Friday, September 30, 2005

Illinois High School Summit, held Sept. 29, 2005

Illinois High School Summit presented by Illinois College Access Network (IllinoisCAN) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The discussion at the Summit was framed by the question, “What is the future vision and what must be achieved systematically for high schools to be successful in the 21st century?”

Some of the key speakers and panelists included: * Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools * Jesse Ruiz, Chairman of Illinois State Board of Education * Terry Mazany, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust * Allan Alson, Superintendent of the Evanston Township High School * Peggy Luce, Vice President of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce * Sandra Guthman, President of Polk Bros. Foundation * Donna Carroll, President, Dominican University

Opening: Joan Klaus, Founder Illinois College Access Network

Joan set the stage for the conversation by providing statistics similar to these which were part of a speech given in late September by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in an address to the National Association of Manufactures Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, DC. Among her comments, she said:

Manufacturing executives rank a "high-performing workforce" as the most important factor in their firms' future success. But how can you be a high-performing worker when you don't even have a high school diploma?...

"Among ninth-graders, five out of 10 minority students fail to finish high school on time. Overall, three out of 10 ninth-graders don't finish on time... Leaving our high school students behind is not only morally unacceptable, what the President calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It is also economically untenable.

"When you lose a million students every year that has a tremendous impact on our economy. And it represents the American Dream... denied.

"So I would suggest, for this and a host of other reasons, that how well our students are doing is not just an "education issue." It's also an economic issue, a civic issue, a social issue, and a national security issue."

You can read the entire Margaret Spellings speech at:

A similar 2-day summit was held in Washington in September 2005. The two-day event, called The Fate of the American Dream: A National Forum on Strengthening Our Education and Skills Pipeline, was hosted by Jobs for the Future and sponsored by a number of corporations also committed to improving the education and skills pipeline. JFF has put much of this summit on its web site. Visit

The Chicago High School Summit was attended by more than 100 leaders of community organizations, foundations, businesses, schools, etc. It was hosted by the Illinois College Access Network ( ) . While the panelist were first rate and the information discussed was critically important, this forum did not have an Internet collaboration portal, thus most of the participants did not get to ask questions, and the comments of most speakers were not recorded or posted on the Internet where others could read them, comment, or reach out to find ways to work together to solve the problems that were discussed.

I’ve commented on this in previous messages that I’ve posted on this blog since April 2005. While the Summit offered time for networking, the number of participants made it impossible for anyone to talk to everyone he/she might have wanted to meet. Such networking is also not suitable for an exchange of complex ideas, which is possible through an Internet discussion portal.

I took notes as I listened to the speakers and below, I’ve posted some quotes that I feel were important. I’ve also added my own comments (see DB: xxx) Whenever I attend a meeting I am always thinking of the purpose of the meeting, and the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, as I listen to speakers. Thus, I’m constantly innovating new ideas making notes of “things to do” as I listen to speakers. Yesterday, for instance, I took 12 pages of notes.

Most of the time these notes just go in a file that I keep, which I refer to for inspiration from time to time. If I had someone who would transcribe these notes for me, I’d post them on a blog like this, so others could share my own thoughts and perhaps innovate along with me.



First Panel:
Moderated by Warren Chapman. Vice President for Corporate Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase:
How did we get here? 100 years ago most schools only served 3rd through 8th grade. * High schools began to be built in early 1930’s. Not planned as college prep. Post World War II high schools became national policy issue. In 1960’s became a civil rights issue. In their current states high schools are less than 75 years old.

DB thought. It never was the intention of wealthy to educate masses to hold leadership positions reserved for their own kids.

First panelist: Michael Cohen, President of Achieve, Inc.
Achieve’s web site provides a much better overview of what Michael Cohen added to the forum than I can post here. Visit

Cohen: Formal high school sorting process has limited options for many kids by steering them to college or vocational paths. Now, every child needs to be able to chose for himself which path he wants to take

Second Panelist: Allan Alson, Superintendent, Evanston Township High School. Mr. Alson is also part of the Steering Committee for Chicago Public High School’s High School Transformation Project.
DB: I would love a transcript of Mr. Alson's comments. He was right on target.

. Presumptuous to predict where we’ll be in 70 years when the system we’re in is only 70 years old.
. Not one system fits all needs. Need to have goal.
. High schools must serve Equity, Social Justice, Democracy goals

DB: even in US Constitution it may not have been intention of framers to educate all kids

DB: why rebuild box? Why not re-design learning distribution system?

Alson: can’t just fix one part and not fix other connected parts.

. Goal: a) improve curriculum; b) improve instruction; c) connect youth with teachers and other adults

Alson: Let’s not make mistake of saying all kids enter high school at same place (academic preparation)

Kids are not just behind in skills. If you’ve gone through 14 years of your life thinking you cannot succeed, your confidence is eroded.

As you rebuild skills, think of messages we send – high expectations. Every teacher, counselor, adult, needs to say we know you can succeed and paint picture of how to get you there.

DB: wish Alson had his comments on Internet. A ETHS student could interview Alson and post his comments on blog.

Alson. Is a 10 month year sufficient to get done what we need to do? We need to create professional learning communities.
DB: are these connected to peers on other schools?

Broker partnerships with community agencies and business. Give offices inside high school so CBOs can stay connected with same kids from middle school through high school.
DB: Great idea!!

Chapman: How do we organize schools in order to train knowledge workers. What are things that need to happen over next couple of years? From Tops Down and Bottom UP?:

Cohen: organize government and business leaders
a) learn math and English skills required for careers in business
b) research shows that only 3 states require students to take needed courses (state standards too low
c) graduation tests standards too low. In six states the math you need to know to pass the test is equivalent to what kids are expected to know in 7th or 8th grade in other countries.

Cohen – top down
a) get expectations into state policy; bring educators and employers in to picture in ways not done before; make system more transparent
b) build political will to make these changes
c) build different pathways for kids to go through the system to reach common standards of career and technical skills
d) build capacity of the system to deliver results

db: what is the marketing plan that will get millions of people involved and educated on this issue. What is strategy to create this political will?

It is one thing to say they need to take this, but Algebra 1 in one school is different than Algebra 1 in other schools. We must address equality in learning.

We must listen to kids. What helps/hinders their education? Turn peer influence into a positive.
Db: this could help with program in peer mentoring at Maine South where my daughter is a 9th grader

Alson: We have broken system on how we recruit, train and support teachers.
a) Must be building human capital to deliver goods
b) This must be a K-16 system. Need to look backwards
c) Knit communities together. All work together.

Chapman conclusion: I hope this panel inspires you to think about these issues.

Arnie Duncan – CEO of Chicago Public Schools

Improving performance of high schools is most important issue in America. We need to figure out how to make this viable.

Db: Tutor/Mentor Connection is not just a connection of volunteers with kids. It is a connection of a volunteer with the issues of educating youth for 21st century careers. This is a social, democratic issue and is a strategy of engagement. Why don’t schools understand this?

Duncan: Every other city mirrors what is happening in Chicago. Goal is to have systems of excellence instead of just islands of excellence.

Duncan talked about research team that came up with new plan for high schools. Goal was how to take system to next level?

DB: no one on research team every talked to me. I cannot find a web site collecting public input.

Duncan; We’ve improved. We’re down to a 10% annual drop out per year.

DB: that’s 40% over 4 years.

Duncan: We need a laser-like focus
a) raise expectations
b) improve quality of teachers
c) improve quality of opportunities

Improve quality of teachers and classroom instruction
1) better tools; better support
2) RFP out for new curriculum (DB, don’t we change curriculum too often? Shouldn’t we stay with something long enough to make it work?)
3) Pilot in 15 schools per year (DB, with 600 high schools in system, that will take 25 years to reach all schools

Need to hire 100 great principles. No good organization without good leaders. We need to figure out how to get better at this.

a) shrink principle eligibility pool (fewer choices of higher quality people)
b) area managers spend more time on development of leaders
c) hire recruiter to go national in looking for talent
db: how to address retention of quality people in system

Expand Quality Options - need more schools like Whitney Young. Average students don’t have quality options. Students need more choices. Need 6-8-10 great options in each section of city.

DB: What about social and emotional development, civic education, community and career mentoring? Adopt a neighborhood vs adopt a school. What about elearning? I did not hear anything all day about Internet learning.

What are we doing to get kids better prepared to enter high school with a chance to succeed? This means we need to focus on elementary schools.

URGENCY: Easy to say this is theoretical issue. We need to recognize how important this is. 85% of CPS students live in poverty. This is a life transforming opportunity. Where we don’t educate well, we perpetuate poverty.

They can rebuild New Orleans all they want, but if they don’t change the education system you’ll still have the same poverty 30 years from now.

Media not going to put spotlight on education. We need to find ways to do it ourselves.
DB: this is why I don’t understand his not embracing T/MC strategy.

Duncan’s conclusion: we must move from islands of excellence to a system of excellence.

From 9:30 to 10:30 A Panel Discussion was moderated by Peggy Luce: Her first question to Jesse H. Ruiz, Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, was “Is there one challenge? One magic answer?”

Ruiz: Remove bureaucracy; raise standards. Gary Chico appointed to lead Illinois Education Task Force.

The second panelist was Cynthia Barron, Instructional Officer, Small Schools Area for Chicago Public Schools:

Luce to Barron: “What is most important issues of keeping students on track and bringing others up.”
Barron -
a) curriculum is most important element of high school transformation,
b) we’ve been teaching to the middle. We need to have personal plans for every student
c) every high school needs to offer advance placement classes for students that want rigor
d) at risk students, those who enter unprepared, what do we do?
e) Rigor, Relevance, Relationships-every school needs support structure to catch youth who begin to fail; intervene early
DB: where is mentoring in strategy? If boys tune out at 3rd grade, support needs to start earlier.
f) going to take ton of strategic planning to keep the momentum going
DB: what is strategy for public engagement? Building the political will?

The third panelist was Donna Carroll, Pres. Dominican University; and Federation of Independent Colleges and Universities –

Ms. Carroll introduced herself as “the university voice in college readiness”.

Remediation –access to higher education is a promise, and a presumption. I don’t think colleges will ever be out of the remediation business.
DB: universities need to re purpose resources. Look for other ways to use resources to impact college readiness goals. Colleges have army of students, faculty and alumnii.

Systemic issues of college prep. Dominican University’s average ACT is 23. CPS average ACT is 17.

Expectations and self-assessment. Students need mechanisms for understanding themselves. Most college students say
a) I wish my High School teachers pushed me harder
b) I wish I studied harder
c) I wish I knew what was expected for me to have the career I want

DB: I wish kids would listen to adults when we gave them all of this information, over and over again.

Colleges looking for students who persists vs students who do not.

Collaboration – we need to communicate more.
a) connect college and high school faculty. We need to create capacity and time to do that
b) very often it is student with potential who is working two jobs just to attend college. How can we expect him to do college work? We need to provide financial support.
Db: this is that question of political will again.

The next panelist was Jeff Mays, President, Illinois Business Round Table:

Role of business: help shape message; help reach broader audience
DB: Read ROLE of LEADERS in Tutor/Mentor Institute at

How they (youth) make decisions scares me. We need to do more to influence how they make decisions.

The next panelist was Terrell Burges – an African American teacher at Lane Tech high school. Burges was a recipient of the Golden Apple Scholarship and was a Bank One Saturday Scholar. He still works with Saturday Scholars in the summer.

a) many students don’t have access to technology and classroom support
b) need to provide authentic professional development for teachers; more collaboration time
c) provide extra learning opportunities. Saturday Scholars gave time to empower students to think
d) When students have opportunity to discover on their own, they learn
e) Only way to do this is to empower teachers
DB: but his help came from mentors in a non-school, privately funded tutor/mentor program. What about making more of these available?

The final panelist was Sandra Guthman, CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation. Funds Chicago HS Redesign Initiative.

DB: Polk Bros Foundation has funded the Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Program for several years, yet, they don’t seem to have any interest in the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It seems that foundation’s who fund mentoring, don’t automatically include mentoring in strategy of high school redesign. Why not? What are we not doing?

a) need to work as individual foundations to move system forward.
DB: if school reform system does not include mentoring in strategy, foundations won’t make priority to fund

b) some foundations work toward goals in a single community.
Db: Easy to work toward goals in a single community, but leader needs to assure that there is a foundation funding each community

c) Foundation role of critical friend (outside pressure). Maybe we can work together to make it (system) better.
d) New Schools for Chicago – some corporation and foundation supporting specific schools
DB: how do they network and learn from others who do same work in different places. Seems redundant.

At this point the moderator said “A few minutes for questions”. There were more than 100 people in the room. Less than 10 were able to ask questions and most were not able to follow up on the questions they asked.

One man brought up issue of political will. He said “Are the right people involved to make significant change? Are the people driving the process the ones in charge of crafting the solutions? This question was not given an answer and the questioner was invited to email the ICAN to post his question.

DB: this illustrates the need for a forum like this to have an internet component. This person and all others could have posted questions to speakers, and each other, on line.

DB: this event had a self-serving focus on ICAN. Two speakers mentioned Saturday Scholars. However, there was no effort in the meeting to expand mentoring. The two examples of success of CPS were a teacher and a college student, both who participated in Saturday Scholars, a privately funded non-school program. If this is such a good program why are policy makers not trying to get more programs like this?

While we talk of having good schools in every neighborhood, why are we not talking about having good Saturday Scholar type programs in every neighborhood?

Final speaker: Omar, a Saturday Scholar. He was one of the best speakers. I asked him to blog his comments for T/MC

Wish list for schools:
a) financial literacy
b) people of different backgrounds working together
c) cultivate good social skills
d) sports for everyone, not just talented
e) ought to be programs for students to make sure they are there (at college) on first day of classes. Transition from inner city high school to college terrifying to some
DB: I understand this need. A couple of y ears ago we had one volunteer drive a student to Wisconsin for first day of school just to make sure he got enrolled.

Terry Mazany, President, Chicago Community Trust, concluded the meeting

Mazany listed school reform funding goals of Trust:
Read the Strategic Vision of the Education Initiative at:

DB: CCT Education Initiative Goals do not seem to include funding of community supports or funding of elearning and collaboration.

We’re in third decade of school reform post A Nation At Risk. We know a lot. There is a paradigm shift. We’re now trying to prepare all youth for higher education.

Education is means to fulfill promise of American Dream

Failure to create school system that works leaves young people out of American Dream.
DB: suggest he say “learning system” instead of “school system”

a) 8 hour school day needed; staffing ratios that provide time for planning
b) counseling ratios of 100 to 1 needed
c) inner city schools need more resources than suburban schools because of poverty
d) resources needed for technology; need more buckets of water. Illinois is 49th in state funding of education
e) Fourth R: real world connections. Need pathways to careers.
DB: if foundations follow lead of schools and schools do not show non-school mentoring as priority, then funding will not support these programs. If these programs not in place, neither are pathways or adult supports.

The formal presentations ended at 11:15am and many participants continued to introduce themselves to others and network. I had the opportunity to talk to more than a dozen people who work with the T/MC, or who I have approached in the past for support. That’s the value of forums like this that bring people together face to face. As I left I was talking to an African American woman and she saw that my name tag said Cabrini Connections.

She asked if I served the Cabrini-Green neighborhood and when I said “yes” she told me she grew up in Cabrini-Green. I asked if she had ever gone to Montgomery Ward for tutoring and she said “yes”. I told her that I was the leader of that program when she was attending. I also told her of my goal of attracting many of the 4000 volunteers and more than 2000 youth who have participated in the Wards program since 1965 to the web site where they can share their stories and talk about how the opportunity to connect with a tutor or mentor at Montgomery Ward has influenced their lives. By bringing people who have been enriched by this process back together via the internet, we can continue to connect youth and adults from different backgrounds in the on-going networking that removes social and economic isolation and creates pipelines and pathways to careers.

We also can build an army of support for the vision of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which is to have programs like Cabrini Connections available to young people in every poverty neighborhood of Chicago and every other large American city.



Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm up to my neck in alligators. No time to drain the swamp.

This past week Cabrini Connections started its 13th year of service to teens living in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood of Chicago. We’ve more than 80 teens on the roster, which is the most we’ve started with since 1999. Of our volunteers, two are alumni who started with us between 1993 and 1996 as 7th and 8th graders. One has already graduated from college and the other is a senior.

You can read about this program at It’s doing great things.

It just doesn’t have any money. Because we’re a small charity our cash flow is always low during September and October and then picks up during November and December when we do holiday fund raising. This means we struggle to pay the rent while at the same time we’re doing work that has great value to many people.

I’ve written about how difficult it is to raise money in previous blog entries. I’m not sure how much the Hurricanes are going to impact me, but I’m sure that since 2000 the economy, the 9/11 attack, the war, the highly contested presidential elections, the 2004 hurricanes, the December 2004 Tsunami, and now Katrina, have contributed to me raising about 70% as much now as I was in 2000.

I’m sure this is a problem for other volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, too. That’s why we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. We think it’s always been tough to find consistent funding. Thus, we’re trying to create a more consistent public awareness that would draw more volunteers and donors to support tutor/mentor programs in all parts of Chicago (and in other cities), not just our program. We’re also working to help business and professional groups form leadership strategies where they use their own visibility and resources to draw volunteers and donors to tutor/mentor programs. The Chicago Bar Association’s Lend A Hand Program is the best example of this strategy. See

So, since we’re all struggling, why is it so hard to get programs to come together to innovate new ways to increase public awareness, increase volunteer turnout, and increase the amount of money available for volunteer-based programs?

This year we had fewer programs participate in planning the Aug./Sept. Volunteer Recruitment Campaign than in past years. Part of the problem was that I no longer have funds to pay a part-time person to reach out and draw programs together. But since we all need volunteers as school starts, it would seem that more programs would want to find ways to increase the pool of potential volunteers.

On Nov. 17 and 18 I’m hosting a 24th Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. I’m going to hold a two-day symposium where leaders of tutor/mentor programs talk about why our work is important, ways we can improve what we do, and ways we can collaborate to increase visibility, volunteers and dollars distributed to all programs in any major city. If we can create some media attention, this could have an impact on year-end fund raising for many tutor/mentor programs.

I’m hoping that leaders of other programs are as desperate as I am for finding new ways to generate revenue and that we’ll have a number of organizations offer to participate on panels, or to help facilitate each discussion. I’m also hoping that people who cannot come to Chicago to participate directly will come to our Internet portal to take part in this discussion on-line.

I believe that “we” working together can overcome some of the challenges that individual programs working alone cannot. However, we must make time to participate in this process, even though we’re up to our neck in alligators in trying to keep the rent and other bills paid while supporting effective connections between youth and volunteer tutors/mentors in our own programs.

If you’d like to get involved, e-mail me at You can see details about the conference at

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

Monday, September 19, 2005

Race and Poverty in America. Will We be Talking about This Six Months From Now?

Why does it take a natural disaster to get us talking about how to help the disadvantaged in America? I read through several back issues of Time and Newsweek this weekend. There are all sorts of articles talking about Race and Poverty and how we don't focus on these issues other than in times like now. I've posted articles in this blog before about the random coverage of this topic in Chicago's major papers.

I'm also part of the Digital Divide Network and feel that volunteers using IT skills could play a role in building on-going participation in the Race/Poverty discussion, as well as in distributing attention and resources to all of the places and all of the issues that need to be considered when thinking about this subject.

On Sept. 18 I posted a Race and Poverty blog at . I encourage you to read it. (2017 note: this site is no longer available)

I also feel that volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring can be one of the best strategies for connecting people who don't live in poverty with youth and families who do. If such programs can keep volunteers involved for more than a year or two, many of those volunteers will build a personal understanding of poverty through their weekly involvement, and a personal commitment to do something, because of their growing commitment to the kids they mentor.

Many of the volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in America do not have this as a goal, and do not have a structure to encourage long-term involvement.

Thus, in many places where various forms of mentoring are taking place, purposeful efforts to transform the lives of volunteers, and convert them to leaders, are not taking place. I feel that if we're to have more people in business and professions taking a leadership and financial role in supporting the growth of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring, or mentoring-to-career strategies, more programs will need to add this concept to their strategic design.

You can read more about these ideas in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library at

If you have any comments, or suggestions for ways we can expand the number of people interested in this topic, or how we can build a week to week, or month to month involvement, I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Non profit Blog Exchange - Impact of Katrina on Charities

A few weeks ago I agreed to participate in a non profit blog exchange, which connects bloggers in non profits with each other. I've been trying to create a network of tutor/mentor bloggers, so feel this is a good way to try to further that cause.

I was matched with a blog titled Nonprofiteer: Helping Till it Hurts. (2014 Editor note: site not longer active)

The latest message posted is one close to my heart. The author talks about how the fragile fund raising efforts of many small non profits have been negatively impacted by the huge charitable response to Hurricane Katrina. In an earlier blog you can read my own thoughts like this. I feel we're a nation that focuses on random acts of kindness and we don't have the leadership to focus consistent attention over a long period of time on all of the different efforts that are needed to solve any significant social issue.

I don't think that leadership will ever come from elected people. For the most part their only goal seems to be to get elected, or stay elected. I think the leadership has to come from private sector organizations of people who are deeply committed to a cause and who will find ways to sustain their efforts over many years.

Of course, those people need consistent funding, unless they are independently wealthy, which I am not. Which leads us back to charity and random acts of kindness.

In the web links to the left you can see how I have tried to provide a solution to this. I've created a program that connects those who can help with those who need help and use traditional advertising concepts, which I learned during 17 years of advertising for a nationwide retail store chain. I've also piloted the use of GIS maps and searchable databases to focus on all of the areas of the city of Chicago where tutor/mentor programs are needed, not just on my own program, or a few brand name programs or highly visible neighborhoods. Without the map its too easy to make a contribution to one place and think the problem is solved. Until there are good programs every place where they are needed, the problem will persist.

I've also made an attempt at creating visual blueprints to show that many services need to be supported in a single charitable category, not just one or two. I use the analogy of the blueprint for a building to illustrate my point. A blueprint shows all of the steps needed to build a building, from the foundation to the top. It also shows all of the sub contractors who need to do the right thing, at the right time, if the project is to be completed. They all need to be paid.

If we could create blueprints showing all of the actions that are needed to assure that kids born today are in jobs/careers by age 25, then we'd be more likely to be able to lead a campaign intended to pay all of those people. That's the only way this is going to work.

Of course I don't have the dollars that company spent every year, so I've innovated some other ways to create reach and frequency, such as enlisting the self interest of my peers in trying to share the responsibility for building visibility for all tutor/mentor programs.

By showing all of the various sub contractors how they are related to each other, I feel it's also a first step toward getting them to work as a group to tackle the funding issue, rather than competing constantly against each other. The maps do this. So can the blueprints.

I encourage anyone who's willing to take the time to look through the sites and understand the strategy to offer me feedback or become a partner. I'd like to find ways to motivate people to give until it hurts. That's not the ultimate sacrifice, but it's the type of generosity that's more likely to sustain charitable services in all the different places where they are needed.

Dan Bassill

PS: Learn more about the Non Profit Blog exchange at

Bridges that connect people on both sides of the poverty line.

As I read newspaper reports of the Hurricane Katrina disaster a thought comes to my mind.

What if the City of New Orleans had had dozens of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections, which connect inner city kids and business/professional volunteers in long term relationships where the volunteer begins to act like a surrogate parent, aunt or uncle? When it came time to evacuate would there have been a few more people with cars or means of transportation calling kids and families living in the flood zone, asking if they needed help getting out of the city?

At Cabrini Connections ( more than 30% of our kids and 20% of our volunteers have been with the program for 3 or more years. Some volunteers go to extraordinary lengths to help kids stay in school and move toward jobs and careers. If a city was full of such programs I feel there would not be the disconnect between those in poverty and the rest of society that seems to be in every major city of the USA.

However, no city will have dozens of these programs by accident (and New Orleans may have had dozens of these programs. I don't know) . It takes leaders with a long-term, day to day commitment to do what's needed to build a city of such programs. Such leaders need to help programs get started, and then help them get a steady flow of volunteers, operating dollars, training, tech support, etc. Such leadership needs to be sustained even when the spotlight is pointing in a different direction. Tutor/Mentor Programs need to be sustained from year to year if they are to create strong bonds between youth and adults.

We're starting school now. Yesterday the Tutor/Mentor Connection hosted a volunteer recruitment fair at the James Thompson Center in Chicago. 13 programs were there to recruit volunteers. Many more can be found at a CAN CALL TV 42 bulleting board, or in the Program Locator section of . I did not see any articles in the major Chicago papers this week encouraging adults to seek out tutor/mentor programs, as volunteers or as donors. Does this mean I did a poor job of marketing this campaign , or that there are too few leaders in Chicago who care?

The Program locator at can be searched by zip code, type of program, age group served and time of day service is provided to determine if there are any organizations that offer services for specific age groups in specific neighborhoods. I doubt that such a service exists in any other major city, yet the lessons of New Orleans is that we are a nation where many people live in poverty and isolation and too few people think about this unless they are forced to. Building a database of existing programs and helping those programs get volunteers and dollars is the first step toward making such programs available to more children in more places.

Getting an adult to be a volunteer is just the first step in the journey of helping that adult become a coach, mentor or change-agent in the life of a teen. Getting a youth into a tutor/mentor program and matched with a volunteer is just the first step of a 10 or 15 year process that must repeat year after year if the goal of the program is that the youth is in a job and able to take care of himself and his family by age 25.

Making this type of program available in all of the places where they are needed should be a priority of many of the people who are now in the blame game, or who are outraged by the sudden discovery of poverty and racism in America.

I've been working at this for more than 30 years yet I'm still just a whisper in the wilderness. I hope that in the 2005-06 school year some of you will take ownership and become leaders of the Tutor/Mentor Connection's vision, so our whisper can become a roar that leads to more bridges connecting youth living in poverty with adults from the other side of this economic and social divide

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

Friday, September 02, 2005

Disaster challenges all of us

I'm as riveted to the TV and the newspapers as probably every one of you are. This is the Tsunami, but it's in our back yard. Of course, in scope it's not the Tsunami, where the death toll was over 175,000 people. But for each person affected, it's the same thing.

For the next few weeks there will be a tremendous outpouring of charitable donations to support relief efforts, just as there was in the weeks following the Tsunami. However, following this there will be a need for donations to continue for a decade or more.

However, in six months or a year there will be another disaster that will mobilize public attention. Then the people who need Tsunami aid, and the people who need Katrina aid, will be off the front page and struggling to find the dollars needed to continue rebuilding their communities.

I understand this struggle all too well. At Cabrini Connections we're building lives. It takes 12 years for one of our 7th graders to reach age 25. Marquita Hall will be a volunteer with us this year. She is still only 24. Yet she has finished college and has a job helping other people. She first joined us when she was in 8th grade, after being part of the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program since elementary school. She's still connected to some of the volunteers she first met more than 10 years ago.

Our small charity and the many other large and small charities that have been created throughout the Tsunami region, and will be created along the Gulf Coast, will need a constant flow of charity dollars for the next 10 years if today's 7th graders are to become the Marquita's of a decade from now, or if all of the people who have lost everything do to the forces of nature are to have their lives rebuilt.

We created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 because we recognized the problem charities have of consistently attracting donors. While a few programs are great at getting funds, not every program is as good, thus there is a poor distribution of good programs in all places where they are needed.

I spent 17 years doing corporate advertising for a large retail store. We sent out 3 waves of advertising to 20 million people in 40 states telling potential customers that we had stoves, clothes, tires and other merchandise they wanted in one of 400 stores that we operated. We also spent millions of dollars in making sure we had the right merchandise in those stores, well trained people, and that the stores were in the right locations.

Each store had a responsibility to do its own advertising and training but because of the support from the national advertising and training, each store was able to attract customers on a regular basis, at a fraction of what it would cost if each had to create their own advertising campaign.

We've created a master database of tutor/mentor programs serving Chicago, and we are working to build a powerful advertising/evangelism that encourages people who have been blessed to look at the database once or twice a month and determine where and how they can help a charity like Cabrini Connections get the resources (volunteers, dollars, technology, training) it consistently needs to help kids to careers. The Program Locator at is the portal that people can search to locate charities who need their help.

I had a conversation with a friend in Texas yesterday and suggested that this same type of thinking and technology needs to be put in place in many cities, and to support many causes so that when the spotlight has moved to another tragedy there is still a way to draw dollars, volunteers and public attention to all of the places where rebuilding takes years. She's a friend of the Mayor of New Orleans and will be sharing that information.

If we can continue to get the help we need to fully develop the Program Locator, and integrate it with GIS maps that visually show where need is greatest in a geographic area, we can offer it to people in the South, or in the Tsunami area, or where ever the next disaster hits, at no cost, and they can be using it in a few months to connect those who can help with the millions who will need help.

If you'd like to help us, email

Daniel F. Bassill
President, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection