Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Memories from 50 years of tutoring in Chicago

Tutoring Chicago is celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year, as are Midtown Education Foundation and the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program at 4th Presbyterian Church.  I began my tutor/mentor career as a volunteer tutor at the Montgomery Ward-Cabrini Green Tutoring Program in 1973, and became it's leader (as a volunteer) in 1975. I led that program until 1992 then created Cabrini Connections, to help kids who aged out of the first program, continue mentoring and tutoring support through high school. I left Cabrini Connections in 2011.

One tradition of the Montgomery Ward Tutoring Program was the creation of  yearbooks, showing students, volunteers and activities, which were distributed at an annual year end dinner from 1972-1992.  I was the photographer, designer, writer and producer for these from 1974 on.

Today on Facebook I saw a montage of photos from the yearbooks, created by former student Victor Dawson (who was in elementary school in the mid 1970s). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

As you look at these photos, look at the articles and maps I've shared on this blog, and the Mapping for Justice blog, for many years. Every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other big cities should have icons on maps indicating locations of non-school volunteer based tutor/mentor programs who also have 20-30 year histories, and who are connecting students and volunteers from the past in an army of people who support the continued operation and growth of these programs in the present and the future.

This mobilization of volunteers, talent and resources to support tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago was the reason I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011. It's the purpose of the articles I share on this blog, my web sites and my social media posts.

I can't do this alone and I can't do it forever. I constantly look for others, in Chicago, and in other cities, who share the vision, the ideas and the strategy that I've developed over the past 40 years, who will provide time and talent to help me spread these ideas now, and who will take the lead to spread them in the future.

There should be hundreds of slide shows like this showing kids and volunteers from the past, and showing them in the present.

The boy I first connected with in 1973 when I became a tutor/mentor is now an adult and we're still connected. He invited me to Nashville last year to celebrate his 50th birthday. He paid my expenses!  That's the reversal of fortune that I hope results from many of the tutor/mentor connections being formed all over the country.

The graphic below includes a photo at the left of kids who joined the Cabrini Connections program in 1993 and 1994. Most had been part of the Montgomery Ward program when younger. The photo at the right shows me with one of these students, in 2010 when she attended our annual golf benefit, as an alumni, a college graduate, a full time employee at a Chicago area company. 

Unless we provide a support system that extends from pre school through work many of these kids might not make it all the way, or might not have the skills or network needed to get jobs out of poverty, when they do become adults.

I created this "shoppers guide" presentation to show what I feel should be on the web site of every youth serving tutor/mentor program, showing their history, where they are located, their theory of change, and their alumni.  

I hope volunteers, donors and program leaders will use ideas like this to help build and sustain more programs who can create long-term connections with youth and celebrate it with photo albums like this.

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