Thursday, January 09, 2014

Educate your Mentors - Turn them into Advocates

Today is "I am a Mentor" Social Media Day!!! If you've been a volunteer in a tutor/mentor program share your story on places like the Illinois Mentoring Partnership's Facebook page or the Tutor/Mentor Institute's page. As the photo to the left shows, I've been mentoring inner city youth in Chicago since 1973. I've led a program since 1975.

I started building a list and network of peers in 1976 and formalized that into the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. In this role I mentor leaders of other programs, and mentor resource providers so they become more consistent in making the operating dollars, talent, space and other resources needed, available to tutor/mentor programs throughout big cities like Chicago.

Yesterday I attended the Polk Bros Foundation's 25th Anniversary celebration and the keynote speaker was Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. I'd never heard him speak before and I was really impressed. During the Q&A session he was asked "where to start" in balancing the need for improving education outcomes while also reducing poverty. He said "Everywhere".

When I created this Four Part Strategy in the 1990s and pdfs like this that say "what are all the things we need to be doing" it was with the idea that unless we addressed this as a complex problem with many entry points we'll never solve the problem.

I spent a few moments this morning looking up Robert Reich. Here's his home page, with an article titled: "Why the Republican's old divide-and-conquer strategy, setting working class against the poor -- is backfiring". Here's a Facebook page where you can engage.

As National Mentoring Month motivates volunteers and youth to show their roles in mentoring I encourage all of us to find more ways to educate our volunteers and youth so they become leaders and advocates to solve the problems of the poor and working middle class of America.

During the panel discussion Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Evelyn Diaz, Director of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services, and Alex Kotlowitz, recognized author, each spoke in glowing terms about the power of mentoring. This session was recorded, so as soon as the video is published I'll put the link here.

Yet few leaders have yet outlined a business strategy to make k-16 mentor-rich programs available to youth in every high poverty and working class neighborhood of Chicago and its suburbs, with the funds and leadership needed to help each program grow and constantly improve its impact on youth and volunteers over the next 20 years.

I challenge these leaders and mentoring leaders everywhere to engage your youth and volunteers in research, brainstorming and visualization activities where a blueprint and strategy for this might emerge and become fully supported by a new coalition of the working class, the poor, and the 1% who care.

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