Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions!

Hello everybody! I hope everybody had a great Holiday and are gearing up for a fun and festive New Year's Celebration! I had a wonderful time back in Oregon, despite a couple of weather-related airline delays.

With a new year, comes new year's resolutions. My personal resolution is to get back into shape and run in the Chicago Marathon in October. My boyfriend, one of our best friends, and I are all going to run to raise money for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. I feel it's a great incentive to not only get into better shape but also to contribute to a cause that I feel very passionately about.

Speaking, of creative ways of donating to worthy causes - Facebook Causes is doing a wonderful job of making donations more exciting and fun. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is a Facebook Cause (you have to have a Facebook account to view the cause and donate) and we're currently trying to raise $2500 by January 8, 2009 in order to get a matching donation. I, myself have already donated $25 and encouarage everybody else to donate too to reach our goal. Currently we need $2415 to make our coal, so please take a little bit of time and give even a little bit of money so that we can continue to help at-risk youth succeed.

Another cool feature with Facebook Causes is the Birthday Cause. Next week is my birthday, and in lieu of gifts, I have asked all of my friends to donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in order for us to reach our donation-matching goal.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Hello Everyone! I'm about to head out to go pick up my younger brother at the airport. We're heading home tomorrow for the week, but I hope to keep posting while on Winter Break.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you all about what a great time I had at the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz, Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth awards ceremony on Wednesday. It was so wonderful to see all the programs I've worked with for the past year-and-a-half being honored for the good work they do. I am also, so incredibly grateful for their generous donations to both Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection.

One of my favorite things about that night, though, was getting to talk to the other programs about the possibility of visiting them before the school-year end. After discussing with several of the board members of the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Foundation, as well as other program leaders, about how we can make Tutor/Mentor Connection even better in 2009, I've decided to hopefully visit all of the programs listed before July 1st 2009. My goal is to not only see what the good work they do, but also to help them learn more about what Tutor/Mentor Connection can do to help them. I will also be asking their opinion on what they think Tutor/Mentor Connection needs to do in order for it to be even better. I'm very excited about the possibility of this.

Anyway, I wish everyone safe travels this Holiday Season and a very Happy and Restful Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Bridge Youth and Family Services, Holiday Benefit Concert tonight!

I'm always happy when I read about other tutoring and mentoring programs in the news. Amongst talk of the Illinois governor's troubles with the law and the failure to come to an agreement on a bailout for the three main automobile manufacturers, I was absolutely delighted to see one of the programs that I have worked closely with featured in the Chicago Tribune today, The Bridge Youth and Family Services in Palantine. The article discusses their wonderful work with youth with mental illness - which is a very important and often forgotten issue. What it neglected to mention is their Youth Advocacy program, which matches youth ages 7 to 15 with a mentor for at least one year. Their Youth Advocacy program is one of the many ways that The Bridge helps family in need. I'm also happy to highlight a program out in the suburbs, since there are many great programs in the suburbs, such as The Bridge that act as wonderful examples for programs throughout the world.

I also would like to take this moment say thank you to The Bridge's Mentor Program Coordinator, Elizabeth Dobrzynski, and the Supervisor of the Prevention and Volunteer Services at The Bridge, Nancy Kukankos for taking time out of their busy schedules to present a workshop at our November 2008 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference on Evaluation Strategies. Their workshop got rave reviews and I so appreciate all the time and effort they put in to help other programs become better. I've put up this photo before, but it's one of my favorites of the conference. Liz is in the center and Nancy is on the right. Katherine Moone, the Program Director of another fantastic program, East Village Youth Program is on the left.

Also, don't forget. Tonight is our Holiday Benefit Concert! It's at Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport (corner of Southport and Belmont) from 6-9 pm. The concert features Trakan, The Howling Poppies, and Black Collar. Admission is $30 and includes one drink. Come ready to have fun and listen to some great music!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More exciting December Events!

I want to first of all thank everyone who came to the Krem event last Friday, December 5th. I know I had a lot of fun and I really appreciate all the efforts John Knight put into making the event a success. Thanks also to all of my friends who came as well (you know who you are) and lended support to a great cause!

This week we have another fun-draising event (oh dear, my apologies for the terrible pun). This Friday, December 12th, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is having a Holiday Benefit Concert at Schuba's Harmony Grill, 3159 N. Southport, from 6-9pm. The bands include Trakan, led by our GIS and Mapping Coordinator, Mike Trakan , The Howling Poppies, featuring our Assistant Program Coordinator and 2008-2009 NUPIP Fellow, Chris Warren, on drums, and Black Collar, local, Chicago hip-hop group. Chris, Mike, and our Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator, Cassina Sanders have been working tirelessly to make this concert a success. It's $30 for three hours of great music (I've seen both Trakan and The Howling Poppies in concert and they're awesome! And, I'm not just saying that because I work with them).

And just a note as your dedicated Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator to programs looking for creative ways to make money- a benefit concert is a great way to make money, especially if you have talented employees such as we do:)

If you would like to donate, but can't come, you still can do that! Just go to our PayPal page, and make your donation. I'm sooo excited about the Holiday Benefit Concert and even if you can just come for an hour, you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December brings fun events to help out at-risk youth!

One of the things that I always stress in the three volunteer recruitment panel discussions that I've had at the last three conferences is that you need to make the tutoring and mentoring experience fun. It's one thing to be able to attract volunteers, but it's another to keep volunteers coming back year after year. Volunteering as a tutor and/or mentor can be one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do. (Read Chris's blog by the way, for a great story about one of our volunteers, Joe Alvorsen, who I think exemplifies what a great opportunity being a volunteer tutor/mentor can be). However, it can also be tough when despite all your efforts, your student is not wanting to pay attention, make an effort, or even show up. That's why it's always a good idea to have events where volunteers can get together and have fun.

It's an even better thing when you can make fun events like bar nights into fundraisers like we had back in October with Martini Madness or in April with the bar night at Schuba's. And even better yet, is when a volunteer will take the initiative and organize the fundraiser on their own volition. That's what John Knight, a first year volunteer tutor/mentor has set up a bar night this Friday, December 5th at Krem, which is at 1750 N. Clark St., on the corner of Clark and Lincoln.

As the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator, I love to share best business practice ideas with other programs who ask for help. Often they have to do with how to train volunteers, recruit kids, and evaluate success. But, I've also heard from a lot of programs who are wanting to know about fundraising ideas. What has been working out pretty well for us is encouraging our own volunteers to help us fundraise. In helping out other programs, I often encourage them to make the volunteer tutoring and mentoring experience a fun one. But, I now will especially encourage programs to encourage their own volunteers to help fundraise and organize events such as the one we're having this Friday.

So, if you're interested in having fun and having the money you will probably spend otherwise on drinks go to a good cause, come to Krem, this Friday, December 5th from 8-10:30pm, 1750 N. Clark St. Admission is $35 for all you can drink or eat .

Details soon about our benefit concert, next week at Schuba's.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Join the Tutor/Mentor Connection Event Planning Committee!

Hello everyone! I hope you had a pleasant and restful Thanksgiving weekend.

It's always nice for the staff at Cabrini Connections to tell you what a great time we had at the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. However, I think it's especially rewarding, when I read the comments on the conference evaluations and see what the people who attended thought of the conference. Here are just a couple of the comments:

“Great conference! I learned a great deal today!”

“I feel the workshops were all beneficial to my program. The individuals who I met, I hope we truly are able to collaborate. The Field Museum was a beautiful location.”

“I did the most networking I’ve ever done at this conference. You’ve done a great job in nourishing that.”

As the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator, part of my job is to make sure that we have good customer service. One of the ways I hope to build on these positive and enthusiastic comments is to create a Tutor/Mentor Connection Event Planning Committee. The response was very positive at the conference, and I already have a couple of people interested in making Tutor/Mentor Connection work for them (because that's what Tutor/Mentor Connection is really all about), who have signed up for the conference committee. If you are interested in having a say in what Tutor/Mentor Connection does for you, leave me a comment!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference was a Success

Whew, I finally have the time to sit down and write about the November 2008 Leadership and Networking Conference after trying to get everything in order after it was over.

The conferences are probably the most stressful part of being the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator. It is also probably my favorite. I love seeing the conference come together and putting faces with the names that I had been corresponding with over e-mail or talking to on the phone. A new development that I also enjoy is seeing people from other programs whom I usually only see at the conferences and catching up with them. This November Conference was my fourth one that I've attended (which is incredible to me, because it doesn't seem that long ago that I started here). I also love watching people network with each other over the course of the day and know that the conference is succeeding because people are making connections with each other.

I was especially excited to have this particular conference at the Field Museum. There are a number of reasons why the Field Museum was a great place to host it. First of all, the Field Museum is in an ideal spot - linking the downtown Loop with the South Side. Second, we were somewhat able to integrate the front-line staff of the Field Museum into the Conference since many of them live in the neighborhoods that we seek to serve and have kids, friends, or relatives that would benefit from tutoring and mentoring program. Third and finally, the Field Museum is an amazing resource that has the capacity to bring the excitement of learning about science and history to kids all over Chicago.

I think we were able to integrate the possibilities that the Field Musem offers pretty well in the conference. I especially appreciated how Dr. Clinton Nichols, who's an Urban Anthropologist at the Field Museum, put a historical context on the idea of tutoring and mentoring in his keynote address. I was also pleased to see the excitement about speaking with front-line staff of the Field Museum about what they think needs to happen in their neighborhoods. I also was happy that April Richards and Moses Rasberry from the Harris Loan Education Center at the Field Museum were able to show tutoring and mentoring program leaders what the Field Museum can offer their programs by showing their method of teaching with objects that are part of the Field Museum collection (even dinosaur poop!)

I guess the fact that tomorrow is Thanksgiving makes all of us reflect on what we're thankful for and I have to say one of the many things that I'm thankful is the chance to meet all of these amazing people at the conference and be inspired by them. I'm also continuously thankful to be working at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and that I get to make a, though somewhat small, impact on our greater community.

On that note, I hope everybody who is reading this blog post has a very Happy Thanksgiving!
For more stories about the conference, visit Cassina, Chris, Dan, El, Mike, and Vjeko's blog about their impressions and stories about the conference. Also, if you attended the conference and blogged about it in any way, please leave a comment and let me know who you are so I can point people to your blog too!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There are simply not enough programs out there!

In today's New York Times, the topic of donating to charity in tough times was highlighted. The article does an excellent job of highlighting the different types of charities and the ramifications that the tough economic climate will have over the next couple of years. I also was especially pleased in the comments section where a lot of people commented that they would try and donate at least something this Holiday Season, even though they were trying to tighten their budget.

Which, reminds me of a great idea. One of my mom's best friends' extended family (and it's a big, loving family!) decided that rather than give material gifts to each other, the family decided that they would each choose another family member in a drawing. Then they would donate an amount of money they would be comfortable with to a charity of the person's choice. One year the family all decided to choose the same charity - the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation since a mutual friend's 3 sisters all have been afflicted with this genetic condition. What's great about this idea is that it can be translated to every family and could include a variety of organizations. It's all a great lesson to teach kids - is your child interested in saving the whales? - give a donation in their name to Greenpeace. Is your child an avid reader? - donate in their name to a literacy organization such as Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. This will not only be a great legacy to leave your child, but will teach them the life-long passion for giving to others. What better gift for the Holidays could there be.

One of the reader's comments though was that there are too many charitable organizations out there. What I'm finding more and more in my position as Tutor/Mentor Research and Networking Coordinator is that at least for tutoring and mentoring organizations there are simply not enough. This was especially brought to my attention when I was reading Mike's blog the other day and he was highlighting the 34th Illinois Representative District. The 34th district only has three tutoring and mentoring programs, Link Unlimited Tutor/Mentor Program, Tuley Park, and Smith Elementary School Tutoring Program. The 34th district encompasses the far southside neighborhoods of Chatham, Pullman, South Deering, Hegewisch and the suburbs of Burnham, Calumet City, and Lansing. While many of these neighborhoods have less than 10% living below the poverty lines, the neighborhoods of Pullman and Chatham have areas that have up to 50% of their population living below the poverty line. There are also 12 failing schools within this district. That's far too much of the population living in poverty and far too many failing schools in this district for there to be only three tutoring and/or mentoring programs here.

This is why, at our conference, we are highlighting the need to expand the number of volunteer-based tutoring and mentoring programs in a panel discussion. The panel discussion will be from 11am-12:15pm and will be led by Art Mollenhauer, who is the CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. We still need other panelists, so if you are passionate about helping kids in need where there are not enough programs, let me know!

And always, just a reminder that our Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference will be NEXT FRIDAY, November 21st at the Field Museum. Even if you can come for this one particular workshop, or even if you can come for the breakfast networking session from 8-9am or the lunchtime networking session from 12:15-1:30pm we encourage everybody to come!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tutoring and Mentoring Programs around Mt. Sinai Hospital

In addition to highlighting the speakers at our November Conference, I also hope to highlight the different programs that our GIS Mapping Coordinator, Mike Trakan maps for various reasons to highlight the need for more tutoring and mentoring programs in poverty-stricken areas. Mike's maps are an essential tool to what we at Tutor/Mentor Connection do because they provide a striking visual to the information that we are telling people.

Recently, Mike mapped the tutoring and mentoring programs, as well as the schools, parks, and businesses surrounding Mt. Sinai Hospital, which is on the West Side of Chicago in North Lawndale. Mt. Sinai has recently started the process of restarting a tutoring and mentoring program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection had extended its services and support towards that. Mike writes about this effort in his blog, Mapping for Justice.

North Lawndale is a neighborhood known for its crime and poverty, but efforts are being made to improve it. Last Fall, through the Public Interest Program Fellowship, I had the privilege of visiting North Lawndale College Prep, which is a charter high school dedicated to college preparation. I was struck by the poverty surrounding this vibrant and inspiring school and the joy and enthusiasm of the students on the inside. I was also struck by how only so many students can be helped and how beneficial tutoring and mentoring programs would be to improving the neighborhood.

There are several excellent tutoring and mentoring programs surrounding Mt. Sinai, that Mike lists in his blog piece. The first I would like to highlight is Saint Agatha Family Empowerment, which is supported through Saint Agatha's Catholic Church. Saint Agatha Family Empowerment, or S.A.F.E. is dedicated to keeping kids off of the street, by running an afterschool program from 3:00-6:00pm, which is statistically the most dangerous time for kids to be out on the street. This time is dedicated to 90 minutes of a positive activity and 90 minutes of study time and tutoring. According to its listing on Idealist, job training and placement is especially a priority at S.A.F.E.

Another excellent program is the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, which is dedicated to helping every young person find their strengths and talents. There is an emphasis on service learning and job training and placement. The Tutoring and Mentoring Program at the Carole Robertson Center is just one of many programs dedicated to helping families and children in need.

The Union League Boys and Girls Club has one of its sites in Pilsen/North Lawndale as well. Like S.A.F.E. and the Carole Robertson Center, ULBGC is dedicated to being a safe haven for boys and girls in the neighborhood. Their tutoring and mentoring program uses peer mentors to help the children there with their homework and other school-related activities.

Finally, there's Gads Hill Club Learn, which is another community center in the Pilsen/North Lawndale area. Its Club Learn Program is dedicated to helping children learn in a safe environment and also helping empower kids to do positive things and steer them away from negative activities, such as joining gangs.

These four programs do wonderful things for the young people in their communities, but they can only do so much. There are many more children who are not being served and we're hoping that other people take the lead of Mt. Sinai Hospital and start tutoring and mentoring programs of their own.

It is an honor to get to witness history!

Last night, history was made when America elected Barack Obama as its first African-American President. I had the honor to be at the rally in Grant Park and it truly was the most incredible experience of my life. I'm still processing everything, but here are my initial thoughts.

Looking out across the crowd, it was so, incredibly beautiful to see African-Americans, Caucasians, Asian-Americans, Latinos, young, and old, families, and couples. Walking back to my apartment, I saw people of all colors and ages dancing together in the street, hugging each other, and simply enjoying the beautiful Chicago night. This truly is what America is all about and I felt like last night exemplified the best of what America has to offer.

I also feel like it is such a privilege to be working at a place like Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection at a historic time like this. Almost a year and a half ago, I started here as PIP fellow, and somewhat felt like an outsider. I didn't know what these children's lives were like or how I would be able to relate to them. But over the course of my time as Assistant Program Coordinator and Interim Program Coordinator I got to know the kids and I now feel like it's such an honor to be able to help them and kids in other programs out as well. I can't tell you what a joy it was when some of our older high schoolers and alumnae would come bouncing in telling me they had registered to vote or had voted. This election energized all of us, but I think for these kids, the fact that an African-American had a shot at being president was especially exciting. One of our kids even told me last summer that we was going to be the second African-American President after Barack Obama. That is so exciting and makes working here all the more worthwhile.

I can only hope that Barack Obama will unite this country together for at least the next four years as he did last night. I do know that he will continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us in making it to the highest office in this nation quite decidedly and uniting all of us, no matter what age we are or what the color is of our skin. We have worked hard in this country to achieve what has happened last night and we will continue to work hard so that every child of every color has the chance to change the world the way President-elect Obama did last night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Holiday Fundraising and Public Relations Panel at the Conference

Hello, everyone! Happy Election Day!

The planning for the conference is still going very well. Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to the conference, I will be spotlighting some of the workshops and panels that will be going on during the conference.

During the first morning session, we are going have a panel discussion on Fundraising and PR during the Holiday Season - always an important topic but especially in light of the current economy. We're very excited that our Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator, Cassina Sanders is moderating the panel discussion of proessionals from the media, PR, and fundraising wings. Gordon Mayer, who is vice-president of the Community Media Workshop, will be speaking as a representative of the media community and also of Columbia College, where Community Media Workshop is located.

Also, my good friend Anna Ashbaugh, a client executive at the Public Relations Firm, Burston Marsteller, will be speaking representing corporate PR. Anna's a great fit for this panel because in college, she studied corporate social responsibility as part of her Anthropology Degree and is now a tutor/mentor here at Cabrini Connections.

Finally we have Shane Caterino, who is the Director for Individual and Foundation Giving at the Academy for Urban School Leadership.
Before working at AUSL, Ms. Caterino worked at HSBC and has the dual perspective or working in both the for-profit and not-for-profit realms.

I'm very excited about the great discussion that this panel will generate. At the last conference, many people talked about the lack of workshops or panels on fundraising and I think the conference being on November 21st, the week before the Thanksgiving Holiday is an absolutely opportune time to discuss this.

On another note, I want to remind everyone to vote, no matter who your candidate is. I can't tell you how happy it makes me that many of my peers are voting for the first time in realization of what a momentous election this is. But, most of all, I am absolutely heartened by our Cabrini Connections kids bouncing into the office announcing that they have registered to vote. Hopefully, our new president will be an advocate for kids and will help raise awareness about giving service in a variety of ways both here and abroad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is coming together nicely!

Hello Everyone! It's been a while since I've last posted, but good things have been happening.
The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is coming together very nicely!

I'm extremely excited about the panel we have the first morning session on "What's Going on in the Neighborhood," where front-line staff of the Field Museum, who live in many of the neighborhoods that we serve, will be speaking about what's going on and what tutoring and mentoring programs can do to help. Hopefully this will spark a conversation between residents of at-risk communities, who are also Field Museum staff, and tutoring and mentoring programs about how they can work together to help kids succeed.

We also are excited to have the Education Department of the Field Museum get involved in the conference. Mara Cosillo-Starr of the Harris Loan Educational Center will speak about how to use hands-on activities to help kids get excited about learning. We're also hoping other people who work in the Education Department get involved with the conference and talk about what the Field Museum is doing to help at-risk kids get excited about science and technology.

There are other exciting workshops as well - for both tutoring and mentoring programs and staff members of the Field Museum. We're working on putting together panel discussions on both volunteer recruitment and student recruitment. A panel on Holiday fundraising is also being put together since the conference is right before the holiday season.

Anyway, just to reiterate previous posts: The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference will be held one day only, on Friday November 21st at the Field Museum. Registration and Breakfast will be from 8-9am. There will be a keynote speaker and then two morning sessions for workshops and panels. At lunchtime there will be a keynote speaker as well and then there will be two afternoon sessions for workshops and panels. The conference should end no later than 4:30pm. Cost for the conference, with breakfast, lunch, and materials included will be $60 if you register early on the conference website and $75 at the door. Scholarships are available based on need. We hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trying to combat a "Legacy of Violence"

Yesterday I wrote about Dawn Turner Trice's article that was featured Monday in the Chicago Tribune and the comments section where Dan Bassill and I both posted comments. In today's edition of the Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich writes about the shooting death of Dantrell Davis that Dan has written about several times in his blog. In it, Ms. Schmich talks about how students at Jenner Academy, where a good majority of our 7th and 8th graders attend school, commemorated the shooting death of a little boy 16 years ago. At the end, Ms. Schmich interviews the local Alderman, Walter Burnetts, who was raised in Cabrini Green. She asks "if he thinks a 7-year-old black child is safer in Chicago now than when Dantrell Davis was shot to death." Alderman Burnett's response "No . . . I don't."

This is the reality that we are working against. Cabrini Connections essentially started in the wake of the aftermath of Dantrell Davis's shooting. Many positive things have occurred here at Cabrini Connections, dozens of kids from Cabrini Connections have grown up, gone to college, and have gotten jobs. But we can only help so many kids and there are still way too many who are joining gangs, becoming addicted to drugs, getting pregnant while still a teen, going to jail, and dying way too soon. I appreciate both Ms. Turner Trice's and Ms. Schmich's efforts to raise awareness about how too many of these kids are falling through the cracks. They are asking tough questions that deserve tough answers. However, they aren't highlighting enough the role tutoring and mentoring programs can impact these communities where children are dying.

As a followup to my earlier blog post, Ms. Turner Trice pointed out that the media's main focus is on the economic crisis. There is a good reason for it, but the media isn't exploring all the different ways that people are going to be impacted. The only mention I've seen of how non-profits are going to be impacted in the local media has been in the Chicago Reader, where they highlighted the difficulty of arts non-profits to get money in tough economic times. If the media were really wanting to make a difference, they should encourage people to donate to non-profits that serve these communities because these communities are being hit the hardest right now.

On a positive note, the New York Times has highlighted the efforts of the Denver Broncos football team to be mentors and work with at-risk youth. Their Coach, Mike Shanahan has done a commendable job of encouraging his players to serve their communities - especially those players who have had run-ins with the law themselves. Does anybody know if the Chicago Bears do similar community work and if so, why haven't we hear about it. Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In response to the comments to "Local carnage covered up by Wall Street Woes"

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune columnist, Dawn Turner Trice, wrote a column about her anger over the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and how the recent financial crisis has overshadowed the crisis that is happening on our streets - the crisis of hundreds of young people in the inner city of Chicago being murdered this year. Dan Bassill wrote an excellent response to her article.(#157 in the comments section, as tutormentor, you can also find the response in his blog.

The thing is people still don't get it. In reading the responses to Dan comment, one person said that tutoring and mentoring isn't a viable solution. Another person wrote about how these children need their mothers and fathers to parent. I clarified to both people in comment #161 that the thing is, a lot of these children in these neighborhoods can't even have the privilege of having parents to take care of them, with parents absent for a variety of reasons. Numerous studies have shown that tutoring and mentoring DOES make a difference. To find a few, please visit my colleague, Chris's blog. When a child doesn't have both parents to raise them, society should not give up on them. Schools, churches, hospitals, politicians, tutoring and mentoring programs, sports teams, etc. should take a special interest in this child for the very reason that they do not have the extra support needed at home to succeed. Why don't people get that? Why don't people understand that it's not these kids fault that they don't have parental support and that we should do everything we can to ensure that these kids succeed and become good parents so the cycle does not continue?

Hopefully, these people will look at the links that Dan showed and will want to find more about tutoring and mentoring and how it benefits at-risk youth. Maybe they will feel compelled to come to our Martini Madness fundraiser this Friday, October 17th, 6:30-9:30 at The Store, 2002 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614 and talk to current tutors and mentors and how what they do helps at-risk kids succeed.

Or maybe they will want to come to our November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference Friday November 21st at The Field Museum and hear from Field museum employees who live in these neighborhoods and how while trying to be good parents and community leaders, they need extra support to counteract all of the negativity that is happening in these communities.

What we need to have is a conversation where we can learn from each other and become more informed about what we can do to help at-risk youth. There's a wealth of resources out there. As always, a good starting point would be at our own Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tutor/Mentor Conference November 21st at the Field Museum!

It's official - The November 2008 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference has been scheduled at the Field Museum on Friday November 21st. I'm fortunate to be the friend of Julie Nygaard, who is the Assistant to the Director of Public Services at the Field Museum. She read my blog article a couple of weeks ago about how I was having difficulties finding a site for the conference. She thought that a partnership between the Field Museum and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection would be very fruitful and ran with the idea of hosting the conference here. Without her initiative and vision the conference would not have been possible.

While we are still in the process of scheduling workshops and speakers, we are very excited about all the opportunities that hosting the conference at the Field Museum will afford us. An opportunity that we're especially excited about is the participation of the Museum's front-line staff. Since many of the staff lives in the neighborhoods that the tutoring and mentoring programs are serving, we thought it would be a wonderful thing for them to give a panel on what is going on in their neighborhoods and what their needs are as parents and community-members.

We're also very excited about the possibility of working with the Education Department at the Field Museum and hear how they plan to help at-risk youth succeed, especially in the sciences. There are simply so many wonderful possibilities that having this conference at the Field Museum affords and I look forward to telling you more about it as it comes together.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Successful Tutor Training Conference

Hello Everybody! I just wanted to say how happy I was with the Tutor Training Conference that was held this past Saturday, September 27th at Fourth Presbyterian Church in conjunction with Cabrini Green Tutoring and Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Attendance by our volunteers shot up dramatically with 20 people affiliated with Cabrini Connections coming to the conference for at least part of our day.

Several of our volunteers presented workshops at the conference. Tami Wielgus was a panelist on making the most of the tutoring session. Alexandria Hill spoke about establishing boundaries and expecations with your student. Amy Proger discussed on what matters for college readiness and access for urban youth. Finally, Jen Nolan and Carla Reyes presented a workshop on helping your student get accepted into and pay for college. I was only able to attend one of the sessions since I was helping greet people at the entrance for most of the day, but I was so glad that I was able to Jen and Carla's workshop. Despite only graduating from college a little over a year ago, I found the workshop to be extremely insightful and I feel I am now more confident in answering college-related questions from our students.

Overall, I felt like the conference is a wonderful example of different organizations collaborating with one another on a common goal. As the Tutor/Mentor Research and Networking Coordinator, I use it as a perfect example of the success that an event such as Tutor Training Conference can have when programs such as Cabrini Connections, Cabrini Green Tutoring and Chicago Lights work together to make it happen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Come to the Tutor Training Conference this Saturday

Hello Everyone! Welcome back to a brand new year of tutoring! It's so exciting to see all the new and returning faces. I just wanted to remind everybody that the Tutor Training Conference is this Saturday, September 26 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, IL 60611. Registration starts at 8am, the conference itself starts at 9am and goes until 2:50pm. There will be free breakfast and lunch provided as well. Please respond to the Evite ASAP so we can gauge what kind of numbers we should expect for the conference. If you can't come, please let us know as well.

The Tutor Training Conference is an essential way of learning to become a better tutor and mentor. This conference has workshops on various topics including how to motivate students to succeed, how to help students recover in math and reading and stretching your creativity by writing poetry with your students. Many of our volunteers will be presenting workshops at this conference including Tami Wielgus, who will be on a panel of veteran tutors on making the most of the tutoring session, Alexandria Hill, who will be speaking about how to set boundaries and manage expectations, Amy Proger, who will be presenting a workshop on what difficulties students encounter in the college application process, and Jen Nolan and Carla Reyes, on how to help your student apply to college. We encourage you all to come out and learn about becoming a better tutor/mentor as well as showing support to our volunteers who are helping make this conference possible!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's times like these where what we're doing is more important than ever

The news has been pretty ominous lately. Hurricane Ike hitting the Gulf Coast of Texas, the presidential election continues with accusations from both the Republicans and the Democrats about who is less ready to lead the country. Finally, there's the recent news from Wall Street of turmoil and thousands of lost jobs as Lehman Brothers files bankruptcy, Merrill-Lynch is bought out by Bank of America, and AIG, the world's largest insurance company looks like it's going to be the next on the chopping block. These are scary times for all of us.

So, how can we, as a relatively small tutoring and mentoring non-profit here in Chicago, Illinois, ask for money in times where thousands of people have lost their homes to natural disasters, and thousands more have lost their jobs because the uncertainties of the market. All of us here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection are trying to answer these questions in our own way. From my perspective as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Coordinator, times like these mean that we need even more tutoring and mentoring programs than before.

We've seen how the New Orleans School District has struggled to rebound from Hurricane Katrina and many children down there are being, in no better words, "left behind." After this natural disaster money poured into organizations such as the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity to help survivors of the Hurricane get back on their feet. This was a wonderful show of generosity from the American people, but the money only flowed in for so long. Today, almost exactly three years after Katrina, people are still living in FEMA trailers and children are still going to failing schools. There still is immense need along the Gulf Coast.

I know I may be sounding like a broken record, but it is true that a great help to places like New Orleans, and now Galveston and the Houston area would be to start up tutoring and mentoring programs in these areas. Many of the children most greatly affected in these areas were living in poverty to begin with. After a natural disaster, this only compounds the need for extra help and confidence and a safe place to go after school. Some celebrities such as Brad Pitt, have shown a wonderful initiative in helping rebuild New Orleans with safer, more environmentally friendly housing. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a celebrity took on helping children succeed in places like New Orleans by championing tutoring and mentoring programs in those areas.

But you can be a champion of tutoring and mentoring programs even in tough times like these. While we are inclined to donate money, time, and supplies after a natural disaster such as Ike, we need to look at the long-term picture. Children are living in poverty all over the country and not just in communities that have been hit by natural disasters. Tough economic times mean that it's only going to get tougher out there for children in these areas to succeed. It will also mean that there will be more children and families to serve as people lose their homes and their jobs.

So what can you do to help these people out when you, yourself, are concerned about how you're going to make it? For one, you can volunteer your time over the long-term. Become a tutor or a mentor, sit on the board of a tutoring or mentoring organization, volunteer your expertise in finance or techonology to help these organizations run better than before. Working at a soup kitchen for just one day, or donating your clothes to a battered women's shelter are all fine ways of helping out, but the real help is made with a long-term commitment. Second, rather than making one big donation somewhere, make small donations on a consistent basis. This will be both beneficial to you and if enough people do it, beneficial to organizations throughout the world. Finally, if you're truly concerned about the people living in Galveston or New Orleans, or even worried about the children in Chicago who are being shot while playing in their front yard, look into how you can help start a tutoring and mentoring organization in these neighborhoods. If we all did something to help each other in these tough times, then the world would truly be a better place.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

November Tutor/Mentor Conference - Why do we have it? Why do we need it?

Hello everybody! Tonight is our second night of volunteer orientation and tomorrow and Thursday will be our student orientations. Next week starts the first nights for tutoring here at Cabrini Connections and so it's back-to-school and back-to-tutoring.

This also means that our November Tutor/Mentor Conference is right around the corner. I still am having trouble finding a site and would appreciate any tips or suggestions for places to hold the conference. We are looking at the second or third week in November on either a Monday/Tuesday or a Thursday/Friday, but if a Tuesday/Wednesday or a Wednesday/Thursday would be better that would work too. We would even be interested if there was a great space that could only accomodate us for one day and that could hold between 100 and 150 people in one large room for keynotes and then several smaller breakout rooms for workshops and panel discussions. I have contacted all of the city colleges of Chicago and several other universities, but am often finding that they can't accomodate us because of classes. I'm also about to start contacting museums and churches. If you have any other suggestions for a site, please let me know in a comment to this post or you can e-mail me at

I'm also looking to put together a committee to help set up the conference. Ultimately we would like to have corporate sponsorship for the conference so we wouldn't have to worry about the cost of sites and also would be able to fund more people to come from all over. I'll be talking about the conference committee in future posts.

Ultimately though, I want to touch on why we host a conference every year. There are many reasons for the conference. What I think puts the conference most in perspective though is how, as children all throughout the country are going back-to-school, the topic that seems to come up most in relation to back-to-school here in Chicago is the number of children dying from violence this year already in the Chicago Public Schools. Since last September 36 CPS students were killed. Over the Labor Day Holiday 3 young people were shot including a young women in Humboldt Park who is a friend of the family of one of our Cabrini Connections employees. You can read her heartbreaking post about how this has affected her family and neighborhood here.

Cabrini Connections was founded in the wake of a shooting that transformed the city of Chicago, the killing of a 7-year-old child in the midst of gang gunfire in the Cabrini Green neighborhood in 1992. On Sunday the Chicago Tribune wrote a story about the aftermath of the shooting and how the shooting affected Chicago but still children die every week from violence. If you scan the blotter of the Tribune, you'll read about how just in the past week, a young man in West Englewood was shot, a young girl in the Calumet Area was shot while tying her blind younger sister's shoes, and a young girl visiting Humboldt Park was shot at a family party. In the Chicago Sun-Times, there was a series that ran this summer about the fear of violence that has run rampant in the Chicago Public Schools and how it's caused many children to fear even leaving their homes.

This has got to stop. Children should be excited about going to school. They need to feel like there are safe places for them to go afterschool. We should be reading articles about how excited everyone is about going back-to-school rather than hearing reports of another innocent life lost to violence. While they don't have all the answers, tutoring and mentoring programs have a lot. There need to be more safe places for children to go to learn and to socialize. Children need mentors to show them that there's an alternative to a violent lifestyle and to make the right choices in order stay as safe as possible. Children need tutors to help them succeed in school and dream big dreams of going to college and finding a successful career path. There are far too many programs right now to serve the amount need that is in these neighborhoods.

This is why we need to have the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. This is why I need your help in making it happen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lawyers Lend-A-Hend - How Can You?

Today, I went to the Chicago Bar Association to help Karina Ayala-Bermejo create a blog to tell people about what the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Foundation is doing. The Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Foundation is a program through the Chicago Bar Association which gives grants to tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago and the surrounding area. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is just one of the recipients of a generous grant that has allowed me to stay on and continue to develop the Tutor/Mentor Connection database and network with other tutoring and mentoring programs - and for that, I'm very grateful. They also give awards to attorneys and law firms who have done work for tutoring and mentoring programs as well. One of our tutors and now board member, Mike Hayes, received the My Hero award in 2005 as an outstanding tutor/mentor in the law community.

You can check out Karina's blog at Dan Bassill writes about all the different programs that have received Lend-A-Hand grants in his blog here.
Mike Trakan has mapped all of these programs and written about them in his blog here.

The bigger point is that there should be more organizations like the Chicago Bar Association creating foundations like the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to youth. There are hundreds of professional organizations in this country who could all be doing the same thing. Or alumni associations, for which, major universities such as Northwestern University have groups in all the major cities in the United States could start organizations like Lend-a-Hand too. This is a wonderful opportunity that I believe more organizations should get involved in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

November Tutor/Mentor Conference is just around the corner

Hello everyone! Tonight we are having our back-to-school volunteer coordinator and employee meeting. This weekend is the Labor Day holiday and then next weekend we are hosting a Welcome Back Brunch for our volunteers, students and their families. The week after next is our week of orientations for volunteers and students and then September 17th is our first night of tutoring. Can you believe how fast this summer has flown by?

Which only means that fall is going to fly by too, and before you know it, our November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is coming up as well. Here is where we need YOUR help - If you know of any place that would be in a convenient, centrally-located location in Chicago, or nearby suburbs (ie Evanston, Oak Park) and has space for 150-200 people, with a main room for keynote speakers and several smaller rooms for breakout speakers. If you know of any places that would be available a Monday/Tuesday or a Thursday/Friday preferably (although a Tuesday/Wednesday or a Wednesday/Thursday could work) the 2nd or 3rd Week of November, please contact me at or you can just post your ideas in the comments section for this post.

In regards to what we're hoping to achieve with our Tutor/Mentor Research and Networking Conference, you can read about what our conference goals are here. In planning for what I hope to achieve our conference, I am posting our goals and my strategies for achieving those goals below:

November Tutor/Mentor Conference Goals

Goal 1: Bring together 150 to 200 leaders representing volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs, foundations, business, media, k-16 education and the faith community.

Strategy 1: First contact everybody that came to the most recent conference, and then go back – they’re most likely to go to the next conference. Next, make sure that everybody in our database is invited. Emphasize that it’s up to them as well to invite businesses, media and faith-based organizations such as churches, mosques and synagogues to the conference, ESPECIALLY if they’re doing a workshop.
Goal 2: Provide learning that program leaders, volunteers, donors can take back and apply in their own activities, in their own neighborhoods and communities.

Strategy 2: Look back on surveys done by program participants in the past. Invite back people who’ve done workshops which got particularly high scores. Brainstorm who might be good to do workshops who hasn’t done workshops before. Be sure to invite organizations that are from areas that are especially in need – ideally from south and west suburbs.

Goal 3: Share understanding of how volunteer-based non-school tutor/mentor programs are a valuable learning support and a key component of education reform, workforce development, violence prevention, and civic engagement.

Strategy 3: Invite those involved in education reform, workforce development, violence prevention and civic engagement to the conference to speak at the conference about ways their sector interact with the tutoring and mentoring sector.

Goal 4: Increase visibility during November and December with a result of donors designating year end contributions to tutor/mentor programs in their community. Links to Chicago programs can be found on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site.

Strategy 5: Invite people who would be potential donors to our conference. Ask them to possibly present how for-profits and non-profits can interact in multiple ways – as volunteers and donors.

Goal 5: Identify and build commitment for shared actions, such as the August/September Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign, that will strengthen existing programs and help build new programs.

Strategy 5: Panel discussions on volunteer recruitment and retention – get as many programs involved and spearheading recruitment campaign efforts in their own regions

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thanks to Everyone who Participated in our Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night!

Last night was our Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night. It was a great success and I think there were a lot of meaningful conversations and positive networking happening. While the turnout was not as high as we had hoped, all the organizations that participated were able to recruit at least several volunteers.

Thank you to all my colleagues at Cabrini Connections, and our partner organizations, Cabrini Green Tutoring, Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian, East Village Youth Program, and Working in the Schools for participating in the event. Thank you also to ING Direct Cafe for being wonderful hosts and having such a great space for the event.

The Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night is now over but the conversation about recruiting volunteers to be tutors and mentors must continue. If you or your organization would like to participate in a round table discussion about recruiting volunteers as tutors and/or mentors before September 15th, please let me know. Also, if you have any media contacts, please let me know because we would like to get the media involved in the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign as much as possible.

Have a great weekend! And good luck to everyone going back to school or getting ready to go back to school!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cool Links to Promorting Volunteer Recruitment

Hello Everyone! It's me again. Did I mention to you how excited I am about our Volunteer Recruitment Coffehouse Night? Did I tell you that it's from 5-8pm TONIGHT, Thursday, August 21st at ING Direct Cafe, 21 E. Chestnut St. with an After party at the Clark St. Ale House, 742 N. Clark, just off of Clark and Chicago Ave.

Anyway, in addition to reminding everybody to come tonight, I also wanted to show you two other ways we're promoting recruiting volunteers to be tutors and mentors.

The first is a Powerpoint Presentation, that Chris and I did (well mostly Chris, but I helped:)) that is going to be shown on the tv screens at the ING Direct Cafe. I think it illustrates really well what our Volunteer Recruitment Campaign is all about. It takes a little while to load, but it's totally worth seeing.

The second is a Video currently being shown on CAN TV, which also details what our Volunteer Recruitment Campaign does.

I hope you enjoy both of these presentations. There are so many ways that you can promote recruiting volunteers and we are so thankful to ING Direct Cafe and CAN TV for allowing us to spread our message.

Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night Today!

Hello Everyone! The day has come! Tonight is the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign Coffeehouse Night! As I've said in previous posts, it will be from 5-8 pm at ING Direct Cafe, 21 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, IL 60611. Afterparty following most likely at the Clark St. Alehouse, 742 N. Clark St.

People ask me all the time, why should someone

become a tutor or mentor. I could give you many

reasons, including:

-Tutoring and mentoring underprivileged youth improves their academic performance.

-It improves their chances of going to college.

-It improves their changes of getting a job.

-It contributes to their overall well-being.

-It improves the well-being of their community

-Children who receive tutoring and mentoring are less likely to drop out of school.

-They are less likely to join gangs

-They are less likely to get arrested and go to jail

-They are less likely to get pregnant while still a teenager.

These statistics are from tutoring and mentoring a child for as little as one hour a week. We can all complain about how busy our lives are, but if eveyone gave up one hour of their week to make a difference in an underprivileged child's life, can you imagine what a difference that would make?

If you need research to back up these statistics, you can turn to my colleague and NUPIP fellow for 2008-2009, Chris Warren's blog article on the research backing up the benefits of tutoring and mentoring. Enjoy! And come to our Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night - even if you can just spare one hour of your time today!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night in 48 Hours!

The Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night is coming SOON! It looks like there's going to be a good turnout based on response so far. Remember, even if you can come for a half hour, it's still worth it to come and check out all the different tutoring and mentoring options we have in this city. Also, if can just come to our after-party at 8pm, also please come. These are great opportunities to meet dedicated volunteers and make friends.

One of the main points that I bring up when I talk about Volunteer Recruitment is a Volunteer Retention. Once we get the volunteers how do we keep them? It's easier said than down. Being a volunteer tutor or mentor has a lot of rewards: you're helping an at-risk youth succeed, you're creating a relationship that can last for years, you're helping out a community by helping out one of it's citizens, the list goes on. However, I can also tell you that it's not always easy - it's not easy to crack the shell of any teenager, but especially a teenager who's had to survive in a rough neighborhood, or one who's lost friends and family to violence, prison, and drugs. Sometimes pairings work out perfectly from the start but often the pairings take time to build and develop. Sometimes the kids get frustrated with volunteers who only want to work on homework or volunteers get frustrated with kids who won't talk to them and open up.
We lose volunteers every year to things we can't control: changing jobs, moving for work or for other reasons, going to grad school, getting married, having babies. Unfortunately, if we're not careful, we also lose volunteers because we don't keep checks on them and their students. Here at Cabrini Connections, we have a recording system called SVHATS, or Student and Volunteer History and Tracking System. Every volunteer and their student are supposed to tell us what they did every time they meet, either here at Cabrini Connections or elsewhere. Normally a student will talk about working on their Algebra homework or looking for a job. A volunteer will write about taking their student to a Cubs game or taking them shopping for Christmas presents for their family. These are all very positive results or a student-volunteer relationship and we love to read about these experience so we can celebrate the wonderful relationship that has been built between a student and a volunteer.

However, another reason why we have SVHATS is so that we can see if anything that isn't quite right is happening as well. Is a student not respecting a tutor? Is a tutor not showing up every single time and not telling the student? These are things we want to know so we can correct any problems that might arise. We want to keep as many students and volunteers as possible. In rare occasions, we have to switch around students or volunteers and sometimes, extremely rarely, we will have to ask a volunteer or student to leave the program, but that occurs in only extreme occurrences.

So other than SVHATS and making sure things are going okay between a student and a volunteer, how else do we keep volunteers? By having fun of course! This is why we have our bar nights and other social gatherings. Oftentimes, they are centered around fundraisers, but we try and make them as fun as possible. This is why we've turned the process of volunteer recruitment into a social event: we want our future and current volunteers to have as much fun as possible!
The photos are from Martini Madness from last year where many volunteers and their friends had fun and raised money for Cabrini Connections. This year's Martini Madness will be on Friday October 17th fro 6:30-9:30 again at the Store, 2002 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614. More info to come soon!

But first, there's the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night. It's this Thursday, August 21st from 5-8 pm at ING Direct Cafe, 21 E. Chestnut, Chicago, IL 60611. Afterparty to follow. Come one! Come all!

Friday, August 15, 2008

6 Days Until the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night!

6 Days and counting as of today! I'm so excited!

Today, I'm going to focus on the importance of our volunteers, here at Cabrini Connections and at other organizations as well. After all, we have a whole campaign devoted to recruiting new volunteers, thus our Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. As any non-profit knows, volunteers are essential to making organizations run, and run well. In tutoring and mentoring programs especially, it's the volunteers who are doing what the organizations have set out to do: tutor and/or mentor a child.

So, of course we need to recruit new volunteers every year to do the job of being tutors and mentors. Different programs have different groups of people that they draw from to get volunteers. Working in the Schools is known for tapping both the corporate and the retiree community to find volunteers. Retirees are a great resource because they have a lot of free time and they also have a wealth of wisdom and experience to impart on young people. Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church draws from the population that goes to church at Fourth Presbyterian. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship are another wonderful place to recruit volunteers because most faiths have some emphasis on giving service to the community. Cabrini Green Tutoring, East Village Youth Program, and Cabrini Connections all tend to draw from the population of young professionals who are great for their energy that they give to the kids and for their willingness to also help out with fundraising and putting on social events like Martini Madness, our next event after the Coffeehouse Night, which will be hosted on Friday October 17th. (Look for more details about that coming soon!)

However, unfortunately, volunteers move on. They may go to grad school, get married, have babies, or have to move for their job. We hope that they will still be able to stay in touch with us as they transition and that possibly that they will be a tutor/mentor elsewhere if they can't be one at Cabrini Connections. This reality of volunteers leaving though is what spurs us to put on the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign every year. There are so many people who have the potential to be fantastic volunteers, they just need to be reminded that there is a need.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One Week Until Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse!

The countdown continues! Today, I would like to highlight the other programs that are participating in the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse. Why are we having other programs participate? Why not just have a Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse for just Cabrini Connections?

The answer lies in what is the core goal of the other half of our program: Tutor/Mentor Connection. As we state on the homepage of our Tutor/Mentor Connection website: "The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) is dedicated to improving the availability and quality of comprehensive, long-term, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in high-poverty areas of the Chicago region and other large US cities through an ongoing, dynamic exchange of ideas." My role as Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator is especially connected to the idea of collaboration and creating connections between programs. Cabrini Connections can only serve a small piece of the large population of at-risk urban youth. That's why we want to link up with and help out other programs in our neighborhood and neighborhoods all across the city of Chicago, Chicagoland, the state of Illinois and the nation.

There are two programs serving the Cabrini Green area: Cabrini Green Tutoring and Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church. The program leaders, Erin Mc Partlin at Cabrini Green Tutoring and Alex Cornwell at Chicago Lights have been invaluable partners to our organization. They helped shape what the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night is going to be - so it will be worthwhile for them and their tutors to participate in it. They have also been immensely helpful in participating in a Volunteer Recruitment Discussion Panel at our November 2007 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and generally acting as sounding boards for my ideas during my first year here at Cabrini Connections.

Another program that will be featured is Working in the Schools, which has sites at multiple elementary schools around the country. On Tueseday, I got to visit Working in the Schools main office and find out what they do to recruit volunteers. They've done an especially good job of attracting both the retiree community and the corporate community - both huge draws as participants in tutoring and mentoring programs for various reason. Jenne Myers, their executive director and Lindsey Giacherio, their Americorps intern, soon-to-be full-time employee, have been incredibly helpful in their willingness to participate in the coffeehouse and in our May 2008 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference as well.

Finally, a fourth program will be joining us - East Village Youth Program, which primarily serves the Latino population in the city, on the north-west side. Both Sarah Bird, the Volunteer Coordinator, and Katherine Moone, the Program Director, have been great resources for tutoring and mentoring in the Latino Community.

Hopefully, people will be compelled to volunteer for all of these program in addition to Cabrini Connection. Some of them might have more convenient locations, or days of the week when tutoring and mentoring are offered. Some people might want to use their Spanish-lanuage skills or work with elementary schoolers. All of these programs offer wonderful services in regards to tutoring and mentoring and we're so excited that they are participating in our Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse in 9 Days!

The Countdown Begins! Our Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night is happening in 9 days!

There are some updates to the schedule and what is happening:

- The Coffeehouse Night will be from 5-8pm not 6-9pm so people will be more likely to come right after work.

- Everybody is encouraged to bring friends and forward information about this to

- We're also planning on going out afterwards to one of the nearby bars to continue the conversation about volunteering as a tutor and/or mentor.

So, just to recap this and earlier posts: The Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night will be at the ING Direct Cafe at 21 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, IL 60611. It will go from 5-8pm. There will be coffee, tea, and pastries for a discounted price. You can find out about volunteering at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, Cabrini Green Tutoring, Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Working in the Schools, and other organizations as well. Everybody is encouraged to bring a friend to this and forward the information about it to all of their networks.

Finally, their will be an afterparty, where
prospective and current volunteers can go to a nearby bar and
talk about tutoring and mentoring.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Preparing for College

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune featured their annual college issue in their Sunday Magazine. One of the articles featured was about the Posse Foundation Scholarship, which goes to talented inner-city seniors who are going to attend small, private liberal-arts colleges. What the scholarship does, other than help an underprivileged youth attend college, is create a network of college students who are all going through the same adjustments from inner cities to mostly rural or suburban, affluent small colleges.This is a wonderful idea because so many smart, capable students from the inner city don't make it in college, not because they aren't smart or talented, but because they don't have a support system to rely on in times of change.

Here at Cabrini Connections, we are working hard on making sure our students have an adequate support system before they enter college. I've written before about our wonderful tutor/mentor, Jen Nolan, who has worked tirelessly to help our seniors this year find the best college options for their interests and also to find the best financial aid possible. Working with her this coming year is my dear friend, Carla Reyes, who is a recent Northwestern graduate in the class of 2008, and who has been working with Jen at the Civic Federation as a Northwestern Public Interest Fellow since April of this year.

What make Carla so invaluable for helping our students make decisions about college is that she, herself, grew up in East Los Angeles to immigrant parents from El Salvador. Carla got into Northwestern University and was very successful there, but still found the transition challenging. Along with Jen, Carla has been helping create a curriculum, not only about applying, getting in, and funding college, but also how to successfully making the transition to college. Her top piece of advice is to find a mentor at your university, because they can help you steer through many of the difficulties of transitioning to college that much more easily. I've been wanting for Carla to volunteer for us since I've started working her at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and am so thrilled that she is going to join us as a college advisor and tutor/mentor for the coming school-year, since I believe her insights and enthusiasm will invaluable for our students. Also, it's her birthday today, so Happy Birthday to my dear friend and new volunteer, Carla Reyes!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night!

Hello Everybody! Well, the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night is officially set - it will be Thursday August 21st from 6-9pm at ING Direct Cafe, 21 E. Chestnut St., just off of State and Chicago.

What we're planning on doing is a sort of volunteer fair, where different programs can have their information up on different computer kiosks, with brochures about the program, as well as volunteer applications. The goal is that people, whether employees at tutoring and mentoring organizations, volunteer tutors or mentors, or prospective volunteers, will be able to come in after work, have a cup of coffee or tea and find out about various programs and talk to other volunteer tutor/mentors.

So, on August 21st, between 6 and 9pm, stop on by the ING Direct Cafe, have a cup of coffee, talk to other tutors and mentors and celebrate the joys of helping at-risk kids succeed.

On a side-note, I visited my mom's organization, Committed Partners for Youth, which is doing a fantastic job of collaborating with other youth organizations in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. There are doing a similar event to our coffeehouse night, but in their case it's an ice cream social at Coldstone, where parents, volunteers and kids can come and socialize as well. Events like the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse Night or the Committed Partners Ice Cream Social are great ways to get people involved who wouldn't normally think of tutoring and mentoring, as well as celebrating the people already involved with tutoring and mentoring.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answering the $20,000 Question

The frontpage story of the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, titled The $20,000 Question was an investigative report on how the state has squandered grant money on tutoring and mentoring programs, primarily on the West Side of Chicago, that are not actually open or do not exist. Some of these programs employ ex-cons, others don't have equipment that works. Most of these programs can be traced to State Senator Ricky Hendon and his supporters.

This article brings up many important issues that we here at Cabrini Connections addresses. Dan Bassill, in his blog, discusses how investigations like this bring up questions of what being a tutoring or a mentoring program actually means.

On my end, as the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator, it's my job to make sure that all of the tutoring and mentoring programs in our database of tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the Chicagoland area are up-to-date and are still actually doing what they're supposed to be doing. Every six months or so we try and contact each and every program in the database to make sure their information is correct and up-to-date. This is to ensure that we are not referring students, parents, counselors, teachers, social workers and potential volunteers to tutoring and mentoring programs that have out-of-date information or no longer exist.

In my current position I also work as a referral service, helping tutoring and mentoring programs be the best they possibly can be. The tragic thing about the illegitimate tutoring and mentoring programs cited in the article is that the region that most of them are located, Chicago's far-west side is in dire need of quality tutoring and mentoring programs. Hopefully people will understand that fact from the article and act by starting tutoring and mentoring programs or helping to fund tutoring and mentoring programs that we have listed in that region.
I, myself, am working to make sure that these programs are able to at least start up blogs, if not websites, so they can take advantage of being found on the internet. I also will be helping programs learn about collaborating with other programs in their area and throughout Chicago through means such as the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign.

It's investigations like the one in the Sunday Tribune that can be frustrating to tutoring and mentoring programs in poverty-stricken areas that are trying to succeed and are desperate for funding. Fortunately this has given the Illinois Board of Education a reality check and made them start evaluating the means by which they approve grant applications. Also, it brings to light how important programs such a the Tutor/Mentor Connection are in making sure legitimate programs are advertised so that people will know about them. Hopefully, the message people will be getting from this article is that money that goes to illegitmate programs is not going to children-in-need and that needs to be changed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament/Northwestern Tutor/Mentor Connection

Hello all! Summer time can sometimes be characterized as the slowest time of the year for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, but this summer has been especially productive for all of us. First of all, we are putting on a golf tournament to benefit Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection - The Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament. It will be held tomorrow, Thursday July 17th at Highland Park Country Club. Lunch will be from 11:30am-12:45pm, tee time will be at 1:00pm, and there will be dinner and a silent auction from 5:30-8pm. Last year was a lot of fun and it was a great way for me to practice selling Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to those in the business community, who are our main supporters for the golf tournament. Hopefully, we'll have as much fun and success tomorrow as we did last year.

Also, with there now being three Northwestern Wildcats on staff now (El Da'Sheon, Chris, and myself), as well as countless volunteers, board members, and donors being NU alumnae, we felt it was time to create a Northwestern Tutor/Mentor Connection. Chris blogs about this idea in his blog and Dan wrote about the need for stronger connections between universities and their surrounding communities in his most recent blog entry. Back in November, I went to a conference at Northwestern University on Civic Engagement and the University and wrote about it early in this blog here. Moral of the story is, universities such as Northwestern University have a wealth of talent, ideas and money amongst their alumnae. It doesn't just have to be between Northwestern and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection where this university-non-profit connection can be made but between a variety of universities and a variety of non-profits and causes. Golf Tournaments such as the Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament and other fun fundraising events are a great way to get people to start getting involved in supporting your cause. I look forward to all the future opportunities that I may find as Northwestern and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection become more connected than ever before.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Volunteer Recruitment Campaign Kick-Off Meeting

Yesterday, Wednesday July 9th, Cabrini Connections hosted our Volunteer Recruitment Campaign Kick-Off Meeting at Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. Chicago HOPES, a division of Americorps VISTA that has collaborated with CPS to help homeless teens succeed, Midtown Boys Club, Community Building Tutors, and the Center for Family Services in Aurora, along with Cabrini Connections and Literacy Volunteers of Illinois all participated.

The kick-off meeting was very similar to the one we had last year, and I started out with the main basic outline. However, I was very pleased that our Volunteer Recruitment network has expanded and that different groups from the year prior showed up.

The first thing we discussed was what the different organizations did to recruit volunteers. It seems that all of us use the online volunteer sites,, tutor referral and craigslist. Other ways of recruiting volunteers that were discussed were going to churches and contacting alderment to pitch volunteering as a tutor and mentor, putting up fliers on community bulletin boards, building relationships with high schools and colleges/universities and having companies like Verizon hand out fliers promoting volunteerism in their packets.

One possible idea that would need financial backing and collaboration between several different organizations would be to run an ad campaign promoting tutoring and mentoring on CTA trains and buses.

We also discussed the idea of using social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace or LinkedIn as well as hosting ideas through website links. Here at Cabrini Connections we have found a lot of success with Facebook and LinkedIn especially for collaborating with current and former volunteers and for gaining support from people who are not yet affiliated with us.

Finally, we promoted two upcoming events. The first is the Ravenswood Community Festival called The Raven, which is sponsored by Community Building Tutors, and which will be held at Chase Park on Saturday and Sunday August 16th and 17th. Community Building Tutors is hoping that many tutoring and mentoring programs will have booths at this event to help promote volunteering as a tutor and/or mentor - something that Cabrini Connections is very excited about. This is exactly what we want every organization to do in collaborating with other tutoring and mentoring organization in their communities.

Also, Cabrini Connections is hosting a Volunteer Coffeehouse Night at ING Direct Cafe, off of Chestnut St., near the John Hancock building. It will be on Thursday August 21st from 6-9 pm and all volunteers, respective volunteers and employees of tutoring and mentoring organization are welcome to come as they get off of work for a cup of coffee and a chance to network with other people passionate about tutoring and mentoring. We're also hoping to have a webcast of people giving their testimonials of why they work or volunteer in tutoring and mentoring to webcams and then sending it out live on the internet. Look for more information in the coming weeks about this.