. The idea is very simple: why not enlist business schools to use their expertise on running businesses and taking that expertise to the realm of non-profits. After all, non-profits are pretty much businesses, just as their name indicates, not-for-profit. I think the idea is fantastic. I know there is a huge movement for corporations throughout the globe to contribute more to the public interest. There are even people who have an expertise in corporate social responsibility who's job it is to make sure that corporations are being socially responsible by being ecologically friendly, by treating their workers fairly, by contributing to a cause or a charity. Back in May, when I attended the Tutor/Mentor Conference at Northwestern Law School, I sat in on a seminar about creating ties between corporations and non-profits such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or Cabrini Connections.
Why not take this a step further? Why not instill this idea of contributing to the public interest while business execs are in business school? This is the whole idea of business school connection so that business schools themselves can have connections to non-profits. Both institutions will benefit in the long-run and it is my belief that CEO's who have worked with non-profits who are understaffed and underfunded while they were still in school will make better CEO's when they are the leaders of Fortune 500 companies.
My boss, Dan Bassill has made an excellent point about many of the nation's top business schools being near low-income areas. For example, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business is near West Philadelphia, University of Chicago is on the Southside of Chicago, Stanford business school is near East Palo Alto. My alma mater, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business has consistently been named one of the top business schools in the world and it is also fairly close to low income areas. I am very excited about maintaining and creating new connections with business schools and if anyone has any possible contacts, please let me know.
There are two forums for our business school connection. One is in our Tutor/Mentor Connection website at:
another is our business school wiki at:
I hope everyone thinks about this idea and if anyone would like to contribute anything, please do!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday of Week 3

It's Monday and I really felt like I've accomplished something this past weekend. This past Saturday, one of our board members hosted a poker night at his house in Winnetka. His entire law firm (which is an internationally-known law firm and has offices all over the world, not just in Chicago), along with at least some visitors from New York, showed up to play poker and black jack for raffle tickets. All the money raised then went back to Cabrini Connections.
I had more fun that night learning how to deal Texas Hold-Em Poker (if all else fails, I could move to Vegas!), and talking with the attorneys. I was plugging Cabrini Connections especially hard to the Summer associates since they are law students in Chicago and I think they would be great assets for the kids; if anything to come and speak to them about what it takes to get into law school at our career day.
After the success that was Saturday night (we raised $3,000!), I think more people are capable of putting on fundraisers like this to benefit non-profits for Cabrini Green. Not only does it raise money, but I also think that it is a great way to advertise our name and create more awareness for ours and other programs. Plus, people were having fun! We also discussed the possibility of doing a Karaoke/Skit night for the Tutors and the Tutees maybe around Halloween or Christmas time. Judging from how much adults were having fun at Poker Night, I think the kids would have that much more fun if we did a similar event with them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

End of a Busy Week

Greetings! I have just completely an exhausting, yet very fulfilling second week at Cabrini Connections.
The third day of the Edgewood College visit was a short one - all the Edgewood College students and the kids left around noon. During our short morning together we did several activities, but one in particular left a big impression on the kids. We played jeopardy, but our version was all about college and careers. I think the part that made the kids think the most was the category about "Cost of Living." Several questions were "What is the average salary of someone with only an 8th grade education?" (Higher than I expected - although only $14,000/year), "How much do diapers and wipes cost per month?" (a whopping $100) and what does the average two bedroom apartment cost in Chicago ($1500!). These were things that I had no idea about when I went to college, so I thought it was important that the kids realized how much things really do cost and how important it is for them to stay and school. I also thought it was really important that the Edgewood College people kept emphasizing how much money there is out there to help kids go to college. If they have the grades, there really is no excuse for them not to go to college. However, I also thought it was important to emphasize that going to trade school, or getting a job that doesn't require a college education is a very viable option as well. I think my Northwestern friends would be surprised to realize just how much construction workers, or plumbers or electricians really do make and how they have great benefits as well. Since a good number of the kids at Cabrini Connections will not go to college, the emphasis on these type of jobs is so important as well.
All in all, I think the Edgewood College graduate students got just as much out of working with the Cabrini Connections kids as the Cabrini Connections kids got out of working with the graduate students. I know it was great for the kids to meet adults who were going to school and who were becoming teachers, since a lot of kids, especially on the last day, shared their negative experiences with teachers with the graduate students. For the graduate students, however, I thought it was very important to interact with the Cabrini Connections kids so closely because I think they got a lot of insight into these kids' lives that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
In a complete reversal of situations, yesterday Cabrini Connections had its 12th Annual Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament at Highland Park Country Club. Jimmy Biggs was one of the first Cabrini Connections students and worked for Cabrini Connections after high school. Tragically, he died at a very young age from Diabetes, which Dan Bassill emphasized is one of the most common silent killers of young people in the Inner City.
I thought it was a great idea to bring out a couple of the Cabrini Connections kids to the Golf Tournament, both current and graduated, to put a face on the program. All different kinds of businesses, corporate firms, etc. participated in the golf tournament and it was definitely a different crowd than what I had been working with since I started Cabrini Connections. For most of the day, I supervised one of the Par-3 holes where a hole-in-one contest was going on. At all of the Par-3's, if you got a hole-in-0ne you would win a prize such as a 2-year lease on a brand new Lexus, or an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii. Unfortunately nobody won, but I still had a great time. While the tournament was going on, the Cabrini Connections kids were zooming around in golf carts and taking photos of the teams. Hopefully, next week I'll put up some photos of the golf tournament and the Edgewood College visit. Anyway, while I was supervising the hole-in-one contest, I was attempting to tell the players about Cabrini Connections, to little avail since they were pretty focused on our golf game. However, after the tournament, while we had dinner and a silent auction, I found a great opportunity to tell people about Cabrini Connections, and also my fellowship. It was a nice change of pace talking to adults in the business or law world about Cabrini Connections and I was really pleased how interested and responsive the people were.
Next week, look forward to stories of poker night and photos of the past week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Edgewood College Visit Day 2

It is the end of Day 2 of Edgewood's College visit and I think we are all exhausted (but in a good way) at this point. The first thing we did was listen to a college admissions counselor on what it takes to get into college. What was really great was that the college admissions counselor who came from Edgewood was African-American and grew up on the south side of Chicago. She kept emphasizing that there were lots of scholarships out there for kids in their situation and there is absolutely no excuse when it comes to paying for college. I really hoped the kids were listening (it was early still) because I think she will be a great resource for them.
This morning, we also did several activities at Cabrini Connections, including an activity about obstacles where we blindfolded the kids and they had to guide themselves along a rope and where obstacles were placed in front of them. The point was to show the kids that even though they had obstacles placed in front of them, they could never let go of the rope. The kids understood the activity pretty quickly but did not seem to be as involved as they were in the next activity.
The next activity we did was a combination of charades and pictionary where two students who were on different teams picked a job out of a hat and either had to act out the job or draw it. Once the kids guessed what the job was, the Edgewood people would read a description of what you need in order to qualify for the job. The most interesting part was when the job of police officer came up and the kids listed skills necessary for the job as being: aggression, willingness to kill, etc. The Edgewood College people emphasized that there are good cops and bad cops and that a good cop is not aggressive and does not kill unless he or she absolutely has to. I found this to be especially interesting because I felt it really demonstrated how the police force are viewed in these kids' communities as something negative while they really should be viewed as a positive force there to protect them, rather than hurting them.
After lunch, we boarded a bus to Navy Pier. I think the kids had a good time on the Ferris Wheel, although I wish our visit there could have been longer. After Navy Pier, we walked to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we got free admission. I was a little disappointed in the Edgewood College people loudly commenting on how "weird" the art was, because I think the kids were finding it interesting and besides, it's good for them to be exposed to new things like modern art. The main exhibit was on contemporary art in Mexico and I think a lot of topics explored in the art were really meaningful to the kids, especially certain works that were influenced by the issue of gang violence. Again, I wished we had stayed longer because I think these kids need, and deserve to have as much exposure to these kinds of things as possible.
Like yesterday, today was very successful and I truly feel that our students at Cabrini Connections are lucky to have people like those from Edgewood College come and open up new worlds to them.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Edgewood College Visit Day 1

Today was by far the most fun day at Cabrini Connections yet. Edgewood College, a small liberal arts college in Madison, WI comes every year and does field trips, team-building and college counseling with our kids. Most of them are grad students who are teachers or are planning on going into the field of education. It's really important for the kids because a lot of them haven't had any exposure to people who work in the college field and might not even be thinking about going in that direction.
The first thing we did was go to the Freedom Museum at the Tribune Center. The entire museum is dedicated to the First Amendment and I was really impressed that one of our kids could name all parts of the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, to assemble peacefully and to petition). I couldn't even name all the different parts of the First Amendment and so I was really impressed. The museum was very cool and I think the kids especially enjoyed the part where you could record a clip of you describing what freedom meant to you. Then you can go to a video screen and watch what you said as well as what other people have said, including former president Jimmy Carter and the newest Bull, Joakim Noah.
We then did a scavenger hunt along the upper part of the Loop. I had a great group of girls who really took the initiative to go above and beyond what they were asked to do. Rather than find just one person who speaks a foreign language, they found two. Rather than find three ethnic restaurants, they found five. After racing back (our team got second, but I would give them first place for the effort they put into it), we had lunch and then did an activity about networking - something that I think everybody should work on. We then filled out a form and attached it to a balloon and let it go outside. While not the most environmentally friendly activity, the goal was that someone would find it and write back to the kids about networking. One of the Edgewood College people shared an anecdote about how one time when they did this activity, one of the balloons went all the way to Idaho because it fell in a truck that was making a cross-country trip. We had to do a bit of troubleshooting because the envelopes that we were using to transport the letters were too heavy for just one helium balloon so the coordinators of the activity had to tie several balloons to the letters so they would actually fly. It was a little frustrating for the kids but I think they were amazed when they saw their letters being carried off by the balloons. The final activity of the day was to create posters where the kids chose from different cut-out words to describe themselves. All in all, I think the kids surprised themselves by how much fun they had . I know I'm looking forward to tomorrow when we visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and then Navy Pier!

Friday, July 13, 2007

End of Week 1

Well, my great adventure into the world of non-profit and public policy has begun. I am winding down Week 1 and I have already learned so many things. Here are a few lessons that are result of my experiences during Week 1 at Cabrini Connection:

1) People in non-profit are really nice: One of my first projects this week has been to contact all the tutoring and mentoring organizations in our database and make sure the information is correct and up-to-date. I don't think I talked to one person who wasn't really helpful, friendly, and excited to be included in our database. Maybe, the adult world isn't so scary after all . . .

2) I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my job is going to be: My official title is Assistant Program Coordinator but I think a more apt title is "Jack(ette) or all Trades." In my first week here, I've updated the website, written dozens of e-mails, called numerous people and just helped around the office. Eventually, I am going to be involved in event planning, recruiting, fundraising, grant writing and much more. Dan, my boss, has given me the assignment of doing a powerpoint of exactly what my job is and what I plan to accomplish with it. I already know that this may be my toughest assignment yet since, when somebody asked me what I planned to get out of my job, I was at a loss for words. Also, it's been a very long time since I've done powerpoint, but hey, it's all part of the learning process.

3) There are A LOT of tutoring and mentoring organizations in Chicago. Not that I didn't think our Tutor/Mentor Connection website wasn't a good idea to begin with, but now that I'm contacting all these different organizations, I'm realizing just how many and how diverse these organizations are. Even the term tutor/mentor program is extremely fluid. Already, it's getting somewhat frustrating trying to keep track of all the different organizations and make sure that their information is all up to date. You would think it would be more organized, but our system is as good as you can get.

4) I'm only experiencing a tiny part of what my job is going to entail: Right now, we're doing summer programming and a lot of our work is office work to prepare for the upcoming school year. My duties in July are going to change greatly once it comes to September and the tutoring sessions begin.

5) You never know who could be a networking contact: I'm finding that it's not always just the people who you think will be good contacts for your network. People as diverse as attorneys, computer technicians, real estate brokers, etc. could also be important contacts.

6) Some of your biggest assets are those in the community you are working with: I think one of the biggest lessons for people working in non-profit, no matter what kind, is that their biggest asset could be right in the pool of people your working with. A lot of our former students come back and help out with chaperoning trips, helping out with evening programming (tech club, art club, film club, writing club, etc.) What a great asset, since so many of these students grew up in the same environment and have had similar experiences and hardships as many of these students have. I think a lot of organizations would have more success if they started tapping into their pool of people they work with and find out what strengths THEY have to offer the organization.

That's pretty much it for Week 1. Look forward to stories of College visits and golf tournaments next week!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Starting a great adventure!

Hello all! Well, tomorrow I start my great adventure of my first adult job. Before starting, I've been encouraged to read through several websites and blogs in order to begin to conceptualize what I need to accomplish in the upcoming year.
A very interesting discussion that read is on this website:
This discussion brings up many major issues about volunteerism, whether local or international. I know as a recent graduate of Northwestern that one of the major lessons that is drilled in our heads is to volunteer: time, money, talent, you name it. I can't think of one person that I have encountered in my time at Northwestern who hasn't wanted to make a positive impact on the world. However, as my boss, Dan Bassill has pointed out time and time again, it's one thing to build a house on a Saturday afternoon or volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, but it's another to build a relationship with someone and help them week in and week out. For this very reason I think that Cabrini Connection, Tutor/Mentor Connection is one of the most concrete ways one can make a positive impact on someone else's life. I am a huge believer in the power of tutoring and mentoring and I think it's such a privilege that I get to work for an organization that accomplishes such concrete results.
I believe that a graduate of Northwestern, working in Chicago, I have a huge resource base of friends, professors and others who I think have the potential to help make this concrete difference. As mentioned in the discussion above, universities are an enormous research in the volunteer-based non-profit world. Even as students (or post-graduates in a lot of cases), we have so much to offer. If you're interested in becoming involved in any way, please let me know!