Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pope, Poverty & Tutor/Mentor Programs

While the big news this weekend was the Pope's visit to the US, the news in many, many, poverty neighborhoods around the country is that a wide range of organized, non-school, volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs are launching their first weeks with volunteers and youth meeting with each other. So far the month of September has been full of volunteer and student recruitment, screening, orientations and matching. I know with the programs that I led that our first week of tutoring was toward the end of September.

So while everyone is focused on the work that goes with stating a new school year, I'd like to focus on the planning that will enable programs to start a new school year in 12 months, or next September. This graphic is from a PDF focused on annual planning. I hope you'll take a look. It shows the data collection, evaluation, team-building, visioning, etc. that needs to be on-going throughout the year in order to move successfully from one year to the next.

Part of this planning is laying out a week-to-week, and month-to-month, schedule of activities. This (click here) is a sample, which I used with the tutoring programs I led in Chicago. The September through May calendar offers tutoring and mentoring programs a sequence of holidays and events upon which they can build writing and enrichment activities that foster learning and creativity and help build participation and relationships.

Does your program have a planning calendar like this? Is it on your web site so volunteers can plan ahead and students can look forward to upcoming events? Having a written plan and calendar can help programs with year-to-year planning. You don't need to start from scratch once you have this in writing. You just need to update it each year, perhaps adding, or deleting activities.

You don't have the manpower to do this? Many smaller programs are over-whealmed with the work of operating a program and finding the money to keep it running. I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 with the goal of helping existing programs get the ideas, attention and resources they need to constantly improve, while helping identify under-served neighborhoods where new programs are needed.

I've used print newsletters, and my blogs, to communicate a vision that intermediaries, business and philanthropists could support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of a city, not just a few high profile programs, in a few places. The graphic below shows page 2 and page 4 of the Fall 1999 Tutor/Mentor Report newsletter.

What does the Pope have to do with this? When I started the T/MC in 1993 I visited many people asking for support, with limited success. I knew they program-support strategy of the T/MC was needed in Chicago, so with the help of volunteers who helped start Cabrini Connections in late 1992, we launched the T/MC. This timeline shows 25 years of work done since then. This 2010 PDF compared the T/MC to mentoring partnerships in different cities. This page shows media stories.

Yet, it has never gained (or retained) the commitment of leaders in business, religion, media, politics or philanthropy, that is essential for a strategy like this to succeed in filling a city with high quality, tutoring, mentoring, learning and jobs programs in all high poverty neighborhoods.

I've read comments from many saying "lives have been changed" or "will change" as a result of the Pope's visit. I hope that one or two of those lives are inspired to dig through the articles on this blog and on my other web sites and then reach out to say "How can I help you? How can I help this grow over the next 25 years and in cities across the world?"

If a T/MC strategy were in place in Chicago volunteers from different companies would be offering time and talent to help programs with planning, and with communicating their vision, strategies and weekly operations to all of their stakeholders. I'm sure this is taking place in support of a few programs. I want to see a map showing a distribution of this type of support to programs in every high poverty neighborhood. That means someone needs to be trying to collect information that would show if this is happening, and where it is happening. That's one of the goals of a T/MC strategy.

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