Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking back at last 10 years - Cabrini Connections

Our mission at Cabrini Connections is to connect youth and volunteers in a structured set of activities where the volunteers serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, friends and make a life changing difference. Our roots go back to 1965 when employees from the Montgomery Ward Corporation in Chicago began to tutor elementary school kids in the Cabrini-Green area. View this chart to see growth from 1965 to 1992. View this chart to see growth since the formation of CC, T/MC in late 1992.

The two teens in this photo are 1999 graduates of Cabrini Connections. Both now have Master's Degrees and one is pursuing here MBA. Over the next two weeks I'm going to write a few articles showing what Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection have accomplished and the challenges we have faced in the effort.

Below is a chart that shows the number of teens on our active roster each spring since 2000. In 1999 we left 20,000 sq ft of donated space at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headuarters in Chicago and began to rent about 2500 sq ft of space in Cabrini Green for the operations of Cabrini Connections. Thus, the number of students who could participate was reduced to a maximum of 80. Through the decade we've started each year with 75-80 students and kept most of them till the end of the school year.

This chart shows that 40-70% of the students in each year's class had participated for three up till six years. That means that not all kids who joined in 7th or 8th grade continued through high school. Some moved. Some went to scholarship programs like Highsight, with our help. Some decided this was not right for them.

Teens vote with their feet.
However, research shows that "Although the benefits of afterschool programs for older youth are abundant, and awareness of the need for afterschool is growing, many programs still struggle to recruit and retain older students." Thus, for Cabrini Connections to recruit these 7th to 12th grade students and keep so many participating for 3-6 years, the program must be offering perceived value to the youth who participate.

This next chart shows the number of seniors who finished high school each year. Many of these students have already finished college.

A study by Mark Cohen and Alex Piquiero from Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management said, “We estimate the present value of saving a 14-year-old high risk juvenile from a life of crime to range from $2.6 to $5.3 million. Similarly, saving a high risk youth at birth would save society between $2.6 and $4.4 million.”

That means that based on the number of students who have participated in Cabrini Connections, and just those who we know have graduated from high school, we've potentially saved society $120 to $300 million dollars.

However, look at this chart that shows the money we've spent each year to provide Cabrini Connections. The amount we spend is based on how much we can raise. There were seven volunteers when Cabrini Connections started in 1993. They had no money to fund the organization. Every year we've had to raise the money to fund the operations of that year. While we had support from the Montgomery Ward corporation, and free space, until 1999, we lost that support when the company went out of business in 2000. Then the bubble burst, 9/11 happened, and then came tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and a 10 year war. While we had $200,000 for operations in 2000 and 2001, we've spent between $150,000 and $175,000 each year since then....and almost 25% of this was for rent, insurance and utilities.

This final chart shows total expenses (including fund raising and administrative costs, which are under 20% of total expense each year). The chart shows that we spent more than we raised in 2003, so we cut costs dramatically for the next five years. We received several gifts of $30,000 to $60,000 in 2007 and 2008 that enabled us to invest more in our programs, but we've in the past two years we've spent more than we've raised.

That means unless we can find donors who value the long-term impact of a program like Cabrini Connections, and who will provide significant donations, we will cut back on staff, and services, and not be able to help these kids realize their great potential.

Please send your donations to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, Chicago, Il. 60642. See our donation page at

Next I'll show the story of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and how the last decade has presented numerous challenges to our efforts.

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