Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Connecting rich and poor via organized tutor/mentor programs

There's a growing polarization in America and which I've pointed to in articles hosted in one section of my web library.  The Congress is dominated by people with an ideology that seems to want to take America back to the early 1900s, with few protections or support systems for working families and the poor, and with a far Whiter population than we have today.

Me with son Jacob, 1998 event
I keep seeing photos of new born babies and young children posted on Facebook by my nieces and nephews, and by kids who were part of the tutor/mentor programs I led in from 1975 to 2011 and I ask "what kind of future will these kids inherit?"

This is particularly relevant since my own two kids are half Chinese and many of my nieces and nephews are full Chinese, or Jewish with a mixture of Chinese and American. And the kids from the tutoring program I led are almost all African American, with a few Latino kids in the mix.

These are the "brown, black, and yellow" skinned people that the Far Right segment of the GOP and the #POTUS45 administration want to eliminate from the America they are trying to create.

I've posted a wide range of graphics on this blog since 2005 showing the diversity of adults and youth who connect in organized, on-going non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs.

When I post photos like this I know from personal experience the work it takes every day, year-after-year to make programs like this available and to recruit youth and volunteers and keep them coming back year after year.

When I post photos like the one at the right, I'm showing the wide range of reasons volunteers and kids can connect, and using a map to emphasize the well organized, mentor-rich programs are needed in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities.

However, my vision goes beyond creating these places in neighborhoods throughout America. As the graphic below shows, I want to find ways to connect the volunteers, board members, youth, parents, donors and community leaders from each program, with each other, and with a library of information and ideas that they can talk about, reflect on, and use as inspiration for what they do to help individual programs get better, and  help each program provide a transformative experience, for the youth AND the volunteers who get involved.

Below is another graphic that shows what I've been writing about.  The shaded areas are high poverty neighborhoods in Chicago. The oil well icons represent places where youth and volunteers are connecting every week for tutoring, mentoring, learning, enrichment and college and career coaching.

Some of these programs might enroll youth when they are entering first or second grade. Others may start youth in middle school or high school.  Once a youth enrolls, many of these organizations do all they can to help those kids move all the way through school to high school graduation. 

A visitor looking at the list of Chicago youth programs that I host on my web site or any entry point on the Internet should be able to find a map like mine and click on icons, which take them to the web sites of the different tutor and mentor programs in the city. Each web site should have visualizations similar to mine, showing how they attract volunteers from many backgrounds and form a community of extra adults committed to helping the kids they serve succeed in school and move safely into adult lives. I created this "shoppers guide" pdf to illustrate what I feel should be on a program's web site. Very few show all of these indicators.

Many of my articles emphasize the need to build new ways to provide on-going, flexible operating dollars to every tutor/mentor program in the city so they can build and sustain these long-term strategies.   One way to do this is to engage volunteers who are from places where there are concentrations of wealth and/or where decisions are made about how that wealth and talent is being  used to benefit the community. 

Another is to engage teams of volunteers from different industries who take a long-term approach to how they use their time, talent and dollars to help multiple tutor/mentor programs in a city grow.

Interns working with me between 2006 and 2015 created two visualizations that show how volunteers who are well supported in organized tutor and/or mentor programs often are transformed in the ways they have a better understanding of the challenges of living in high poverty areas and are willing to help attract needed resources to support the kids, and programs, they work with.  Click here and here to view these.

:Local-Global issues
Do not think of my goal as just building non-school, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs that transform the lives of inner city kids and the volunteers who join these programs.

I want these programs to be an entry point to a life of learning and service where volunteers begin to expand their understanding of all the various challenges people living in high poverty areas face every day, and ways they might become directly, or indirectly, involved in helping to reduce those challenges.

My nieces and nephews live in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and many other parts of America. Alumni of the tutor/mentor programs I led are spread across America, as are volunteers who have been involved.

For all those who are bringing new kids into the world, or who already are raising their own children, I challenge you to think of ways you can share the ideas in my blogs and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site with people in your own network and community, and to use your own time, talent and connections to help build a 'tutor/mentor connection:' type intermediary that supports the growth of a full range of youth tutor/mentor programs in your own communities.

While I still have a few years in me I'll help you.  Don't wait. Don't look back in 20 years at the world and ask "What could I have done differently?"

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