Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Helping Low Income Youth Through College - What does it take?

I attended a college access meeting yesterday and the Executive Director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission was asked what it really takes to assure that more low income and minority youth are finishing college.

He said "A well informed adult that cares about them."

The goal of volunteer-based programs like Cabrini Connections is to connect youth with adults, and support growing relationships in which strong caring bonds form. While we have operated our tutor/mentor program for 16 years, the lack of predictable, consistent funding makes it difficult to keep well-trained leaders, and makes the job of "creating a well-informed volunteer based" extremely difficult.

Yet, we have nine seniors graduating from high school in June and seven are already accepted to college. We've had more than 500 students participate in Cabrini Connections for one to 7 consecutive years since 1993, and now on Facebook we're connecting with many of them, which extends our relationships even beyond seven years.

More than 700 volunteers have been part of Cabrini Connections since 1993. Many of our leaders and donors have been connected to us for 15 or more years. Many of the students who joined us before 2000, or with the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring program, which started in 1965, are now adults who are raising their own children.

However, Chicago has close to 200,000 school aged youth living in high poverty neighborhoods, so we need leaders who are thinking in larger terms than one program. We need leaders thinking of ways to have programs like Cabrini Connections operating in every poverty neighborhood. We've created a program locator and database of more than 160 Chicago tutor/mentor programs, which we hope leaders, volunteers and donors will use as a starting place.

In order to have a full range of tutor/mentor programs in every neighborhood, we first need to help these existing programs get consistent funding, and other needed resources. Then, we need to help new programs form in areas where none exist. No program needs to start from a narrow base of ideas. Every program needs to start, and grow, by constantly learning, and borrowing, from the ideas of existing programs.

That's the goal of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. The conference we host every six months is an opportunity for many of these learners to connect face to face.

So what would leaders need to know, and what do volunteers and "informed adults" need to know? - We've created a web library at -

Instead of thinking you can learn this all in one day, we want to encourage people to form study groups, in high school, college, business and faith groups, so people learn this over a period of years. Below is a list of sections of this library.

Link to research section of tm library -

• Drop out crisis

• NCLB, Education

• Research links, mentoring, tutoring, prevention

• Youth Mentoring in UK – article on T/MC site

• Understanding Issues (discussion forum)

• Links to social capital articles

• T/MC discussion – promise zones -

• T/MC library poverty articles-

• T/MC library poverty mapping, uses of GIS:

• Capacity building ideas (discussion forum)

• Funding & philanthropy links -

• Challenges facing non profits -

• Various types of tutor/mentor programs in other cities -

• Corporate civic engagement -

• Volunteering, web hubs, search engines -

• T/MC blog links (what other people are writing) -

• T/MC, CC, blogs, awards, articles, etc.

• Process improvement section in T/MC library -

• Collaboration Links and Ideas -

• Cool Tools

• Health, Hospital Links -

• Tutor Training links

• Mentor Training links

• Homework help map

• T/MC library – math science -

• T/MC library – college and career links

• Parenting info, links –

• Black History Month -

• Llinks to faith based orgs -

Tutor/Mentor Institute articles

• Faith Leaders -

• Role of Leaders -

• Network of purpose articles -

• Volunteer growth animation -

• More like these. Library of Articles on Tutor/Mentor Institute -

• Interns as bloggers -

• T/MC Ning page for Social Network Analysis -

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