Sunday, February 17, 2019

What Tutor and/or Mentor Programs Operate in Chicago Region?

I led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago from 1975 to 2011, where youth and volunteers met weekly from September through May at a central location, and many returned from year to year over several years.  The montage above shows a few of the youth and volunteers from one of these programs.

Chi Programs Directory
I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to build a master data-base of existing programs in an effort to help each program get ideas and resources that would enable them to build long-term connections to youth. I published this in a printed directory each year from 1994-2002, and have hosted it on a web directory since 1998.

I'm still doing that.  One of the challenges, is keeping information up-to-date.  At various times since 1993 I've had paid staff to help me do this, and funds to create an internet portal to share the information. Since 2011 I've not had any help.

I'm in the process of updating the list of programs. If you browse my @tutormentorteam posts on Twitter for the past two weeks, you can see how I'm Tweeting out web site addresses of programs I'm looking at.  I'm also writing about this on my blog. I've been doing that since 2005.   Here's an article I posted last Friday, talking about the need for more programs in the North part of Chicago.

Yesterday I went through this list of programs on the far South side of Chicago.  I created two maps, shown below, based on the programs in my list.  Visit this article to see the map that I used to create these views.

This shows the far South side, below 83rd Street

This shows area South and West of Hyde Park, down to 83rd Street.

Click on either map to view an enlarged version.  The yellow (2011 data) and blue (2017 data) numbers show high poverty youth, age 6-17,  in each community area.   Thus, you can see that there are more than 2000 kids in many areas who could benefit from well-organized, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

The green icons are programs I know about, listed here, and here, in my web library.  Just by looking at the map you can see that there are too few programs. 

The problem is, I'm not fully confident about my information. When I look at some of these web sites, I find that information has not been updated in two or more years. Or, I don't see much detail showing a theory of change, a program design, a history, or on-going strategy.  

Or, there may be programs operating that I don't know about, which are not in my directory.

Map pointing to youth org libraries

One reason that I host this library is that volunteers, parents, media, and/or donors ought to be able to use it to find programs in different parts of the Chicago region, learn what they do, and have enough information to decide if they want to get involved with them.

The other is to help programs learn from each other. Programs should be spending time looking at what other programs in Chicago and other cities do, and borrowing ideas to help them keep improving their own program.  Volunteers and donors should be doing the same thing, for the same purpose.

Every program, in every neighborhood, needs to be world class, or great, at what they do to help kids.  Many have a long way to go to achieve this goal.

Below is a checklist, that I included in this Shoppers Guide pdf.  Ideally you'd find some, or all, of t his information when you look at a youth program web site.

Few programs actually include most of this. Thus, I'm trying to influence donors and volunteers to ask for this information, while also encouraging programs to look for ways to collect this data and show it on their sites.

One way to do this is to post information on Twitter, showing how some programs share information on their web sites.  This is Chicago Youth Programs, Inc.

This is Horizons for Youth

I don't single out individual programs doing better than others because great programs are needed in every high poverty area and because there are many different opinions on what "great" looks like.

Here's what I do say:  If you want to help kids, choose what area you want to help, then look at the map, or the directory, and determine what programs operate in that area. Then look at the web site to see what they show.  If there's enough information, you can easily decide how you want to help. However, if there's not enough information, you might need to call the program, do a site visit, and get more information. They way you help, might be to update the web site so it shows more of what the program is doing. Or you might provide a donation so they can hire someone to do this work.

In most places, more programs are needed to reach more k-12 kids.

This means, that if you want to help a specific area, your role might be to build a planning team that duplicates what I've been doing, and helps programs grow where needed.

As we enter 2019, I am doing this work without any help. Thus, my first goal is that groups in different parts of the Chicago region volunteer to take on the role of updating my database or programs. People living closer can gather better information than I can.  They can discover information about programs that's not on the web site.

They can also tell me if programs are no longer operating and should be removed from the site. If if they do great work, but don't host an organized, strategy based, tutor/mentor program.  In that case, they below in a different directory.

And they can help draw attention to the programs they are learning about, using Tweets, Instagram, Faceook, blogs, video, local media, etc.

This is work that could be done by teams of youth/volunteers from schools, colleges, faith groups, businesses and even existing tutor/mentor programs.

Without better information, and more people looking at it,  we don't have a way to help build the type of mentor-rich support system kids in many high poverty areas need to move safely and successfully through school and into adult lives.

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam. Find me on Facebook or LinkedIN.  Let's connect and talk about ways to help more kids have access to organized, on-going, tutor, mentor and learning opportunities.

If you want to contribute money to help me do this work, visit this page

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