Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sports and Violence in Chicago - Solutions Needed

Yesterday my Twitter feed encouraged me to take a look at a series of articles being written by Rick Telander, a long-time sports writer at the Chicago SunTimes.

I did. I found a powerful, emotional story about the struggles of young men playing on the basketball team of Orr High School.

On January 30th I saw another story, this time by a Chicago Tribune sports writer, which I wrote about here.

These guys are writing about violence that has been taking place in Chicago for more than 30 years. Every so often it gets feature attention, as it is this week in the SunTimes.

I'm very familiar with Orr High School. I drove by it almost every week for three years as I was taking teens home after tutoring sessions at the Cabrini Connections tutoring program I led from 1993-2011.

Our program was located near Cabrini Green and over the years as kids moved from that neighborhood, to other parts of Chicago they continued to come to our program. Thus, a few kids lived West of Orr High School and since I lived in Park Ridge, I took the Chicago Avenue route on my way home, and dropped these kids off where they lived.

We had some great conversations along the way!

I've used the graphic at the right often to show the long-term support that non-school programs can offer to teens. I'm shown on the right with Tangela, who was also in the photo on the left, when she was in 7th or 8th grade. She's now living in the suburbs, working, and raising her own kids. We're still connected via Facebook. She sent me a small contribution to celebrate my 70th birthday last December, and to  help me continue doing this work.

The articles Rick Telander is writting are part of a 5-part series. I've only seen two so don't know how the series will end.  However, I hope he transitions from talking about the boys and the basketball team, to talking about what it takes to build great sports teams, and how the same type of support is needed to build great non-school tutor/mentor programs.  I've written a series of articles with athletes and celebrities in mind, which you can read on the "sports" tag on this blog. I'll add this one.

Rick used a map in his first article, to show incidents of violence around Orr High School.  I have been using maps since 1994 to show where tutor/mentor programs are most needed, and where existing programs are located, with the goal that leaders, volunteers and donors will seek out programs in areas featured in the media, and become part of the long-term support system making each program great, and helping kids grow up safely.

I created two map views of the area around Orr High School.

This first map view was created using a new map list that I created in early 2016.  You can zoom into a section of the city and see locations of non-school programs, and can click on the icon to see who the program is. In this case the Kelly Hall YMCA is the closest to ORR, but there are not many programs in the area. See this map at this link.  I also maintain a list of these programs in my web library, with links to program web sites. Thus, if you visit this link, and search for a program by name, you can find it's listing, and open it's web site.

In 2004 the Tutor/Mentor Connection was able to put its list of programs on line, in a searchable directory which you can find here. In the program survey which was first launched in January 1994, we asked what type of program was offered (pure mentoring, pure tutoring, or combination tutoring/mentoring). We also asked what age group was served (elementary, middle school, high school) and what time of day the service was offered. These are all searchable categories in the form below.  Thus, if a parent is looking for a program for a middle school student, they won't want to look at high school, or elementary school programs. 

In 2008 we were able to add a new interactive map-directory to this service.  The map below is also a view of the area around Orr High School.  This map adds color overlays to show poverty levels around the school. It also shows schools on the Illinois State Warning List (2008), which included Orr High School.  It includes locations of non-school programs in the area (green stars). And, it includes locations of assets (banks, universities, hospitals, drug stores, faith groups) who should be working together to help programs in this area be the best in the city, and the world.   You can double click on any of the green stars and go directly to the program's web site. You can click on any of the asset icons and see name and location. You can build a map like this by going to this link.  Here's a PDF showing how to build your own map view and story, using the Program Locator.

If leaders want to fill poverty areas of the city with programs serving each age group, they first need to know what already exists, using the directory as an analysis tool. That's been the primary purpose of the Directory and Program Locator since 1994.

Here's the problem.  The data on the Program Locator is out of date. It's not been updated since 2012 and the poverty layers use 2000 census data. The schools shown on the map are from 2007 and 2008 lists.  I was operating as a non-profit, leading a site based tutor/mentor program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection when we built the program locator, using a $50,000 donation from an anonymous donor. Unfortunately we were a victim of the financial crisis, and lack of civic and political leadership support, so we ran out of money to keep updating the program locator by 2010 and in 2011 the Board at the non profit I was leading decided to no longer support the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 in an effort to keep the T/MC going in Chicago and to make it available to other cities.

I'm still trying. I've not found partners, investors, or others who are as committed, or passionate about this as I am. I'm running out of money and out of time.

I created Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the weeks following this 1992 Chicago SunTimes story, which demands responsibility from everyone to solve this problem.  Because of Cabrini Connections, Tangela and hundreds of other Chicago teens have had support from an extended network of volunteer tutors, mentors and friends. Because of the Tutor/Mentor Connection youth programs in Chicago and other cities have been connected to each other, and to ideas they can use to build and sustain great programs.  Countless numbers of parents, volunteers and donors have been able to find tutor/mentor programs in different neighborhoods because of this service.

However, too few people, businesses, foundations and other leaders have devoted time every day to building and sustaining great non-school programs in EVERY high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities, thus, there are too few support systems with a long history of helping kids like the boys at Orr High School have a safe journey through childhood and into adult lives and responsibilities.

Want to know more? There are more than 1000 articles on this blog and more on the MappingforJustice blog.  Read a few every week. Share them with your network. Tweet them. Post them on Facebook. Create your own graphic interpretations, just as interns working with me since 2005 have done (see intern work).

Set up a reading club, a study group, a research team. Visit this article and apply the learning steps it suggests.

I hope Rick Telander and other writers build this call to action, with links to places where people can find more information, in all of their stories.

For many years.

Additional reading:

*See map stories created by Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1990s - click here

* Map stories created between 2008-2011 - click here

*Visit Tutor/Mentor Institute Library and read strategy presentations - click here

* Invitation to Universities to adopt Tutor/Mentor Institute - click here

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