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 nicolewhite.cabrini@gmail.com

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.

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