Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks and Giving

At 8am on Thanksgiving morning I met for coffee with a middle age man named Leo Hall. Leo lives in Nashville, TN, makes videos and is a substitute teacher. He has two great boys and a wonderful wife.

What made this event special?

I first met Leo almost 33 years ago when he was in 4th grade, attending an elementary school in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. I was a first year employee working in the Advertising Department of the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters of Chicago. In the fall of 1973 I became a volunteer tutor with the Montgomery Ward Cabrini Green Tutoring Program in Chicago. I was assigned to work with Leo. We met every Tuesday night during that 1973-74 school year, and for the next several years.

In the years since then, I've attended every graduation of Leo's, including 8th grade, high school and college.

Leo sent me an email Tuesday, telling me he was coming to Chicago, and that he wanted to meet with me. He made special arrangements to be able to join me on Thursday morning, just as I did.

We have stayed in contact for 33 years, although we've not seen each other for about six years. Since he was coming to Chicago he wanted to make sure he saw me.

He wanted to say "thanks" for me being his mentor for all of these years.

While I accepted his "thanks" I also offered my own. I said "thanks" for him letting me be part of his life, and for all of the ways this involvement has become my life in the years since then.

When I write about tutoring/mentoring and the infrastructure needed to support such programs, I'm thinking about what it took for Leo and I to first meet in 1973, and to stay connected for all of these years. If some volunteers had not made the weekly commitment for the Wards program to operate, we never would have met. If donors had not provide enough dollars to operate every year, we would not have been able to stay connected. He could not have found me, or me him, if Cabrini Connections were not a home, that connects us, and many others, to each other.

As you do your holiday charitable giving, I encourage you to made a donation to a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program like Cabrini Connections so you can help us continue to make these connections between youth like Leo and adults like me.

If you view the Chicago Programs Links at the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, you'll find web site links for Cabrini Connections and for many other Chicago organizations that offer various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring. You can use these to choose places where you might want to make a donation or become a volunteer in the coming year.

We all give thanks for the richness that mentoring has added to our lives. We hope that through your giving we'll be able to continue this work for many more years.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

$2 Million Award supports Chicago volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs!

Over the past two years I've posted many messages showing how the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been working to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in Chicago and in other major cities. That has been a three part effort

a) building knowledge of who does this work, what works, who supports it, etc.

b) drawing programs together to learn from each other and collaborate on capacity building

c) working with business and professional groups to create strategies that distribute funds annually to tutor/mentor programs in every part of the city, instead of just to one or two favorite, or highly visible programs.

The best example of our success in getting businesses involved has been the work we've done since 1994 to help the Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Lend A Hand Program ( ) grow at the Chicago Bar Association. Since 1995 the LAH has been able to award $30,000 to $50,000 each year in small grants to 20-30 different programs. The photo above shows the Thomas A Demetrio Lend A Hand Award recognizing an outstanding example of a Chicago tutor/mentor program, being awarded during a Tutor/Mentor Conference.
While these were welcome, the size of the grant means the programs still had to find about 98% of the money needed to operate from other sources.

Yesterday the LAH received $2 million from the Chicago Sun Times as part of a legal settlement. These funds will increase the grant pool to as much as $300,000 per year over the next 3 to 5 years, and dramatically increase the size of grants awarded to tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago area.

This is the result of our efforts to connect those who can help with volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs who are helping inner city kids reach careers. It's also a result of many tutor/mentor programs participating in the May and November conference, and the August/September Volunteer Recruitment Campaigns, organized by the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

The goal of the T/MC is to have the Lend A Hand duplicated in every industry, so that tutor/mentor programs receive funds, and volunteers, from many sources, not just the legal community. The way we hope to achieve this is that more tutor/mentor leaders in Chicago will become active partners in this strategy, and that program leaders in other communities begin to work with the T/MC as collaborators so that the business and professional groups in their own community will adopt this strategy.

The best way to get more involved is to participate in the Nov. 30 Tutor/Mentor Conference being held at DePaul University, 1 E Jackson. Read about the conference at

This strategy can be duplicated in Rockford, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, or any other major city. I encourage you to connect with the T/MC so we can help you take a T/MC type leadership in your neighborhood, or your city. To get involved, post a message in the Discussion Forum, or email me at

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day salute to service and sacrifice

It’s Veteran’s Day today. I’m writing thank you letters that I’ve fallen behind on and I was inspired to write this post.

I’m a Veteran in two ways. I served in the Army from 1968-71 and I’ve served in the war on poverty as leader of a tutor/mentor program from 1974 till today. I’m proud of both.

Service requires sacrifice. It’s easy to understand the level of sacrifice given on the battlefield. Yet when I was coming back from Korea in 1971, I felt that my service to my country was not as important because I was not on the battlefield. Over the years, I’ve changed my mind through my leadership of a tutor/mentor program. For the soldiers on the front line to do their job, soldiers behind the scenes need to do their jobs, too.

In our war on poverty the volunteers who connect directly with teens as tutors/mentors, and the people who staff tutor/mentor programs are in combat every day. They can tell you the horror stories and the sacrifices they make to help kids who need many types of support to succeed in school in neighborhoods where many expectations and role models support different aspirations.

What I've learned is that while we need tutors/mentors, we also need many other volunteers who provide their time as leaders, organizers, web site developers, fund raisers, and as a donors. If non profit tutor/mentor programs can not consistently get this type of infrastructure support, most will not be consistently able to support those who are directly connected with kids.

Thus, as a veteran, I thank everyone who is making donations of time and money to support volunteer based tutor/mentor programs that serve kids living in poverty. I hope you'll look at the level of sacrifice being made by those who give their lives and time to military service, and consider expanding your own level of commitment to helping us end poverty by helping kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Principal for a Day should focus on neighborhoods, not just schools

Once again Chicago and other cities hosted a Principal for a Day event that brought CEOs and celebrities into Chicago schools. The goal was to energize leaders to become supporters of education efforts in Chicago. This year there was a concerted effort to raise money for CPS from this effort.

While this is needed, I'd like to see an effort that encouraged businesses to adopt neighborhoods, not just schools. Such a strategy would reinforce the 24/365 learning that is required to help a youth succeed in school. It would point business leaders to non-school tutoring/mentoring and youth development programs, not just the programs offered by CPS during its 9 month schedule and range of summer programs.

It would give more opportunities for business volunteers to become engaged and to stay involved for more time than a one-day visit to a school. Such a strategy would not only build stronger relationships with youth who need extra adults to mentor and build career aspirations, but would also help people beyond poverty become more informed of the complex issues that all need to be addressed at the same time, and for many years, if we're to change education outcomes in some inner city neighborhoods.

You can see our vision of this strategy in the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of the web site. If you know one of the leaders who spent a day in one of Chicago's schools this month, I encourage you to encourage that person to consider support for non school programs in the same neighborhood.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Holiday Tutor Mentor Bloggers Wanted

On Nov. 30 the Tutor/Mentor Connection will host a one-day conference in Chicago to draw leaders and supporters of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs together, and to create visibility that helps draw needed donations to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities. You can read about the conference at

I'm writing to recruit bloggers who are talking about charity, and volunteerism, and programs that connect adults with inner-city kids in roles of tutors, mentors, advocates, coaches and friends. If we can increase the number of people around the world blogging this topic, and pointing to sites such as the Program Links area of, we can increase holiday donations and give donors choices of where they send those donations.

If you're blogging this topic, just post a comment in this section with your blog's web address. If you are aggregating charity blogs, I encourage you to create a sub section that points at non profits that connect adults and youth who do not live in poverty with youth and communities that are dominated by poverty.

I'll look forward to reading your posts.