Thursday, October 23, 2008

Supporting Growth of Tutor/Mentor Programs around Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago

For 15 years the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been building a network connecting volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in Chicago with each other, and with leaders in business, universities, media, faith groups, etc. who could help these programs grow throughout the city.

When we say grow, we use charts that focus on jobs and careers as the long-term purpose of our efforts, even if the youth we are working with are only in elementary school now. We point to information on the T/MC web site that shows what other people are doing in other places, which are ideas programs in Chicago could use, if they have the resources to implement these ideas.

One of the groups I've network with for many years is Technology For Humanity, who's mission is to "bring together resources from the public sector, private sector, faith-based and community-based organizations, to bridge the Digital Divide."

A few weeks ago this group convened a meeting at Mt. Sinai Hospital, to discuss ways to get computers into the homes of thousands of inner city kids. As a result of that meeting I was asked to create a map, showing the neighborhood around the hospital, and showing a strategy that would not only distribute computers, but would build a support system so that the result might be more kids in this neighborhood coming to school ready to learn, and leaving school after 12th grade, with a network of adults, and a range of skills, that would enable them to move through college, or vocational education, into 21st century jobs.

Such a support system would have structured, non-school volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs as places where kids could connect with donated technology, and with volunteers who would help kids use the computers for learning, career exploration, learning and more. If you look at this chart, imagine a tutor/mentor program as the hub of a wheel, and the spokes leading to the various kinds of learning and supports that might be offered to kids through that program. The volunteers at such a program serve as coaches, mentors, tutors, advisers, advocates and friends, helping kids connect with all of these resources, and helping the program get the dollars, technology and talent needed to facilitate this process.

I've worked with Mt. Sinai Hospital in the past, and encouraged them to adopt the role of a Hospital Tutor/Mentor Connection, to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in this area. Thus, I was pleased to be back in contact with this group.

The map we created is shown below. Mt. Sinai Hospital is near Douglas Park. The map covers an area that is about 3/4 mile to the West, 1 mile to the North, 1 mile to the East and 1/2 mile to the South. Part of this area is in North Lawndale and part is in Lower West Side. You can see from the color coding that the area has high levels of poverty in this area. It also has several poorly performing schools.

Six organizations are shown on this map, who have indicated in the past that they offer some form of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring.

1. Angels in Flight, a girls youth organization at 3315 W. Douglas. No web site.
2. St. Agatha Family Empowerment, 3143 W. Douglas.
3. Carole Robertson Center-2020 W. Roosevelt,
4. Carole Robertson Center-2929 W. 19th Street,
5. Union League Boys & Girls Club, 2157 W. 19th Street,
6. Gads Hill Center, 1919 W. Cullerton St.,

Here's how this map can be used.

We found these programs by searching the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator. We did a search by community area, looking for programs in North Lawndale and Lower West Side. In North Lawndale we found 16 organizations who offer various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring, or youth development. In the Lower West Side, we found 7 other groups. We did not find any listing for a program at Mt. Sinai because the program that had operated their several years ago was discontinued, and the new one just came back on our radar last week.

You can learn more about these six programs by going to their web sites, if they have one. When we meet with programs, we encourage them to look at how other programs showcase their work, using web sites and blogs. It's difficult for a donor, volunteer or parent to know you offer mentoring or tutoring if the information is hidden in a web site, or if you have no web site. Not every program has the resources to build a website, or even a blog. This is a role volunteers from the hospitals, colleges or businesses in the city could take. We can help set up a blog, like we did for the SON Foundation.
It's possible that some of these programs no longer offer any youth services, or that other programs exist in the area, but are not on our database. Thus, one of the first roles of a Hospital Tutor/Mentor Connection would be to help the T/MC update its data, so that the information provided represents the most comprehensive, and up-to-date data.

The first goal of the Tutor/Mentor Connection is to help programs already operating in an area get resources to constantly improve their impact. Thus, if you're reading this, you could contact one of these programs and offer your time, talent and/or dollars. If you're a communicator, or blogger, you could write about these programs every few months, to help them get a consistent flow of these resources.

We don't know how well these programs compare with the best in the city. From the information on the web sites, we don't know if there is an arts, technology or career focus to the work being done. We don't know how many kids are served, or how long the programs keep kids and volunteers involved. Thus, if you're a reporter, or a researcher, you could compare these programs to other programs and write about the differences. You could even work with these programs to help them benchmark what they do against other programs, so they have help to constantly improve.

However, we do believe there are too few programs in this area. There are several thousand K-12 kids in this area, and we don't see tutor/mentor programs near many of the poorly performing schools or in many of the areas around Mt. Sinai Hospital. More programs are needed, especially near the poorly performing schools. Who else could help?

Our map also shows a variety of faith groups in the area. These could be places to host additional programs. They could also be places that build connections between suburban faith communities and the programs in this area.

Our map shows the Eisenhower Expressway, on the North part of this area, and Ogden Avenue, as a diagonal route connecting downtown Chicago with the Southwest suburbs. The Stevenson Expressway is just to the South (You can drag the Google map up or down on the Program Locator to see other parts of the city.) This is important, because these highway routes bring potential volunteers and donors through this neighborhood every day.

A tutor/mentor marketing and communications strategy should be aimed at reaching a growing number of these people so they become leaders, volunteers and donors to support the programs growing in the area. If faith groups at the West end of the Eisenhower encourage members to be volunteers, donors, partners with inner city programs, they could point people to this neighborhood, and the local churches could facilitate this connection.

The map shows that St. Anthony Hospital and Schwab Rehab Hospital area also in the area, along with Stroger Hospital and the Jesse Brown VA Hospital. The University of Illinois Hospital and Rush St.Lukes is just to the East. In addition, Ryerson, Inc. a Fortune 500/1000 company is close to Mt. Sinai.

You can determine what additional, smaller businesses might be in the area by using the Google Map on the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator. When you do a search the programs in the area will be plotted on a Google Map. You can click the icons on the map and learn the name, address and web site (if any) of each organization. You can also go deeper to find contact information for other businesses, restaurants, churches and organizations in the area.

Thus, there are many places where programs could operate, and many organizations who could be helping those programs get volunteers and dollars to sustain these programs as they grow from good to great. There are even places that could offer job shadowing and vocational training as kids go through high school, and college.

What's needed is leadership to mobilize resources to support the existing programs, then to help fill the area with additional programs where there are voids. The essay titled role of leaders shows a role that the major hospitals, or Ryerson could take, since they are the largest employers in the area. Since Mt. Sinai operates its own tutor/mentor program, it would be ideal for this leadership could come from the presidents of the hospital.

Even the Congressman representing the 7th District could take this role, since this area is part of that district.

I think the hospital leaders should take this role. These public health articles, and the information in this Tennessee Health Authority Web site show that hospitals have a self interest to help youth in their neighborhoods stay in school, and prepare for careers in health professions. One article profiles a mentoring program led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center which could be a model for programs operating around hospitals in this part of Chicago.

Ryerson, Inc. could also provide leadership to a neighborhood strategy, encouraging employees and customers to be volunteers, and setting up workplace fund raising campaigns to help raise money for the tutor/mentor programs in the area. They are one of the few Fortune 500/1000 companies still in Chicago neighborhoods.

There are lots of ways to innovate support strategies for tutor/mentor programs in this area. The computers that are being offered could be used to help people find and read this blog, and use the information on the T/MC web site, to connect with each other, and collaborate on program development strategies that help kids and volunteers stay connected, help the computers be updated on a regular basis, and help kids learn to use technology to manage knowledge and solve problems.

If the leaders in this area appoint "take charge" people, and use their facilities as meeting places, and advertising as mobilization resources, they can draw attention to tutor/mentor programs on a regular basis, using the T/MC schedule of events shown below. If the faith groups in this area join in, using their own communications to mobilize volunteers and resources for the tutor/mentor programs, they can encourage faith groups in the suburbs to do the same, mobilizing volunteers who travel Ogden Avenue, or the Eisenhower, to be supporters of tutor/mentor programs in the neighborhoods they drive through every day.

If enough private sector leaders take this role, the media, and the politicians, will follow.

I can't make this happen. Only the people in the neighborhood can do that. However, I can update this map every year to show if more tutor/mentor programs are in the area. I can also put flags on business, hospital and church sites, indicating which are providing leadership support for this effort.

Hopefully these maps will show that leaders have embraced these ideas and the kids in this area are getting more and more help to support their journey from first grade to jobs and careers.

When this article was written, the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) was part of a non profit organization. In 2011 the T/MC became part of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. If you'd like to help develop and update this mapping analysis system, email '' to discuss sponsor, investor and/or partner opportunities.

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