Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The May 2009 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference

This May 2009 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference marked our 31st conference and our 15th year of doing conferences. For me, it was my third May Conference and my fifth conference overall.

Every conference has been different - my first May Conference was in 2007 (photo at right), just after I had been hired on at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. I'm so glad that I went to the conference because I learned so much in those two days and met people from other programs at that conference, that I still collaborate with today. I was just beginning to grasp the concept of what tutoring and mentoring was and what the conference was all about and everything was new and overwhelming for me.

The November 2007 Conference (photo at left) was my first conference as an actual employee at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. I was given the task of leading a panel about volunteer recruitment and was so nervous. Fortunately, Alex Cornwell of Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church and Erin McPartlin of Cabrini-Green Tutoring were kind enough to serve on the panel and share their wisdom and expertise. We had a really good discussion in that panel and I made a lot of great connections with people who I had not worked with before.

The first conference that I was mostly in charge of planning was the May 2008 Conference (photo below).I remember how stressed I was going in to that conference. The main thing I learned was that no matter what technological or logistical difficulties there were, people still were having a great time learning and networking.

The November 2008 Conference (photo below) was significant in that I learned the power of this blog. Because my friend Julie Nygaard, who works at the Field Museum, reads this blog, she helped me through the necessary steps to secure the Field Museum as our site for the November Conference. I also learned how to bring people together in panels showcasing their strengths and knowledge, because we only had one day to do the conference and we wanted to expose participants to a wide range of views and experiences from different programs.

Finally, there was the May 2009 Conference (photo below). Overall, I'd say this was my favorite conference by far. There was a wonderful positive energy that flowed through the conference, despite the background of a troubled economy. I had more people come up to me and tell me what a great time they were having, how much they were enjoying the speakers and workshops, and how grateful they were that there is a conference like this so people can come together and work together to help at-risk youth succeed.

If you catch a theme about what my thoughts were coming out of all five of the conferences that I attended, it probably is something along the lines of building networks of people who you can collaborate with in the future. In a nutshell, that's what I think the conference is all about. If you go to the Tutor/Mentor Exchange, you can read articles about all kinds of issues relating to starting and maintaining a quality tutoring and mentoring program. One of the many sections in the site relates to collaboration and capacity building, which is what the conference is all about. There you can read about "building networks of purpose," which I think is one of the major accomplishments that everybody who attends the conference comes out of the conference with. Especially in tough economic times like these, people needs a strong network to rely on, to learn from, to grow with, and to give back to themselves. I hope that everybody who attended the May Conference felt that their network of purpose grew and strengthened and that they felt energized and hopeful about their programs going into the summer.

I can't wait for 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, IL. Even though that's six months away, planning and collaborating is starting now. If you would like to help out with the November Conference, please leave a comment on this post and I'll contact you about what you can do to make the November Conference a success!

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