Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"the difficulty of success does not relieve one of the obligation to try"

Yesterday at the funeral of Corretta Scott King dozens of high profile people gave inspirational speeches calling for service to this nation and this world.

(NOTE: while this was posted in 2006 I've updated some of the links to point to current (2014) web sites)

I heard President Clinton while driving home. He said, "the difficulty of success does not relieve one of the obligation to try"

That resonated with me. For the past 30 years I've been trying to connect volunteers and inner city kids in a process that transforms the lives of the adult and the youth. For the youth we're trying to show that there are many career opportunities beyond those modeled in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods. They are available to anyone who works hard enough and takes advantage of the support offered by volunteer based tutor/mentor programs. To the volunteer's I've tried to teach concepts of service and leadership that go beyond "giving back" or "random acts of kindness". A youth in 5th grade needs volunteer support for many years and without the help of volunteers who become leaders and help improve the capacity of a tutor/mentor program, we'll never maintain our appeal long enough to ensure that our kids reach careers. Each year, this seems like an impossible task, yet, "the difficulty of success does not relieve me of the obligation to try."

I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 because I realized that no one had a master database of volunteer based tutor/mentor programs serving Chicago, and no one was leading a day-to-day effort to help each program that was already operating get the help and encouragement it needs to be successful at connecting kids and adults in long-term, career oriented mentoring. By not knowing what programs exist and where they were located, the city did not have a way to identify neighborhoods or age groups where there were no programs, or build a strategy to add new programs to fill these voids.

I've been trying to get leaders of tutor/mentor programs, researchers, funders, business leaders, etc. to come together in on-going learning that leads to the growth of volunteer-based mentoring-to-career programs in every poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other major cities.

I describe this process in a Theory of Change presentation that can be found in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library.

I participate in a variety of email forums, and issue a monthly email newsletter. Our web sites receive 4,000 visits a month. Through these I reach more than 10,000 people a month with invitations to connect with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. We receive a trickle of responses which are the people we've worked with since 1993 to build the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I'm disappointed that we don't have greater response, or that we've not found a major benefactor to support our work, but in the spirit of President Clinton's message, "it does not relieve me of the obligation to try".

I use power point essays to describe a multidimensional process that shows a sequence of services that start at birth and lead kids through school and into jobs and careers 25 years later, and that are available in thousands of neighborhoods, and supported by dozens of different types of organizations, and every industry segment, all with the same goals, but all working in silos to do their work.

Connecting these groups and teaching business and philanthropy to distribute funds based on where tutor/mentor programs are needed and which programs already operate in those areas is an almost impossible task. Yet, "the difficulty of the challenge does not relieve me of the obligation to try"

I am beginning to organize workshops for the May 25 and 26, 2006 Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference that will be held at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. I'm also looking for colleges and universities who will host internet based discussions of conference topics, enabling more people to connect, network and learn from each other than who normally can attend a face to face conference. I'm also looking for a host college for the November 2006 conference. While it's difficult finding people to donate time or space or money needed to bring program leaders together, "the difficulty of the challenge does not relieve me of the obligation to try."

I encourage anyone who listened to Al Sharpton or the Rev. Joseph Lowery, or Bill Clinton's words in honor of the memory of Coretta Scott King to connect with the Tutor/Mentor Connection through the May or November Conferences or social media sites or the the Tutor/Mentor Connection on-line forum. You can offer workshops to share what you are learning and to help other programs find ways to connect adult and kids in ways that transform lives. Or, you can help sponsor the conference.

I you are interested in participating, please visit for details or email me at

Daniel F. Bassill
Cabrini Connections (1993-2011)
Tutor/Mentor Connection
Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-2014)

1 comment:

Moriya said...

Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog while researching mentor programs. Looks like you have a great thing going for you. This is the first time I also have a mentor and, am researching ways to improve our relationship. I agree that the power of a mentor relationship is tremendous. Though I am only a poor college grad at this time, hopefully one day I see the potential great results of my mentor relationship. I am greatly interested in the potential for mentoring programs and hope to one day be a powerful influence in someone else's life. I will be sure to read and revisit your site along my journey. Best of luck to you and your journey!!