Friday, June 20, 2008

Killed for a Bicycle - The REST of the Story

On Wednesday, June 18th the Chicago SunTimes ran a 3/4 page story titled "That boy died over a bike." This was the first Chicago Public School student killed over the summer and the 27th since January 1.

These stories are creating a public outcry, marches and passionate editorials. But are they leading to the growth of programs in high poverty neighborhoods that provide extra learning, mentoring and safe places during non school hours? Can we do more than march in the streets?

Can our faith leaders launch a learning strategy, in inner city congregations, as well as in suburban congregations consisting of people who pass through these neighborhoods every day as the go to and from their jobs in the Loop? Here's an outline of a learning strategy.

To support these groups, the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) matains an on-line database of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs serving youth in the Chicago region. You can search this in the Program Locator, and the Chicago Program Links.

From now through the coming year, the T/MC will create at least one map each week, following news with messages of involvement and action that the media do not include when they report tragedies. We'll post these on this blog and at

We'll also create a library of maps that visitors can use even when the media are not featuring negative news.

T/MC maps will show the degree of poverty and locations of poorly performing schools in neighborhoods where the media point their bad news spotlight. The maps also will show locations of volunteer based tutor/mentor programs, if any exist.

For instance in the map above, there are no volunteer based tutor/mentor programs (that we know of) in the neighborhood where the shooting took place, and only a few in the area around the school this boy attended. You can search our zip code map to find names, descriptions and contact information for organizations in these neighborhoods.

If you know of other programs in this area, or if our information is out of date, you can email us and we'll update our list. If you operate a tutor/mentor program you can add and edit your own information to the Program Locator. If you want to make a judgment about which programs are better than others, view the web sites of many different programs. Shop and compare. We're not making that judgment because we think great programs need to be in every neighborhood, and that it takes many years, and consistent support from volunteers and donors for any non profit to grow to be a great program. And once you're great, it takes continued support to continue to innovate ways to motivate and inspire youth and volunteers to reach their potential.

What's our purpose for creating these maps?

Every day thousands of people pass through poverty neighborhoods as the travel from homes in suburbs to work in the downtown area of Chicago. These are people who control jobs, might be mentors, and have tremendous talent that could help tutor/mentor programs prepare young people for careers. As you drive the different expressways of the Chicago region, you pass through poverty neighborhoods.

Using the T/MC maps anyone who wants to make a difference can identify existing tutoring and/or mentoring programs in these areas and become a volunteer, leader, advocate or donor. Or you can help churches, hospitals or businesses in these areas launch new programs to fill voids.

As more people take this role we bridge the gap between rich and poor, city and suburb, and between people of different races and religions. We make the Chicago region a better place for everyone to raise a family.

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