Monday, November 5, 2007

Civic Engagement at Northwestern University Conference

First of all - apologies for not blogging in almost a month! We're gearing up for our November Tutor/Mentor Conference, which will be held Thursday November 15th and Friday November 16th at Olympia Fields Country Club in the south suburbs of Chicago. I've been e-mailing all of our contacts in our Tutor/Mentor Connection Program Database and inviting them to come. I will also be leading a panel discussion on volunteer recruitment. I invite anybody who is interested in the subjects of tutoring and mentoring - or just helping kids in general to come.

Meanwhile, I have been doing other things as well in regards to expanding my knowledge about civic engagement. Last Friday, I attended a day-long conference about civic engagement and Northwestern University. Throughout my four years of college, I came to realize that Northwestern does a fantastic job of giving students opportunities to volunteer and become active in both the local and global communities. However, there doesn't seem to be a lot of coordination between the various service organizations, fellowships, and studies that all are going towards somewhat the same goal. That's why I was so pleased to see that Northwestern was holding a conference on this very topic.

The conference began with speakers who spoke about the psychological reasons for why certain people are more inclined to engage civically. We then had a panel discussion by three people from Stanford, Brown and Duke Universities who all have successful models for centers for community service, public service, or civic engagement -all different ways of describing the same thing. Basically, Northwestern is now looking into making their various opportunities for community service into a center where all these opportunities will be coordinated.

What was especially great about this conference, was during the afternoon, we had breakout sessions in small groups to discuss what were the key steps towards that Northwestern could take in order to make this center a possibility. One of my key points, which was very positively received, was to create a facebook-like social networking website where students, faculty and members of the outside community who dealt directly with Northwestern could share ideas, learn from each other, post opportunities - both service-wise and academically. Everybody agreed Northwestern had the resources, but needs the support of the administration in order to make this happen. However, I think this conference was a great first step towards a goal that I think is very necessary if Northwestern wants to fulfill its commitment to being civically engaged.

Finally, for your reading pleasure, the Chicago Tribune recently published a series of articles on the plight of ex-convicts finding jobs after leaving jail. One organization, North Lawndale Employment Network is combatting this problem by starting their own business run and operated by ex-convicts. The business is called Sweet Beginnings and they raise honeybees and make their own honey-based beauty products called Beeline Beauty Products. At organizations such as Cabrini Connections, we are trying to break the cycle of cradle to the prison that is so prevelant in communities such as North Lawndale and Cabrini Green. However, organizations such as North Lawndale Employment Network are extremely important too because they are trying to combat another cycle of being in prison over and over again because the difficulty for ex-convicts in finding jobs. The articles are both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time and I highly recommend them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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Thank you again.

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