Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mentoring and the News

Hopefully by now you've seen an ad in a newspaper, magazine or on TV featuring celebrities like Clint Eastwood. These are part of the National Mentoring Month campaign, are intended to encourage more people to volunteer to be mentors.

One of the strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been to follow news stories with web stories that tell "THE REST OF THE STORY". A couple of stories I followed recently were

a) MURDER On the Move, a 1/3/07 Chicago Sun Times story about increased number of homicides in the Southeast Side of Chicago caused by people being displaced by Chicago Housing Authority teardowns

b) Another was Pupils Still Far Behind, a front page story on the Sunday, 1/7/07 Chicago Tribune. This story said that after five years, not much has been accomplished by the Federal Leave No Child Behind act.

c) Another was Minister Offers Ex-Convicts lift on road to redemption. This was also on the front page of the 1/7/07 Chicag0 Tribune. One quote in the story was "Police attribute uptick in murders to parolees who returned to communities."

d) Then there was the column written by Mary Mitchell of the SunTimes, on 1/7/07, titled "Every Door has been shut in my face". This was about a parent/guardian who had been looking for services that could help with an out of control teen, but who was not finding information about existing services.

The only thing that connects these stories is that they were in one of Chicago's papers, and they are stories that are the result of poverty, and too few public services in the neighborhoods with high poverty.

As the Mentoring Month Ads take place, Chicago Access TV will be running a mentor recruitment slide show on Channel 21, that invites volunteers to be tutors/mentors in Chicago area tutor/mentor programs.
These point to a Program Locator that we host at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org.

Visitors can search by zip code to see if there are any tutor/mentor programs in different parts of the city. You'll find contact information, and even web site links, if the program has a web site. Using this, parents, volunteers and donors can find existing programs in Chicago and offer them their support.

However, if you search the Southeast Side, which the Tribune focused on in its 1/3/07 story, you won't find many programs. If you search the high poverty neighborhood, or areas where ex-convicts are returning in large numbers, you'll find few comprehensive tutor/mentor programs.

Thus, parents who are looking for help, can't find help.

Another story I've been following is the one about Oprah Winfrey spending $40 million to build a school in Africa. It's her money. The kids in Africa need it. Hopefully she'll stay interested, and involved, and in 8 to 12 years some of these kids will be working in her company, or using her inspiration to help other kids in the world have great schools and great mentors.

This is what donors and policy makers seem to not realize. It takes 12 years for a youth to go from first grade through high school, and another 4-8 years before that youth is starting the climb the ladder of a career. That doesn't happen for too many kids born in poverty because the type of support they need does not exist, and there aren't many people like Oprah, or the volunteers at Cabrini Connections, who are trying to help them.

I just hope that Oprah's example inspires some other zillionaires to spend $40 million to help us build and sustain comprehensive, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in the neighborhoods of Chicago that get attention because of negative news, and high rates of poverty.

I'd like to be writing about such donations in future blogs.

No comments: