Friday, June 05, 2015

Closing Opportunity Gaps - Expanding Involvement

If you've followed the articles I write you'll see that I focus on poverty and inequality and that I think volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can be part of the solution.

The photo on the left is from the Cluster Tutoring Program's year end celebration. Thank you to Connie Henderson Damon for letting me share her photograph. This program is located in the Austin area on Chicago's West side. Note the diversity in the room. This is an organization that is bringing together people who don't live in poverty with children and youth who do. They've been doing it for a long time.

I've always thought of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs as a form of adult service-learning, a form of bridging social capital. The volunteers who get involved often say they think they learned more than the kids. What this means is some are learning about poverty and inequality, and many move beyond their personal involvement and try to get others involved.

This graphic illustrates this service-learning idea. In 2011 it was converted into this animated presentation by one of my interns from IIT and South Korea.

I found the photograph of Cluster Tutoring Program's year end event on Facebook. At this time of the year, many tutor/mentor programs are celebrating and some are sharing their photos on Facebook. Here are a few more:

Chicago Lights Tutoring Program - click here

East Village Youth Program - look at photos

Inspired Youth - visit page

Partnership to Educate and Advance Kids (PEAK) - see page

Midtown Education Foundation - see photos

These are just a few of the Chicago area tutoring/mentoring programs using Facebook to show the diversity of youth and volunteers who they connect every year. You can find nearly 130, organized by section of the city, on this list.

I created this graphic to illustrate the potential for a site-based tutor/mentor program to connect inner city youth with volunteers, ideas and opportunities in every industry in the Chicago region.

Such programs don't start with this diversity. It takes many years to build participation. It takes consistent support from volunteers, donors, media to help programs grow, build and sustain this diversity of participation.

I've been trying to maintain a Directory of non-school tutor/mentor programs in Chicago since I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. In addition, I've been trying to plot locations of site-based programs on maps, so leaders, planners, media and researchers can see where programs are most needed, and where existing programs are located. This information would show voids where too few programs exist.

I've used print newsletters, then email newsletters, for nearly 40 years to help volunteers and leaders find information that would help them be more effective tutors, mentors and leaders, but also to help them think of ways they could support the growth of long-term, mentor-rich programs in more places.

If you're reading about inequality, racism, violence, workforce readiness and education issues, think of the role tutor/mentor programs can be in expanding the network of people who are joining in this effort...who might never have become involved if not for the invitation of a tutor/mentor program to become a volunteer.

Then visit the web site of Cluster Tutoring Program or the others I point to and look for ways to get involved. Help them do this work next year, and in years to come.

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