Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Today the feature editorial in the Chicago Sun Times is Come out and rally for kids slain by guns. As this was being written, another youth was slain last night.
I'm all for marches, and the intent of this is to get the state legislature to enact gun control laws.
However, I'd like to see community leaders spend some time thinking through a strategy that would create more places in neighborhoods where kids could connect with a diverse range of adults and learning experiences, with a long term goal of helping kids to careers instead of jail, or graves.
I've attached a map to illustrate this thinking. The map was created a few years ago by the Tutor/Mentor Connection and shows the West side neighborhood surrounding St. Agnas church. The area North of the church has poverty levels of 20% or higher. There are 8 under-performing public schools in this area. However, there are no organizations doing any form of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring(that we know of) other than two shown on the East side of this neighborhood.
Thus, most of the kids in this neighborhood have few resources to help keep them focused on positive activities during non school hours. That's a contributing factor to poor schools, high drop out rates, high gang violence, and a high level of juvenile and adult incarceration.
This map only shows the Catholic churches in the area. Instead of marching in downtown Chicago, someone ought to be asking the Cardinal how these churches are supporting a tutor/mentor strategy. Are they hosting programs? Are they hosting neighborhood meetings? Are they partnering with Catholic churches in Oak Park or further West, to draw volunteers and donors to support existing or new tutor/mentor programs?
Until the neighborhood has more and better non-school learning supports, and builds connections between the youth in the neighborhood, and the adult and business resources beyond the poverty areas of the city, it's likely we'll continue to see youth making bad decisions, and youth high school drop out rates continuing at a high level.
Here are three pdf essays that illustrate this strategy, and uses of maps:
a) No General Goes to War without a Map
b) Role of LEADERS
c) Faith based leadership strategy
You can find more articles like this in the Tutor/Mentor Institute web site. You can also find links to existing Chicago programs and a searchable database of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs.
If the purpose of editorials and marches is to mobilize volunteers, and donors, and support the growth of comprehensive, long-term learning and mentoring programs in high poverty neighborhoods, we can begin to predict future change in the tragedies that are taking place in Chicago and other big cities.
Without a map-based strategy it's likely there will be too many marches, too much talk, and too little action.
If you'd like help thinking through this strategy and adopting it to your own faith network, business, or community, email the Tutor/Mentor Connection at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're interested in building tutor/mentor programs, or supporting them, come to the Tutor/Mentor Conference on May 29 and 30 in Chicago.