Thursday, December 17, 2009

When you give, think of the Tutor/Mentor Connection

Last week I received a very nice e-mail from a tutoring and mentoring program leader who attended the November conference. They thanked us for having the conference and told us about how they are collaborating with a leader of another organization in a high-poverty, low-income neighborhood to help at-risk youth succeed. He writes, "We are going to plan activities with youth from both of our programs that focus directly on building friendships with kids from other neighborhoods, instead of falling into a 'gang mentality' and feeling people from other communities are enemies. I look forward to meeting with him again and I look forward to visiting your program as well."

This is what the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is all about - giving leaders in the tutoring and mentoring community the tools and resources to help the kids in their neighborhood succeed. But we can only do so much and that's why it's so gratifying to hear of people collaborating and learning from each other in the time between conferences.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection is a vital part of connecting tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has taken its toll on the Tutor/Mentor Connections and the programs it serves. I encourage to read my colleagues Dan Bassill's and Mike Trakan's blogs to read more about all the things that the Tutor/Mentor Conneciton does. Many of you will be giving charitably this year. Since you read this blog, please consider the Tutor/Mentor Connection in your charitable donations. To donate, please write a check made payable to "Cabrini Connections" and send it to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, 1st Floor, Chicago, IL 60642 or visit

Happy Holidays everyone! May they be safe and merry!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thank you Jelly for Supporting Us!

If any of you are in the Lincoln Park neighborhood tonight, or are looking for something fun and charitable to do, come to Noble Tree Coffee and Tea, 2444 N. Clark St. at 10pm. Jelly, a consortium of freelance technology people are hosting their holiday party (called "Tech the Halls." Baddum ching!) their and the beneficiary is Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Admission is free, but you do have to RSVP before. Thanks so much to Jelly for supporting us this holiday season!

Also, the Chase Giving Challenge, where Chase Bank will donate $25,000 to each of the top vote-getters has been extended another day and will go on through tomorrow, Saturday December 12th. Please click on the button below and support Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, but also be sure to see if any of the other charities that you are passionate about are trying to get votes as well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Bar Night for Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Connection Tonight!

If you've ever been to one of our bar nights, you know how much fun they are. Trust me - everyone I know who's ever gone has a great time and anticipates the next one. I think it's a combination of great people (staff, volunteers, friends, and family) having a good time at the end of the week and at the same time, raising money for a great cause.

Anyway, we're having a bar night TONIGHT, Friday , December 4th from 8pm-12am. It's at Fizz Bar, 3220 N. Lincoln Ave., just off of Lincoln and Belmont and just south of the Paulina Brown Line Stop. Admission is $40 (this goes to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection) and covers beer, wine, and well drinks. There will also be appetizers.

In the upper right hand corner is another graphic created by our tech club. This was created by one of our students. Hopefully it will remind you why we do what we do here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and why we need your dollars to continue to help these kids create amazing things.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chase Giving Challenge on Facebook

Hi everybody! So if you're on Facebook, I'm sure you've seen the Chase Giving Challenge. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is one of the organizations vying for a chance to win $25,000 (which is A LOT for a non-profit!). We just need to get as many votes as possible before next Friday, December 11th.

Here's what you have to do. Go to the icon below and click on it. Login to Facebook and they'll ask you to become a fan of the Chase Giving Challenge. Then you can vote for us. It's free, quick, and easy. And what's really cool is if there's another charity that is near and dear to your heart, you can vote for 19 other charities as well to receive money.

So if you've become a fan of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by being a student in the program, volunteering for us, coming to one of our conferences, learning about us online or any other way, please vote for us to receive a much-needed donation!

Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis the Season to Donate!

It's almost the first of December, which means we're winding down from the November Tutor/Mentor Conference and winding up for Holiday Donation Season. I think the former will reinforce the latter as evidenced by these comments from our conference evaluations:

" Overall, I felt the conference was AWESOME!! Kudos to Dan Bassill and his staff." (They also, very kindly added a kudos specifically to Bradley for his awesome job directing parking - "Kudos . . . especially [to] the guy who 'stood outside to handout the parking passes/direct attendees to the conference. Who would want that job?:) NOT ME!!")

"I'm ecstatic that I learned about this conference and could attend. I have a new energy to develop and and implement new initiatives into my organization that I never would have come up with I wasn't here."

"Well organized!"

"Thank you! Great location!"

"Everything was excellent!"

and I think this is actually a compliment to the conference as well "More workshops need to be offered and more days need to be added."

A lot of people also inquired about when the next conference is going to be and what workshops will be offered. As of now, the only thing we're sure of is that it will be sometime in mid to late May. But in order for the great momentum that the November Conference created - we need your help - both organizationally and financially. If you would like to be a part of the Tutor/Mentor Conference Planning Committee, leave a comment and I'll contact you. If you would like to donate to tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago, there are two ways:

1) We have a nifty FirstGiving Page dedicated to Holiday Fundraising. Many of you are going to donate to your favorite charity for the Holidays, why not it be for tutoring and mentoring?

2) You can also print this form out, write a check payable to "Cabrini Connections," and mail it to: Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60642

Also, just to illustrate where your dollars go to, the graphics in this post were created by the Cabrini Connections Tech Club, one of our four clubs where students explore their interests and use their talents to create wonderful things. Donors like you make it possible for students like the ones in the tech club to be able to explore their talents and even possible careers for the future.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (Today is Thanksgiving Eve?) and I just want to wish everybody a happy, pleasant, and safe Thanksgiving!

Of course Thanksgiving is a time where we count our blessings and remind ourselves what we are thankful for. In addition to being thankful for my health, a loving family, wonderful friends, and a loving and supportive (and fundraiser-extraordinaire!) boyfriend, I'm also thankful to have such an amazing job where I can make a difference, albeit a very small one.

Thanksgiving is also a time where we remember those left fortunate and is the start of the biggest giving season of the year. Please read my co-workers blogs, Dan Bassill's, Bradley Troast's, El Da'Sheon Nix's, and Mike Trakan's who all talk about different ways you can help out at-risk youth.

However, to give my 2 cents, please consider being a sponsor for the Tutor/Mentor Conference, or even for the admission of one person who qualifies for a scholarship. In total, about 155 people attended the November Conference last week at Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston. Of that number 51 people were granted full scholarships, 51 speakers were granted free admission, and 12 people received reduced admission rates. We believe that attending the Tutor/Mentor Conference is important no mater what your financial situation is and that everyone who wants to, should attend. The conference does cost money to put on - we need to pay for room rental, catering, and photocopies, among other things. And to put things in to perspective - when you sponsor the Tutor/Mentor Conference or sponsor someone's admission to the conference, you are helping out tutoring and mentoring programs, and thus, children all over the country.

A final note, the graphic in the upper right-hand corner was created by Kierre Halbert, a 7th grader in Cabrini Connections in our Tuesday night tech club. Hopefully it will put a smile on your face and remind you to give something so to tutoring and mentoring programs this Holiday Season, so that kids like Kierre can continue to create wonderful and creative things like the graphic and explore their talents in places like Cabirni Connections.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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

This morning I received a very nice e-mail from a conference participant. We talked about how his organization can work with the Tutor/Mentor Connection at the conference and he was e-mailing to follow up, but he also added this nice note:

" It was great to meet you at the Conference last Thursday. I found it as an excellent opportunity to meet some great people and get some valuable information. I found the last session of the day, on fundraising strategies: 10 Ways to Stay Ahead in This Economy, to be one of the best; I'm glad I stuck around for it."

I think this note sums up what a success the November Tutor/Mentor Conference, was. Sheer numbers-wise, we had around 155 people attend this conference - more than any November conference since 2001. We also had a lot of people from organizations that I had not seen participate before, and people from Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Also, since we were at Norris University Center on Northwestern's Evanston Campus, we were able to have the participation of students from Northwestern. Finally, we were able to hear from a DePaul Chicago Studies class on what they learned about tutoring and mentoring programs in Chicago. Hopefully these students from two fo Chicago's top universities will take what they learned from this conference and become the future leaders in the tutoring and mentoring communities.

The first day was a bit hectic due to having swine flu vaccinations in one of the rooms on the same floor that we were having our conference. This meant that we had to not only direct many students to the swine flu vaccines, but also that we had to have one of our morning workshops and our lunchtime keynote in the Block Art Museum Auditorium next door. Fortunately, Block were gracious hosts and really kind about letting us use their space. Norris also proved to be very helpful in making sure all of our technical difficulties were taken care of and that everyone had internet and working PowerPoint projectors in their rooms.

Due to dealing with swine flu vaccines, making sure people go to Block museum and back, and dealing with a slight catering snafu, the only workshop I got to sit on was the volunteer recruitment panel that I was moderating. However, I felt that particular panel was the best one that I've moderated due in large part to the fantastic audience we had, who all had great and probing questions.

Fortunately, the next day I was able to sit in on two fantastic keynotes. Our first was Isaiah Brooms, who is a former Cabrini Connections student and now is the Director of Admissions at the Westwood College Virginia Ballston Campus. I was absolutely riveted as Mr. Brooms told his story of going from living in Cabrini-Green during the 1980s at the height of the crack epidemic and being shot at by gangs on a daily basis, to being an administrator in academia. I think many of the programs felt like what they do everyday was put into perspective by Mr. Brooms' story and were inspired to continue to do the good work that they do.

The other keynote that I was able to listen to was Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell talk about mobilizing your social network. Unfortunately I was only able to hear a portion of their talk because I had to deal with some technical difficulties in another room, but from what I did here really energized me to consider who is in my network and who do those people in my network know in their networks. As I mentioned in a previous post, I mapped my network for the Chicago Marathon donations that Nick and I received, but I think it would be worth it to map other networks as well.

So, with this great energy coming out of the conference we enter the Holiday giving season. If you have been inspired by these posts and learning about our conferences, there are a couple of things that you can do:

1. Help plan the May 2010 Conference.
2. Help promote the May 2010 Conference and everything that the Tutor/Mentor Connection does leading up to the May 2010 Conference
3. Help fund the May 2010 Conference - we had 50 people request full or partial scholarships. We also gave all of the speakers and panelists free admission. This adds up but we strong feel that these people deserve to come to the Tutor/Mentor Conference no matter what their financial situation is. Just think - your financial support of someone attending the conference today will foster a future leader in tutoring and mentoring in the future.

Inspired? Let me know in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tutor/Mentor Conference is TOMORROW

Hello Everybody. I'm sure you can imagine my absence from this blog is a result of me being busy with last minute preparations for the conference. Well, the conference is TOMORROW, so a couple of things:

The November 2009 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL on the Northwestern Evanston Campus. Parking is in the lot just south of Norris on Campus Dr. Parking Permits will be $7 and will be available outside the parking lot from 8-9am and inside from 9am on. Registration is from 8-9am in the Louis Room lobby on the second floor of Norris.

If you have any questions or want to register, visit the Tutor/Mentor Conference Website.

I'll see everybody tomorrow at the conference!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Weeks Until the Conference

I can't believe it's already two weeks until the conference! October went by QUICKLY! But some great things are coming together for the conference and I hope you're just as excited as I am about it. Yesterday I talked about a great keynote speaker that we're having, Timothy Hogan of the Royal Order of Experience Design, who's talking about how businesses and non-profits can collaborate by having volunteers use their professional experience to help the non-profits.

Today, I would like to highlight a keynote speaker and a workshop that that touches on a topic that is currently quite relevant for many non-profits: the state of the current economy and how non-profits can stay funded and running through the current recession.

On Thursday morning, November 19th, the morning keynote will be by Jill Zimmerman of the Alford Group. Jill spoke at last May's Conference on grant-writing. This November, Jill will be doing a State of the Union on the economic climate and how it's affecting tutoring and mentoring programs. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know the struggles we've had here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to stay afloat, especially this Fall. We're not the only ones though. I've talked to several programs that have had to shut down and lay off key staff members in order to stay open. This is not okay, especially in light of the continued violence that plagues Chicago and other big cities. (read Dan Bassill's blog article about the tragic shooting death of a DePaul student over Halloween weekend to get a glimpse of what we're dealing with). Knowledge is power, and since everybody has been affected by the economy, it's definitely worth your while to listen to Jill's keynote.

Then, later that day, during the second afternoon workshop, Liz Livingston Howard of the Northwestern University Kellogg Center for Non-Profit Management will be speaking about 10 Tips for Staying Ahead in this Economy. This workshop was also held this past May, but the topic is just as relevant now, if not more so and we really appreciate the Kellogg Center for Non-Profit Management coming back and doing this workshop again.

Like I've said before, the Tutor/Mentor Conference usually has a little something for everyone, so if using volunteers' professional skills or fundraising in a tough economy doesn't persuade you to come to the conference, maybe one of the future blog posts will!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cabrini Connections Bake Sale - How do you get Volunteers and students more involved?

This past Saturday, on Halloween, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection hosted a bake sale organized by one of our students, Melissa Young, and her tutor/mentor, Elena Lugo. At the beginning of this school year, when there was a distinct possibility that Cabrini Connections would not be able to stay open through the 2009-2010 school year, students, volunteer and staff came up with ways to raise money. I raised money by running the Chicago Marathon (which is still live and taking donations through January 1st, 2010!) El Da'Sheon Nix, our administrative coordinator, and Kurt Kittner, one of our board memebers, created a Northwestern-University of Illinois Challenge to see which universities alumni could raise more money before the Northwestern-UofI football game. Mike Trakan, our GIS and Mapping Coordinator hosted a mapathon. We also had the TRW hill challenge, hosted by a former Northwestern football teammate of El's - Matt Ulrich, which raised over $6000 at last count.

While we truly appreciate everybody's efforts in fundraising for our organization, we were especially impressed that one of our students decided to take the initiative and organize a fundraiser herself. Melissa decided that she was going to host a bake sale on Halloween. She got the word out to our volunteers, students, and staff through SVHATS and we had many volunteer tutor/mentors and friends of Cabrini Connections bring in delicious baked goods. My boyfriend Nick and I helped out, but most of the organizing that day was done by Melissa and Elena. We also had nine of our students help out by standing on Chicago Ave. And Halsted St. holding signs beckoning people to come into Cabrini Connections and buy delicious baked goods. The bake sale was a great success! People were coming in off the street as well as buying baked goods while they were in their cars, stopped at the stop light. Also, many of our friends and volunteers came in to buy the baked goods as well. Overall, we raised $328, which was a lot more than we had expected to raise. Hopefully other students will take Melissa's initiative and organize fundraisers of their own.

In the coming month, we will have more fundraisers hosted by volunteers. On Sunday November 22nd, one of our volunteer tutor/mentors, Sarah Randag (also in our volunteer spotlight this week!) will be hosting a wine-tasting for Cabrini Connections at Cellar Rat Wine Cellar. Only 15 spots are left and it's $25 admission to find about wines that go well with turkey and other Thanksgiving food staples. During the holidays, one of our college zone volunteers, Stephanie Rogers, will be hosting a card-writing fundraiser by sending holiday cards written to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. For each card sent, $1 will be donated to Cabrini Connections.

Volunteers can be a great source of other services than tutoring and mentoring and fundraising as well. At our November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, Timothy Hogan, of the Royal Order of Experience Design will be doing the lunchtime keynote on Thurday November 19th. He was once a volunteer tutor and mentor but had to stop due to being too busy with his job. However, he did stay in touch with the Tutor/Mentor Connection through our monthly newsletter. Mr. Hogan realized that he could volunteer in a different way - by using his expertise in technology to help rebuild the Tutor/Mentor Connection website. He also has helped recruit other volunteers as well to help tutoring and mentoring programs with their technology needs. This is the perfect example of how volunteers can help out non-profits not just by volunteering directly with the service they provide (such as being tutors and mentors at organizations such as ours), but also by offering their professional expertise in technology, accounting, legal advice and much more. As Mr. Hogan demonstrates, even if you can't help out once a week as a volunteer tutor/mentor, there are still a variety of ways that you can help at-risk youth succeed simply by offering your professional skills to a grateful organization.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

November Conference Workshops - Social Network Analysis

Today I would like to highlight two exciting events that will be happening at the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. Both of them will be on Friday November 20th and will discuss how you can use your social network to your advantage.

The Friday lunchtime keynote will be presented by Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell. Valdis is an expert on social network analysis and mapping and Jean helps companies and non-profits with weaving and thriveability. What does this mean exactly? Well, Valdis and Jean are concerned with how companies and non-profits can use their networks to their best potential. We all have networks - our work networks, school networks, family networks, etc. Some of them overlap, some of them don't. But sometimes people act as if they have blinders on and don't see who in their various networks might help them reach their fullest potential.

There are many tools you can use to help reach your fullest potential in social networking. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, Blogspot and Twitter are all tools that I have used online to reach out to people who I know from my hometown, college, and who I have met in the working world. But many people do not use these connections to their full advantage. This is what Valdis and Jean want to help you do in their keynote and in their workshop, which will be Friday afternoon. As they say, sometimes we shut out people from our network when they could have ideas or connections that could help you out. For example, when a non-profit applies for a grant offered by a corporation, it often helps to have someone in that corporation that you know be an advocate for your grant. In fact, many grants will have you list volunteers and board members, both current and former, who work at that corporation. But in order to utilize that tool, you have to work your social network.

A great personal example of working social connections is how my boyfriend Nick and I fundraised for the marathon. We started out by listing everybody we knew who might donate and making spreadsheets indicating when a person was contacted for a donation, how they were contacted (online or by mail), whether they donated, and whether we wrote them a thank you note. We started out with immediate family, close family friends, and our close circle of friends. This resulted in $830.20 in donations by early September.

Then, when funding was starting to dry up in early September, we delved deeper into our social networks. Nick took donation letters to work and e-mailed co-workers about helping Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. 8 of his co-workers donated totaling $430 in donations. I then asked my mom and dad for their connections. My dad sent me the addresses of friends and former co-workers who he thought might donate. 3 of my dads former co-workers donated totaling $103.60. My mom then sent me the addresses of childhood friends parents and teachers, which resulted in $339.40.

We also made a push on facebook, twitter, gchat, and general e-mails about the need for funding for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Our high school and college friends came through in a pinch! Three friends I met through the Northwestern Public Interest Program Fellowship hosted a party for Cabrini Connections which resulted in raising $232! Friends told their parents about donating and before we knew it we had raised a total of $2,783.20 before the Chicago marathon.

Moral of the story is - you don't know who in your social network might be able to help you out - either with their own talent, ideas or funding, or with connecting you to people THEY know with talent, ideas or funding. I learned this lesson in fundraising the marathon, but I know I will want to attend Valdis and Jean's workshop on Friday afternoon, the 20th. See you there

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One Month Until the Conference! Workshops to look forward to!

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is in one month! We're so excited about all of the great speakers and workshops that we will be hosting that I will be profiling all of them over the next month.

The first workshop I would like to highlight is the "Understanding Tutor/Mentor Program Distribution in Chicago" workshop, which will be on Friday morning, November 20th, from 9:40-10:50am. This workshop will be led by first-year students at DePaul University and their professor, Janet Hickey, and will be considered their final for their Explore Chicago Class: Growing up in Chicago. Over this fall quarter, these students have been assigned a region of Chicago and have explored and analyzed the tutoring and mentoring programs in this region. Then they write about what they learned and what they think about these programs in a blog. This is a great way for them to give feedback to each other, but it's open to the public, so this is yet another way people can become interested in tutoring and mentoring

This is a great way for first-year students at a university to learn more about the city that the university in. Tutoring and mentoring programs are often pillars in their communities and serve a purpose that is so much bigger than tutoring and/or mentoring kids. Hopefully the students in this class will be inspired about the tutoring and mentoring programs that they have studied and will be compelled to become, volunteers, donors, or even leaders of their own tutoring and/or mentoring program. Hopefully, other universities will be inspired by this class as well and might consider offering a class like this or similar to it in the future. IT doesn't even have to be about tutoring and mentoring programs in Chicago - this model can easily be replicated at other universities in other cities. I must say I am inspired by these students and all of the hard work that they have put in so far. I highly recommend visiting their blog and reading what they have found out. I think you will be just as impressed and inspired as I was.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Marathon is Over but We're Still Running!

The marathon has been over for a week, but here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection we need your help to keep on running. Thank you to Maryjo Byrnes for your donation to our marathon training, which has so far raised $2,783.20 for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. If you had wanted to donate to Nick Infusino and me running the Chicago Marathon for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection but didn't or want to donate again, you still can through January 1st, 2010 on our FirstGiving page.

However there are a couple of other fun ways to give to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection this month. The first is through workplace giving. Over the past week, I have visited two CTA stations and the US Pretrial Services Office to speak about the Combined Charities Campaign or Combined Federal Campaign. What the Combined Charities or Combined Federal Campaign (depends on whether the organization is a federal organization or not) does is that employees can designate a portion of each paycheck to the charity of their choice and the donation is tax deductible. So, say I work for the CTA - I can designate a dollar per week to Cabrini Connections and that means a donation of $52 for the year. This is a great and easy way to give and it's been a lot of fun talking to people about what we do. We are "Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection" under the Black United Fund for the Combined Federal Campaign. For the Combined Charities Campaign, we're either "Cabrini Connections" under the Black United Fund or "Tutor/Mentor Connection" under Community Shares of Illinois if your organization does workplace giving already.

Corporations do workplace giving too, such as Northrup Grummond, Allstate, and Abbott Laboratories. You can read about how Northrup Grummond is helping organizations such as ours on El's blog. You can also read about how your work can get involved in workplace giving on Dan's blog.

Also, right now, the Chase Foundation, Parade Magazine and Facebook Causes have teamed up to give $50,000 to the cause that has the most donations on Facebook Causes until November 6th. The contest works like this (courtesy of Facebook causes):

The contest is simple: the cause that gets the most people to give $10 or more wins. Causes can win daily awards of up to $1,000 for getting the most donations in a single day, and overall awards up to $50,000 for getting the most donations over the entire challenge, which ends November 6th.

Go to to see the leading causes in the Challenge. From here, you can browse all competing causes or start a new cause. Or you can go directly to the list of your causes and pick one to help.

Once you have picked a cause, there are two easy ways to help:

  1. Donate. Go to the cause you want to support and click on the green “Donate” button.
  2. Tell your friends. Go to the cause you want to support and click on the green “Tell Friends” button. But don’t stop there—make phone calls, put your cause’s URL in your away message, and find other creative ways to get your friends to donate"
What we're trying to do here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is to have the most donations for a single day. We want YOU to donate this Friday October 23rd so we can reach our goal. I pledge to donate $25 this Friday. What are you going to donate?

Finally, don't forget about the Charity Hill Climb, organized by one of El Da'Sheon's former Northwestern football teamates, Matt Ulrich. Here's the information on that, via Facebook Events:

"What: A charity workout! TWR will host our second “Hill Challenge”. The “Hill Challenge” consists of walking or running up and down a sledding hill as many times as you can in one hour. There will be a minimum $25 dollar donation fee. You are also encouraged to find sponsors to raise additional money. We suggest passing along this info to family/friends/businesses, etc. They can sponsor you per hill or give a flat donation.
Why: All proceeds and pledges will be donated to Cabrini Connections: an after school program dedicated to helping underprivileged youth become extraordinary adults (All proceeds are tax deductable).
When: Sunday October 25, 2009 at 9:30a.m.
Where: The sledding hill behind the Southeast end zone of Soldier Field.
Who: TWR clients and any friends, family members, peers, or colleagues who would like to get together for a great workout and raise money for a great cause!!!
Details: Minimum donation of $25 dollars will allow you entry to Soldier Field Hill Challenge plus you will receive a complimentary t-shirt!!! The winner of most donations will receive one Train With Ron personal training session!"

So, there are variety of ways to donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection even post-marathon! I'm going to keep trying to raise money - it's up to you to help us out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marathon is Over! But we still need your help!

I can now say that I have run a marathon. On a cold, sunny, Sunday morning, I ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago. I finished the race in 4 hours, 44 minutes, and 28 seconds. My goal was to get under 5 hours and I was very happy with the result. (Picture at the right is me tired and happy after the marathon. The picture was taken by one of our outstanding tutor/mentors, Anna Ashbaugh, who was volunteering for the marathon and greeted me at the finish line!) My boyfriend, Nick Infusino, (photo bottom left, looking a bit worse for wear, but hey, he ran fast!) who was also a tireless fundraiser for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection ran the marathon in a speedy 3 hours and 59 minutes. We both agree that we would do a marathon again in a heartbeat! In fact, I'm already looking at Spring marathons to run in since I had such a great time!

To add to the list of people who donated since last time, they are:
- Emily Byers
- Kathleen Cox
- Bob Baeppler
- Susan Lanza

Thank you again to everybody who donated to our cause! It was truly inspiring to see the outpouring of support and encouragement - both financially and emotionally - from family and friends as Nick and I took on this race. It was an honor to accomplish something both for myself and for such a great organization. Thanks also to our family and friends who braved the cold to come out and support us throughout the race.

In total we raised $2,757.00 before the marathon, which is incredible! However, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connections still needs your help and our FirstGiving website is still live and taking donations until January 1st, 2010 if you wanted to donate, but didn't in time for the marathon, or if you want to donate again. The marathon is over, but the need is still pressing and here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

School Violence Problem of the Day - Where are the Solutions

If you've been following Chicago news lately, you have probably been inundated with stories about leaders from Mayor Richard M. Daley to President Barack Obama have been trying to come up with answers to the recent spate of violence in our inner city schools. You'll read about how Secretary of Education and former Chicago Public Schools Superintendant Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder visited Chicago and promised an emergency grant to Fenger High School, the scene of the fatal beating of Derrion Albert. You'll read about how Mayor Daley has introduced new Police Patrols in schools and new CTA stops as measures to quell the violence. Unfortunately you will also read how a young mother was killed in a drive-by shooting in East Garfield Park last night, yet another victim or a random act of violence.

Dan Bassill has been writing about the complex solutions to an increasingly complex problem in his blog, that I encourage you all to read. What we can't stop saying however is that there are two very important ways you can help make kids lives better and steer them away from violence:

1) Volunteer to be a Tutor and/or Mentor. Visit the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and find a program near you to volunteer at. If you need help, don't hesitate to call us at 312-492-9614 and we'll help you learn how to use the program locator. Helping one student might not seem like a lot, but as the saying goes "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."

2) Donate to the Tutor/Mentor Connection. When you donate to T/MC you're donating to programs all throughout Chicago that we help throughout the year. And! There's a variety of ways to do just that this weekend:

1. Come to Martini Madness, which will be TOMORROW, Friday October 9th from 6:30-9:30 at the Store, 2002 N. Halsted at Halsted and Armitage. Admission will be $40 and will include all-you-can drink martinis, soft drinks, and appetizers. Wine and beer will also be available for purchase. There will also be a raffle with prizes such as two airline tickets to anyone in the continental United States, a free hotel stay, dinner for four at a top restaurant and more. You can pay for your admission online here.

2. Donate to Nick Infusino and me running the Chicago Marathon for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, which will be this Sunday, October11th starting at 7:30am. You can donate here and find out how to follow us by text message or watch us here.

Remember, even a donation of one to two hours of your time in tutoring and/or mentoring a child or donating even $20 to show your support will make a WORLD of difference to solving the problem of youth violence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why I'm running the marathon for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

If you read this blog, you of course know that I am running in the Chicago Marathon for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection on Sunday October 11th. The reasons for running the marathon were two-fold: 1) I decided that 2009 was the year I was going to get in shape and while I was always a casual runner who enjoyed running, I had gotten out of shape and decided that making it my goal to run the Chicago Marathon in October and get in shape was my New Year's Resolution for 2009. 2) I knew that 2009 was going to be a tough year for non-profits and I thought that my running in the Chicago Marathon to raise money for Cabrini Connections could come at no better time. So, my boyfriend Nick Infusino, who has been an incredible fundraiser himself, and I signed up for the Chicago marathon and have so far raised $2623.40 for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

However, there is a third reason and unfortunately it's been reinforced by recent events such as the beating of an honor student at Fenger High School which simply show us how important tutoring and mentoring programs are - now more than ever. In today's Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich, who has written about tutoring and mentoring programs in the past, including our own, interviews Diane Latiker who is the founder and executive director of Kids off the Block in Roseland, the same neighborhood as Fenger High School. Unfortunately Kids off the Block is one of the few programs in Roseland, and we need many more people like Diane Latiker to step up and help kids have a safe place to go after school and where kids can have the resources to succeed in school and in life.

This is the purpose of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to support individuals such as Diane Latiker who have gone above and beyond to help kids, but also to support individuals who take it upon themselves to start new mentoring programs. Tonight I will be speaking at a training for a new mentoring program for the Chicago Public Schools Summerquest Program and supporting the new tutors and staff memebers in starting a new program.

So what can you do to help stope the violence? There are two pretty easy things you can do. Number one, do what Diane Latiker says to do in the article:
"Volunteer," she said. "Find out who you can help. We need all the help we can get."

The other is to donate. You can donate to helping all of the tutoring and mentoring programs in Chicago by donating to my marathon fundraising for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by visiting:
On Sunday I will be running 26.2 mile for the kids in Chicago. What will you be doing to stop the violence?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marathon is in 5 days!

Hello Everybody! The Marathon is in 5 days and we're up to $2,623.40 in donations, which is fantastic. Here's a list of people who have donated since the last posting:
-Jenny Conat
-Melanie Kahl
-Kate Ashley
-Bethany and Nate Sutton
-Jimmy and Nancy Imamura
-Joey Knelman
-Ted Dearborn
A big thank you as well goes out to Courtney Spalding-Mayer, Whitney Spalding, and Sten Langsjoen for hosting a "Save Cabrini Connections Party" at their apartment Friday night. I'll write about it a bit more in the next post, but we raised $232, which is fantastic. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection still needs your help though. Please donate by sending a check payable to "Cabrini Connections" to:
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642
or by visiting:

Anyway, a lot of people have been asking about how they can track Nick and me in the marathon. The easiest and best way to track our progress is by signing up to get texts from the Chicago Marathon whenever we cross a certain distance (I assume the 5-mile, 10-mile, 15-mile, etc.) You can sign up to track Nick and/or me at:
You can also download the course map and figure out where you want to watch us run by here.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below. It says the weather is going to be about 45 degrees and partly cloudy on Sunday October 11th, which will be perfect for this runner, but you might want to dress warmly since you will be standing around. Also, the marathon begins at 7:30am (in light of the heat of the last two marathons), so plan accordingly.

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun training for the marathon and I'm so excited about it. Thanks to everyone's words of encouragement and financial support throughout the process of preparing for the marathon. I can't believe it's almost here!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thanks to Everybody who has Donated So Far!

On Friday September 25th, we reached our initial goal of raising $2000 for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by running the Chicago marathon. However, times are still tough and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection needs your help more than ever. That's why we have increased our goal amount to $3000, which we hope to raise by Sunday October 11th. You can make that a possibility by donating at our FirstGiving site or by writing a check payable to "Cabrini Connections and mailing it to:
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642

I would also like to thank all of Nick Infusino and my friends and family who have donated thus far:
- Carla Reyes
- Steve Gorodetskiy
- Mardel Chinburg
- Peter and Barbara Bergreen
- JoAnn Stevenson
- Jean Vinson-White
- Mike White
- Dan and Peggy Erickson
- Maryann May
- Nina Nashif
- Kari Wergeland
- Fran Fritzmann
- Bill and Nancy Guerry
- Ralph and Pam Infusino
- Anna Ashbaugh
- Nicole Keogh
- Matt Cohlmia
- Carlos and Elisa Reyes Monterrosa
- Claire Walker
- Erin Infusino
- Sveta Trivino
- Katie Infusino
- Eric and Sally Kemmler
- Laura Eckstein
- Sarah Randag
- Kathryn Lee
- Gloria VanMilligan
- Scott and Julie Holman
- Sam and Toni Pace
- Emmy Moore
- Karen and Jeremy Clay
- Jim and Nancy McCready
- Jim and Gaby Infusino
- Tom and Janet Heinonen
- David Yeh
- Virginia Farkas
- Ron and Suzy Crasilneck
- Lila Schwartz
- Jack Prior

Some of these are family members, some of them are family friends. Some of them are co-workers, some of them went to Northwestern with us. Some are even volunteer tutor/mentors at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Most of them live outside of Chicago but think that helping an at-risk child succeed in life is important enough that they donated. I am inspired by each and every one of these people who stepped up to the plate and helped out. Hopefully you will find them inspiring too and find it in your heart to donate.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tutor/Mentor Program Survey still Live

If you're a Tutor/Mentor Program and haven't participated in our Back-to-School survey that was discussed in a post last week, you can still take the survey. Just visit our Ning page where the link to the survey is posted, take the survey, and then discuss what you thought of the survey in the forum on the Ning page. For those of you unfamiliar with Ning, it's a social networking site similar to Facebook for programs such as the Tutor/Mentor Connection. So, check out the Tutor/Mentor Connection's Ning page, join Ning, and become a network with people who care about kids just like you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is in Two Months!

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is in a little less than two months and we already have lots of great speakers lined up including:

- Friday Morning Keynote: Isaiah Brooms, Director of Admissions at Westwood College - Virginia Ballston Campus
Isaiah Brooms is a long time alumni of The Cabrini Green Tutoring Program (Currently, Cabrini Connections). Formerly a teacher in the Chicago Public School System, he relocated from Chicago to recruit, coach and teach at a private school in Indiana, and is currently the Director of Admissions for Westwood College located in Arlington, VA.

- Friday Lunchtime Keynote: Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell discuss social networking.
Together, Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell explore, explain, and empower thrivable communities. Valdis specializes in social network mapping and analysis. Jean specializes in weaving and thrivability. Together, we work with both online and offline communities in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Valdis has worked with organizations such as IBM, CDC, Cleveland Foundation and Barr Foundation. Jean works with organizations including PeopleBrowsr, Community Media Workshop, and Inspired Legacies. Together, Valdis and Jean are working with several on-line social networks to weave thrivable communities.
Valdis might also do a workshop as well.

Workshops that have already been booked include:

-Deborah McNelis, Braininsights -
Creating Great Connections: Information EVERYONE Needs to Know - This workshop provides an overview of the basics of brain development. Through visual demonstrations you will gain insights into how you can have more impact on the learning brain. With this understanding, ideas are are also presented on how we can spread the word to those that can support of the needs for all young children.

-Joel Newman, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley - Mentoring Program Strategies - Mentoring programs have their own special needs and issues that differ greatly from tutoring program. Talk to a panel of mentoring program leaders on ways to make your mentoring program a success!

-Rafael Gomez, Madison, WI Metropolitan School District - The Paradox of Education - The paradox of education brings an awareness how youth can develop skills to navigate in a free enterprise society under the guidance of a mentor. It is a schematic method for mentors not only serve as catalyst, but educators of free enterprise.

-Joshua Fulcher, Erie Neighborhood House - Model-Coach-Fade: How to Teach Anything - This workshop provides and teaches a structure for tutors to build a student's skill set for sustained academic improvement. It is a structure to teach virtually anything so students can work on their own. This method is used by Masters in Education programs across the nation.

- Tim Fulcher, Washington Initiative for Supportive Employment - Diversity in Mentoring: Community Building through Inclusion - Project MOVE is the first mentoring Program in the nation to use Big Brothers Big Sisters Support Model to Match mentees with disabilities (ages 16-21) with mentors to support transition from high school to higher education or employment.

-Xavier Salvado, Gads Hill Youth Center - You are the Best! Tips for Keeping Mentors Happy - Why are mentors volunteering in your program? What makes them choose to stay with you? What makes them leave? This workshop will explore different strategies that you can use in your program to ensure that your mentors feel that they are making a difference and are willing to stay longer with you!

This is only just a sample of the great workshops that will be offered at the November 2009 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. Just as a reminder, the conference will be held Thursday and Friday November 19th and 20th at Northwestern University's Evanston Campus. Please visit for more information.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Survey shows programs need funding!

As you have probably noticed from previous entries pleading for funding, money is tight right now at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. However, it's not just our organization that needs help. Tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago are struggling to find adequate funding.

Knowing that probably this was the case, and also in an effort to help programs throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, I sent a survey out to the leaders of all of the tutoring and mentoring programs in our database. 17 programs responded and the results were striking but not surprising:

We asked programs to rate what were their most important priorities at the start of the 2009-2010 school year? There were eight needs for the programs to prioritize.

1. Finding operating dollars - This was the need that was given a high priority by programs and 53.9% said it was the highest priority. 18.8% said it was the 2nd highest priority, 6.3% said it was the 3rd highest priority, and 18.8% said it was the 4th highest priority. No one said it was the 5th 6th, 7th, or 8th highest priority.

2. Recruiting and retaining volunteers - This was the need that was also listed as the highest priority by 43.8% of the programs. 25% said it was the 2nd highest priority, 18.8% said it was the 3rd highest priority, 6.3% said it was the 4th highest priority and 6.3% said it was the 5th highest priority. No one said it was the 6th, 7th, or 8th highest priority.

3. Training volunteers - While I think is a very important need, because where is a program without properly-trained volunteers - it was judged by most to be the 5th highest priority with 40% responding that way. No one thought it was the highest priority, 13.3% felt it was the 2nd highest priority, 33.3% said it was the 3rd highest priority, 6.7% felt it was the 4th highest priority, no one felt it was the 5th highest priority, 6.7% said it was the 7th highest priority and no one thought it was the 8th highest priority.

4. Legal support - This was felt to be the least important need right now with 78.6% responding that it was the 8th highest priority. No one said it was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th highest priority. 7.1% said it was the 6th highest priority, and 14.3% said it was the 7th highest priority.

5. Technology support- I was surprised that this was also not a very popular need with 42.9% saying it was the 7th highest priority. We always are looking for volunteers to help us with updating our websites and fixing our computers. Maybe programs don't realize how important their websites are for marketing and publicity and how important it is to have computers to help the kids learn. Anyway, no one said it was the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd highest priority, and 7.1% said it was the 4th highest priority. 21.4% said it was the 4th, and 21.4% said it was the 5th highest priority. 7.1% said it was the 8th highest priority.

6. Marketing and publicity - I feel like this coincides with funding because programs won't get funds if people don't know about them. This is why 35.7% said it was the 2nd highest priority even though no one said it was the highest priority. 21.4% said it was the 3rd highest priority, and 21.4% said it was the 4th highest. No one said it was the 5th highest, 14.3% said it was the 6th highest, 7.1% said it was the 7th highest priority, and no one felt it was the 8th highest priority.

7. Parental support - This was the only other need judged to be the highest priority other than finding funds and recruiting volunteers. 6.7% said it was the highest priority, but the majority of people judged it to be either the 4th or the 6th highest priority with 26.7% responding those ways. 6.7% also said it was the 2nd and 3rd most important need, 13.3% said it was the 5th highest priority, and 6.7% said it was the 7th and 8th highest priorities.

8. School Support - This was not the biggest priority either with the majority of the responses saying its the 6th most important priority at 26.7%. No one said it was the highest priority, 6.7% said it was the 2nd highest priority, 13.3% said it was the 3rd and 4th highest priority, 20% said it was the 5th highest priority, 13.3% said it was the 8th highest priority, and 6.7% said it was the least of the needs.

So, in essence, here are what the needs are of programs in descending order:
1. Finding operating dollars
2. Recruiting volunteers
3. Marketing and publicity
4. Parental Support
5. Training Volunteers
6. School Support
7. Technology Support
8. Legal Support

This is why I highly encourage you to donate to your favorite local tutoring and mentoring program as they start a new school year. If you would like to support tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs by donating to the Tutor/Mentor Connection, please send a check payable to "Cabrini Connections" and mail it to:
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642
Also, you can through PayPal by clicking this link.

Programs throughout Chicago have voiced their need. It's up to you to help them out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What does the Tutor/Mentor Connection Mean to You?

With funding for tutoring and mentoring programs becoming increasingly in short supply, just as the year starts, I thought it would be a good idea for people who have worked with the Tutor/Mentor Connection and its events, such as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference to tell you in their own words what the Tutor/Mentor Connection means to them:

“The Tutor/Mentor Conference is a great way to recharge the batteries and connect with non-profit professionals facing many of the same dilemmas I confront on a daily basis. It’s an excellent tool to collaborate and learn new strategies on volunteer recruitment and retention that helps not only in Chicago, but in many rural communities in reach I serve. The conference, and its subsequent workshops, is a valuable resource to all attendees and is something I can’t afford to miss.”

- Joel Newman

Program Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley

Davenport, IA

"I just wanted to thank you and your staff connected with the Mentor/Tutor Conference for all the hard work you are doing with our youth. I have implemented a lot of the information I learned from the conferences in to our mentoring tutoring program at the (Education Initiative in Milwaukee Public Housing- see pdf). We are starting to see growth. I have professionals, parents, and college students involved with the youth. We started to see students getting more involved when we stopped taking about grades and started focusing more on who they are and what they want to achieve in life."

-Darrell Finch

Milwaukee Housing Authority

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I think these two testimonies from professionals who work outside of Chicago are better than anything that I could tell you. The Tutor/Mentor Connection and its conference has helped people from all over the world help kids in a variety of ways.

If you would like to help out with the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, please leave a comment and I will contact you. Just as a reminder, it will be held Thursday and Friday November 19th and 20th at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Marathon is One Month Away!

Hello Everyone,
I want to first of all thank everyone who has donated to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in the past couple of weeks. I came back from vacation to find out our payroll had been cut in half and that our organization was in danger of being shut down. This has been ameliorated in the short term by the incredible outpouring of support from donors like you, but there's still lots of work to be done.

This week we've had our volunteer and student orientations. Tutoring starts next week. It looks like it's going to be a great year from the enthusiasm and energy of the kids, volunteers, and staff. It would be such a shame if this all went away just because the funding wasn't there.

If you haven't donated to our marathon fundraising yet, NOW's the time. So far, we have raised almost $1500 from individual donors. We would like to raise much more to do our part to help keep Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in business. If you would like to donate here are a couple of ways:
1. Write a check payable to "Cabrini Connections" and mail it to:
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642

2. Go to our PayPal Link:

3. Go to our FirstGiving site and track our progress there:

Thanks so much everybody for all of your support. Nick and I will continue to run and train so we will be able to run 26.2 miles. It's now time to do your part and donate so that Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection can help the kids of Chicago succeed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's First Day of School Speech

Yesterday, throughout the country, President Barack Obama addressed students on their first day of school. You can watch his address here or read the transcript of the address here. Since I'm one of those visual learners, I needed to digest what the president said and then read the transcript in order for me to be able to fully take in everything the President said yesterday. No matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I'm sure everybody found something they could take from the speech.

Since I view the world in the tutoring and mentoring perspective after having worked at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection for a little over two years now, I'll just comment on a couple of things that struck me after watching the speech yesterday, digesting it, and then reading the transcript today.

At the beginning of his speech, President Obama says:

"I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide."

This is one of the main tenants of tutoring and mentoring - that every child has the potential for greatness, no matter what the circumstances they grew up in. However, some of these kids need a little help along to discovering what they have to offer, especially if they have no support at home. This is where tutors and mentors come in.

President Obama goes on to say:

"And no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to train for it and work for it and learn for it."

One of the main ways to prevent dropping out of school is for students to enroll in an afterschool tutoring and mentoring program. With someone who ha their back and who won't give up on them, these at-risk students are less likely to give up on themselves and drop out of school.

Also, in regards to preparing for a career - Many tutoring and mentoring progams offer career training such as on how to write a good resume or how to dress for success at a job. Some tutoring and mentoring programs even offer job shadowing or internship programs at a variety of professions. When students learn what it takes to get the job of their dreams, they are also less likely to drop out of school.

An especially central part of Obama's speech was where he talks about his own story, growing up with no dad and not having a lot of money. This is something that a lot of kids that tutoring and mentoring programs can relate to. He says:

"Now, I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork. . .
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right."

These are all circumstances that many of our kids face everyday. Obama talks about how he succeeded despite difficult circumstances, as did the First Lady. He also highlights three students who have also succeeded despite difficult circumstances, including Shantell Steve, a young woman who has grown up in foster care on the South Side and who has succeeded acedmically and has become a leader in her community. What Obama doesn't say is that I'm almost positive that he, Mrs. Obama, and the three outstanding young people that he talked about all had mentors in their lives who encouraged them when they were about to give up and who helped them realize that they could be even better than they thought they could be.

That's what tutors and mentors are here for - to help young people who wouldn't have the support, guidance, and belief in them otherwise. Students working hard and striving to succeed are one part of the equation. The other part of the equation are caring adults who can help these young people become contributing members of society.

Unfortunately, many of these programs where students meet these tutors and mentors are being cut due to the economy. This is a shame and you should do everything you can to support your local tutoring and mentoring program. If you want to help tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago continue to succeed in this rough economy, I encourage you to do two things:

1) Volunteer - the role you may play in the program may be an even bigger role than just a one-on-one tutor/mentor. You have the potential to impact a large number of people with doing whatever you can with your time in helping these programs.

2) Donate - your dollars will come back to you better used than you can imagine. With the money you donate, programs can retain staff, help kids get into college, and help them into adulthood with the continued support these programs can offer.

If you would like to volunteer or donate visit the Cabrini Connections or the Tutor/Mentor Connection websites to find out more. Also, you can quickly donate by clicking the PayPal icon in the upper right-hand corner of this blog. We need your help now more than ever. But the payoff will be sure in the future.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If you missed Cabrini Connections on CBS Channel 2 . . .

Last night, Cabrini Connections was featured in a story on CBS Channel 2 News. You watch the video here:
They do a great job talking about all the great things we do at Cabrini Connections, but didn't mention the Tutor/Mentor Connection at all. What needs to be promoted as well is how important the Tutor/Mentor Connection is to the tutoring and mentoring community in Chicago. If you read my blog articles under the label "Other tutoring and mentoring programs" you'll see articles highlighting other outstanding tutoring and mentoring programs in Chicago that I have visited over the past six months. Of course we want to promote Cabrini Connections, but we also want to promote other great programs too. We can only serve so many kids in a just one part of Chicago and so we want to support other programs in other parts of Chicago who are doing the same thing we're doing.

To further prove to you why the Tutor/Mentor Connection needs your dollars too, here are just a couple of reasons:

-We're the number one site for helping parents, teachers, social workers, students, and potential volunteers find tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. To see all the programs that are in the database, visit Tutor/Mentor Program Locator

-We help tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the country with starting up, better business practices and just general operating questions. To see all the ways we help tutoring and mentoring programs serve at-risk youth and be the best non-profits that they can be, visit Tutor/Mentor Exchange.

-We have a links library of over 1000 resources about everything from the school drop-out crisis to helpful homework help links. To see all the resources we have in our web library, visit the Links Library.

- We host a twice-yearly Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference which brings together tutoring and mentoring programs, as well as leaders in the education, media, legal, medical, and other communities, to discuss how they can better help kids. To find out more about the conference visit Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

As you can see, the Tutor/Mentor Connection does a lot to help connect people who are in need of these tutoring and mentoring programs, as well as people who to support these tutoring and mentoring programs, with the tutoring and mentoring programs themselves. Unfortunately all these great things that the Tutor/Mentor Connection does will end if we don't find a consistent source of funding in the near future. We recently learned that we received $35,000 grant from HSBC, which will support our technological needs - something that was greatly needed and welcome. However, there is no foreseeable source of funding for the Tutor/Mentor Connection as of right now.

There are several things you can do to help the Tutor/Mentor Connection:

-If you have been touched by the Tutor/Mentor Connection in any way, please leave a comment to this blog post. It's always good for potential funders to see why they should fund these programs.

-If you want to help me plan the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, which will be held Thursday and Friday November 19th and 20th at Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston, you can also leave a comment or call 312-492-9614.

- If you want to help recruit volunteers to be tutor/mentors for programs throughout the city of Chicago as a part of our August and September Volunteer Recruitment Campaign, please leave a comment as well.

-Finally, if you would like to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection financially in any way - becoming a sponsor for the conference or helping fund salary for staff to keep the Tutor/Mentor Connection going, also contact us by phone or by e-mail.

Thanks to everybody who has donated in the past week! We raised $2500 individual donations alone! That's incredible. However, we need similar grants like the one we got from HSBC. Please let us know if you have any leads for us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thanks to the Garrard McClendon Show for having Dan on!

So, apparently someone from the Garrard McClendon Show on CLTV Channel 10 read my blog post yesterday about CPS's 30million dollar anti-violence plan and asked Dan Bassill, the president and CEO of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to come on. You can watch the interview here.

At the end Dan says "Give me $1 million a year for 10 years and I can do a lot more than they can with $30 million." This is so true. I think people would be shocked to find out what miracles we can create with as little money as we have. A lot of you are fans of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and have seen all the good work we can do. If we had $1 million a year? Just you watch what great things we create with that!

Unfortunately, we do not have $1 million a year right now, or even enough to sustain us through September. We need your help. Here are a couple of ways that you can support Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in these tough times:

1. Donate to Nick Infusino and me running the Chicago Marathon. Right a check, click on the paypal link in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, or visit
So far we have raised $891! That's amazing and it's all thanks to you! Help us reach our goal of raising $2000 before October 11, which is the day we run the marathon. (And I'm running 18 miles on Monday so you don't think I'm slacking either:))

2. Pay for your Martini Madness admission today by visiting here. Admission is $40, but of course we will take more!

3. Attention all Northwestern and UofI Alumni! Our Cabrini Connections Administrative Coordinator, El Da'Sheon Nix, and former Northwestern Football Player is having a fundraise-off with Kurt Kittner, former quarterback for University of Illinois and now a board member at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Are you a Wildcat alum who hates to see the Fighting Illini win? (I know I am!) Visit

Er, yeah, we'd still like to see donations from UofI alums too. Visit ;)

Or if you love Big 10 Football, you could just donate to both!
If you want to know more, visit El's blog.

Anyway, there a variety of fun ways that you can help out Cabrini Connections. The easiest way is to just spread the word. Have a "Support Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection" status on facebook or gchat. Tell people at the Labor Day barbeques about all the great work we do.

Ironically, I'm attending a wedding where the bride and groom are both Illinois alums and are HUGE football fans. I assume a lot of the guests will be as well. While it will kill me to have UofI possibly beat us, I will definitely tell them about the fundraising challenge and see if we can all do our part in supporting Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PayPal Link!

If you're a frequent visitor to my blog, you'll notice a new addition to it in the upper right hand quarter. That's right, if you enjoy reading my blog and feel compelled to donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, you can just click the PayPal button and donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection so that kids can have safe place to go after school, maintain lasting relationships with their tutor/mentors, and that we can also support tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the city.

So what's holding you back? Click the button and DONATE!

CPS Unveils a $30 millionPlan to Prevent Violence

Today I received in my e-mail in box an e-mail with an article from the Chicago Tribune about how Chicago Public Schools' Superintendent, Ron Huberman, unveiled a $30 million anti-violence plan today to help CPS's most at-risk students.

The article cites that two of the strategies that they plan to use to help kids in school and out of trouble is to have full-time mentors and getting the students jobs. Those are both great tools for giving at-risk kids the support they need. However, I wonder how CPS is going to approach this. Are they going to start their own mentoring and job-training program? Or could they align themselves with tutoring and mentoring programs in the neighborhoods where these schools with these kids exist? The Tutor/Mentor Connection and the Tutor/Mentor Exchange both have a wealth of resources to help CPS create a quality partnership with tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago. I hope that CPS has a plan like this and will support tutoring and mentoring programs like Cabrini Connections and many others throughout the city as we face the economic challenges that are threatening to end all of the good work that we do.

The Chicago Tribune quotes that this anti-violence plan is going to help 1200 students. Now $30 million divided by 1200 is $25,000 per kid. Just to give you a sense of perspective, if we got $30,000 per month, we would be able to help 85 kids per month in our own program. Doesn't that sound more cost-effective?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection needs your help URGENTLY!

It's September 1st, which means school is starting in many areas of the country, including Chicago. We're so excited about starting a new year of tutoring and mentoring here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection as well. We have 85 students and 85 mentors already matched and volunteer and student orientations start next week. We also are getting the ball rolling on planning the November Tutor/Mentor Conference, which will be Thursday and Friday November 19th and 20th at Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston.

With all the good work we're doing, we unfotunately are in a tough financial spot right now. We're beginning to feel the effects of the economic downturn of last year (non-profits are usually a year behind for-profits in how they're affected by the economy. You can read a couple of good articles about that mentioned on the Cabrini Fundraising blog.) If we don't get enough funding, there is a possibility we could go out of business by the end of the year, which means almost 100 kids would not have a safe place to go after school and will lose a relationship with an adult tutor/mentor, which will be devastating.

So what can you do? Well, if you had been intending to donate to Nick Infusino and me running the marathon for Cabrini Connections, we need your donations NOW and not in October. We also would prefer if you would write a check to us. (online donations are great, but we don't get the money until the end of this month) Make checks payable to "Cabrini Connections" and mail them to: Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642

We appreciate anything you can contribute, even if it's just $20. Also, tell all of your friends and family about our need for funds - we would appreciate any support we can get right now!

If any of you or anybody you know has any questions or concerns (or would like to volunteer! That would be awesome too!), contact me at or 312-492-9614.

Thanks so much! We have faith that people will come through and help Cabrini Connections and other programs throughout the city start the best school year yet!