Friday, November 25, 2016

Connecting Urban and Rural America

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection(T/MC)* in Chicago in 1993, to create a master library of information related to building and sustaining volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in high poverty areas of Chicago. Over the past 23 years that has led to creating an extensive library of links to research, networks, organizations, etc. that people could draw from to help support system be available to help urban youth move through school and into jobs. I've piloted uses of GIS maps and concept maps to show where poverty is concentrated and to show strategies as well as sections of my web library.

I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership andNetworking Conferences every six months from May 1994-2015 and many were attended by people from smaller communities and rural America. On those occasions, I was often asked if there was a resource similar to the T/MC that focused on rural issues and I answered that a) I did not know; and b) I wished someone would duplicate what I'm doing, but focused on rural issues. I've offered the same suggestions to people in Africa, Asia and South America.

During the past six months as the US Election campaign took place, I began to see articles that talked about rural America and it's challenges and started to collect links. This past week I added a sub section in the T/MC web library that points to these links.

If you're asking, what does a Tutor/Mentor Connection do, here's one link that shows the how I've been building an information network, and learning library. 

Here's another pdf introducing the work I've been doing: 

Here's a link to a page of concept maps that I've created: 

Here's a page with four “how to starta tutor/mentor program” pdf essays. 

All of these, and a mountain of other information is freely available to anyone who wants to duplicate a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy in a different city, or focusing on rural issues, rather than urban poverty.

Challenges of reaching youth with organized tutor, mentor and learning programs. Comparing rural and urban America

I see the challenges to be largely based on geographic size, with rural America covering over 80% of the land space (see map above) of the country with countless numbers of small and mid size communities where kids need extra help. Further more it's an issue of population density. Big city poverty is surrounded by big city affluence. Rural communities have far fewer people and resources available to help in each of the places where help is needed.

My web library focuses on collecting links to web sites showing problems of big cities, but also showing solutions being applied in some places which could be borrowed and applied in other places. You can see the map at the left, along with many others, on the MappingforJustice blog. 

I think many of the concept maps I've created could be used by organizations focused on youth in rural communities, along with many of the links I've collected in the T/MC web library. The primary challenge I've faced, which I suspect others also face, is finding ways to attract people to this information, and keep them digging into it for many years.

Finding donors who would provide on-going operating dollars to build, sustain and share information in the library is another huge barrier to doing this work. 

I hope to connect with organizations that I point to in my web library, and to other network leaders, to talk about some of those challenges and show you around the various sections of the T/MC web library.    Just leave a comment to introduce yourself or connect with me on one of these social media sites

*I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago after support for the strategy was discontinued by the founding non-profit. My aim has been to build a new non profit team to support this work in Chicago, while helping groups in other cities build their own intermediary groups, using the strategies I've developed over the past 25 years.

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