Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mentoring Summit - Reflections; Call to Action

I was in Washington, DC on Jan 24 and 25 for the 2nd Annual National Mentoring Summit. More than 400 people involved in mentoring programs, networks and support organizations were connected for two days of networking and workshops. Now the real work of putting these ideas into practice takes place.

One of the emotional highlights of the Summit came yesterday during lunch when Beverly Bond, Founder of Black Girls Rock! moderated a panel of students/volunteers who each told of how mentoring made a difference in their own lives.

As I listened to Beverly and this panel it reminded me of the year-end dinner celebration we held each year since 1973 to celebrate the connection of youth and volunteers in the programs I've led in the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago. The panel members were different people from different programs, but the messages were the same. As Beverly said, "people in these programs know the many small and big success of tutor/mentor programs." Data and professional evaluation statistics don't paint the real picture. Below is one of many videos created at Cabrini Connections during the past 15 years. You can find more here and here. The video below shows parents speaking at one year-end dinner.

Year-End Dinner 2010: Parent Speakers from Cabrini Connections

These stories are powerful. They need to be told over and over with the same reach and frequency as corporate ads for fast food, banks, and wellness. But we don't have the money. Thus we need volunteers from business, colleges, high schools and faith groups to become our journalists, movie makers and story tellers.

This is another video created by a volunteer and telling our story.

Adopt a program and become their journalist for as long as you can and then recruit someone to take your place. Learn to close your stores with a call to action: "Be a volunteer. Be a donor. Be an intern. Be a business partner."

Then go one step further, point to a directory of tutor/mentor programs for your city, and say "we need great programs in every high poverty neighborhood." Point to videos, web sites, an social media places that expand the range of places and ways volunteers and donors can help tutor/mentor programs grow in an entire community, and in every state in the Union.

This video does that. It was created a couple years ago by one of our interns. The contact information at the end has changed. We're no longer part of Cabrini Connections. However the message and purpose of the video has not changed.

I'm no longer leader of a single tutor/mentor program because I could not find enough dollars to keep the Tutor/Mentor Connection operating under the umbrella and funding base of one small program. However, I'm no less committed to helping strategies grow in business, faith groups, philanthropy, media and government sectors that provides "a better operating system" and does more to make constantly improving mentor and/or tutor programs available in more places to help more kids through school and into adult responsibilities.

If you've been touched by these stories or have responded to the President's Corporate Mentoring Challenge, I'd like to become a resource to help you develop strategies that benefit youth, your employees, your company and the community.

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