Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mapping impact of violence on kids. Moving to solutions.

This week the Chicago SunTimes is hosting a series of feature articles to show the impact of violence on inner city kids.

In April a story titled Hidden Wounds of Violence focused on the same issue. I wrote about it here . I included a quote from the article in which a parent said "she has enrolled him in tutoring, mentoring and other programs to give him an outlet for his energy in a safe, indoor environment."

Mike Trakan, who works for the Tutor/Mentor Connection posted an article on his blog showing locations of poorly performing public schools, along with "succeeding schools" which may just be steps away from being on the poorly performing list. He overlayed this list on a poverty map, and then a demographics map, showing high concentrations of African American and Hispanic populations in the city. Mike's questioning some assumptions and asking for feedback, so I encourage you to read the article.

However, Mike's map and the articles in the SunTimes only talk about the problem. They don't talk about the availability of tutor/mentor programs, or lack thereof, or of ways businesses, congregations, media, and others could provide the manpower, dollars, technology and other resources to make comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs available.

Here's some maps that illustrate the problem. This map shows the location of around 140 places where a combination of volunteer based tutoring/mentoring is offered.

These programs vary greatly on size, quality and what age group they serve, but they are a starting point for any volunteer, donor, parent or community leader who wants to help kids have access to this type of support. You can see from the map that many neighborhoods have no programs. Thus, in addition to supporting existing programs, we need to be thinking of ways to start and sustain new programs, borrowing from the experience of those already in existence.

This map shows tutor/mentor programs serving high school youth.

If you compare the two maps, you see an even more critical problem. Not only are there too few tutor/mentor programs in total, but there are even fewer offering positive opportunities and mentor connections to high school youth.

We cannot compete with gangs if we don't offer programs and services in the same areas where the gangs are recruiting.

Thus, as you read the articles in the SunTimes, get together groups within your church, company, alumni network, or civic/social group and talk about ways your group can mobilize volunteers to give time, talent and dollars to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs throughout the city, or in a single neighborhood.

Use the web sites of existing programs to shop and compare and to make your choices. Use the Program Locator Zip Code map to learn what organizations operate in what zip code and to find contact information and web addresses.

Don't wait for someone else to organize such a group. At the end of the day, look in the mirror and give yourself a bit of praise for what YOU do to make this happen.

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