Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fixing Schools. Fixing Families. Long Term Goals

The Waiting for Superman movie is in Chicago theaters. I hope you're talking about it and that you've visited the web site to see how you can get involved. If you visit the Chicago page, you'll find the Tutor/Mentor Connection is listed as a resource.

Most of the other resources listed focus on fixing schools. We focus on making non-school volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs available in high poverty neighborhoods, so there are more people helping families and schools in high poverty neighborhoods.

We also point to an extensive reading library, with links to research, articles, blogs, and more that help learners understand the complext issues behind poverty and poorly performing schools.

In the Chicago Tribune today, an article titled "Stone Cold Silence" illustrates one part of this problem. Too many kids who grow up to commit or be victims of crime, are kids born out of wedlock, and raised by a single parent. The writer, Heather McDonald, says "The enemy" attacking Chicago's young people is not a nameless force but something quite specific: the disappearance of paternal responsibility.

She concludes with "At the margins, mentors and social workers can give fatherless boys a better chance of growing up to be law-abiding, stable adults, if those mentoring programs are infused with the kinds of masculine virtues promoted by the Boy Scouts."

Improving the learning opportunities and preparing more of our young people for 21st century jobs and careers, especially those living in high poverty area, is a hugely complex problem, just like changing the social habits that have led to so many fatherless children. As important as these problems are, solutions that reach even a fraction of communities are a long way off.

However, expanding the network of out-of-school adult support and learning opportunities for inner city kids can be achieve, for a growing minority of children, with the availability of programs like Cabrini Connections, Midtwown Education Foundation, Family Matters, WITS, and many others that we list in the Chicago Program Links on the T/MC Web site.

In each of these program kids are enrolled right now. People from business, faith groups, colleges, philanthropy, etc. can look at the way existing programs are organized, and create new programs in areas where none exist.

It only takes a commitment of a few dedicated people, and the commitment of a legion of donors and volunteers.

Let's look at Superman and work toward changing the world, but let's also look at the super men and women who lead the non profits offering tutoring/mentoring programs, and help them get the dollars and other resources each program needs to stay in the lives of the kids who already are part of these programs.

We can always look at the future and gain a crowd. It is harder to look at what we can do today, and what actions we can take, that can have a more immediate impact, and may contribute to the long term solutions.

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