Saturday, August 17, 2013

Building the Village of Youth Support in Chicago

On Wednesday, August 14 I attended the Why News Matters Summit in Chicago where a variety of speakers talked about "news literacy" and ways to make news literacy education available to youth and adults in more places.

As I registered for the summit I was congratulated by several people for my "letter to the editor" which had been posted in the August 12 issue of Crain's Chicago Business. A couple of people said "I passed this on in my network."

As I listened to the Why News Matters speakers I made notes to myself about how news literacy, and other forms of learning, might be made available to youth in Chicago neighborhoods via non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. Last week I used this graphic in an article, to illustrate how volunteers from different work backgrounds could help build learning activities in different programs that would help build youth aspirations and skills for careers not modeled consistently by family or community in high poverty neighborhoods.

When I write about "business teams" my vision is that teams from media, arts, video, banking, engineering, etc. might work as a "virtual corporate office", with goals of identifying existing examples where youth already are exposed to different types of learning, such as the WhyNewsMatters program at Erie House, then recruit and support volunteers from their industry who would help embed these types of learning activities in other programs throughout the Chicago region (or in other cities).

I've already created a section of my web library with links to Chicago tutor/mentor programs, and with links to organizations that include health, STEM or arts as part of their activities. Existing programs can learn from what other programs are already doing. They can bring these ideas into their own programs if volunteers and business partners will help make that happen.

I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago for the past 20 years. It's goal has been to share ideas that work in some programs so that they can be duplicated in other programs, reaching more kids throughout the Chicago region. It's goal is also to find people who are looking at this from a much larger scale than a single program, or a single youth and volunteer. If you're WalMart, or any other big corporation, your "big question" is how to put profitable stores in thousands of locations. Through the conferences, social media, and constant network building, I'm trying to connect with people who are engaged in this kind of thinking.

How do we make mentor-rich programs available to k-16 youth in all place where they are needed? This can only happen if businesses, and business volunteers, help make that happen.

The next conference will be Monday, November 4, at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. I created this page on the conference web site to show a list of activities that could be demonstrated via workshops and panel discussions. If you have an arts, technology, writing, journalism, entrepreneurship, etc. component to your youth mentoring and tutoring strategy, please make time to organize a workshop and share your strategy with others.

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