Saturday, August 11, 2018

Value of Tutor/Mentor Program - Alumni Update

Leo & Dan - 1973
I started volunteering in a tutor/mentor program in Chicago in 1973. That's when I first started meeting weekly with Leo Hall, a 4th grade boy living in Cabrini Green Public Housing, near the Montgomery Ward headquarters where I was starting an advertising career.

I became the leader of that program in 1975 and continued through mid 1992. Then I and a few other volunteers formed Cabrini Connections, to help kids who aged out of the first program at the end of 6th grade have similar support as they move from 7th grade through high school. I led that program till mid 2011.

Maps show all areas where
programs are needed.
As we created the direct service program in 1993 we also created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help similar programs grow in all parts of Chicago and to try to increase visibility and the flow of operating dollars to all programs, including the Cabrini Connections program. I still lead that strategy through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

I try to share my experiences, and those of others, by pointing to a list of program web sites that I've been maintaining since 1993.

At the Cabrini Connections program we maintained a blog from mid 2005 through 2011 that was a daily journal of what was happening in the program. I was scrolling through it today looking for information about one of the activities when I came across a message from Leo, posted in 2006.  I've re-posted it below:

Hi.. I'm Leo Hall - Dan Bassill's tutee and friend

Today, I got an email from my friend and former tutor, Dan Bassill, about the graduation ceremony going on tonight. It made me think about when I graduated from MWTP (Montgomery Ward Tutoring Program) or what some of you may call Cabrini Connections. 
See, I was Dan's first tutee, way back in 197??. It's been that long ago, I honestly cannot remember. But ask Dan about the one kid that changed his life and he will probably mention me (or maybe his daughter and son first, then me). But I digress. 
As a former tutee and volunteer, I want to say that you all have a great program working on your behalf. When I graduated from the program, it only went to the sixth grade, but you all get to stay until senior year of high school. 
That is so cool, cause high school can be a very stressful time in your life. I should know, I went to one of the largest high schools in the state, Lane Technical High School. Graduated with 1000 students, so I was basically a number. But the things I learned from Dan and the MWTP really kept my head on straight. 
See, Dan was at every major event in my life, with the exception of the births of my children. Now, how many people do you know would travel all over the country to see you graduate from college, then come back to see you get married. With gas prices today, I'd only expect a card. Dan has been my mentor and friend for over 30 years and I really respect his opinion on things. 
I also liked what he has done for the children in Cabrini Green, the children of Chicago, IL. But especially, the children on Cabrini Green. Dan has taken a lot of heat from a lot of people and he kept going. So, you all are the fruits of his labor. 
After graduating from high school, I went to Memphis State University (Univ. of Memphis) and graduated in 1988, on the Dean's List with a Bachelors degree in Engineering. I now have 2 sons, and am a movie producer and director. A lot of what I do with people is what Dan used to do with me, and that is mentor them. Teach them how to make good decisions and trust and believe in themselves. 
Presently, I am on the set of my new movie, and I asked Dan to send me some CC products, tee-shirts and stuff, so that my cast can wear them on the set. You never know, you may see CC on the big screen real soon. 
Well, time to get back on set, but I wanted to say this, keep your head up and never forget where you came from and the people that got you there. Thanks Dan and MWTP for everything that you have done for me.

Leo Hall
Leo & Dan, 2014

In 2014 Leo invited me to Nashville to celebrate his 50th birthday. He paid all of my expenses! I wrote this article following that.

The testimony by Leo is one of several alumni articles posted on the Cabrini Blog. I encourage you to read them.

It's these stories, which I have experienced over and over for more than 35 years which drives my passion to help make well organized, non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs available in more places.

If you browse the Chicago Programs list, and this section of programs in other states, you'll find many who also have stories from alumni.  I was just looking at this page on the Higher Achievement web site (Washington, Baltimore) with 40 stories. Can these convince you to become strategically involved in helping these programs continue to do good work, while helping new programs start where needed?

I've been reaching out to alumni and others to help re-build the Tutor/Mentor Connection and carry it forward into the next decade, with them as leaders and people writing articles like this.  While a few have begun to show interest, there still is no new leadership team in place.

I've also been asking for financial help to keep me going. Click here to find a page with contributor information.

If you'd like to get involved or know more, just introduce yourself with a message in the comment box or connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIN or Facebook.

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