Friday, September 02, 2011

Ten Years Ago -Just Prior to 9/11

10 years ago I was preparing to go to Illinois Wesleyan to receive an honorary PhD recognizing my work connecting youth and volunteers. This photo is from that ceremony. Minor Myers, jr., President of IWU in the 1990s was one of my strongest supporters. He wrote in one note, "You've done this so well it strikes me you could provide a service to other major cities. This is first class work."

At the same time, I’d just been appointed to the Illinois Commission on Volunteering and Community Service by Governor George Ryan. His wife was the honorary chairperson for the annual Chicago area August/September Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign that we had organized since 1995. This photo is from a press conference where Paul Vallas, CEO of Chicago Public Schools also showed his support.

In 1999 I had received the Good As Gold Award from Publisher’s Clearing House on a Dec. 31 national telecast of the Montel Williams TV Show. We had received other awards prior to this and we've received other awards and recognition since.

Even though the stock market had begun to plunge and we had lost our major sponsor, the Montgomery Ward Corporation, things looked good for Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

That was 10 years ago. Only a week later came the 9/11 attack on America and the beginning of a decade of struggles for us and millions of others around the world. Last December I wrote a series of blog articles and created this PDF report showing how we had continued to build connections between youth and volunteers and expand our network of tutor/mentor programs despite severe financial challenges.

Then in April the Board of Directors of Cabrini Connections voted to no longer support the combined strategy of a local program and a global strategy. Read announcement. I was given ownership of the ideas and assets of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and resigned my role as President and CEO in late July.

Since then I’ve formed Tutor/Mentor Institute LLC with the goal of continuing to support the work of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago while helping similar groups form in other cities. This concept map shows this strategy and points to some of the people I’m reaching out to as well as the talent I will need over the next 10 years to have the impact I wrote about in this article

The world has changed since ten years ago but the courage of some people who want to create a better world has only been strengthened. Through the Internet the networks of people who share ideas and learn from each other has grown dramatically, as have the tools for collective action.

This photo shows a montage of people who have been part of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections in the past. This video illustrates how networks can be mapped to show constellations of people and groups focusing on common goals.

With luck, faith, and an abundance of optimism I intend to recognize 9/11 the way I did when the original attack took place 10 years ago. I’ll be sitting at my computer trying to connect people and ideas that might prevent such terrorism in the first place while keeping my ear to the events taking place and praying for the survival of those who have been so terribly impacted by the man-made and natural disasters of the past 10 years.

I own much to my own family for my ability to do this work. My daughter was born the year I first launched the tutoring program at Wards as a non profit. My son was born in 1997. They have grown up while I've been spending countless hours trying to help "other people's kids". My wife has carried much of the load on the family front. I hope they realize when they are older how what I do is intended to create a better future for them, not just of "other people's kids".

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