Thursday, June 04, 2009

"We all Start out Good" - Richard Roeper in today's SunTimes - Rest of the Story

In the June 4 Chicago SunTimes, Richard Roeper's column provides a sad story about how poverty turned a smart 8-year old kid into inmate#84433 in an Illinois jail. Roeper wrote about this 8 year old boy in 1995, based on an entry from the little boy's journal which said "I feel bad that people are killing people. I hate that people don't care about kids or grown-ups, because we want to live our life saying, 'I love my life'."

We were in the second year of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection at that time, and I was just beginning to use maps to show where these stories were taking place. My purpose was to follow up media stories with what I call "The Rest of the Story", showing the poverty in the neighborhood, and drawing attention, volunteers and resources to any tutor/mentor programs operating in the area.

The map above was created using the new, interactive tutor/mentor program locator. I was able to zoom into the area around Clemente High School, and show the number of elementary schools in the area who are on state warning lists, as well as the level of poverty. On this map the green stars are groups offering various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring. On the interactive map, you can click on the star and find contact information. If they have a web site, you can go to the web site and learn what this groups does to help kids, and how you can use your time and talent and dollars to help.

Unfortunately, this neighborhood has too few tutor/mentor programs, and we've not had a lot of success creating these maps, or getting the media and business advertisers to draw attention to volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring over the years.

Tonight we're hosting our 16th year end dinner for Cabrini Connections. We'll have more than 200 parents, students, volunteers and alumni at the event. We'll celebrate the work of the past year, and the graduation of five of our seniors.

If programs like this were in the area around Clemente High School for the past 14 years, maybe the letter Roeper received would have been different.

If Chicagoans want different outcomes for inner city kids, they need to provide the time, talent, and flexible operating dollars to make such programs available, and to keep them in place year after year.

If other cities want these types of programs they need to create a Tutor/Mentor Connection, and a support system for all of their neighborhood programs.

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