Monday, April 13, 2009

Building Long-Term Networks of Support

We all know how we're reconnecting with long-lost friends on Facebook and Linked in. I'd like to show how this is helping a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program support long-term mentoring and networking connections between its volunteers, leaders and students

The woman in this picture is Claudia Crilly Bellucci. She was one of the first two people hired at Cabrini Connections in 1993. She had been a volunteer in the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program for nearly 10 year prior to that.

Among the kids in this picture, the girl on the far left is Tameeka Meekins. She joined us when she was entering 6th grade, after having been part of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring program prior to that. Also in this picture is Tangela Smith (white sweatshirt near picture on wall). Tangela was one of our first high school graduates in 1997. Tangela just had a baby.

In the photo to the right, the lady in the middle is Gena Schoen. Gena was also hired in the summer of 1993. She had been part of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program from about 1988. When she was hired to work part time for Cabrini Connections she was working with the Montgomery Ward Corporate Foundation, which had agreed to provide a muti-year grant to help Cabrini Connections get off the ground.

Gena remained with Cabrini Connections through 2001, and was the primary leader and developer of the tutor/mentor program from 1993 to 2000, along with myself. She moved to Washington, DC in 2001 to take a job there. In this picture are Lovae Smith, who graduated from high school in 1999 and Eric Moore, who also graduated in 1999. I saw Eric at a funeral in December 2008.

Gena and Claudia and I have stayed in contact through email, just as I've stayed in contact with hundreds of other former volunteers from the past 30 years. As of this weekend, we're now connected to each other and to a growing number of former students through Facebook.

What this means is that the money donors invested 10 to 15 years ago to help us build these connections, is still paying dividends today, as this family of students and volunteers is reconnecting with each other in social networks spaces.

This picture shows Gena, an other volunteers and alumni at our 2003 year end Dinner. You can find some of these on Facebook, too. We'll be doing our next dinner on June 4, 2008. I hope that if any of you are connected to volunteers or students who have been part of Cabrini Connections, or the tutoring program hosted from 1965 to 1990 by Montgomery Ward, will join our Facebook group, and will support the dinner.

I just received an email from Bradore Thompson, class of 2001, who is looking for help finding a job. I encouraged him to set up a profile on Facebook to re-connect with this network, and to tell of his work experience and the type of job he was looking for, so the rest of the network can offer him their help.

When donors ask me for metrics to evaluate the impact of Cabrini Connections, I point to the attendance records, and to metrics charts, which show how we have motivated kids and volunteers to come together at Cabrini Connections, and how many met each week for 3 to seven years. However, that is not satisfying some donors. They want to see reading and math scores.

Those scores don't show what these connections on Facebook are showing. They don't show how kids living in poverty and volunteers with different work experiences, were introduced to each other by Cabrini Connections, and now are still connected to each other through the networking we're doing to connect with them on the Internet.

Most kids don't have a network like this. The kids who have been part of Cabrini Connections do.

Can you make a donation to support this?

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