Friday, May 20, 2016

Letter to Billionaire from 1999 - Imagine What Might Have Resulted If He had Responded

I'm going through my archives while working on a two-page letter that I'm sending to an organization in Chicago, asking for their support of the work I've been doing since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago in 1993.

I found this letter, written to a member of one of Chicago's wealthy families, in 1999.  The issues I describe are highlighted. They still persist today, in 2016.  They may still be with us in 2036 if we can't build high level financial and civic support for a strategy like the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Here's the letter:

May 4, 1999

To: Highly Visible Billionaire in Chicago

Dear ……,

I read an article recently which recognized the $15 million donation being made by your family to commemorate the new millennium. I congratulate you on having the generosity of spirit to offer such a gift to the city of Chicago.

I’m writing to introduce the Tutor/Mentor Connection to you and your family and to invite you to appoint a representative to get to know us and to become one of our leaders. The major issues of the new millennium will be education, poverty, violence, welfare reform, social capital, and public health, all of which will have significant positive or negative impacts on our economic vitality, whichever way we go on these issues in the next few years.

I included social capital in that string of issues because it is a unifying issue. We live in a country where people are becoming more and more isolated; while new research is showing that it is communities which have vast amounts of social capital which enjoy the best forms of government. I believe that efforts to connect large number of adults with large numbers of at-risk children, and with each other, have unlimited potential for successfully addressing each of these issues. I also believe that while we need to find places in neighborhoods throughout America to provide hands-on connections between adults and children, it is through the internet that we will be able to meet often enough to understand the vast complexities which must be understood for unified visions to evolve which will change the “riot of fragmented social contributions of the 20th century” into a revolution of social improvement in the 21st century.

Finally, I believe that the Tutor/Mentor Connection, formed in 1993 as part of a new site based tutor/mentor program called Cabrini Connections, is one of the few organizations who actually are integrating some of these visions into a strategy, with a history of growth which is ripe for the involvement of a family with your own vision, history and generosity. I hope you will review these materials and then will want to meet and begin to become a part of this movement.

What is Cabrini Connections?
(Writer Note: I wrote this letter in 1999 while I was still leading the Cabrini Connections program. While this program still operates in Chicago, I've not been involved since 2011, when I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to support the continued work of the T/MC in Chicago and to help similar intermediaries grow in other cities. The information shown below describes the Cabrini Connections program as it was in 1999.)

Cabrini Connections is a small non-profit concerned about the large number of American children who fail to obtain the basic skills and experience that will be necessary to compete for employment in the global economy of the 21st Century. For six years, this organization has helped create school-to-work opportunities for inner-city children by recruiting volunteers to contribute time and energy to provide quality after-school tutoring and mentoring to teens living in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. Miiri Shin, an Abbott Laboratories employee and 3nd year volunteer wrote ”What a wonderful job the program has done with the kids. I am very pleased to be a part of it.” Cabrini Connections believes that after-school tutoring, mentoring and school-to-work programs like its own can make a significant difference in whether a young person finishes high school and enters the work force or drops out and becomes part of the next generation on welfare.

Cabrini Connections serves nearly 110 teens in its own program, and several participate in the ACI College Bridge Program. However research done by Voices for Illinois Children shows that nearly 200,000 children in Chicago alone could benefit from such programs. And, a 1997 study funded by ACI and conducted by Human Capital Research Corporation in partnership with the Tutor/Mentor Connection, shows that fewer than 6% of Chicago’s school-aged children participate in any of 272 afterschool programs which indicate that tutoring and/or mentoring are part of their mix of services. The maps included in this study show that the areas of Chicago that most desperately need school reform and after-school programs tend to be the same areas plagued by poverty, violence, segregation and neglect.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)

While many organizations and efforts —including the 1997 Presidents’ Summit — have recognized these problems, Cabrini Connections believes it is the only organization with a working action plan that can increase the overall availability and quality of afterschool tutor/mentor programs throughout an entire geographic area.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) is Cabrini Connections’ detailed action plan aimed at expanding and sustaining the availability and quality of after-school programs throughout Chicago. Although the strategy of the plan appears complex, its message is quite simple: There must be safe places where children can connect with a broad spectrum of adults committed to their future well-being. These places must have support from businesses, universities, hospitals and churches to last for the time it takes for a child to move from first grade to the first job. These places must also be available in every neighborhood that needs them—not just in a few high-profile areas. It is every American’s responsibility to make this happen.

The T/MC approaches this as a marketing and distribution problem, not an education problem. There is not an adequate distribution of resources, volunteers, mentors, youth apprentice programs, ACI College-bridge-type programs, leadership or operating dollars into every neighborhood where help is most needed in any city. Nor is their a long-term commitment to keep these resources flowing, and the quality constantly improving, to the point that the outcomes documented would be children born to poverty landing in careers....some 25 years later.

The T/MC already has created a structure of events, conferences, newsletters and Web site to support the efforts of teams of volunteers such as these. Now it is working to develop an Internet Based Learning Network to provide on-line training, and action plan facilitation, to teams of volunteers and leaders of tutor/mentor programs anywhere in the world, drawing from a world-wide range of “experts” who will be connected via linked web sites to deliver on-line instruction, as well as to provide facilitated discussion-groups, integrating T/MC Directories and GIS computer aided mapping, within each competency to help a learner turn what they learn into constantly improving and expanding actions in their own community.

While we are applying for a five year federal grant to launch this Learning Network (Not received), we seek business and foundation support, to give us the start-up capital needed to get this program off the ground and to help us keep it growing and constantly improving.

The needs of young children are not limited to Chicago. Your family empire is also not limited to Chicago. The many businesses your family leads would be a beneficiary and ideal partner of such a learning network, because of its opportunities for employees, funded agencies and business partners from throughout the world to meet on-line, and in different time, different place facilitated meeting formats to build relationships, shared understanding of common problems, and shared commitment to collective action which would benefit each program and organization.

I have attached the Learning Network Proposal for your review.
Editor Note: This proposal is now archived (here) in a Planning Wiki at, that outlines goals, challenges, and work that needs to be done to re-energize the T/MC, while also adding features that do more to connect people and ideas and help youth serving programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods where they are most needed.)

These ideas and strategies demonstrate the vision that leaders from different states or continents can become a team, share ideas and create actions which give benefit to each partner and to the communities and geographic regions where they live and do business. With the internet, we only need a few visionary leaders to be bold enough to outline a business plan for moving children from school to work, and to provide the leadership to put that plan to work. The T/MC already has this in place and has a wealth of business and non-profit partners who’ve contributed to our success, including the Chicago Bar Association/Foundation, Montgomery Ward & Co. and Illinois Wesleyan University.

With the many different networks you and your family are involved with, or leading, I think it would be very likely that your efforts could result in leaders from every industry and sector of service soon joining you in this coordinated and comprehensive vision.

I hope you’ll review the and web sites, which further demonstrates the work we do and the use of the internet to gather and share best practices and action plans.

Then, I hope you, or one of your representatives, will want to meet with me and become a leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Such involvement can be of far greater value and benefit to the next millennium than any gift which has yet been given.

If I can provide additional information for your consideration, please call or email me at

Thank You.

(end of letter)

If you read articles like this, which I wrote in 2016, you can see how writers, such as Robert Putnam, are drawing new attention to problems I was describing in 1999 and earlier. 

With millions of dollars being spent by wealthy people and corporations to get people elected to city, state and national political offices, there must be one or two people who would invest in strategies that I have piloted over the past 20 years.  If you share my blogs and letters like this with people you know, and they share it with people they know, we can reach people who have the resources needed to re-energize the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy and make it available at low, or no-cost to leaders in cities throughout the world.

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