Wednesday, July 29, 2009

East Garfield Park Shootings - The Rest of the Story

This morning, as I did my morning browse of the news, I was shocked and saddened to see that 15 people had been shot the night before throughout the city of Chicago. Last night was a beautiful evening in Chicago - a bit humid but not overly warm - and it saddens me to think that as I was enjoying a beautiful run along Lake Michigan, in other parts of my beloved city people are getting shot, some, possibly, as they were trying to enjoy the beautiful weather as well.

I was especially upset to see that a number of those who were shot last night were in East Garfield Park. Just last week, Bradley Troast and I visited a phenomenal program in that neighborhood, Breakthrough Urban Ministries. I can't help but think of the people who we walked and drove past as Bill Curry, the COO of the organization, who gave us a tour of the program and a bit of the neighborhood, and hope that they're okay. Or that possibly one of the people was who was shot, was a relative or a friend of one of the students who enthusiastically told us what they were doing in the program. It's hard for me to imagine that on the quiet, tree-lined street where Breakthrough Urban Ministries Children and Family Center is, where people sit on the stoops chatting and where well-kept bungalow houses with manicured gardens line the street, a mere two and a half blocks away seven people were wounded by a single gunman.

When people read the news all they will read about is people getting shot in one of Chicago's "bad neighborhood." When I read the news today, I thought of the wonderful people I met and a community that does not deserve this kind of violence. Breakthrough Urban Ministries is performing miracles in East Garfield park, but they can only do so much.

When I searched under "Chicago Community Area - East Garfield Park" in the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, I was a little shocked, but not completely surprised to see the lack of tutoring and mentoring programs in that neighborhood. There are two Chicago Park District After-School Homework Help programs, Altgeld and Homan Square Parks, two Boys and Girls Clubs, Cather and Martin Luther King, Jr. Clubs, and three programs that do not have websites, Agape Youth Victory Club, Bethany Brethren Community Center, and Fifth City/Introspect Tutoring Program. First Church of the Brethren and Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica both have websites but do not mention tutoring and mentoring programs on them.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection will do everything it can to support and create programs in East Garfield Park. We do not claim that having more tutoring and mentoring programs would have prevented those shootings last night. But maybe it would have done something in the way of giving a youth a safe place to be or to compel someone to not want to use a gun in a violent way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Kanye West Foundation - Combatting the Drop-Out Crisis

Last night, as I was winding down from a busy of weekend of marathon-training and neighborhood festivals, I was flipping through the channels and came across a concert with the world-renowned hip hop artist Kanye West. While I decided to stay with the concert because I enjoy his music, I was thrilled to realize that this concert was at the Chicago Theater and was exclusively for Chicago Public School students. You can view clips from the concert here.

Anyway, the concert was in conjunction with the Kanye West Foundation, which according to the Foundation's Website, "is to help combat the severe dropout problem in schools across the United States by partnering with community organizations to provide under-served youth access to music production programs that will enable them to unleash their creative ability and reach their full potential."

This is a wonderful and timely cause. In many public school systems, such as the Chicago Public Schools System, the drop-out rate for high school students can be as high as 50%. Many of these students are minorities, usually African-American or Latino Students. If you read my blog and Dan Bassill's blog, we have both written articles about the drop crisis. (For mine go here, for Dan's go here). What many studies show is that students who drop-out of high school are less likely to have a career, and more likely to end up pregnant at young age, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and in jail at some point.

An interesting article that explores the reasons why students drop out of high school and other aspects of the drop out crisis, that was published fairly recently, go to "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Drop-Outs,"a study conducted by John B. Bridgeland, John DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison and reported Civic Enterprises, and the Peter D. Hart Association for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One of the main reasons high school drop-outs give for dropping out is lack of interest in their schoolwork. With the inaugural program of the Kanye West Foundation, "Loop Dreams," where "hip hop as a vehicle to teach participants hands on music productions skills, expose them to hip hop dance and art, and teach them important soft skills like time management, communication, commitment, responsibility, and commitment," the Kanye West Foundation is on the right track to finding creative solutions to an extremely pressing issue.

Hopefully, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection will be able to work with the Kanye West Foundation in some capacity to help kids stay in school. However we end up collaborating, I want to comment Mr. West and his foundation for doing something innovative and concrete to help kids stay in school.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Breakthrough Urban Ministries

As I've mentioned in recent blogs, it's always inspiring visiting organizations that take a holistic approach to changing a community. That is, while it's nice to see tutoring and mentoring programs that serve the youth of communities that have a high percentage living in poverty, you also need to take into account about the other factors affecting the community as well. What about the child not having something eat at home? Create a food pantry. What if a child needs medical attention but doesn't have health insurance? Create a free clinic, etc.

This idea of a holistic approach to a community at-risk has been adopted by several programs that I have visited. One was Circle Urban Ministries in the Austin Community that I profiled here. Another outstanding example of this is Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield Park, which I visited yesterday with Bradley Troast, our new PIP fellow.

Bill Curry, the Chief Operating Office of Breakthrough Urban Ministries kindly gave us a tour of the organization. He and his wife, Marcie, who's the director of the Youth Program, helped found the Children and Family Services component of Breakthrough back in 2000. In fact, Bill and Marcie, and their three kids live in the East Garfield Park neighborhood and their kids go to school in the neighborhood and participate in the youth programming as well.

While we set out, of course, to see their summer youth program, we witnessed so much more. As Bradley and I entered the Center on West Carroll, we came in with people there for the soup kitchen, wanting to get breakfast. Mr. Curry also made a note that the downstairs of the center was a residence for women who have become homeless, either because of mental illness, drug addiction, or other factors. The Women's Center provides a variety of services, including free health care, drug and alcohol counseling, and treatment for mental illness, in addition to offering a safe place to sleep, eat, and shower. There's also an innovative program that Breakthrough runs that helps prostitutes get off the street and away from their profession. For the men, similar services are offered at the administrative center on N. St. Louis Ave, just a few blocks away.

Upstairs at the Center is the Youth and Family Center, where currently the Summer Studies Program is happening. There, students were creating art and learning about texture in the process, another group was learning about metaphors, and a third was outside doing gymnastics. We also learned that a fourth group of students was on a field trip. What was a great idea, I thought, was that high school students become a sort of student teacher and help out with the children. I was impressed with the level of maturity, patience, and kindness the high school students exhibited in dealing with the young children.

Ultimately the goal of summer studies at Breakthrough is to make sure that the students don't lag behind in their studies before they go back to school. In fact, one study that was conducted showed that students who participated in the Breakthrough Summer Studies Program gained 3 months in the reading level, those that didn't lost 3 months.

For specifics about all the different programs, in addition to the tutoring and mentoring program, that Breakthrough Urban Ministries offers, I encourage you to read Bradley's blog, since he gives a great synopsis. But, a great idea that Breakthrough has employed is the idea of having multiple tutor/mentors act as a support system to a child - somewhat in the idea of "It takes a village to raise a child." The idea is that you have several individuals work with a small group of children as tutors and mentors and let the relationships grow. If a tutor moves away because of graduating from college (a lot of volunteer tutor/mentors are college students from UIC, DePaul and other Chicago schools), or transfers jobs, gets married, has a baby, or has to leave Breakthrough for any other reason that is common for 20-30 something young professionals (which is another large group that tends to tutor/mentor at Breakthrough as well), then the child won't feel abandoned because they still have 4-5 other tutor/mentors looking out for them. This is an interesting idea and might be a method applied by other tutoring and mentoring organizations.

So to Bill, Marcie, and everybody else we met at Breakthrough Urban Ministries THANK YOU for the wonderful tour. What you do for the East Garfield Community needs to be reflected throughout the city and we hope to support you in any way possible in the future.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nine people shot in Austin on Sunday, but what's the rest of the story?

Yesterday I showed readers how to use our Interactive Program Locator and how to find the different maps in our Map Gallery. One of the criteria that you can use to search for types of maps, is by searching "Rest of the Story" maps, which takes stories in the news profiling poverty and violence and then maps the location profiled in the story, and where the tutoring and mentoring programs are in the area, in addition to schools, churches, businesses, and percentages of those living in poverty.

One of the recent stories we have profiled is Mary Mitchell's column in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times, about how the Austin neighborhood in Chicago is number one for weapons-related crime and homicides. This article was written in the wake of nine people being shot in Austin last Sunday, including a nine-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old boy.

Dan Bassill profiles the churches and businesses that are in Austin, that can collaborate with the tutoring and mentoring programs to make the neighborhood a safer place for kids. In this blog, however, let's take a closer look at the tutoring and mentoring programs in the Austin neighborhood.

According to the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, if you searched by "Chicago Community Area" and then under "Austin," you will see that there are 9 programs in the Austin Neighborhood. Almost half of these are Chicago Park District Homework Help Programs at Amundsen, Austin Town Hall, Columbus, Columbus, La Follette.

Circle Urban Ministries, was a program I visited at the end of June and I profiled that visit in this blog here. They actually have a variety programs that help the Austin Community be a better place and they're a great example of how a program that started in a church, has expanded and now offers everything from their wonderful mentoring program to a legal aid site to a free clinic.

Cluster Tutoring is another program that I am quite familiar with, since its director, Kathryn McCabe has sat on a variety of panels at past Tutor/Mentor Conferences. Cluster Tutoring is a great example of how a more affluent community, Oak Park, saw a need in a neighboring community, Austin, and created a tutoring program where residents of Oak Park and Riverside come to Austin to tutor students. As their website says "Cluster addresses the academic and social needs of the students and their families while providing an opportunity for members of the Oak Park/River Forest/Austin community to become involved in an important one-on-one volunteer mission."

Westside Holistic Family Services
also offers a variety of programs to the Austin Community, including an after-school Teen REACH program. According to their website, "The mission of the Teen REACH Program is to expand the range of positive life choices and opportunities that can enable, empower and encourage youth to make those choices. It serves as a positive alternative for the children and youth from low-income and single-parent households during afterschool hours."

World Vision, is an international program, but their Chicago Office is in Austin. They run a program called the Youth Empowerment Project, which does community-based mentoring. Their website states that "World Vision’s youth development staff and other mentors creatively engage the talent, passion, energy, and unique gifts that young people bring to our world. Participants learn to identify issues that are important to them and their peers, and develop a presentation to share their concerns with congressional leaders."

Finally, theres the Austin YMCA, which has offered tutoring and mentoring in the past, but does not list tutoring and mentoring as a program that they run currently.

While there are many wonderful programs in Austin such as those listed above, the need is simply too great and there needs to be more support for these programs and more programs created to serve all the youth that live in Austin. Austin is the largest Chicago community area in terms of population and there are lot of youths who need a program to serve them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to use the T/MC Interactive Program Locator

Last Thursday, July 16th, the same gloriously sunny day that Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection was hosting its 14th annual Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament, Chicago woke up to find out there had been 8 shootings the day before. Our GIS and Mapping Coordinator, Mike Trakan mapped where these shootings happened, and his map is our featured map on the homepage of our Tutor/Mentor Program Locator. You can also enlarge the map at the right to see where the shootings happened and the tutoring and mentoring programs, percentage of those living in poverty and the failing schools in those area.

One of the questions I get about these maps, especially the interactive ones, are "How do I use them?" It truly is a lot of information to wrap your head around. So, one of the new tools that you can access on our Tutor/Mentor Program Locator is "How to use the interactive T/MC map."

Taeho, an intern from the University of Michigan, who came to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection for a week in the early Spring as part of the Alternative Spring Breaks program. Taeho created a movie and a simplified breakdown of all the different components that go onto the Interactive Map: Cities, Boundaries (County, Community, Zip Code), Schools, Poverty, Tutoring and Mentoring Programs, and an Advanced Search Option.

By looking into each component of the interactive map, the concept of how many different factors go into making kids at-risk and what it takes to make them succeed becomes more apparent. You can then go into the asset map and find out about the banks, insurance agencies, pharmacies and other businesses that are located in these neighborhoods that can help tutoring and mentoring programs find dollars and volunteers. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the asset map, go here.

If you want to get leaders in government involved, you can find maps with a similar structure to the interactive maps, but showing all the different factors within the lines of an alderman's district, or a State Senator's district, or a U.S. Represenative's district. To find out how to use the government maps, go here.

Finally, like the map posted above, Mike creates maps of the neighborhoods where a child is shot or beaten, when that story makes it into the news. He will then show where the neighborhood's poverty lines, the failing schools, the tutoring and mentoring programs, and the businesses in that area. We call these maps the "Rest of the story" maps since there's much more to the story than what the media reports. To find out how to use the "Rest of the Story" maps, go here.

Hopefully, people will take an intensive look at these maps and begin to understand all the things we do and all the people we try to bring together to make a difference in these communities. Look around and if you have any ideas for a map, leave a comment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament was a success!

I also wanted to add a thank you to everyone who came out and played in the Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament, or who came to the dinner and silent auction afterwards. It was a perfect day weather-wise and golf-wise and we sincerely appreciate everybody's help and participation to make our biggest fundraiser of the year happen. Read our program coordinator El Da'Sheon Nix's blog to find out more about how you can help out Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection even after our biggest fundraiser of the year.

Also, my colleague Mike Trakan, our GIS and Mapping Coordinator was interviewed on WLUW's "Outside the Loop" Radio Show about his maps. You can also here some of Mike's music in his other alias as the lead singer and guitar player for the band Trakan. You can listen to the interview and Mike's music streaming here.

Youth Mentoring Week in Australia

One of my favorite parts of being the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator is finding out how tutoring and mentoring programs collaborate in other cities, states and countries throughout the world, just as the Tutor/Mentor Connection does in Chicago. The concept of volunteers giving their time as tutors and mentors is very foreign in a lot of countries, but a country where this tradition is as strong as in the United States is in Australia.

This year, the last week in October, October 25-31st, Australia will be hosting a National Youth Mentoring Week. According to Youth, basically the Tutor/Mentor Connection of Australia, Youth Mentoring Week is "a celebration throughout Australia of youth mentoring, and all its success, potential and opportunity." This is a wonderful idea, and Youth Mentoring encourages all mentoring programs throughout Australia to host an event, let the media know about a success story, or do something on their own. There are scheduled events already throughout Australia that can be found here.

Like the Tutor/Mentor Connection, Youth also considers collaboration between programs. It even helps connect programs on their website, much like the Tutor/Mentor Connection tries to do through various ways such as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

In fact, the Tutor/Mentor Connection used to host a Tutor/Mentor Week as well. From 1994-1999, the Tutor/Mentor Connection collaborated with tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the city of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs to host a week where tutoring and mentoring was in the spotlight. The week culminated in the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-a-Hand Benefit in November.

Another similar event that we still host, but that's not quite as big as it used to be is the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. From 1999-2002, politicians such as Mayor Daley, athletes, local celebrities, and the media all lended their names and their publicity to back what tutoring and mentoring does to help youth succeed. There were article written in the local newspapers, libraries, bookstores, coffeeshops and many more sites had booths where people could sign up to be a volunteer tutor/mentor.

The reason why the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign in Chicago fell to the wayside was lack of funding for someone to help plan it. In my time here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, I have tried to resurrect the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign and the Tutor/Mentor Week with limited success. I'm trying again this year to gather leaders in the tutoring and mentoring community, but also in the legal, medical, religious, media, and business communities to help me get an event like this going again. However, I'm only one person. If you'd like to help with getting an event going in Chicago like the one that's happening in October in Australia, please leave a comment or call us at 312-492-9614. This is a great idea, and I think Chicago deserves to have an event as wonderful as the one in Australia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lawyers Lend-a-Hand My Hero Awards

Tomorrow is going to be a very busy day indeed! In addition to our Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament, there is also the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-a-Hand to Youth My Hero Awards Luncheon. Lawyers Lend-a-Hand is a wonderful example of how one type of profession (the legal profession) has taken it up on themselves to help at-risk youth succeed by honoring attorneys and judges who are tutors and mentors.

Lawyers Lend-a-Hand also gives out grants at the end of the year to tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the City of Chicago and the surrunding suburbs. Last year, $217,000 in grants were awarded to outstanding tutoring and mentoring programs including Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection. In fact, my role as the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator is being funded by a very generous grant from Lawyers Lend-a-Hand, and for which I'm very grateful.

If you would like to support those in the legal community who have gone beyond the call of duty to help at-risk youth succeed, you can attend the My Hero Luncheon tomorrow, Thursday July 16th at the Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Court in Chicago. Tickets to the luncheon are $75 per person. If you're unable to attend the luncheon but feel passionate about helping those in the legal community help kids, then I encourage you to donate to Lawyers Lend-a-Hand here.

Addendum to yesterday's post about programs in Englewood

I just realized, looking over the list of programs that I wrote about in Englewood, I neglected to mention the Chicago HOPES Maria Shelter, which is located in the heart of Englewood. Chicago HOPES stands for Heightening Opportunities and Potential for Success and is an initiative by Chicago Public Schools as part of their Homeless Education Program. The HOPES sites throughout the city offer tutoring and mentoring to homeless youth in the neighborhoods that surround them. You can read more about my visit to Chicago HOPES here.

The Map Gallery is up!

This piece of news is a bit old, but it's new to this blog. While I was on vacation, the Tutor/Mentor Connection's new Map Gallery went live for all the world to see. If you're a loyal reader of this blog, you probably know that I have been working with Mike Trakan, who uses GIS technology to create maps showing different areas of Chicago such as state senator's or alderman's districts and where the tutoring and mentoring programs are, the percentages of those living in poverty, and where there are failing school in their district. Or he will create maps showing different businesses throughout the city such as CVS Pharmacy or CitiBank in relation to the same sort of things. If you want to read the story behind the blog, Mike keeps a very interesting and thought-provoking blog himself called Mapping for Justice. I encourage everyone to look at the map gallery and read Mike's blog and become better-informed about what tutoring and mentoring programs are out there, and where programs need to be created.

If, after looking at the Map Gallery and reading Mike's blog makes you want to do something about helping at-risk youth succeed, there are many things you can do. Of course, we encourage you to sign up to be a volunteer either at Cabrini Connections or by looking through the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and finding a program near your work or home. You can also donate online using PayPal.

If you're wanting to do something a little more active to help kids, you can sign up to play in our Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament at Highland Park Country Club. TODAY, Wednesday July 15th is the last day to sign up to play in the tournament, which is tomorrow, Thursday July 16th. If you're not a golfer (I'm not one either) but enjoy eating and drinking (I know I do!), then you should come to our dinner and silent auction, which will be at 6pm at the Highland Park Country Clubhouse. There are lots of great prizes to bid on including a basketball signed by NBA stars and footballs signed by members of the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and by members of the New York Jets. Read more about the great prizes to bid on in my colleague, El Da'Sheon Nix's blog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tutoring and Mentoring Programs in Englewood

Yesterday I wrote about an article published in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday about living in Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and the difficulty kids face during the summer there. Today, as a follow-up, I'll write about the programs offered in the neighborhood.

Englewood is divided into two Chicago neighborhoods, Englewood and West Englewood, and you can search for programs in the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator by either searching under Englewood and West Englewood under the "neighborhoods" criteria or under 60621 and 60637 under the zip code criteria.

In total there are six tutoring and mentoring programs in West Englewood and five listed in Englewood. In Englewood, there are two Boys and Girls Clubs - Reed Club and Englewood Club and one Chicago Park District park that offers after-school homework help - Sherwood Park. Another one of the programs, Stagg Elementary Time-Dollar Institute Cross-Age Peer Tutoring has been shut down recently. Finally, there is 21st Century Community Learning Center - Family Focus of Englewood. This initiative is part of a larger organization that offers mental health support services in a variety of ways to the Englewood Community. The 21st Century Community Learning Center, according to its website, offers "after-school activities at Bond, Reed and Sherwood Elementary Schools and Woods Academy, a Chicago community school."

Of the programs listed in West Englewood, there are two Chicago Park District Parks that offer after-school homework help - Lindblom Park and Ogden Park. There's also the Academy of St. Benedict School, which offers after-school enrichment activities and tutoring to it's students.

Another program is the Englewood Family Center, Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Program (ISPP), a program of the Children's Home and Aid Society, which offers mentoring and tutoring to young mother's as part of a constellation of support services to help the mother be a good parent to their baby and to prevent another pregnancy. They also offer a Community Schools Program, which, according to their website "The Community Schools program includes physical and mental health services, performing arts and sports enrichment activities and academic support in a holistic program design. These services include tutoring, after-school activities and in-class groups on topics such as conflict resolution for children and behavior management classes for parents."

It is unclear whether West Englewood Youth and Teen Center - Reach Out and Touch still has a program since they have no website and have not responded to my e-mails. Finally, there's the Youth-Guidance program of the West Englewood Community, located at Harper High School. Youth Guidance also offers a Community Schools Program and a STRIVE Program that lends support services to wards of the state.

While this might seem like a lot of programs, it's not. Two programs are of questionable status at this time and many work with a specific population or have long waiting lists. Simply put, there are thousands of young people ages 6-18 living in the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods that could benefit from the services of a tutoring and/or mentoring program. The Tutor/Mentor Connection hopes that people will read the Chicago Tribune article profiled above and read this blog article and be compelled to start a program in the Englewood neighborhood. An interesting idea is the possibility of University of Chicago students teaming up to start a program in Englewood, since the community is literally right next to Hyde Park.

If you're interested in starting a program in Englewood, or in another one of Chicago's neighborhoods stricken with high poverty and high levels of violence, I encourage you to leave a Comment on this post, but also to visit Tutor/Mentor Exchange, which has a wealth of resources for those wanting to start a tutoring and/or mentoring program. I also encourage you to contact me if you have a program in Englewood or West Englewood, or know of a program there so we can list them in our Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why you should come to our golf tournament

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune published an article about the difficulties that urban kids face during the summer. The article profiles four siblings who spend most summer days at the library, since that is one of the few safe places in their home neighborhood of Englewood to go during the summer.

If you visit Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection's president and CEO, Dan Bassill's blog, you can read what he has to say about the article and how there are not enough tutoring and mentoring programs in the Englewood neighborhood. This is despite the fact that it's one of the main neighborhoods in Chicago in regards to poverty and violence, making the need for tutoring and mentoring programs for the kids that much greater.

If you search the interactive program locator, and search under "zip code" for 60621, the main zip code for the Englewood neighborhood, you'll see there are only four tutoring and mentoring programs in the neighborhood. Now, I must add, that when I talk about tutoring and mentoring programs in relation to the poverty and violence that occurs in the neighborhoods here in Chicago, I don't want to say that it's the single solution to these issues. There are too many factors going into why there is such high levels of poverty and violence in the neighborhood that tutoring and mentoring programs are only one piece of the puzzle in improving the situations in these neighborhoods. However, if you look at the interactive map that Dan Bassill created above, you can see the churches, hospitals, schools, and businesses that can collaborate to help make the Englewood neighborhood a safer place for children to be this summer and throughout the year.

This is one of the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection - to help new programs get off their feet and existing programs to continue to thrive and serve the community in neighborhoods such as Englewood. If more tutoring and mentoring programs were able to offer summer programming so kids would have a safe place to go, the kids profiled in the Tribune article wouldn't have to just rely on their Public Library to spend their summer days.

Unfortunately, as I'm contacting programs throughout the city, many programs' summer programming is being cut due to the crisis in the Illinois State Budget, or because funding has dried up from foundations or grants have not been renewed. Simply put, a lot less money is going out to tutoring and mentoring (and most social services programs in general). One of the first types of programs that tutoring and mentoring organizations cut is their summer programming. However, as many of us now know, summer is the time when kids have the most free time on their hands and where many are left unsupervised because parents and guardians have to work. There is a reason why we see the number of kids getting shot and killed rise during the summer.

So, what can you do to help? A fun way to help benefit tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the city of Chicago, is to come to our annual Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament, which benefits our own tutoring and mentoring program, Cabrini Connections as well as tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the city of Chicago through the Tutor/Mentor Connection. This year, the golf tournament will be held this Thursday July 16th, 2009 at Highland Park Country Club. Find out more by visiting the golf tournament's website
and sign up to play. Also, if you're not a golfer, but like to eat and drink (and who doesn't!), you also can just come to the dinner and bid on silent auction items such as an autographed NY Jets Football and basketballs signed by basketball superstars such as Chicago-native Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. I hope to see everyone there!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back from Vacation!

Hello everyone! I've just returned from a very relaxing vacation to the Pacific Northwest and am thrilled to be back! There are so many new and wonderful things to report, so I'll be posting quite a few short blog posts in the coming days.

But first things first, I'm sad to say that Chris Warren (photo at right, in the center) has ended his year as our Northwestern Public Interest Program Fellow for 2008-2009. Read his wonderful farewell blog post here. Chris has been a delight to work with this past year and we will miss his talent and enthusiasm here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

However, I am so excited we have a new Public Interest Program Fellow, who has joined our team. Bradley Troast (left) will be our PIP Fellow for 2009-2010. He demonstrated early on his interest in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by helping us secure Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston for the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, which will be held Thursday and Friday November 19th and 20th. However, that wasn't the only reason why we felt Bradley was the right fellow for us. He's an incredibly talented guy in his own right and we're delighted to have him on board. Check out Bradley's blog here.