Saturday, April 22, 2006

Message from Volunteer

This is a guest message, written by Dan Truesdell, a volunteer with the Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Program in Chicago. This is a letter Dan submitted to the Chicago Tribune.
In response to the Chicago Tribune’s recent stories on the shortage of textbooks in Illinois public schools, I am writing to provide witness to this problem here in Chicago. I am a volunteer tutor at Cabrini Connections, a non-profit tutor/mentor program created to help middle and high school students in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood succeed in school and prepare for adult life ( Our program recruits volunteers from Chicago area businesses to be tutors/mentors. We meet with teens from 6 to 7:45pm each week, in hours when schools are usually closed. I've been involved for 2 years and some of our teens have been involved for 4 and 5 years.

Quite frequently (and sadly), I see many students who come to the program with tattered and outdated textbooks - - if textbooks are available at all. In the case where textbooks are not available to them, students come with loose worksheet material for homework, which lack the valuable reference information available in a textbook. This program maintains a small library to provide students with reference information in order to teach the concepts that are missing from the loose material they receive in school. It also has computer lab, which enables students to search the Internet to find the most current learning information, with the help of volunteers.

In most of the discussion of public school performance, there is little mention of what volunteers and business can do to support non-school tutoring/mentoring. Yet, there are organizations like ours in many parts of Chicago, helping to provide public school students with the tools needed to succeed. I think I've learned as much from the experience as have the students I've worked with. One of the things I've learned is how poorly supported students are in Chicago's public school system.

Textbooks are a key resource in learning, as are places like Cabrini Connections, where youth can connect with a network of volunteer tutors/mentors. While the wheels of politics may grind slowly to fix this problem in the public realm, private citizens can help by providing their time, talent or financial contributions to the many Chicago tutoring and mentoring programs that are addressing this problem now.

Dan Truesdell
Cabrini Connections

1 comment:

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Thanks Dan, for this message. In the past two weeks the high school drop out crisis has been given huge public attention by stories in TIME magazine, the Oprah Show with Bill Gates, and USA Today.

Connect for Kids has annotated links to key reports on the dropout crisis at

Few of the stories on school reform, drop out crisis, or preparing youth for 21st century careers, talk about the role of non school programs like Cabrini Connections, or of the ability of these programs to engage workplace volunteers, such as Dan Truesdell, as tutors, mentors and leaders.

Yet, unless the nation engages more people from the workplace in activities that directly connect them with inner city youth, most people won't really learn how severe the problem is, and won't become personally involved in efforts to change it.

Volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs operating in the non-school hours are one of the few forms of civic engagement that can create a bridge between the problems of inner city schools and the potential of adults from throughout a metropolitan region to be part of the solution.