Monday, December 11, 2017

Building teams to support youth tutor, mentor & learning programs in multiple places

I've been sharing ideas that are intended to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty areas for nearly 40 years. My goal has always been that the people who receive my messages will then pass the idea on to people in their own networks. If this were working effectively, people from throughout Chicago, the U.S. and the world would now be using these ideas.

For the past week I've been trying to create a presentation showing how teams of volunteers from business, faith groups, colleges and national organizations like Teach For America, Rotary Club, etc. could be doing planning intended to support tutor/mentor programs in cities where members live and work.  I uploaded that to Slideshare today and you can see it below.



I am not totally happy with this yet. I'm sharing it with the goal that others might create their own version and tell this more effectively than I do. At the same time, I'm seeking web sites showing how this process may already be taking place in different parts of the U.S. or the world.

Below is a video I created last  year to show an animation done by interns in 2010-11.



In the video I repeat the invitation above. Students and/or volunteers from many different places could create versions of this and other visualizations that I've launched over the past 20 years, with the same goal as I have.

Interested? Make my holiday great by sending me your own interpretation of this or other articles I've posted on this blog, or by sending me links to web sites that describe how others are already engaged in this type of work.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Applying Public Health Strategy to Support Youth in Poverty

The Democracy Collaborative is hosting a Hospital Anchor Network Convening in Chicago this week.  I've been interested in hospitals as leaders in building and sustaining networks of mentor-rich non-school programs in their trade areas since learning about the Hospital Youth Mentoring Network in the late 1990s. 

I created this concept map to point to some of the articles and resources that I've collected and shared, with the goal that hospital and university leaders would become anchor organizations, and include a Tutor/Mentor Connection component in their strategies.

Open links at bottom of each node and dig into these resources

At the top of this map are ideas I've shared and links to articles I've posted on this blog since 2005. There's also a link to articles about the Hospital Youth Mentoring Network, which was active in the 1990s, but I don't think has been active, as a network, since about 2003.

At the bottom are some new resources, from the past few weeks.  One points to one page of a presentation by Marcella Wilson, PhD, who spoke at an event in Chicago hosted by Advocate Children's Hospital.  Marcella talked about "Treating the condition of poverty with a client centered community based continuum of care."  She talked about "understanding and treating the condition of poverty" using the same condition-specific practices that health care providers use.  Dr. Wilson speaks of "HOPE" as one of the most important medicines we can give to the youth and adults we work with.

I've a link to her book on the map.

The map also includes a 2010 video, in which "Jeff Duncan-Andrade draws from Tupac Shakurs powerful metaphor of the rose that grows from concrete, as well as research in fields such as public health, social epidemiology, and psychology, and explores the concept of hope as essential for developing effective urban classroom practice."


The map also includes an animated video that shows poverty as a river with many contributing streams and talks about hope, and the upstream roles that social entrepreneurs can fill, to reduce poverty and inequality and turn the river into a flow of "enough".  I found it on Facebook, created by Amanda and Brandon Neely, social entrepreneurs of own the Overflow Coffee Bar in Chicago and lead a support program for social entrepreneurs. 

That's a lot to look at, but the condition of poverty is not something that can be solved without doing some deep thinking and on-going learning.

I won't be attending the the Healthcare Convening this week due to lack of funds (and no invitation). However,  my long-term friend, Steve Roussos, from Merced, California, will be attending .  Steve was doing PhD work at the University of Kansas when he introduced himself to me in the late 1990s. This led to him becoming a speaker at several Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences between 1998 and 2002 and to creating Tutor/Mentor Connection's on-line documentation system that I used between 2000 and 2013.

the circle is "information"

My role since 1993 has been to gather information, such as the articles I've pointed to in my cMap, then to take actions that motivate more people to look at the information, and to build understanding, via various forms of discussion and facilitation.

Steve and I had dinner last night and I told him  how I'd learned about on-line annotation from a network of educators who I'd been meeting on-line since 2013.  I used this Jan 2016 article to show some of these annotation tools, and demonstrate their use by the #Clmooc network.

Imagine if organizers of this week's event were putting presentation documents on-line and encouraging people at the event, and those who are not there, to do joint reading and discussion in the margins.

That's today's #Monday Motivation from the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.   I've been sharing these ideas for over 20 years and wish leaders from every sector had been reading them regularly and had been applying the ideas since 1994.

However, if you did not plant that tree then, now's the next best time to start. 

Maybe in 20 years treatment of the condition of poverty will be much more sophisticated and fewer people will be dying or losing their futures as a result.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Make #GivingTuesday Every Tuesday!

Yesterday was #Giving Tuesday/#ILGive and my email, Twitter and Facebook pages feed were filled with photos of youth and volunteers and requests for support.

I hope every program that participated met or exceeded their goals, although I doubt this was true for most of the smaller organizations. 

I wrote this article last November asking if "All Chicago Tutor/Mentor Orgs Filled their Funding Tanks on #Giving Tuesday". The message is still relevant a year later.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in Chicago in 1993 to connect people who can help (almost anyone) with youth tutor and mentor organizations operating in different sections of the Chicago region.  At this link you can find my list of programs and see how I've been plotting this information on maps.

While it's great that events like #GivingTuesday attempt to attract donor attention, we need donor attention so every Tuesday of the year is a day when volunteers and donors look at map-directories like mine and decide who they want to help, how, and how much.

In 1993 as we developed the T/MC we created a 10-point plan, which within a couple years was narrowed down to a 4-part strategy (described here). 

The cMap at the left shows the four parts of the strategy, but adds notes showing work that needs to be done and help needed to make each part of the strategy have the impact on Chicago neighborhoods, youth, and  youth serving organizations, that it needs to have.

Anyone can look at a map showing  poverty and other indicators of need and begin to ask what he/she can do to help fill each of those neighborhoods with a full range of needed programs and services, and what needs to be done to supply talent, dollars, technology and ideas to each program on an on-going basis.

I hope some of my blog articles and Tweets encourage you to do that.

If you're reading this, you can rewrite it and pass it on to people you know. You can create a video to show what I'm talking about. You can bring together a group at your faith group, business or school to ask "what can WE do to help great youth serving programs grow in all parts of Chicago?"

As you do this I hope a few will reach out to me and ask "How can we help you?" instead of starting a new organization aimed at the same problems, but perhaps without the same strategies in mind.

I look forward to hearing from you. Reach me on any of these social media platforms or email tutormentor2 at earthlink dot net.

If you can provide year-end financial support to help me continue this work in 2018, click this link to find a PayPal button to use.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Connecting People and Ideas - A 20+ Year Journey

From T/MC 1998 web site
I've used this  hub/spoke graphic for more than 20 years to describe my efforts to connect people and ideas in an on-going effort to build greater support for non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs that reach kids in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities, and help those kids move through school and into adult lives.

Hub represents an information source, a meeting place, an on-line community, etc. and the spokes represent the range of different people who need to be using this information, or who need to be helping kids in different places.  Below is another example of this graphic.


In this graphic I include a map of Chicago, with high poverty areas highlighted.  The hub of the wheel includes an image of a youth and volunteer and a time line that stretches from pre-school on the left and work/career on the right.  It shows the traditional public school as one source of support, and the family and community as another.  The spokes represent all of the people and influences that are present in the lives of most kids, but are missing for many kids living in high poverty.

I created this Total Quality Mentoring PDF to illustrate how companies in different industries, represented by the spokes, could be leading on-going efforts to help tutor/mentor programs in many locations have activities that help kids learn what these industries focus on (arts, health, engineering, technology, law, etc).

Below is another variation of this hub/spoke graphic:
In this example I'm showing that volunteers who become involved in different tutor/mentor programs can be reaching back on a regular basis and encouraging other people in their network to get informed about where and why these programs are needed, and ways they can use their own time, talent and dollars to help great programs grow in all poverty areas of a city.

The circles from the bottom of the hub represent on-going learning and discussions taking place in businesses, faith groups, media, universities, hospitals, etc. where people are talking about how to use the ideas to help youth tutor/mentor programs grow.

Last week I posted an article showing how I organized networking conferences in Chicago every six months from May 1994 through May 2015, in an effort to bring people together to learn and share and to build greater visibility for all of the programs operating in Chicago. I hope you will look at the conference goals.

I've used this hub/spoke concept in dozens of graphics. If you do a Google search for "Tutor/Mentor Connection Network Building", then look at the images, you can see many of these, and also visit the articles where the graphic was used.

Oct 15, 1992 Chicago SunTimes
This was the front page of the Chicago SunTimes in October 1992 when myself and six other volunteers decided to create the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  We did not have a template to follow. We just knew that a) there was no master database of non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago; and b) no one was leading an on-going campaign intended to draw more attention and resources to each existing programs, while also helping the programs connect and learn from each other so they all could constantly improve their impact.

Over the past 24  years there have been many challenges to doing this work, and since 2011 I've not had much help.  Yet the need for this still exists and I don't find anyone doing all of the things I've been doing (see 4-part strategy) to help high quality tutor/mentor programs reach k-12 youth in all high poverty areas.  You can test my claim by doing a Google search for any organization focused on well-being of kids, then look at the images feature. You won't see the same mix of graphics and maps, shared over many years, like you see with my sites.

While it might make sense to try to re-start the Tutor/Mentor Conference, I think it makes more sense to innovate ways to draw people together in on-line learning.  I've had this goal in mind for many years, but never had the partners and resources to develop this.

Thus, I'm calling on leaders to step forward and help re-energize the Tutor/Mentor Connection and carry it forward under their own power and leadership and help versions of this grow in every city in the world, not just Chicago. Read about the "do over" which I started writing about last March.

Reach out to me on one of these social media platforms if you want to help.

Visit this page if the help you can offer is a financial contribution to help me continue this work in 2018.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Building Tutor/Mentor Network in Virtual Space

I started hosting Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences in Chicago in May, 1994, as part of a strategy intended to draw area volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs and supporters together to learn from each other and as part of a strategy to increase public awareness of tutor/mentor programs all over the Chicago region, so that more would have the talent and dollars needed to sustain their work and constantly improve.


I started connecting with other people beyond Chicago via letters, telephone, and the traditional media during the 1980s and by email and on-line list serves in the 1990s.  I launched the first Tutor/Mentor Connection web site and library in 1998 and have grown my connections and commitments to on-line learning, network-building, mapping and collaboration, every year since then...even though many of the people who have the money to fund my work are not yet using the Internet the same way.

I've been participating in cMOOCs that connect people and ideas in on-line, open and on-going efforts since the late 2000s. I joined a "connected learning MOOC" (#clmooc) in 2013 which encourages participants to learn new ideas and share what they are learning on blogs, and different social media platforms.

Last year, as a result of participating in this type of learning for several years, I posted a conference history story map on the Tutor/Mentor Exchange site after seeing a similar map done by someone else.

Click here to see my version.

I shared this link with #clmooc friends via Twitter and Terry Elliott, who I've written about before (see story), put my presentation on YouTube and added music to it. You can see it below.



Every time I or someone else posts an article related to the mission of the  Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, my hope is that others will do what Terry did, and what student interns have done often between 2006 and 2015, and create their own versions and interpretations, which they share with their own network.

I've put together a concept map that aggregates links to blogs of Terry and others who are helping amplify and shape the ideas I've been sharing.  I'd like to be adding others. Just send me a link to any stories you create.

While I've not had the funds to host a Tutor/Mentor Conference since 2015, I'm still connecting people and ideas to help youth tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.


This graphic illustrates what the Tutor/Mentor Conferences were trying to do. The goal was to bring together people from different sectors who would talk about ways to build and sustain mentor-rich non-school programs in more of the places they are most needed, using GIS maps as sources of information.

In reality a formal conference is not the best place to do this. You only talk to a few of the people who attended, or attend a few of the workshops offered. After the event there is little interaction between those who attended, and those who did not attend. People who can't afford fees and/or travel expenses don't attend. We need a better way to do this, and I've believed for more than a decade that on-line interaction is that better way.

I've been writing about network building, network mapping, collaboration and learning since I started this blog in 2005. I hope you'll read some of the articles posted in past years and share them with people you know.  The video below shows how one of my interns from South Korea shared work done by previous interns. That's what I have in mind.



As you enjoy your holiday weekend, I hope you'll take some time to read this and view the video. Everyone has the power to help change the world. It starts with how you learn, and how you share what you are learning.

Go forth and multiply.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Stick your neck out and support a cause

I opened my Twitter feed earlier this week and found this message;
In November 1999 I received a call from the Montell TV Show inviting me to New York City for the taping of their New Year's Eve program. They wanted to recognize me for work I'd been doing to help  youth and volunteers connect in organized, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

They told me I could bring my wife and kids and they paid the expenses. We were picked up in a limo and stayed in a nice hotel. Then we spent the entire day at the place where they taped the show, waiting to be called on. I was the very last.

By that time I'd learned that they were recognizing people who had won, or earned, a million dollars during the year, so I had some anticipation building.

When I was brought to the stage, they took me to the stands and said "sit here, and when Montell calls your name, stand up."  So, the commercial ended and the show started again, and Montell said the were recognizing people doing good in the world. He walked toward me, and said "Daniel Bassill, please stand."

As he was headed toward me I saw a man and women walking behind him, carrying what looked like a big check.  Montell asked what I do and I had about 20 seconds to respond, when he said, these folks have something for you.

What they had was the 1999 Publishers Clearing House Good as Gold Award, and a $10,000 check. Not  $1 million, but really nice. 

I learned later that I had been nominated for this award by the Giraffe Foundation who had named me a Giraffe Hero in 1997.   

The check was made payable to me and I asked them to change it, and make it payable to Cabrini Connections, since it was through that organization that I was doing the work I was doing, and they really needed the money.

This was prior to the 2000-2001 dot.com sector meltdown and 9/11 which led to a three year drop in stock market values. That was followed by the war in Iraq, and the financial sector meltdown that began in 2007 and 2008, which led to another stock market meltdown. I was hurt bad in both of these downturns, and did not realize in 1999 how much I'd need $10,000 in 2017.

Thus, as we head into the holidays, I hope some of you will support my work as a birthday gift (click here) and others will support it as an investment in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (click here). In both cases you help me continue to do the work described in the blog articles I've written over the past year, and the 11 years before that...and the 30 years before that!

Thank you to all who have helped or let me be part of their lives.
As I head into the Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful to all who have allowed me to be part of their lives, via the tutor/mentor programs I've led, and the work of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. And I'm thankful to those like the Giraffe Foundation who recognize my role and ask others to give me their support.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Life Since 2011 - Something's Missing

 What if you'd spent the majority of your adult years working on something then suddenly it was no longer there?

I was reading some introductions on Mastodon last week and as I thought about how I'd introduce myself, I felt a void. I started volunteering in a tutor/mentor program in 1973 the first year I was in Chicago, while starting a retail advertising career. After one year I was recruited to be on the committee of volunteers who led the program, and at the end of that year I was pulled into the role of program leader.

I continued being directly involved with youth in a non-school tutor/mentor program until mid 2011 when that was suddenly taken away from me. That's over 35 years. Probably longer than most people in the country!

I had no teaching or tutoring experience in 1973 when I first joined the program at Montgomery Ward's corporate headquarters in Chicago and was assigned to work with a 4th grade boy named Leo, so I drew upon my history degree at Illinois Wesleyan and my three years in US Army Intelligence, and began looking for ideas of what to do each week when Leo and I met.

Then, when I joined the program leadership committee in 1974, I began to ask, "How do others do this?" and started to reach out to find other programs in Chicago who I could learn from.

When I became program's volunteer leader in 1975 the program already had been recruiting 100 pairs of kids and volunteers to start the school year for the previous two years. However, nearly half dropped out during the year due to lack of organization and structure, and were not replaced by on-going recruiting.  Thus, I accelerated my learning process, seeking out program leaders and inviting them to a monthly lunch & learn session at Wards.

Systems Thinking articles
While I continued as Leo's tutor and mentor for another two  years, more and more of my time focused on mentoring 100 pairs of kids and volunteers, as well as nurturing a small group of other volunteer leaders to help me.  Leo stayed involved as a student assistant after he finished 6th grade, and I stayed involved with his life through high school, college and we're still connected today, in 2017.

However, my life begin to take on a cycle, similar to this problem solving loop. This repeated every year for 35 years.

In August, the focus was on recruiting volunteers and students from the previous year to return for another year. As we entered September, the focus expanded to recruiting new volunteers to replace those who dropped out, and to recruiting enough kids to match the number of volunteers we recruited.

During September the focus was on student and volunteer orientations (training was on-going) and on matching pairs so that by the last week of September most of our kids and volunteers were paired up and getting to know each other.

This matching process actually extended almost to November since we started the year with either more kids than volunteers, or more volunteers than kids, and spent the first few weeks trying to balance this out. By the end of October we'd matched all the volunteers we had on our waiting list, and then put any other kids still looking for tutors on a student waiting list.

While this matching was taking place, I had to provide a weekly framework for student and volunteer activities, provide one-on-one coaching to respond to questions, find substitutes for volunteers who did not show up, and assign kids to new volunteers when their volunteer stopped coming.

To aid this process we took attendance weekly, with me sitting at a table at the entry to the Montgomery Ward cafeteria where tutoring took place, and checking off names of kids and volunteers as they came in. Usually another volunteer helped me.

Once the session was over I reviewed the attendance and determined which kids and/or volunteers would need follow up during the coming week. By 1979 or 1980 I was using computers and Excel spreadsheets to enter weekly attendance data into a tracking system that enabled me to see attendance patterns, enabling a focused follow up on those who had missed two or three weeks in a row. During the mid 70s the Chicago  Housing Authority was the intermediary who had contact with families. While we called volunteers directly, we had to call the CHA rep, and they contacted the families, if we needed to follow up on attendance or any other issues. By the late 70's we were contacting the families directly.

We provided a framework for weekly youth and volunteer activities and communicated this via verbal announcements and one page newsletters created on a duplicating machine. I  had to write these and get copies made every week.   As we started the year we pointed to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then spring events as learning and writing activities.  These provide conversation topics and work activities for volunteers to build relationships with kids and provided something to "look forward to".

As incentives for student attendance we began to offer quarterly field trips for perfect attendance. These photos are from trips to the Indiana Dunes.  Planning these trips was another on-going role.

By 1980 the enrollment was up to 125 pairs and we convinced Wards to give money for us to hire a part time college student to work a few hours a week to help  us.  Throughout the 80's this number grew to three students, with non working more than 20 hours a week. However, they took a huge load off the weekly work I was doing.
A big change was made in 1980 or 81 I changed from having a small  committee of leaders that I recruited each spring to building an larger group of leaders, focused on all of the functional areas involved with operating the program.  The program grew, and grew, and by 1990 we were up to 300 pairs of kids and volunteers....and we still had only 3 part time college students working 15-20 hours a week helping do the administrative work.

As we moved through the  year, from September to June the challenges changed from recruiting and retaining, training and on-going support, to celebrating work done during the year and recruiting new leaders to help repeat the cycle again in the following year.  I did this over, and over, for 35 consecutive years!

My job responsibilities with Montgomery Ward grew throughout this time. By 1980 I was in charge of the creative print development for all of their national advertising and throughout the decade I took on other management and planning responsibilities. Yet, I also devoted huge amounts of time on weekends, evenings and lunch breaks to the work of leading the tutoring program.

 I met my future wife Emily in the early 1980s when she became a volunteer tutor and much of our social life was centered around tutoring program activities and volunteers.  We were married in 1986 and while she took evening college classes I spent time in my office either doing my advertising work, or my tutoring program work.

Things changed in 1990 when I was given the opportunity to leave Wards (or be fired) and I turned that into an opportunity to convert the tutoring program to a non profit where I could provide full time leadership and get paid at the same time.  Things really changed when our daughter Amanda was born in October 1990, about the same time as we received our 501-c-3 papers.

With the birth of our daughter Emily was no longer involved with the tutoring program, but with the day-to-day work of raising a child, and holding her own job.  Our time to socialize together with the volunteers in the program was greatly reduced in the 1990s, and 2000s. 

The new non profit, which we named Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc., was an artistic and financial success. We grew to 440 students and 550 volunteers by June 1992 and raised over $100,000 to fund our operations. However, I misjudged what it would be like to have a governing board overseeing my work, and the frictions  that grew over those two years led the board to fire me without notice in October 1992.

Oct. 15, 1992
Of course they did not consult with the volunteers, students or parents when they made that decision. As a result many volunteers rallied to my defense and wanted to fight my firing.  However, as this was happening, something else happened that changed everything.  A 7-year-old boy named Dantrell Davis was shot and killed in Cabrini-Green. He was related to many of  the kids in the tutoring program.

I was driving home as I listened to this news on the radio, and the thought  popped into my mind "I don't need to lead an under funded program with 900 people involved, and with a dysfunctional board, to share what I've learned over the past 17 years to help tutoring programs grow in all poverty areas of Chicago."

I immediately stopped looking backwards to regain what was lost and began looking forward.

At the same time, I recognized an opportunity to fill two voids. Parents had been asking for a program for kids beyond 6th grade, and I'd begun to develop an expanded Junior Assistant program in 1990 and 1991.

With the help of six other volunteers created a new volunteer-based tutor/mentor program aimed at helping kids move from 7th grade through high school and beyond and named that Cabrini Connections. That filled the first void.

To fill the second, and larger void, we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help similar programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago,  including our own Cabrini Connections program and the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc.

The Cabrini Connections program launched in January 1993 with seven volunteers and five teens meeting in the day-room at St. Joseph's Church. In the fall of 1993 Wards donated space on the 16th floor of the corporate tower on Chicago Avenue, and $40,000 a year, and we move our operations there and started to add new 7th and 8th graders each year. By 1997  we were serving about 80 pairs of kids and volunteers and by 1999 the first 7th graders were finishing high school. By 2003 some of these were finishing college.


We spent 1993 planning the Tutor/Mentor Connection and launched our first program survey in January 1994.  120 programs responded and we printed the first Tutor/Mentor Programs Directory and held the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in May 1994. Over the next few years we created an information based strategy and quarterly events to draw attention to tutor/mentor programs throughout the city of Chicago.

With the first 1993 grant of $40k from Montgomery Ward we hired two veteran tutoring program volunteers (Gena Schoen and Claudia Crilly Bellucci) to work part time as leaders of the Cabrini Connections program. Working together we created a structure for the tutor/mentor program and from that point forward my role as President was to overview that work, provide ideas, fill in during transitions of staff, and raise money to pay the bills.   I also provide much of the work behind the work of building the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

We never had enough money, or enough staff do do all this work, which meant that I spent countless hours, weekends included, doing program work.   I often brought our quarterly newsletters home and Amanda would help me put mail labels on them.

Our son Jacob was born in 1998.   The responsibilities of being a parent grew, but the responsibilities of leading a small non profit with more than 200 people depending on me to keep the doors open, also grew.

My daughter once said to me "Daddy, you love those kids more than you love us."

War on Poverty planning
That hurt.  Yet over the years I've talked about the work I was doing as part of a "War on Poverty."  I realized that I could do little to change the education system, or change the  habits and behaviors of parents living in high poverty areas. But through the tutoring program I felt we could help kids escape the cycle of poverty by helping them through school and into college and careers.

I realized that one small program could be life changing for a few kids, but would have little impact on the couple hundred thousand kids living in poverty in Chicago. That's why I have been so passionate about the Tutor/Mentor Connection and its goals.

Youth in poverty, and their parents, need a system of supports.  This map visualizes some of the supports that are needed.

System of support needed


However, there were few leaders in Chicago, or the country, using maps and visualizations and thinking of ways to support an entire ecosystem of youth serving organizations, using the same strategies that teams in corporate headquarters of big companies like Wards were using to support multiple stories all over the country.  Thus, just getting the attention and participation of youth, volunteers and donors in a single program, and support for the intermediary role of the Tutor/Mentor Connection often seemed like a Marine battalion's efforts to land on a fortified beach. You took a lot of casualties before you were able to get a foothold, then move inland.

In many ways I think I'm still fighting that battle.

I recognized that I was neglecting my own kids to help other kids who lived in high poverty neighborhoods and did not have the support my kids enjoyed where we lived.  I rationalized, that in war, soldiers leave home for years on end, and some never come home, or when they do come home they are severely injured. We accept that as a price of freedom.

I said to myself,  "If I can help make a world that is better for kids born in poverty, then I'd be creating a better world for my own kids and grandkids, too."

I met Merri Dee of WGN TV in the early 1990s and she supported my work through the early 2000s. She gave me a slogan that I took to heart.

If it is to be, it is up to me (and you).

In 2011 the board of Directors at Cabrini Connections asked me to resign, as a result of the financial crisis that had started in 2008. They gave me ownership of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as part of the deal, since they did not want to continue supporting that strategy.

I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC since I did not have a group of volunteers to help me create a new non profit structure. I've continued to lead the T/MC since then, but without any source of revenue other than my own savings and social security.

In many ways I've had more time since 2011 than ever before to focus on the work of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, because I've not had responsibility for the weekly operations of the entire organization and the kids' program.

Yet, when I was thinking of how I'd introduce myself in that group last week,  I recognized that I have had a huge void in my life for the past six years. I spent almost every day for 35 years thinking of what needed to be done to connect youth and volunteers in a single tutor/mentor program. I got to know the kids who came to the center as they kept coming back from 7th grade through 12th grade. I got to know the volunteers, too, and some of them had a huge impact on helping get the Tutor/Mentor Connection started.

That involvement with the youth program was a big part of my identity. It gave me daily reinforcement for why the Tutor/Mentor Connection was so needed.

I've not had that anchor in my life and that make the introduction difficult.

At the same time, my own kids are now adults, and the world I hoped to build for them is still just a dream.

Want to know more:  

View timeline - 1965-1990 - click here
View timeline of Tutor/Mentor Connection - 1990-2016 - click here
Read "Tutor/Mentor Business" written in 1997 by Sara Caldwell

Want to help? Connect with me on any of these social media platforms - click here.

And....A financial contribution would be welcome. click here