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.