Thursday, January 21, 2021

Nurturing the Talents of Young People

One of the many highlights of yesterday's inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President was the showcase of the talents of young people, headlined by Amanda Gorman's presentation which you can view here

Amanda is the 2017 The National Youth Poet Laureate, which is an initiative  founded by Urban Word NYC, an organization that provides free literary arts education and youth development programs in creative writing, spoken word poetry.   The 2018 Youth Poet Laureate is Patricia Frazier, who is a Chicago based artist. Read this Chicago Tribune story about Patricia, and see how the Young Chicago Authors program helped her develop her talents. 

Urban Word NYC and Young Chicago Authors are both non school programs funded by philanthropic donations.  They encourage youth writing, expression, creativity and performance, with the help of volunteers drawn from many different backgrounds.  At the right is a 1990s photo from the Cabrini Connections program that I led from 1993-2011, showing three students in a performance before volunteers and other students. From 1975, when I began leading a youth tutor/mentor program, we encouraged activities that stimulated creativity, expression, writing and career exploration.  

These three are adults now and I'm connected to them on Facebook. They each work with young people in various ways.

If you've followed this blog for very long you'll see that I advocate for support of mentor-rich non-school, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs.  The graphic below illustrates some of the types of learning and enrichment activities that are possible in such programs, where the physical space creates an environment for the growth of many different activities and attracts volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds.


In an article I wrote in early January I talked about how "all kids in our programs are different and constantly changing". That means programs need to provide an "organized structure" that encourages a wide range of mentoring, learning and enrichment, just to find something that inspires a youth to aspire for something that they are willing to work to achieve.  Mentor rich programs can do this and they can provide on-going year-to-year support to help kids test different opportunities and to build confidence and skills.  


This NO LIMITS message is on the back of the t-shirt I'm wearing today. It was printed in the late 1990s for the 4th Annual Video Festival showcasing work done by students in the Cabrini Connections program.  It's a message I feel many youth programs share with their youth.

I worked in retail advertising in the 1970s and 1980s for the Montgomery Ward company. We supported nearly 400 stores located in 40 states, where a wide range of merchandise and services were available to attract customers from the area surrounding each store.  Companies like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target and many others have hundreds, even thousands of retail stores located near where potential customers live.

I think of site-based, non-school programs as "retail stores for HOPE and Opportunity". They need to be stocked with mentors and tutors and activities that attract youth and keep them coming back over, and over, for multiple years.  

They need to be located in spaces near where kids live and easy and safe to attract volunteer and youth participants.  That means in a big city like Chicago several hundred are needed.

For such programs to exist they must be supported consistently by volunteers, donors and business partners.  I describe what's possible in the presentation below.


 As you look through this presentation and other articles on this blog you'll see how I use maps to show where these programs are most needed, based on poverty levels and other indicators.  You'll also see links to the MappingforJustice blog, which was used since 2008 to share maps that my organization created, and to show mapping platforms hosted by many others.

Since 1994 I've been maintaining a list of organizations that offer various forms of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs and I was able to plot this on maps for many years. Here's an article with my list of programs, and a discussion of what you should find on their websites to know what type of services they offer. I've never found a partner to dig deeper into this list, to create a better  understanding of the similarities and differences.  That's still a need. 


My goal in writing this and other articles is that many others, including young people who have been helped by organized non-school programs, will use my articles, maps and visualizations as inspiration and models for their own work.

Imagine being able to click into the blue box in the middle of this graphic and finding links to thousands of people who were creating art, poetry, videos, music, blog articles and more to draw "people who can help" to "information they can use" to learn where and why organized non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, and "ways they can help programs grow", then to maps where they can find organized programs and their websites, learn what they do, "then offer help to support their work".


The concept map at the left also shows a commitment that people in the middle can take to help nurture the growth of thousands of young people like Amanda Gorman and Patricia Frazier.  

Anyone can take a role, just by reading this blog, looking at the visuals then sharing with people in your own networks.  If enough do this regularly we'll soon have leaders from every sector of business, entertainment, politics, media and religion working to help grow and sustain a flow of volunteers and donors into youth tutor, mentor and learning programs reaching k-12 kids in every high poverty zip code in America.


And that will lead to many more future leaders like Amanda Gorman and Patricia Frazier. 

Can you take that role?  Can you be part of  President Joe Biden's "Enough" people needed to create the future we want for America?

Visit this page to see links to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIN pages. Or this page to make a contribution to help fund my work.




Monday, January 18, 2021

Service-Learning in Support of Dr. M.L. King, Jr's Dream



Millions around the USA are celebrating the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  Here's an ESRI story map you might include in your learning.  

As in past years I'll be celebrating by learning and adding information to my web library.  Today I'm working on creating a page listing Instagram sites of Chicago area programs. 

I've been using this blog since 2005 to share what I've learned about leading a youth tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975 to 2011. I used an email and printed newsletter to share this in previous years.  

My goal (Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC) is to create an organized framework that encourages volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, advocates, friends, leaders in on-going efforts that make a life-changing difference for these kids. By life-changing, I mean that the kids will not be living in poverty when they are adults because they will have the academic, social/emotional and workplace skills needed for 21st century jobs, plus a network of adults who can and will open doors to jobs and mentor them in careers.

The graphic below visualizes my thinking. There already are many youth tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago and other places, along with countless other non-profits aimed at helping reduce poverty and inequality in America.  Yet, if we plot where these organizations operate, and what age group they serve, or what they do on maps of Chicago, we quickly can see that there is a need for  more programs in many places.

Rather than start new programs from scratch, why not borrow ideas from what is already working? How can existing programs constantly improve? How can donors improve how they provide needed operating dollars? 



I have spent time almost every day for more than 40 years trying to figure out better, more efficient, and lower cost ways to accomplish this goal.

I have learned to mine the knowledge and experiences of others to innovate strategies for tutoring/mentoring, rather than trying to develop my own solutions to problems. Using T/MC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I am trying to share what I know, and the process of learning and service that I apply in my own daily routine, so that there are more people in more places accepting this role and responsibility.

So how do we make this vision a reality? We create a "learning organization", which is also the ideal of many of the best businesses in the world. We also create a "service culture" modeled after the work of heroes like Cesar Chavez, whose core values included sacrifice and perseverance, commitment to the most disadvantaged as well as life-long learning and innovation.

In a learning organization, everyone is engaged. In the world of Cesar Chavez, everyone is willing to make huge commitments, and sacrifices of time, talent and treasure to help disadvantaged people move to greater health, and greater hope and opportunity.

For more than 40 years my goal has been to find ways to draw a growing number of our stakeholders into this learning process and to build an on-going commitment to service (as opposed to random acts of kindness). This process is intended to include students, volunteers, staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where our kids live.

It also aims to engage leaders and volunteers from other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other cities, plus people and organizations in the communities that don't have high poverty, but benefit from a world envisioned by Dr. M. L. King, Jr. as well as a 21st Century America where there are enough skilled workers to meet the future workforce needs of American industry.

The Internet is our meeting place. Covid-19 has made this an even greater reality than in past years.  

It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and Tutor/Mentor Connection web sites I collect and host information that shows why kids in poverty need extra help, where such help is needed, who is providing help, and what volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can do to connect adults, kids and learning in an on-going, constantly improving process of mentoring kids to careers.

If we can find ways to increase the percent of our kids, our volunteers, and our leaders and donors who are drawing from this information on a weekly basis, and reflecting on this information in small and large groups, the way people in churches reflect on passages from the Bible each week, we can grow the amount of understanding we all have about the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We can innovate new and better ways to succeed in our efforts.

This process has already started. We need to nurture and grow it in 2021.

Can you help?

Read past articles and visit the various web sites at the left side of this blog and start your own learning. Share these ideas with others via social media, ZOOM calls, videos and create  your own interpretation. Apply the ideas to your own city. 

I encourage you to read the Power Point Essay titled, Theory of Change which is one of several illustrated essays I've produced to illustrate our goals and the community that we seek to engage.

Since mid 2011 I've not operated under the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) non profit umbrella, due to strategic changes made in April-June 2011. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in order to continue to support the growth of the T/MC in Chicago and similar organizations in other cities.  Thank you to those who have made contributions to help me continue this work over the past 10 years. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Social Bonding - Lost Due to Covid19

This photo shows myself and a few volunteers from the tutor/mentor program I led from 1975-1992 as we gathered at a local Chicago tavern following one of our field trips to Indiana Dunes.

I thought of this photo today, and many like it from my archives, and was reminded of how we used social gatherings and field trips to help build social bonds between our volunteers, myself and other program leaders.  It was this bonding that led many volunteers to stay longer with the program and led a few to become leaders who helped operate the program, which from 1975 to 1992 grew from 100 pairs of 2nd to 6th grade Cabrini-Green area youth and volunteers to more than 400 pairs.  Up until 1990 most of the leadership, including myself, were volunteers.

Below is another photo from those years, showing myself and a group of youth and volunteers at a bowling field trip.

We used field trips to encourage high attendance among students and to help build bonds between youth and volunteers, and among volunteers.  We held events on-site such as the annual holiday party and year end celebration, and a break-dancing contest, to further support this social bonding.  This  helped us keep kids coming back year-after-year until they graduated after 6th grade and helped keep many volunteers for five years and longer.  

We started Cabrini Connections in 1993 to provide continued support from 7th grade through high school for the kids who aged out of the original program.  


We met in a huge space at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago until 1999 then moved to much smaller space at St. Josephs Church for two years, then to the space shown above from 2002 till sometime after 2011 (I left the program in mid 2011).   While this space looks crowded it encouraged interaction among kids and volunteers. Youth met many mentors, not just the primary volunteer who was their 1-on-1 mentor.

I've used this graphic since 1990 to visualize the type of programs I led. With the youth as the focus we tried to surround them with volunteers and experiences representing a wide range of  opportunities. As kids grew older many volunteers helped them find part time jobs and fill out applications for colleges.

At the same time we tried to motivate volunteers to stay with us for multiple years so that many would begin to become advocates encouraging others to get involved.


So how well is this happening during Covid-19? Since last March few site-based tutor/mentor programs have had youth and volunteers meeting weekly at their sites and I don't imagine many have had after-hours social bonding events, or have been able to  hold many field trips, if any.  

While many are using on-line meeting spaces like ZOOM, where kids or volunteers are at one table looking at a screen, everyone else is at a table some place else.  It is far too early to know how well this does, or does not, help build social capital, and how well it will support multi-year retention of youth and volunteers.

If the pandemic restrictions stretch into 2022 what will the negative (or positive) impacts be?  Will the social ties be weakened in a few programs, many programs, or all?  

I've posted articles about social capital often in the past.  As you celebrate #Mentoring Month or #MLKDay2021 I encourage you to spend some time at your computer reading some of these, then continue each month through the coming year.


I host a list of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs on Twitter and Facebook and on my website. I've been trying for many years to engage leaders and volunteers in discussions around issues like this, but too few are on-line in these spaces.  You can see remote learning goals that I first developed in the early 2000s at this site

If you are also thinking about social capital and the impact of Covid-19 on site based programs please share links to your articles and connect with me in one of these social media spaces

Thanks for reading. Good luck to you as you move through 2021.

If you value these articles consider a contribution to help fund my work. If you're in a university or some other institution consider adopting the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC.


Friday, January 08, 2021

HOPE as Cure

Like many of you I was greatly disturbed by the images I saw on January 6, 2021 as a terrorist mob invaded the United States Capitol, encouraged by the 45th President of the United States.

I've followed the responses on Twitter and Facebook and often added my own Tweets and reTweets to the noise. 

One Tweet from yesterday stood out and prompted me to write today's article. 

The result of having food, security, health, prosperity and knowledge is greater HOPE and Opportunity.  

A 'cost of poverty' report that I read in the 1990s shows that people living in areas of  high poverty who were without HOPE costs thousands of dollars more for public services than did those living in areas of poverty where HOPE and opportunity for advancement were present.  

I believe that kids who have support systems beyond the family and neighborhood provided by organized non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs feel more positive about themselves and have greater HOPE for their future and are less likely to become involved with negative behaviors.

I think the same would be true if people throughout the country who are marching in street protests against racism and police brutality, or who are occupying the halls of Congress and state capitols about the country, had greater HOPE for their own futures. 

If you've read any of the thousand-plus articles I've posted on this blog you will see that I use the word "hope" often, such as "I hope you'll read this and share it with others."

In my role as leader of the tutoring programs at Montgomery Ward, starting in 1975, and of the Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1993, I've been inviting others to join with me to create brighter futures for kids living in poverty.  

I created the image below to show a message I've repeated often since the 1970s.

I've seen the growing violence in America's cities and Chicago's neighborhoods since the 1970s and I've compared it to a snowball rolling down a mountain. I think this also applies to the growing support for the types of groups who organized the invasion of the halls of Congress this week. 

At the top of a mountain the snowball is small, and would be easy to stop. However, as it rolls further downhill, it gains momentum and is almost impossible to stop. When it reaches the valleys and homes at the bottom of the mountain, it destroys everything in its paths, including the homes of the wealthy, along with the poor.

I've feared for many years that the expanding sense of hopelessness growing among youth living in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities would turn into violence toward others in the wider community, just as it already is destroying lives within poverty communities. I've seen terrorism grow around the world, and seen small sparks here in the US, such as the Oklahoma City bombing, and now the invasion of the Capitol. I've feared that we would reach a point where the work of volunteer tutors and mentors in non-school tutor/mentor programs would become too little, too late.

Thus, I've often told volunteers that we have two choices. You get in front of the snowball now, and try to stop it, and if no one else joins you, you'll probably be crushed by the on-coming avalanche.  Or you can wait until the snowball reaches the bottom of the mountain and you are certain to be destroyed, along with every thing you care for.

The first choice offers the opportunity, no matter how small it appears, that others will join you, and the snowball can be slowed, or even stopped. 

The second choice offers no hope.  Unless others do this work for you.

In 2017 my Facebook feed shared this video of His Holiness Pope Francis giving a TED talk. I watched it. I encourage you to look at it, too.


At one point in the video he talks about the responsibility for each of us to take on the role of the Good Samaritan, to help others who are in need.

At another he talks about HOPE, as "a humble, hidden seed of life that within time will develop into a large tree".   And he says, "A single individual is enough for HOPE to exist, and that individual can be YOU."

As the Pope said in this TED talk, "Each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness."

And he said "How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries."

That's been my goal with many of my articles, such as this where I include a concept map similar to the one below, that focuses on the planning required to make HOPE and OPPORTUNITY available in every zip code of America and around the world. 



The conditions that made people angry and desperate enough to fly to Washington, DC then attack and occupy the Senate and House chambers did not suddenly appear. They have been growing for many years, fueled by people with a sinister agenda.  The street protests following the George Floyd murder last year were also the result of long-term, unaddressed, grievances, also often fueled by greed, racisms and lusts for power. 


The web library I host is intended to provide information people can use to understand some of these problems, and to see how many are trying to solve them in different places.  If more people look at this information as often as some people watch TV sports, or read the BIBLE, then more people will be able to borrow ideas from some places and apply them in many other places, in an on-going cycle of constant improvement aimed at making HOPE and OPPORTUNITY available in every part of the US and the world.

This is the work required to "overcome darkness". 

I HOPE the Pope's message touches your heart and inspires you to reach out to offer your time, talent, dollars, leadership, advocacy and ideas in one, or more, of the many areas where you might make a difference.

If that's not enough, maybe what you watch on your TV news or read in social media will motivate you to help this bad news snowball from growing bigger and bigger until it destroys our country and our civilization. 

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Mentoring Month Message to Volunteers


As we start a new year, and a new decade, and the National Mentoring Month, we also welcome a new President.

For the past year Democratic Presidential candidates have bombarded us with stories of hope, and change. It would give me more hope for the future, if I could see change in the way elected leaders (and candidates) act as leaders.

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 ( I joined the leadership committee of the Montgomery Ward Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program in Sept. 1994.) 

I formed the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in 1993 to help teens from the original 2nd to 6th grade program at the Montgomery Ward HQ in Chicago get the extra support they need from 7th grade through high school, in order to be prepared for college, vocational education, and the next steps to a job and a career.

When kids and volunteers joining us each year we're making one promise: 

We will do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25. We are only limited by how much our students, volunteers, alumni and supporters are willing to share this responsibility.


Below is a message I shared with our volunteers to start 2008
. This message can be just as relevant in January 2020 to volunteers in any tutor/mentor program, or to newly elected leaders to city, state and national offices. 

 --------------------------- 

I hope that all of our volunteers have had great holidays and that you are looking forward to continuing your role as a tutor/mentor volunteer at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

As you prepare for the second half of the school year, I encourage you to read some of the articles posted at Cabrini Connections - Tutor/Mentor Program in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago (archive.org)

I've been a leader of a tutor/mentor program since 1974, and I've learned that every volunteer and student are different, and constantly changing. Thus, while I can provide a structure for your participation, I can't teach you everything you need to know, or everything I've learned. I can try to help you, and your student, form a learning strategy, where you know where to find information, and find help, so that as you meet weekly, you know where to go for ideas to stimulate and support your involvement. 

Last Christmas, Rebecca Parrish (a Cabrini Connections volunteer) gave me the book "The Starfish and the Spider" as a present. As I read it, I realized that this book was describing Cabrini Connections and the role of every volunteer, staff member, and leader. It also describes the role of alumni, and veteran volunteers. 

We are a decentralized organization in which each volunteer is the CEO of his/her own tutoring/mentoring business. We succeed in life by our own efforts and by what we can learn from others. Our networks are important. They expand opportunities, open doors and provide resources. 

As you go through the tutoring year, each volunteer is learning to individualize his/her weekly activities based on the needs of your student, your own abilities and time, and the level of experience you have gained. Veteran volunteers, alumni, staff and coordinators are able to support you with ideas, information, and structure, but it is your own learning and networking with other volunteers that gives you ideas for what you do. 

Each week I'm trying to coach you with this email, with my blogs, and with the information and networks available to you on the Tutor/Mentor Connection (which we started in 1993 at the same time as we launched the Cabrini Connections program) website at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org 

You all already know how difficult it is to motivate many kids to do home work, do extra learning, and take charge of their lives. Imagine how difficult it is for me and the leaders of Cabrini Connections to recruit busy people like our volunteers, and convince them to spend time beyond their weekly tutoring/mentoring, learning how they can become more effective tutors/mentors, or giving help to others who are seeking help. 

Yet, this is the only way we can succeed in keeping the promise we make to our kids. Read more at http://cabriniblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/good-to-great-in-decentralized.html

I thank you all for your involvement in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. On behalf of our volunteer board of directors, I welcome you back for our 16th year of tutoring/mentoring since January 1993.

Dan Bassill
President/CEO
Cabrini Connections 
Tutor/Mentor Connection 

 --------------------------------- 

In what ways will our newly elected leaders support the involvement of volunteers, donors, businesses and universities in programs like Cabrini Connections? Will they use maps to build a distribution of resources into every neighborhood where tutor/mentor programs are needed? Will they use their blogs, web sites, public speaking to connect volunteers with non profits in their district, using links to a Program Locator, so volunteers and donors can search for where to get involved? 

Or will the volunteer and donate button on their web site only point to themselves, in an effort to get elected, or stay elected? 

True leadership lifts up everyone. Real Generals understand the need to distribute troops in all places where the enemy is concentrated, and they understand the need to have an infrastructure that supports those troops with food, clothing, pay, training, weapons, etc. so they are better equipped than the enemy.

Which of our leaders are going to be demonstrating this type of leadership when they take office or ask for our votes again in a few years?

Since I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 Chicago has had three different Mayors and the USA has had four different Presidents and will have a 5th in late January 2020.

I've been sharing ideas like these in printed newsletters, websites, blogs, email newsletters and social media for 25 years yet I still find few leaders using maps to show all the places where kids and families need  help, and where they are distributing needed resources.  I find few using concept maps as blueprints to visualize all the supports needed to help a youth in a high poverty area move from first grade to their first job, with a commitment to "do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25."

I thank you for reading this far and sincerely thank those few who have made contributions in 2020 to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  

Please go a step further and share my blog articles with your own networks so more people see these ideas and adopt them as their own.  Below is an example of one of my own recent Tweets.
The strategy map that I point to in this tweet can be found on this page, along with all my other concept maps.  Open it. Read it aloud. If it makes sense to you, create your own version. Record it. Share it. Maybe in 2021 we'll finally find leaders who will make this commitment. 

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam and you can find me on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram  (see links on  this page). I look forward to connecting with others who share this commitment. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Building and Sustaining Youth Support Networks

It's been a difficult 2020 in many ways for people all over the world. Let's hope 2021 will be better.  One thing Covid19 has highlighted is the different levels of opportunity available in America to poor people and people of color. That was forcefully brought home with the George Floyd murder and the protests that spread around the world this past summer.

While there are many things that might be done to reduce these inequalities and reform the justice system I've been focusing on building mentor-rich systems of support for inner city kids since 1993 and will do so again in 2021.   

The graphic shown below visualizes this goal, using the map of Chicago to emphasize all the places where youth serving organizations are needed, and where they need to provide many types of support for many years.  I'll explain this more in the following paragraphs.


Since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 my goal has been to help volunteer-based, mentor-rich, non-school tutoring and learning centers be available in a growing number of high poverty neighborhoods. Rather than start new programs, the strategy has been to identify existing organizations who already do some form of tutoring and/or mentoring and help them get a consistent flow of ideas, talent, operating dollars and other resources needed to build constantly improving programs.

When you look at the "oil well" images on the map I want you to think of the 12 years it takes for a youth to go from first grade to 12th grade, and the four to eight years after that to go through secondary education and find a job and/or be starting a career.

Since no program starts out as "the best" the flow of resources needs to help programs launch, then grow, then build and sustain multiple year connections with youth.

It takes a lot of different talents and skills to make this happen. I use the "it takes a village" graphic to visualize this.  In addition, I've created some concept maps that show the range of talent and community networks who need to be involved in supporting each program operating in each neighborhood.

Here's one of the maps in my library, showing supports kids need as they move through school.

Mentoring Kids to Careers - map

At each age level, from elementary school, through middle school, then high school, and post high school, all youth need a variety of supports. Kids in poverty areas have fewer of these naturally occurring through family and community, thus organized programs are needed to make as many of these available as possible.

IMPORTANT: It's through these organized programs, operating in various places, during non-school hours (often after 5pm as volunteers are leaving work), that people who don't live in poverty are able to become personally involved. If these are well-supported and stay involved for multiple years, many can be people who help solve some of the other complex problems kids and families face.

The concept map below visualizes a process that should be taking place in hundreds of locations, in the Chicago region, and in other cities, to help programs grow in places where they are most needed, and to help them become great at what they do to transform the lives of kids, families, volunteers and anyone who is involved.

See map at http://tinyurl.com/TMI-PlanningCycle-cmap

When I started leading a tutor/mentor program in 1975 I had a full time advertising job with the Montgomery Ward Corporate HQ in Chicago. Our employee led tutoring program had no paid staff, and we already had 100 pairs of elementary school kids and volunteers involved. That number grew to 300 pairs by 1990 (with about 30 hours per week of part time college student staff, beginning in 1980).  

I recognized that I could never touch and train every volunteer to know all they needed to know about why we were offering the program and what they could do to be effective tutors/mentors and program participants.  Thus I began to collect information that they could read and draw from to support their own efforts.

I started to create a "learning organization" well before this term was coined in business schools and trade magazines. This is one of many articles I've written to explain that idea.

In all my communications I was asking my volunteers to look for ways to help the kids we work with move through school. I was offering a library of articles (which was put on the internet starting in 1998) that they could read, share, discuss and learn from.  I focused on a process of improvement, or  how do we get from "here to there'.  I organized social events, such as getting together for food and drinks after a tutoring session, or field trip, so that volunteers could form bonds with other volunteers and we could build an informal, on-going, discussion of what we were doing, and how they could help.

In 1990 we converted the company sponsored program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters into a non profit organization. From that point till today, my goal has been to bring donors, policy makers, media and other leaders into this same learning process.

Do a Google search for "tutor mentor" then look at the images. You'll find many graphics like this.


Chicago SunTimes, Oct. 1992
In November 1992 six volunteers and myself left the original program and decided to form a new program to serve 7th to 12th grade teens who had aged out of the original program.  At the same time a 7-year old boy from Cabrini-Green had been shot and killed on his way to school.

The media were once again putting the "it's everyone's responsibility" message on the front page and in editorial stories, as they did on the front page of the October 15, 1992 ChicagoSunTimes

However, there was no master database of Chicago tutor/mentor programs so no leader could offer a strategy to fill neighborhoods with great programs that could provide greater hope and opportunity and combat the violence.

So we decided to also create the Tutor/Mentor Connection to fill the void.


In the years since then we have created a huge library of information, including a list of Chicago area tutoring and/or mentoring programs,  that anyone can draw from to understand where kids need extra help, who is already trying to offer that help, and what volunteers, donors and businesses could do to help programs grow.

Between 1994 and 2015 I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences to bring people together to share ideas for starting or building effective programs. I also developed a public awareness strategy to try to draw more attention to the web library and the list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs that I had been developing.


However, I was only reaching a few of the people who needed to be reached, and the system was not effective in connecting people (the village) from different programs with others within a single program, or with volunteers, donors, leaders, parents and students from other programs in Chicago......or with similar people from other cities who were doing the same work.


In the early 2000s I connected with a group of ESL educators (Webheads) who were located in different countries, and who were meeting weekly via the Internet, to share ideas and build relationships.

Over the past few years I've connected with another network of educators via Connected Learning MOOC formats, where people from many different places are sharing ideas and building relationships with each other.

I point to these in various blog articles because they are examples of how people can connect and learn from each other in virtual communities.

Most of my ideas for leading a single tutor/mentor program, or for helping build a city of great programs, have come from others who I've met over the past 40 years.  One entire section of the Tutor/Mentor web library is focused on "innovation, process improvement, mapping, knowledge management, etc" which are ideas anyone can use to build strong non-profits, or build strong businesses.


Look at the graphic at the top of the page once more.

The lines on this graphic illustrate how programs within a city need to be connecting with each other using on-line libraries, communities, blogs, annotation, Twitter, Facebook and other learning tools to constantly innovate ways to increase their impact on the lives of  program participants.  The small map in the lower left corner illustrates that people in big cities all over the country need to be talking to each other in the same way.

When you look at web sites of youth serving organizations in the future, hopefully you'll see evidence that shows a program is bringing together a "village" of support for it's participants, and that the community surrounding each program is proactive in offering the time, talent and dollars each program needs to be great at what it does.

At some point in the future you should find maps of Chicago and other cities, with icons on the map showing places where "the village" or "networks of people" are working to help kids grow up, or help communities solve complex problems.  The Tutor/Mentor Program Locator interactive map can serve as a model for others to develop such maps.

However, we must find a way to draw flexible operating dollars more consistently to every program in every neighborhood. The competition for public and private sector grant funding leads to a few winners every year and many losers. It does not lead to consistent funding needed to build and sustain great programs.

Throughout my blog and websites you'll see a use of GIS maps, which began in 1993 as we were trying to figure ways to share information about the various programs in Chicago.  

This is one of many maps you'll find on this blog and on this website and the MappingForJustice blog.  Using the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, created in 2008, we're able to zoom into a Chicago neighborhood, create a map view, and tell a story of "why" kids and families need more help, "what" help is already in that area, if any, in the form of organized volunteer based tutor and/or mentor programs; and "what assets" and leaders share the geography and could be doing much more to help change the conditions and improve the lives of people who live there.

This map is part of a larger article posted in 2019 to show the vision of using a map-platform to not only share information and draw attention to tutor/mentor programs in each part of the Chicago region, but to also raise money to fund these programs.  I hope you'll read it.

Since the economic meltdown of 2008-2011 I've not had the funds to update the program locator and we never had the funds to build into it all of the features we had on our drawing boards. These are still needed.  

Here's a post I put on Twitter a couple of weeks ago following news that MacKenzie Scott had given millions of dollars to universities and charities throughout the world during 2020.
Maybe in 2021 she or someone like her will take some time to read this and other articles on my blog and will reach out to ask "how can I help?"
 
2020 showed that there are many complex problems that  need to be solved to make the world a better, safer, healthier place for everyone.  Each one of these challenges needs people like MacKenzie Scott making consistent contributions to support long-term problem solving. 

 
However, I'm focused on helping youth via organized non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs. 

I'm now connected on Facebook to many former students from the tutor/mentor programs I led and based on the pictures and stories they post showing their own success and that of the children they have raised, I know that the work we did had a positive impact on a few lives.

I see success stories posted by other programs, showing their long-term impact.  

That's enough to keep me trying to help such programs reach more k-12 youth in more places. I take a step every day and know these add  up to mountains of impact over a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who made contributions to my 74th birthday campaign, and my Fund T/MI campaign, to help me continue doing this work.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tour the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website

 

2020 has brought tragedy and hardship to many and I hope 2021 will reverse that and bring HOPE and HEALTH to people throughout the world.

At the left is a screen shot showing the home page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC www.tutormentorexchange.net website. Between December 25 and today it was not opening. However, I've just checked, and it's working again!  Great.

From this site I point to all of my other websites, including my "Fund T/MI" page.   I invite you to visit and make a contribution to help me continue the work I've been doing for another year. 

The TMI website provides information that anyone can use to help build and sustain youth tutor/mentor programs, along with strategies for collective action and information-based problem solving.  On this site are links to all other T/MI websites  

The http://www.tutormentorconnection.org site hosts my list of Chicago area non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs along with my web library.  If you scroll to the bottom of this blog site you find links to other pages.



My library of concept maps is hosted on this page of the TMI site. If you browse past articles on this blog, tagged Concept Maps, you can find links to individual cMaps in each article.  


You can find links to my blogs, such as the MappingforJustice blog, which shows uses of maps to help build a distribution of resources needed to support comprehensive programs in every high poverty area. You can also find links to the Tutor/Mentor Intern blog, which shows work interns did between 2006 and 2015 to help others understand the work being done by the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 

If you visit this article you can find links to sections of the Tutor/Mentor library and to all of my concept maps and pdf strategy presentations. 

If you scroll down the left side of this blog you'll also find links that take you directly to many of my websites.  



When I began leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago in 1975 we already had more than 100 pairs of volunteers and elementary school kids participating weekly. I held a full-time advertising job as my primary responsibility and the program had no paid staff.  Thus, I began to create a library of information and used weekly bulletins to encourage volunteers to "educate yourself".

I continued that strategy when forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993, aiming for volunteers, donors and leaders throughout Chicago to draw from information I was aggregating to help mentor-rich non-school programs grow in every high poverty neighborhood.  I've created PPT essays to communicate ideas and strategies since the mid 1990s and now you can find collections on Slideshare.com and Scribd.com 

I started the www.tutormentorexchange.net website in 1998. Browse the site and my other websites and blogs and you'll find extensive information intended to help you and others build a deeper understanding of the challenges of poverty and the benefits of youth tutor, mentor and learning programs along with strategies to help every program become great and stay great, while helping new programs start where more are needed.  Please use these throughout the year.

Thank you and may 2020 bring you good health, happiness, joy and prosperity.