Thursday, June 10, 2010

But how do you plan a conference?

With one week left at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, I feel like I need to share some of the things that I have learned these past three years. Since planning a conference is fresh in my mind, my first entry will be on how to plan the Tutor/Mentor Conference.

You really should start to plan the Tutor/Mentor Conference almost as soon as the last one ends. Since there are two a year, you should start planning the November starting in May and the May one starting in November.

The first thing you need to do is to form your committee. Usually you will do your networking for your committee at the Conference. Talk to people who seem really enthusiastic about the conference and who seem to be good at networking. We have a conference e-mail list that you can build your committee around. Start having committee meetings about 5 months in advance of the conference. See if anyone has any leads to an affordable site for the conference. 5 months is usually the latest optimum time to book space. We've found that many universities will have special non-profit rates for rental space and are very accommodating for holding conferences. We usually try and have the conference at different sites in the city in order to attract different groups and organizations. Usually the conference will be host to 150-200 people and you will need one large room for keynotes and meals, and 4-5 breakout rooms for workshops.

Once you have your space and your committee, start putting together your schedule of speakers and panelists. Repeat workshops from past conferences, especially those that were well-reviewed are where you should start, but also start looking through the news and see what organizations and experts (such as university professors) are featured in news stories about poverty, violence, education, etc. The sky's the limit on what workshops and speakers to have as long as it has something to do with running a quality volunteer tutor/mentor organization. Panels are often a good idea so you can get a variety of perspectives on a subject. Definitely use your conference-planning committee to find potential speakers, or have them be speakers or panelists themselves.

After you have your speakers, you need to make sure your conference is well-attended. We try and make sure everybody in our Program Locator Database is invited as well as those who attended the two previous conferences. Also, use any media sources that you have to post information about the conference in the news. If anything, most newspapers have community calendars that you can post the conference information in. If anything, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Ning, and LinkedIn are great ways to spread the word about the conference.

As the conference draws near, you need to deal with the detailed stuff. Are all the speakers and panelists registered? Is everybody who is registered on the groundspring e-mail list? Are they entered into FileMaker pro for the attendance list? Do they have their bios in for the program? Are all of their technology needs taken care of? Is catering ordered? Is parking taken care of? Have you created the forms that need to be photocopied? Have you assigned the workshops to different rooms? Have you created room grids for both days? Workshop Evaluation forms? Conference evaluation forms? Have the folders been stuffed?

After all of this is accomplished, all you need to worry about is making sure all the necessary supplies are gathered (pens, tape, scissors, paper clips, etc.), in addition to the maps, easels, folders, and other stuff and taken over to the conference site.

Hopefully this guide will make everybody who plans the Tutor/Mentor Conference have an easier time. After you figure out how to time everything, it becomes one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of working at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The End of the Year and Your Donations are Urgently Needed

It’s been a great year at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. 80 kids and 100 plus volunteers have made the Cabrini Connections program an award-winning success. Both the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and the May Conference saw well over 100 people attend. It would be nice to say that the year is ending with a bang and if financial issues weren’t a part of the picture, we indeed are.

Unfortunately, just as we’re ending a stellar year with both programs, we’re seeing funding dry up to pay payroll, rent, insurance, electricity and much more. I will be leaving Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in two weeks, and the fact that this is the current situation deeply saddens me. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection has been the best thing to happen to me and I am so deeply grateful to have worked here. Please help continue this award-winning program and send a check payable to “Cabrini Connections” to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60614 or you can donate on PayPal:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great Conference - What People have to Say

Hello Everyone! I hope you all had a pleasant and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. I just want to thank everybody who came to the conference last week. It truly was a great conference and I am so part to have been a part of the Tutor/Mentor Conference these past three years. It's comments like these that have made it so worthwhile:

- All of the speakers were excellent

-Great! Looking forward to attending next one. In the meantime, plan to incorporate knowledge gain through out organization.

-Keep up the good work in networking and connecting people!

-The keynotes were valuable.

- Great job!

-I think this conference is an excellent tool for networking. I'm really happy I was able to be a part of it. I liked the variety of topics, etc. Great time!

-Excellent Opportunity! I enjoyed everything and I am so happy to have been a part! Very professional and organized!

-This was my first time at the conference and I truly enjoyed all of it! I have so much information and ideas that I will be taking back and trying to implement where I can. It was also inspiring for me (as a new"ish" program coordinator) to be around people doing the same things I am doing and also helps to know the issues I face, good or bad, are mostly across the board with other. [I] feel that I was truly given a toolbox to walk away with, filled with new ideas, concepts, people, and resources that will help as an individual, as a mentor, and as a program coordinator. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

-The Conference . . . was well planned. . . the presenters informative and the info obtained outstanding. I greatly appreciated all aspects of the conference.

-Wonderful conference. Looking forward to the next one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is this week!

Hello Everyone! I just wanted to remind everybody that the May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking conference is THIS Thursday and Friday, May 27th and 28th. Registration, Breakfast, and the morning keynote will be held in the Simpson Hall Multi-Purpose Room, 6333 N. Winthrop Ave., however the entrance is on Sheridan Rd.

One of the many exciting things about the conference is how many new programs are participating. I will highlight these programs in a future blog post. However, I would like to give a shout-out to the Children's Home + Aid Society, the Abraham Lincoln Center, Jeanette's Joy Community Services, the Black Angel Network, and others that are recent additions to the conference network as well as the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.

While we're so thrilled and excited about the conference, I must close on a more serious note. Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is currently in another funding crisis right now. We don't have enough money to cover rent and payroll this week. Meanwhile, we have a conference this week as you all know, as well as our Year-End dinner next month, and our annual Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Tournament next month. If you would like to help out, you could sponsor a scholarship for someone to attend the conference, donate to the Year-End Dinner fund, or be golf tournament sponsor. Or, you could just mail a check payable to "Cabrini Connections" to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60642 or just pay using PayPal. It's been too wonderful and successful of a year for us to be short of funds now. Help us stay afloat and donate today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Year-End Dinner Link

Hi Everybody! If you have noticed, in the upper-right hand corner of this blog is a new logo. That's the logo for the Cabrini Connections, Year-End Dinner, which will be Thursday June 10th from 6-8 at Cornerstone, just south of Wells and Division. If you click on the logo, you will be directed to a sponsorship page for the Year-End Dinner. If you believe that tutoring and mentoring as a way of helping at-risk youth succeed, the Year-End Dinner is a great celebration of the culmination of a successful year here at Cabrini Connections, and your sponsorship would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is Next Week!

Hello Everyone,
Just a friendly reminder that next week is our May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. It will be Thursday and Friday May 27th and 28th at Loyola University Chicago. The keynotes and meals will be held in Simpson Hall Multi-Purpose room and the work shops will be held in various classrooms in Mundelein Hall, across the street.

What you can do in the time before the conference is help us find sponsors for scholarships for those who couldn't afford to attend the conference, otherwise. If you would like to help someone attend the conference, you can become a sponsor by going to this link:

Thanks so much everybody! We can't wait to see you at the conference!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good News and Bad News

While many wonderful things are happening with the conference, I also have very sad news to report on the Cabrini Connections front. Cierria Thomas, who was just 16 and a fourth year student in the Cabrini Connections program, passed away this weekend in a house fire. While most of my work has been with the Tutor/Mentor Connection these past two years, I did have the pleasure of knowing Cierria. The world has truly lost an incredible young woman and I hope that everyone keeps the Thomas family in their thoughts and prayers.

The loss of a wonderful student like Cierria only makes us more determined to help kids in need. Students like Cierria are the reason why we do the Tutor/Mentor Conference - so that we can all better help these wonderful students.

We have a two more workshops lined up for the conference - One on capacity-building with Tasha Robinson, Coordinator, Capacity Enhancement Program, Youth Network Council. The other is on tutoring tips and training skills with Jennifer Bricker and Devon Lovell of Family Matters.

Another bit of good news is that Baxter Laboratories has become a $500 sponsor for the Conference. We really appreciate their support. If anyone knows of any other companies that would be willing to sponsor, please leave a comment below.

Finally, the Tutor/Mentor Conference now has a GiveForward page. If you would like to help support the Tutor/Mentor Conference yourself, you can donate at the link above.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Great Workshops and Panels for the Conference

Hello Everyone! I'm very pleased to announce some more workshops and keynotes that are scheduled for the May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference:

-"Non-profits: How to get Mobile" - How texting can help non-profits presented by Brian Banks of

-"Race, Language, and the Achievement Gap in America" presented by Michael Levesque, Executive Director at LEAP Learning Systems

- "How to Help your Student Finance College" - presented by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission

- "How to Effectively Train Tutors by Partnering with other Organizations who serve the same Population" presented by Alex Cornwell of Chicago Lights Tutoring and Day at Fourth Presbyterian Church and Erin McPartlin of Cabrini-Green Tutoring

- "The Edgewood College/Cabrini Connections Partnership" presented by Thomas Holub, Professor of Education at Edgewood College, Madison, WI

- A workshop presented by Darrell Finch of the Milwaukee Housing Authority, Milwaukee, WI

- A keynote about the "Breakthrough Model - No Superstars Needed" by Bill Curry, Chief Operating Officer at Breakthrough Urban Ministries

- "Engaging Athletes as Advocates for Tutoring and Mentoring Programs," with Kurt Kittner, former University of Illinois and NFL quarterback and current Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection Board Member, and El Da'Sheon Nix, former Northwestern University wide receiver, and current administrative coordinator at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

- "The Way to a Successful Tutoring and Mentoring Project" presented by Amos Carmeli, Perach - the national Tutoring and Mentoring Project of Israel.

- "Creating your own Neighborhood Maps" presented by Mike Trakan, GIS and Mapping Coordinator of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

- "It takes a Village - Partnering with Others" presented by Sue Sowle, Social Worker at Project SOAR Mentoring at McGaw YMCA in Evanston, IL

- "Mentoring Program Strategies" with Joel Newman of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley in Davenport, IA, Christy Beighe-Byrne of Chicago Youth Centers, and Rose Mabwa of Mercy Housing.

- A keynote by Deanna Wilkinson, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University

- Trends in Tutoring and Mentoring by Rose Mabwa, Mercy Housing

Hopefully these workshops, panels, and keynotes pique your interest. If you would like to present a workshop or register for the May Tutor/Mentor Conference, please visit the Tutor/Mentor Conference website. And, just as a reminder, the conference will be held Thursday and Friday May 27th and 28th at Loyola University Chicago's Lakeshore Campus. I hope to see all of you there!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Career Week Day 3

This past week, since it's Spring Break for Chicago Public Schools, Cabrini Connections has hosted Career Week for our students. On Monday, Bradley took our students to Water Tower Place and De Paul University (Day 1 Here). On Tuesday, El Da'Sheon took our students to the home office of one of our volunteers, AJ Tyson (Day 2 Here). Yesterday, I had the great honor and privilege of taking one of our students, Christian Palacios, to see an accounting agency and to visit the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Our first stop was to Grant Thornton, an international accounting firm, where one of our volutneer tutor/mentors, Torquil Carlisle, works. Torquil is originally from England and worked at their London office for two years, before being transferred to the United States. While both Christian and I discussed coming in with preconceived notions of how boring accounting is, Torquil and the wonderful staff at Grant Thornton made it quite exciting! Torquil helps international companies make sure that they're paying their taxes and all of their accounts are okay, even when say, a product is manufactured in one country, bought in another, and the company is headquartered in a third. Pretty cool! I think Christian was especially interested in forensic accounting where accountants try and figure out why money is being lost and where it went. We learned that if we were to give just a couple of facts about ourselves, a lot of accountants would have the tools to find out everything about you. Scary but interesting at the same time.

Christian and were both really excited about going to the US Court of Appeals, where Lu Han, another volunteer tutor/mentor, works as a clerk. Christian wants to be a criminal defense attorney and I'm starting law school this fall at the University of Oregon law school. So it was career day for both of us! Lu explained to us the process of how people end up at the Court of Appeals and how it's different from regular trials you would see on tv. Did you know in a court of appeals there is no jury and there are three judges that sit on the trial? I didn't. Christian was really excited to find out that anyone can come and watch a trial at the court of appeals and Lu promised him that she would let him know when there was a really exciting case as well. I think I even might attend a trial and see how our law works in real life! Lu also was really kind in telling Christian about law school and answering my more specific questions about law school.

In any case, I know I had a great time yesterday, and I'm pretty sure Christian did too. My overarching impression was how wonderful it was to talk to two people who really love and enjoy their jobs. Torquil and Lu were so wonderful in sharing with us what they do and their enthusiasm for their careers is infectious. Thanks so much Torquil and Lu and thanks to Christian for coming yesterday. I think we both learned a lot!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The May 2010 Tutor/Mentor Conference is Shaping up Nicely!

Hello Everyone!
The May 2010 Tutor/Mentor Conference is shaping up nicely. We already have a number of workshops and keynotes booked:
- James Garborino, a professor of psychology at Loyola-University Chicago will be giving the morning keynote on Thursday morning, May 27th. He wrote the book, "Lost Boys," and will talk about young men and violence.
- Tracy Swartz of the Chicago Tribune RedEye and Phillip Thompson of the Mash, will be talking on how the media treats violence and how it relates to tutoring and mentoring.
- Scott McFarland of the Serve Illinois Commission will be giving a workshop about partnerships between tutoring and mentoring program and Serve Illinois, the state of Illinois's Commission on Volunteerism.
- Katie Cusack and Sandy Reyes of Gads Hill Center will be doing a workshop about "Thinking outside the Box: Creative Ways to Foster Youth Development.
- Jordan Hestermann of Becoming "We the People," will be giving two workshops: One on leadership in tutoring and mentoring organizations, and the other on how tutoring and mentoring organizations are fighting poverty.
- Cynthia Townsend of Temple to the Classroom, will be giving a workshop on "Achieving more Effective Tutoring and Mentoring."
- A panel discussion on how tutoring and mentoring organizations can better get media attention is in the works.
- Leap Learning Systems is also putting together a workshop or two on brain development and learning disabilities
- As always, there will be a volunteer recruitment and retention strategies and a student recruitment and retention strategies panel.
If you would like to do a workshop or be a panelist, you can leave a reply to this post, and/or fill out a workshop proposal online at:
Thanks so much everybody!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Women of Color and Finances

While perusing the news this week, I came across a story that made me go "Huh?" Apparently, the average single African-American woman in the United States is worth $5. The findings were from a study by the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development, titled “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future.” When I started thinking about it and between credit card debt, student loan payments, mortgage payments, car payments, etc., plus having the lowest average income of any other ethnic/gender group other than Native American/Hawaiian women, it starts making more sense.

However, this should not be a given. Those of us who work in tutoring and mentoring organizations work tirelessly to help empower low-income minority youth so that they have the tools to break out of poverty and find a career that they enjoy and that pays well. If many of the young women who we work with end up being worth $5, that's a problem for all of us and needs to be remedied.

I encourage you to read this 5-part series on Women of Color and Finances by Latoya Peterson on the blog Racialicious. Please read the comments as well, because many of the comments, not just from women and not just from people of color, talk very frankly and intelligently about why they find themselves with financial problems.

Many of the reasons that the study gives, and that Ms. Peterson and the commentors also talk about are the same problems that we are trying to combat working in tutoring and mentoring programs. Some talk about growing up in poverty, where their family lives from paycheck-to-paycheck. The idea of saving money is foreign and when money does come in, it is spent. Some individuals, if they do find themselves to be successful and making money, find themselves burdened with taking care of their parents, other family members, and friends who are less fortunate financially. There is also less of an emphasis on financial education (although I think so many of us need better financial education) and so oftentimes these individuals find themselves in credit card and/or student loan debt. Finally, when it comes to finding a job, these individuals oftentimes find themselves without a network and networking skills that can help them get a high-paying job after college.

I believe that tutoring and mentoring programs have a duty to help all young people set themselves up well financially. I know many programs emphasize job-shadowing and network building, but I also believe we have a duty in helping educate our students financially as well. It's one thing to help our students go to college and find great jobs. It's another to help them actually spend money wisely so that they will be able to save it and invest it in their future.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Exciting happenings at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Cabrini Madness is truly in full-swing now! If you haven't been watching the videos that our PIP fellow, Bradley Troast has been making, please check them out here! Yesterday we had Tim Doyle, former Northwestern University basketball star and current Big 10 Network analyst be our bracketologist for Cabrini Madness.

Also, Cabrini Madness is featured in this week's Skyline newspaper in a wonderful article by Felicia Dechter. Check it out!

Finally, my team, Passion's Team, is hosting a bar night tonight, Friday March 12th, from 7-10pm at the Galway Arms, 2442 N. Clark St., just north of Clark and Fullerton. $40 for all you can drink beer, wine, and call drinks (and appetizers). If you can't come, but still want to contribute, you can always donate at our GiveForward Page. Or you can write a check payable "Cabrini Connections" and note that you want it to go to Passion's Team and send it 800 W. Huron, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60642.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vote for the Tutor/Mentor Connection to receive a Pepsi Refresh Grant!

Exciting news! The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been chosen to compete for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. This grant will support the 12-month cycle of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. We are currently in 228th place for votes and need to be in the top-2 by the end of March. Please tell everyone you know to vote for the Tutor/Mentor Connection by March 31st.

Please support the Tutor/Mentor Connection and all it does to support tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago and vote here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What Makes a Tutoring and Mentoring Program - This Video Answers that

If you read the other blogs of my colleagues at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, you may have seen the blog post by our president and CEO, Dan Bassill on this video by Breakthrough Urban Ministries. I had the great fortune of visiting Breakthrough Urban Ministries last summer. You can read about my visit here.

When people ask me what makes a tutoring and mentoring program, I could go on forever about how they're important and what they do. However, this video succinctly describes the importance of tutoring and mentoring programs in just seven and a half minutes. It's well worth the watch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Tutor/Mentor Conference Needs Your Help!

The May 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is well under way. The conference planning committee already has had one meeting and lots of great ideas were shared.

However, in order for the conference to be a success, we need help from sponsors who will support us giving people scholarships, and providing food, beverages and materials for the conference. Our Tutor/Mentor Conference is not a unique one. Mentoring partnerships throughout the country have mentoring conferences every year. These conferences are well-funded by sponsors who believe in the possibilities and solutions that mentoring creates.

For example, Mentoring Partnerships of Minnesota has a mentoring conference every year. They also have a training institute that offers workshops to help mentoring programs become the best they possibly can be. Mentoring Partnerships of Minnesota is generously sponsored by several well-known national companies that are based out of Minnesota, such as 3M and Target.

Another example is Washington State Mentors who also put on trainings and events similar to the Tutor/Mentor Conference. Washington State Mentors benefits from hometown supporters, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Bank of America and Costco.

Why can't something like this happen in Illinois. First of all there is no Illinois Mentoring Partnership. The Tutor/Mentor Connection is actually the closest that we have in Illinois (that we know of at least) to a mentoring partnership. So why don't local or national corporations that are based in Chicago do the same thing to sponsor the Tutor/Mentor Conference? Hopefully, we'll be able to show what other states have done to foster partnerships and help mentoring (and tutoring in our case) programs become better and convince these corporations to sponsor the Tutor/Mentor Conference.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The May 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is Under Way

Does it seem like the November 2009 Tutor/Mentor Conference just happened? I know, me too. But, the May 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is under way. This year it will be held at Loyola University Chicago's Lakeshore Campus in Rogers Park. The keynotes will be held in the Simpson Hall Multi-Purpose Room just off the corner of Sheridan Rd. and Sheridan Rd. (I know). Workshops will be held in classrooms nearby in a location to be announced.

Right now, we want YOU to be involved in the planning of the conference. If you would like to be a part of the conference planning committee, leave a comment in the comments section below. You can also join the discussion about the conference on our Tutor/Mentor Connection Ning Site.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a workshop or a panel, you can submit a proposal here. You can also register online here.

I have a great feeling about this conference being the best one yet. But, we need your help and input. Get involved and make the Tutor/Mentor Conference the best one for you as well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cabrini Madness - Support Passion's Team

If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you might have noticed the little basketball cartoon in the upper right hand corner (it was a graphic designed by our tech club!). If you were extra curious and clicked on it, you would have been redirected to our Cabrini Madness information page.

So what is Cabrini Madness? Well, in an effort to get everyone (students, volunteers, staff, board members, volunteer coordinators, club leaders, and outside friends and family) involved in raising money for Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Connection, and to take advantage of the excitement of March Madness, we have created Cabrini Madness. Cabrini Madness is a bracket tournament-style fundraiser where teams are formed (there needs to be at least one student, one volunteer, one staff member/board member/volunteer coordinator or club leader, and one outside person. Teams can be up to 10 people), and compete against each other to see who can raise the most money.

You can see which teams are raising the most money on our Cabrini Madness Give Forward Page. You'll also see that my team, Passion's team (why Passion's team do you ask? Well, our team leader is student, Passion Tucker, and we all thought her name was too beautiful and awesome for it not to be our team name) hasn't raised any money yet. You can help us out by donating to our give forward site at the link above or by writing a check payable to "Cabrini Connections" and noting that it's going to Passion's team and mailing it to:
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60642

If you would like to help Passion's team fundraise in any way, please leave a comment in the comments section.

Friday, January 29, 2010

National Mentoring Month Ends - Questions Remain

It's almost the month of January, which means the end of National Mentoring Month. If you haven't checked out our Cabrini Connections kids thanking their tutor/mentors as part of National Mentoring month, please do:

Anyway, as part of National Mentoring Month, I have been researching mentoring partnerships in other states. Many states have coalitions similar to the Tutor/Mentor Connection that are recognized by What would it take to create a similar partnership in Illinois? How could we turn the Tutor/Mentor Connection into a recognized mentoring partnership? I encourage you to take a look at other states' mentoring partnerships and see how they have done it. (I have to give a shout-out to my home state of Oregon who has an especially informative and comprehensive website!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Greater Chicago Food Depository - A Great Ally

The past week I've been researching new tutoring and mentoring programs that were not listed on the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and deleting old ones that have closed. Along the way, I came across the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which is a fantastic organization that feed's Chicago's hungry at a variety of sites.

Obviously the issue of feeding children is especially important in these tough economic times. Here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection we always try and have a snack ready when our kids come in after school because sometimes, that will be the first time the eat during the day. Kids can't learn when they're hungry and the Greater Chicago Food Depository is doing its best to make sure that there are numerous sites throughout the city where children can have access to a warm meal.

That's why I was so happy to come across this list of programs that Greater Chicago Food Depository has put up of programs that they have teamed up with in order to make sure as many children as possible have access to a warm meal. This is especially important during the summer months when kids don't have the benefit of a free school breakfast and lunch.

Anyway, many of these programs that help make sure that the children of Chicago are fed year-round also happen to be tutoring and mentoring programs that are listed in our program locator. On behalf of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I want to salute the Greater Chicago Food Depository for realizing the assets that these programs are in their communities and taking advantage of their sites in order to make sure kids are fed. I also want to commend the Greater Chicago Food Depository for making sure these programs are known and listed. I hope that other programs like the Greater Chicago Food Depository will take their example and team up with programs in order to better to serve their communities and give recognition to these programs, just like the Greater Chicago Food Depository has done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Students thank their Mentors at Cabrini Connections

Also, here's a video of our kids here at Cabrini Connections, thanking their mentors:

Thanks to my Mentor.

To continue with the theme of National Mentoring Month, I thought I should take the time to write about the mentor who inspired me the most in my life. Today is National Thank Your Mentor Day. This is a repeat of last year, but I thought you can never thank someone too much.

I have had many wonderful mentors who have guided me, but there is one that I think truly made me the person I am today. Her name was Merrill Watrous and she was my 5th Grade Teacher. Mrs. Watrous was one of those teachers that found a gift in every child and tried to bring out that gift. For the students that struggled in school, she did what ever was possible to bring them up to speed, whether it was staying with them after school to work with them on an essay or gave them extra materials to study for history exams. For the students who excelled, she gave them reading recommendations, news article recommendations, and extra credit assignments to push their ability.

Mrs. Watrous was the one who encouraged my interest in history - she gave my assignments to write about great American women such as Abigail Adams and Sojourner Truth. She had me read the poetry of Maya Angelou and encouraged me to try and read the New York Times. For all of her students, Mrs. Watrous emphasized the importance of history, especially the history of minorities and the poor. She taught us spirituals and learned about the slave trade. She assigned us to read The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox, about a slave ship, Lyddie by Katherine Paterson about a young girl working in a factory during the 19th century to teach us about child labor, and Dragon's Gate by Lawrence Yep to learn about Chinese-American history. The fact that I can remember these books 13-14 years later is a testament to what an impact they had on me.

Ultimately, Mrs. Watrous wanted us to be informed, passionate citizens of the world. She encouraged us to know about those who were in need, but also to learn about great figures to become our personal heroes. To this day, I still say Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, and Eleanore Roosevelt are personal heroes to me - all figures that I studied in 5th grade. She also had us keep journals, telling us to write not about what we learning in class, but about what we were interested, and what we were feeling that day. She encouraged us to be editors to one another and always had us "Say one nice thing to someone everyday."

Finally, as the tallest girl in the class (I know at 5'4'' this seems amazing now, but I was in the 5th grade), Mrs. Watrous encouraged me to stand tall and take pride in who I was. It helped that she was tall herself and carried herself with confidence but also with warmth. She also gave the best hugs, and I'm sure many of my classmates could attest that a hug from Mrs. Watrous could make any bad day better.

Mrs. Watrous was most definitely the catalyst that led me to want to work in the public interest sector and led me to want to work at Cabrini Connections. I also think her emphasized on journaling has continued in my blogging - first when I was studying abroad in Paris, and now working at Cabrini Connections.

If someone has been a great mentor to you, please let me know and I would love to publish your story. We all have mentors, and many of us have several of them. National Mentoring Month is a wonderful time to thank these mentors for making the world a better place

Friday, January 15, 2010

Step 6 in Raising Money by Running a Race - Complete your Race!

You've raised your money . You've put in your training. This is the moment you've been waiting for:
6. Run/walk/bike/swim your race! This is the fun part! Once you've raised all that money, you're going to be so pumped to actually complete your race. I ran almost all of the Chicago marathon with a huge grin on my face because I knew how many kids I helped support (I'll admit I didn't exactly have a grin on my face miles 22-26.2, more like a look of determination, but still) Also, tell people to come out and cheer you on. I saw several people who supported me throughout the training - both emotionally and financially - who came out and cheered me on. Make sure you have someone in the last couple of miles like my dear friends Nate and Bethany Sutton who were at the painful mile 23 with cheers and hugs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Step 5 in Raising Money by Running a Race - Tell Everyone How You're Doing!

When I was in the midst of my training, everybody was asking how I was doing. Some people would see me hobbling around after my 16 or 18 mile runs, but a lot of friends and family far away were very interested in keeping up-to-date with my progress. I noticed people were also interested in how our progress was in fundraising. So, in order to keep everybody up-to-date with your training and fundraising progress, here's what you do:

5. Blog about your progress! Fortunately I already had this blog to talk about how my training and fundraising progressed. If you don't have one, I encourage you to set one up because not only are you able to tell the world about how you're doing, but also are able to tell the world how much you appreciate everybody's donations. Include pictures and stories. People were also curious about what I was listening to as I trained (I'm sorry, but I just can't run 20 miles without some good music. The marathon itself was another matter because of the cheering crowds.) I was shocked about how curious and intrigued people were and how much they enjoyed reading my stories on my blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Step 4 in Raising Money by Running a Race - How to actually raise that money

So you've dropped little hints that you're training for a race and doing it for charity. Now, it's time to actually ask. Here's how:
4. Ask in a variety of ways. We noticed a two-pronged strategy worked best. A lot of our young friends donated online. We used FirstGiving as our portal for donations but there are a variety of great online fundraising portals that are safe and legitimate. I'd like to give a special shout out to GiveForward, which has been a huge supporter of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in the past year. All of them will have a variation of a web page explaining what race you're training for and what the organization your fundraising for is. There also is a secure payment link where people can use their credit card to give a donation.

However, we noticed a lot of our older friends and family were a little leery of donating online. That's why we also sent out letters with all of the pertinent information in them as well. I'd say the number of mail donations vs. online donations was about 60/40 for mail to online. A lot of charities also have a paypal site which you can include in e-mails and other communication. Make sure to keep track of every donation you receive - I just printed out all of the donations and put them in a binder. This will make the charity's life easier when they get audited and the donor's life easier when they do their taxes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Step 3 in raising money by running a race- This might surprise you

You've signed up for your race and found your training partner. Maybe you've started training a bit (quick bit of advice - do follow the training plan that the race gives out. Most races do. I really think that I didn't get injured/burnt out because I followed the Chicago Marathon's Training Beginner training guide to a T. Also, they usually do a nice job with making it doable while still having a life.)

Anyway, you're ready to start fundraising. But before you begin asking, follow our Step 3 and people will be MUCH more receptive to your asking:

3. Don't startle people with asking for money. Nick and I sent out letters to friends and family explaining what Cabrini Connections is and why they should donate in late-August/early-September, just a little over a month before the race. However, we had been telling people for at least six months that we were running the marathon and why we were running for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Just drop it into casual conversation. Trust me, it's not awkward, if you don't ask right then and there. But if you talk about it initially as an abstract idea, potential donors will begin the thought process of "Oh hey, Joe's running the marathon for charity. He looks like he's training pretty seriously. I should donate to his efforts." When you do ask, they'll be more likely to give.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 2 - You've Signed Up for a Race, Now What?

So you've signed up for your race. Congratulations! But now, you're a little intimidated about how you're going to get from where you are now to finishing that race.. How do you do it? Here's step 2 of my training/preparation plan for charity:

2. Find a running/fundraising buddy, or a bunch of them! There will be days when you get home from work during your training and you're exhausted. Or it's dark and cold outside and you just don't want to wake up early to get 4 miles in before work. I've been there. But, having a training buddy helps! You don't even have to run together (although that's always nice). My boyfriend/marathon training partner/fundraising buddy Nick was way faster than me (sub 4-hour marathon! That's FAST), but the simple fact that he was getting home from work too and putting on his running shoes helped so much in training, even though we ran separately. Having a running buddy for a charitable race means a fundraising buddy as well. I know I would not have been able to raise almost $3000 on my own. But thanks to Nick's enthusiasm for Cabrini Connections and willingness to get out there and ask for money from his own friends, family, and co-workers, I was inspired myself to get out there and ask as well. Plus, it inspires a little friendly competition. So find someone you know will help you keep to your plan and you will accomplish this goal together. (That's us after a fun run between bars last Spring. A lot of people in our running group were donors and supporters of our marathon training and fundraising effort as well. See training CAN be fun!)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting in Shape for a GREAT Cause? Step 1

So you've made your New Year's Resolution to get in shape. Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you just want to get back into the shape you were in before the holidays, or maybe you were always a casual athlete but want to challenge yourself. In any case, before the new year, you made excuses for yourself, but now you're ready to go for it. However, you need a little more motivation than to fit into your skinny jeans. Maybe you also have a cause you're passionate about. You volunteer at a soup kitchen every Saturday, or you walk dogs at your local animal shelter, or you're a tutor or mentor. This is your motivation, to raise money and awareness for an organization that you love by running (walking, swimming, biking, basically moving) in a race.

Trust me, I've tried the going to the gym every day type of resolution. And the lose 10 pounds resolution. But last year I realized that in order for a resolution to stick, I'd need to combine a goal that I couldn't back out of (signing up for the Chicago marathon) and doing it for a cause I'm passionate about. So here's Step 1 of fulfilling that New Year's Resolution and helping your favorite charity:

1. Sign up for a race. Be reasonable and be KIND to yourself. Don't sign up for a marathon if it intimidates you. If running a 5-k is a big step for you, sign up for one if you think you can finish it. Also, if you hate running, but enjoy swimming, or biking, or even walking there a variety of races where you can raise money for your favorite charity. Do some research, and I'm sure you'll find something. A favorite resource of mine is the Chicago Area Runner's Association website, which has a calendar of races that you can enter throughout the year. They also give you resources for training groups and other fun races along the way. I think you'll find the mere fact of signing up for a race (which you'll raise money for) a very easy and much more concrete goal than just fitting into your skinny jeans.

But how will you get the motivation to stick with your training? Find out tomorrow . . .

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hello Everyone! Today, January 5th, I'm a quarter-century old. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you should donate to Cabrini Connections for my Birthday Cause. This year, rather than asking for presents (Lord knows I have enough stuff), I would appreciate if everybody would donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Also, if you have an upcoming birthday and are a member of the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection Facebook Cause, please consider us as the recipient of your birthday cause. If you have an upcoming birthday and are not yet a part of our cause but believe in giving every youth a chance to succeed in life no matter what their background is, please join our Facebook Cause.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year? New Year's Resolution? Here's How I Actually Followed through with Mine

Happy New Year Everyone! And Happy National Mentoring Month! I love how each new year begins with a month dedicated to that special relationship where one individual guides another in their growth.

Anyway, as it is the beginning of the year, we're all thinking of New Year's Resolutions probably. I know that many people resolve to lose weight or get in shape and many people become frustrated in this goal after a month or so. A lot of people also resolve to do something to help their community as a New Year's Resolution. If you have read my blog before, you know that in 2009, I raised almost $3000 for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by running the Chicago Marathon.

Last year I was one of those people who resolved to get in shape and do something a little extra to help my community. By working for a fantastic organization such as Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, I feel so fortunate to be able to say that everyday I do something to help the community. However, I wanted to do a little extra outside of what my job title dictated and I knew that 2009 was going to be a rough year economically, especially for non-profits. It was at Martini Madness in October of 2008 when after a few (too many?) martinis, my boyfriend, Nick Infusino, said "Hey! Let's run the Chicago Marathon for Cabrini Connections next year!" and I replied "That's a great idea!"

For some reason, however, that idea wasn't just one of those drunk ideas that falls to the wayside. As 2009 approached, I decided that it was the year I was going to get in shape and run a marathon. I had always been an avid runner, but I had gotten out of shape for a variety of reasons. The idea of running the marathon was a goal that I felt was feasible and combined with the fact that I would be running it for a worthy cause was all the more reason to follow through. 10 months later, on October 11th, 2009, Nick and I were finishers of a major marathon and helped bring in almost $3000 from friends and family who supported our effort. Over this next week I will tell you how I stopped worrying about the marathon and fundraising and start loving it!