Sunday, September 30, 2007

Connecting with YouthNet in UK

I'm constantly searching the net to find others who are using blogs and social network forums to link leaders, volunteers and donors with each other in ways that might build relationships or lead to better practices to support the on-going operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

Today I found a discussion hosted by the UK based YouthNet. One question in the article I read was "How do we engage with "the public" more on the issues of transparency, effective ways to give and charity governance?" This is a challenge I feel all the time, but in a broader sense.

How do we cut through all of the media messages that hit all of us every day to get a bit of attention on issues related to helping disadvantaged kids?

How do we get people who already are overloaded with raising their own kids, taking care of parents, dealing with jobs/careers, or concerned with local, national and/or world politics, to spend a few quality minutes each week reading or blogs, or spending time with a youth as a volunteer tutor/mentor?

We don't have advertising dollars to use like big businesses. We can't be like newspapers getting reader attention with headlines that sensationalize bad news.

I don't have an answer, other than linking to blogs where other people are also asking the question and looking for the answer. If you're writing about this, why not write about us in your own blog and let's work together to attract viewers to ours sites.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Honoring a Network Weaver - Steve Habib Rose

I was saddened to hear about the sudden death of a person I've never met face to face, but have grown to know and admire through out many conversations on the Internet. His name is Steve Habib Rose. If you'd like to know more about Steve, and contribute to his memorial, visit 

I met Habib in the Omidyar community nearly 2 years ago and over a period of months we began to grow closer together around Network Weaving concepts. Just last week he posted an article on his blog that connected his network to the Tutor/Mentor Connection network: He started a Network Weaver's discussion on Ned after Omidyar closed. It's at 

 In one recent conversation he had one of those "aha" moments and realized how many people he knew in Seattle who he might introduce to me and the T/MC. He sent me two introductions in the past week. Steve was a person with one of the most generous spirits that I've met on the Internet, or in the non virtual world.

I think we might have talked only once on the phone, but through many online exchanges we came to know and trust each other. I'm sure that in whatever spiritual world he has gone to he's introducing people to each other, and pointing to us who are still doing this work on earth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stop the Violence Discussion on TV tonight

ABC 7 Chicago's Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton will lead a discussion about how to stem the growing tide of violence against the children of Chicago in the half-hour special STOP THE VIOLENCE: LESSONS ALTERNATIVES, Wednesday, September 26th at 10:35 p.m. on ABC 7.

During this follow-up special, Magers and Burton will initiate a conversation with community leaders focusing on education as a key component to helping curtail violence, the impact of active parents on students' education and the role community members can play in creating compelling alternatives to gang activity.

Joining Burton and Magers for the continuing discussion on the best ways to keep our children safe are Arne Duncan, CEO, Chicago Public Schools, (CPS); Diane Latiker, founder, Kids Off the Block ; Phillip Jackson, executive director, The Black Star Project ; and Meredith Rodriguez, education outreach specialist, BUILD Chicago (Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development) .

The special will be featured on-demand at

We've included a map with this story so that in the follow up to this discussion, leaders will innovate ways to support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods, as a strategy for violence prevention, workforce development and public health.

The three organizations who will be part of the ABC 7 panel are all included in the Chicago Program Links section of the T/MC web site. These programs and the other 190 programs listed ALL need constant media attention, volunteers who serve as tutors, mentors and leaders, as well as flexible operating dollars that can be used to pay for rent, staff, training and other essentials required to make these organizations consistently available to more youth in Chicago, or any other city.

I hope that anyone who is aroused into action because of the ABC 7 report will visit the T/MC web site, join the forums, or attend the November Conference.

After the media turns its attention to another problem, it's up to us to innovate ways to keep public attention focused on this problem.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue

"Good education predicts good health, and disparities in health and in educational achievement are closely linked," writes Nicholas Freudenberg and Jessica Ruglis, in an article posted at

The authors write "If medical researchers were to discover an elixir that could increase life expectancy, reduce the burden of illness, delay the consequences of aging, decrease risky health behavior, and shrink disparities in health, we would celebrate such a remarkable discovery. Robust epidemiological evidence suggests that education is such an elixir. Yet, health professionals rarely identified improving school graduation rates as a major public health objective, nor have they systematically examined their role in achieving this objective."

Last week I wrote about my participation in the Pathways into Health conference. I encouraged participants to continue to network via on-line forums.

In the Freudenberg/Ruglis article one recommendation was to target schools and cities with the most serious dropout problems for intensive intervention, saying "in more than 20 cities at least three-quarters of high school students attend schools where fewer than 60% of students graduate". Graduation rates for 10 largest public school districts are included in the report. In Chicago the 2001 graduation rate for African Americans was 42.1% and for Hispanic youth was 50.8%.

I'd go further and encourage them to use maps to show where poverty and poorly performing schools are concentrated in these cities, to create marketing plans that distribute solutions into each of these neighborhoods.

In their conclusion, Freudenberg/Ruglis wrote, "seldom have health and education professionals been in a better position to work together to achieve common goals. Rarely has a single problem -- high drop out rates -- contributed to so many adverse social, economic, and health conditions."

I read this article with enthusiasm and I hope it stimulates other health care professionals to look outside the box for partners and solutions to the drop out problem.

However, outside of the box means outside of the school building, and the non school hours, not just non-traditional thinking.

In previous blogs I've pointed to the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools as a leader in a movement to make learning supports a part of public education policy.

In my writing, my only criticism with these articles has been that solutions have tended to be primarily school-based. Even when the Freudenberg/Ruglis article talks about connecting young people to caring adults, they tend to emphasize building connections with adults at the school, and not in the non-school hours when kids can connect with adults who hold jobs and work in other careers beyond education and social services. Cabrini Connections is an example of such a program.

In the 10 biggest cities poverty is a root cause of poorly performing schools and the number of kids living in poverty neighborhoods is well over 100,000. I enthustically encourage education and health leaders to connect their strategies.

However, I also feel they need to connect with business and workforce development leaders and look at the non-school hours and non-school locations as times and places when adults can connect with kids in long-term mentoring and tutoring programs.

Such connections can expand the network and skills of adults involved who model a diversity of different aspirations and career opportunities, and can expand the number of people who are personally connected to these kids, and care enough to give time, talent and dollars to build and sustain comprehensive systems of support.

We can, and should, make these connections in Internet forums. However, we can also connect in face to face events. We're hosting a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in the South Suburbs on Nov. 15 and 16.

If you have read this far, you're interested. I hope you'll bring your network to the conference.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What does it take for a student to succeed?

Nicole White, who is a Public Service Fellow from Northwestern University wrote a summary of an article by Paul Tough in the New York Times Magazine, titled "What it takes to Make a Student.

You can read Nicole's article here.

In the conclusion to Tough's article he challenges us to consider whether we have the will power to build the types of programs needed to reach and help more kids get the type of learning support they need to compete with more affluent kids. I think this challenge should be one of how do we provide the resources to help these kids compete with kids in China, India and other countries who are doing more to prepare their kids for 21st century jobs.

The reason I support volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring is not that it expands the network of adults working to help kids move through school and into careers, but that the involvement of volunteers in the lives of these kids can expand the number of adults who are personally connected and willing to sacrifice more to help kids who are not their own.

Unless we expand the number of people personally involved, and reading articles like Tough's, we'll never have the national will-power to make the investments in learning and mentoring that are needed all over the country.

Agree? Don't agree? Why not come to the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and connect with others who operat tutor/mentor programs, or who understand how important they are to workforce development and diversity strategies.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pathways Into Health Conference, Sept. 14, 2007 in Chicago

I've been invited to be part of a mentoring panel at a Pathways Into Health conference being held in Chicago this Friday. This is a unique event focused on the ways distance learning, on-site education and cultural integration can support the positive youth development of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

I'm involved because the challenges of building and sustaining programs that are in all the places they need to be, and that connect youth with a variety of mentors and age-appropriate learning opportunities, are the same challenges we face in big cities. The primary differences are geography and population density.

Furthermore, I'm interested in helping health care professionals become more strategically involved in supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs, as part of their own diversity, workforce development, and poverty reduction strategies. Leading actions that motivate young people to make more healthy decisions can lower the emergency room costs of many inner city hospitals, and in some cases make a difference between staying in business or ceasing operations. Providing mentors and learning experiences that help young people build aspirations for careers in health care, can help meet some of the workforce needs of these same hospitals, lowering their costs of attracting and keeping key employees.

Thus, this is a good place for me to network. I've posted my introduction on my web site. I also have invited others who will be part of this conference to introduce themselves by posting a comment on this blog message. Thus, even if you won't be in Chicago this Friday, you can meet some of the people who will be attending.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ways to Work Together

School started in Chicago today and CPS leaders did everything they can to get kids into class for the first day. At the same time, the Chicago Tribune did the third of a 3-day feature talking about the work of a teacher in one of the Chicago schools that was completely re-started last year.

Small non profits around the city are also getting started. However, they don't have the advertising dollars and visibility of CPS, and the local paper's not doing feature stories on how youth and volunteers connect in tutor/mentor programs. Thus, many neighborhood programs will not be as successful at attracting volunteers, or donors, meaning kids attending some of these schools won't have the extra adult support that a non-school tutor/mentor program might provide.

That can change. This summer a student from Hong Kong Baptist University was a volunteer with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. He converted one of my pdf essays to flash animation, and I encourage you to view it and show it to your friends, co-workers and church leaders.

One shows a service-learning loop in which volunteers who become involved often reach out to enlist others. (Editor note: this animation was created in 2011 to update the original created in 2007.  2017 update. This video was created to show the animation, since Flash is no longer supported on many browsers.)

You can find the pdfs in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library section of our web site.

These illustrate ways people in different cities, or different countries, can work together to create business and philanthropic leadership that supports tutor/mentor programs in many cities, not just in one or two high profile places in a big city like Chicago.

Another way people can help is by directing a workplace fund raising donation to Cabrini Connection, Tutor/Mentor Connection, or to your own program. Here's another example of animation used to create an ad that we'll be sending out via email to ask our volunteers to help us increase workplace donations.

I hope you are able to borrow these ideas to help you in your own tutor/mentor program. And I encourage you to share your own strategies, via blog links, or by participating in the November 15 and 16 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

If we link our strategies via the Internet, we can do much more to help kids in our communities than if we continue to operate in isolation.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

National Service Feature in TIME magazine

There is a nice special section on National Service at

I encourage you to read it and share your thoughts. The timing is good because my hope is that this article encourages more people to think about ways they can volunteer in a tutor/mentor program. If you're someone who is reading because of this article, you can use the Chicago Program Links and Program Locator to find information about places in the Chicago region where you can volunteer, or make a financial donation to support a tutor/mentor program.

While it's great that TIME has created this focus, I feel we need to expand the discussion beyond getting volunteers involved, to keeping them involved for the many years, many places, and many ways, it takes to help a youth move from elementary school to a first job.

Did you read the TIME article? What are your thoughts?