The chart at the left illustrates four issues that each have an impact on the nation’s ability to reach youth living in high poverty neighborhoods and help more of these kids grow from first grade into jobs and careers.
For instance, we may all want to reduce drop out rates, or increase the number of minority men and women entering careers in law, medicine, engineering and the sciences. But do we have a DISTRIBUTION of programs reach kids in poverty neighborhoods? Do we start these programs when kids are just entering school? Do we keep them going, with age-appropriate learning supports and career focused mentoring? Do we build student aspirations? Do we connect kids with men and women who can mentor the excitement and opportunities of these careers on an on-going basis, then open doors to scholarships and jobs?
We all want better educated kids, but the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program focuses primarily on test scores, not the additional learning and enrichment and social/emotional support that many kids living in high poverty neighborhoods need. Following the lead of NCLB, donors are looking for test score evidence from youth mentoring and youth development programs. Furthermore, many of the advocates for a system of learning supports are still only focusing on the school as the place kids connect with mentors and extra learning.
Why not use the non-school hours are another channel of learning and enrichment. In big cities like Chicago, this is perhaps the most likely time when a busy business volunteer will make a long-term mentoring connection with a youth living in a poverty neighborhood.
Finally, we can’t have good programs in all the places we need them with the current level of FUNDING and the current focus on project funding vs. program and operations funding. The Chicago Community Trust and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago produced a report for the Chicago region that highlights the struggles of health and human service agencies. These are the same struggles of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs that operate in the nonschool hours. You can find other articles on the funding challenges facing non profits in the T/MC library.
Every time you visit a Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, or look at one of our maps or graphic illustrations, we want you to be thinking of the many different ingredients that go into the recipe for helping kids in poverty grow more successfully from first grade to first job and a career.
This is a conversation that needs to be taking place in thousands of circles. In businesses, universities, hospitals, k-12 schools, and in churches and political organizations. In truth, we know these are taking place. However, the T/MC goal is to connect these conversations, just like we combine butter and sugar with other ingredients to make cookies.
We can make some of these connections at face to face conferences. However, the only way to keep these connections growing, and to keep learning from all of the research that is being generated each year, is to build our connections and learning on the Internet. This way we can learn and collaborate with people in other cities and countries, not just our own neighborhood.
Who’s in your kitchen? How are you connecting different stakeholders in your own community? Can you connect your network to the T/MC, via the May and November conference, or the T/MC web site?
In this Blog I’ve linked to sections of the http://www.tutormentorconnection.org/ web site with articles on each of the key issues that we need to understand, discuss and innovate new ways of doing the business of helping kids grow up and become part of the 21st century economy.