Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Building non-school support systems for kids in poverty

Click photos to enlarge
I'm going to share some graphics in this article. At the end, if you believe in what I do, I hope you'll help me.

The kids shown at the left, and the adult, were part of the Cabrini Connections program I started in 1993 and led until mid 2011. The kids were in 7th and 8th grade at the time this picture was taken in 1994 or 1995. The adult is Claucia Crilly Bellucci, who started as a volunteer in the 1980s and became one of the first paid staff members of Cabrini Connections in the fall of 1993. 

At the right I'm shown with one of the kids in the photo on the left, when she came back in the late 2000s, after college, to speak at our year-end dinner. I'm connected to her, Claudia and many of these kids on Facebook.  I'm still connected to the boy I was first matched with in 1973! He's on Facebook, too.

Long-term relationships and support systems. That's the goal.

My experiences leading a single tutor/mentor program, starting in 1975, led me to a belief that these programs are a form of social capital, connecting inner city kids with people, experiences and opportunities beyond what is modeled in their neighborhoods. Such programs need to be in many places, led by highly motivated people, and consistently funded, if they are to build and sustain long-term involvement of youth and volunteers.

The school day has three time frames. Kids need support in each of these time frames. The third time frame, in the early evening hours, right after work, is when workplace volunteers are more consistently available and able to make long-term commitments.

That leads me to this next graphic.

click to enlarge
I've posted a number of sports-themed articles showing that it takes a team of fans, investors, coaches, players, trainers, sports companies, etc. to build and sustain great football, baseball, basketball and/or soccer teams.  It takes the same range of support to  help each tutor/mentor program in the city become great at what they do.

The graphic at the right illustrates the football team. The graphic at the right illustrates the need for teams of support helping great tutor/mentor programs reach kids in every high poverty neighborhood, with support that starts early and continues through high school, college or vocational school, or the military, and into jobs and careers.

Mentoring Kids to Careers
Below these two graphics is a first grade to first job timeline, showing some of the age appropriate supports kids need at each age level as they grow up.     The concept map at the right shows these supports in a different format.

Actually the support that kids and families need is far greater than what I show on this map. Open this concept map and see many other issues that need to be addressed in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities.

Look beneath the surface

Are you still with me?  

Now look at this "iceberg" graphic. I wrote about it here.  The part above the water is what you see when you look at a photo of a youth and volunteer connecting at a tutor/mentor program, or in an enrichment outing.

What you don't see is what's below the water line. This is the program infrastructure that helps great programs become great. It's the same infrastructure that helps great sports teams become great, or that helps great businesses grow.

I used the word "great" five times in that paragraph. That's because I keep emphasizing the need for well-organized, well-funded, long-term, mentor-rich programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago, it's suburbs, and other cities around the country....and in rural areas and on reservations, too!  They all need to be great, or at least trying to be great!

Read - Logic Model
So here's the logic model that I'm talking about.

If you believe that connecting kids with extra adults and expanded learning opportunities is a good thing, then you need to accept that well-organized youth tutor, mentor and learning programs are going to be needed to help those connections begin, and last, for many years.

If you accept this as truth, and look at a map of Chicago, and the number of high poverty youth in the city alone (over 200,000), then you need to accept that many great programs are needed, and they are needed in every high poverty community area.

Dig into strategy map
Many leaders need to share this commitment.

If you are willing to work to help build the infrastructure needed to make great tutor/mentor programs available throughout the city, spend time looking through this concept map. Then create a version, putting your photo and/or company logo, in the blue box, and put it on your web site or blog, signalling your commitment to the goals and the strategy.

I've been sharing this message, along with a library or resources, and list of existing programs operating in Chicago, since 1994.  Yet, I find almost no leaders using a collection of graphics similar to those I've put into this article, to share their own commitment to this same goal.

Ideas bursting in air!
I launch my ideas on blog articles every week, then spread them, like fireworks via social media. As you and others pass them on in your own feeds, we reach more people, and maybe convince some to take on leadership roles in this effort.  Such leaders can be from any city in the USA, or from other parts of the world!

Learn more.

I encourage you to read more of my past blog articles. Or browse sections of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site to build a deeper understanding, and commitment to what I'm writing about.

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