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.