Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fathers taking Responsibility

On Sunday, Father's Day, Barack Obama spoke at a prominent African-American church on Chicago's Southside about the need for African-American fathers to take responsibility. Mr. Obama has spoken about this need before, he himself is the son of an absent father and he even admitted that he was not a perfect father either with all the chaos and stress that running for president brings to a family. However, Mr. Obama touched on a sore spot in the African-American community that has long been untouched. You can read more about the sermon here.

It is very true that the majority of our students are the product of single parent homes. While many of our children come from wonderful families with hard-working and loving mothers, grandmothers, and Aunts, there seems to be a recurrent need especially amongst our young men for a father figure. Many of our male mentors have fulfilled this role beautifully and we couldn't be more grateful for that. However, when Rogers Hemphill, the father of two of our students, Angelene and Whitney Hemphill spoke at our Year-End Dinner, I was stuck by how we could use many more fathers like Rogers. His speech about being the father of two Cabrini Connections students and himself being a life-long resident of Cabrini-Green was the most powerful part of a very emotional and joyous celebration capping the end of the year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Year-End Dinner, Cool Animation

Here at Cabrini Connections we're all about using the different talents that people have to offer in order to create a better program. One way is that we have talented artists, writers, musicians, and technology people lead our clubs. We also have had many different interns over the years, ranging from myself, as an NUPIP fellow using my community organizing skills to our current interns from Korea who created this amazing flash animation about Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and all the things we do.

Also, tonight we are having our Year-End Dinner at Cornerstone, 1111 N. Wells St. from 6-8pm. Last year I went to the year-end dinner and it was an incredible taste of all the experiences that I would have in the upcoming year. I'm so excited about the performances by the students and getting to meet many of their families for the first time. I'm very big on celebrating everyone's accomplishments and the year-end dinner is fantastic and show-casing all the talents and accomplishments or our students.

Finally, here are some photos of the conference so that you have a visual of the wonderful networking experience that it was

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pro-Bono Service - Great for Non-Profits and For-Profits Alike

Here at Cabrini Connections we're all about linking the non-profit and the for-profit worlds. In the past, I've talked about how business schools can benefit from sending their students into non-profits to help them work on organizational issues. I also would like to point out that for-profits can benefit greatly from working with non-profits - as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao says in the Spring 2008 issue of The Corporate Philanthropist, "Getting involved in the community contributes to building a positive brand image." It looks good when for-profits are out in the community helping out in a variety of issues.

I especially love it when for-profits do pro-bono work in new and innovative ways. One of my first experiences with pro-bono work was when I interpreted for refugees from francophone West Africa preparing for their asylum hearings and in their doctor's and psychiatric therapy appointments. Attorneys, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and other professionals, in addition to people who speak foreign languages have the privilege of helping people who have fled from war-torn countries start a new life in America. The two organizations where I have translated are the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment for Survivors of Torture, two outstanding organizations who do great work.

Another idea that I love is when professionals give their time doing something other than what their professions entail. Many attorneys volunteer their time to help refugees gain asylum, or help people keep homes that have been foreclosed. However, the Judge Marovitz Sun-Times Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Program has done fantastic work encouraging attorneys, judges, and law firms to volunteer their time in tutoring, mentoring, and just helping kids in general. Actually, the reason I have been able to stay on for another year at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Conneciton for another year has been because of a generous grant for the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand program and I am so grateful for all the work they do.

A final plug for doing pro-bono service is for those who work in the financial world. I have many friends who are starting their first years out of college as consultants, analysts, and investment bankers working in corporate finance. While this field sometimes has a bad rap, many corporate investment firms, such as Accenture or Deloitte have done a great job of encouraging their employees to donate their financial expertise to an organization. There are many ways that people working in accounting and finance can volunteer their skills in non-profits such as budgeting, fiscal planning, billing and collections and cash-flow analysis.

Another great way is to help people with their taxes. Many people living below poverty have extremely complicated tax forms and organizations such as the Center for Economic Progress have volunteers who are professionals in finance, banking, or accounting help these people do their taxes. To many people in this situation that could mean up to thousands of dollars in tax returns, which is a lot of money for these people.

Of course, I still would advocate for anybody looking to volunteer to be a tutor or mentor. It turns out that 110 people total showed up to our May Tutor/Mentor Conference and all of them could tell you what an impact a tutor or mentor has on a life of a child, and on the world as a whole.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tutor/Mentor Conference Success!

You've probably all figured that the reason you haven't heard from me in a while is that we just finished having our semi-annual Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference at Northwestern Law School, which was last Thursday May 29th and Friday May 30th. The Conference was very successful, I met so many incredible people who are so passionate about helping at-risk youth. People came from all across America (I for sure met people from New York, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, and California, in addition to people from programs all across Illinois) and from all kinds of programs.

In addition to helping organize the conference, I moderated two discussion panels on Thursday and Friday morning. Thursday morning's panel was on Program Strategies and Challenges, and I was so fortunate to have Rev. Regi Ratliff from Eternal Light Community Services in Maywood, IL, Rebecca Estrada from Erie Neighborhood House, Kathy Anderson from Wicker Park Learning Services and Bobby Capulong from Horizons-for-Youth were all so kind in participating and sharing their experiences and insights in running tutoring and mentoring programs.

On Friday, I moderated a discussion on Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Strategies along with Katherine Moone from East Village Youth Program and Judy Rosen from Village of Mt. Prospect Mentoring. We also had a wonderful and insightful discussion about attracting and keeping volunteers. I'm especially excited about that panel because I felt it truly kicked off my campaign to reignite our annual Volunteer Recruitment Campaign this summer. I feel like the people who would attend a panel discussion on volunteer recruitment and retention would be the same people who would help out with our Volunteer Recruitment Campaign and I hope to have a meeting at the beginning of July about what we can do in August and September to recruit as many volunteers as possible to be tutors and mentors in programs across the city.

If there was anything that I would like to change about this year's conference, it would've been that I wish that there were more people who came. Attendance was a little on the low side - around 60 each day. Next time I'm going to try and see who has attended the conference in years past and contact those people first. We're also going to try and work our media connections more so that more people who aren't even in the tutoring and mentoring community would be enticed to come to our conference.

In the long run though, I felt that our conference was extremely successful and I had more people come up to me and tell me how well-organized the conference was and how valuable the workshop topics were. I want to thank Northwestern Law School for hosting us and especially Toni Curtis, Cecelia and Joe for all their help and support leading up to, and during the conference. Also, thank you to El Da'Sheon Nix, Toni Pullen, Karen Royster James, Cassina Sanders, and Keith Smith for helping with everything so that the conference ran as smoothly as possible. Thanks to SJ and Sarah our awesome interns from Korea who put together the conference packets faster than I've ever seen before and who were the best conference photographers ever. Finally Dan Bassill for making this conference happen in the first place.