Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Making Youth Tutor/Mentor Programs Available to More Youth

Oct 15, 1992 Chicago Sun-Times
This was the front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago Sun-Times which prompted the formation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). As leaders called for "action" we said "If  they don't know all of the youth tutor, mentor & learning programs operating in the city, who they serve and what they do, how can they ever know if their actions have resulted in more programs reaching youth in more areas of the city?"

I had led a youth tutor/mentor program since 1975 and had started drawing programs together to share ideas and support each other since 1976 so I had a good idea of the limited number of programs in the city. In my advertising role at Montgomery Ward I understood the need for regular communications to support multiple stores located all over the country. I felt that this type of leadership was needed.

click to enlarge
So we decided to fill the void.  We did the planning for the T/MC in 1993 and created the 10 point plan shown in this article. The plan focused on collecting information (step 1) that anyone could use to help build high quality tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago, and that volunteers, youth and staff in these programs could use to help kids move through school and into adult lives.  Step 2 and 3 focused on getting people to look at the information and learn how to use it, to help programs grow in different places (step 4).

We decided to use maps to plot locations of programs and where they were most needed, as an easy to  understand visual tool.  By 1996 we had condensed the 10-points to this 4-part strategy which I've been following since then.

view 1997 Director
In January 1994 we launched our first survey and 120 programs responded.  With this information we hosted a first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in May 1994 and published the first printed directory.  I've created an archive of these directories. You can see the 1997 Directory here. Every Directory followed this same format. If you'd like to see others, email me at tutormentor 2 at and I'll send you a link.

Unfortunately we were only able to send the printed directories to a few hundred stakeholders in Chicago each year from 1994 to 2002.  However, we began to put the information in the directory in a www, web site in 1998.

view at this link
Then in 2004 we launched a searchable on-line directory that also enabled us to more easily up-date the content on a regular basis.  That is still available although due to technical problems it has not been updated since 2013.

This offers many advantages over the printed directory. Now you could search for age group served (elementary, middle and high school), type of program (pure mentor, pure tutor, tutor/mentor) and location. Thus a parent or volunteer looking for a program in a specific zip code could use this to find if any were in our list.

Leaders could also use this to determine if there were enough programs in different places.

Browse list of map stories
In 2008 we launched an interactive map-based version of the Directory. The 2004 search platform worked like a Google search. If you knew what you were looking for you could put in the zip code or name of the program and find whatever information was in the Directory.  We reversed that by creating a map of the Chicago region, with searchable overlays. We also added an assets feature, showing banks, colleges, drug stores, hospitals, etc. Using this people could zoom into a section of the city and create a map showing the need for non-school programs, existing programs, plus assets who could help programs grow in that area.

Here's an article from 2010 that shows the directory and our use of maps.  In 2008 we also launched the MappingforJustice blog to share our maps. Since 2011 I've used this to share map platforms created by others, in addition to map stories created using the Program Locator.

Support Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC
Due to the financial challenges of the late 2000s the mapping platform has not been updated since 2010 and the program data has not been updated since 2013.  However, this still works as a model that could be re-built and used in Chicago and every other major city in the world where poverty is a root cause of many problems and is usually concentrated in small sections of big cities.  I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to try to keep the T/MC alive in Chicago and help it grow in other cities.  I'm still trying.

Today I saw a commentary on Crains Chicago Business calling for more programs to help youth. I shared it on Twitter.

Without a T/MC type strategy it's not likely to ever result in enough programs in every high poverty neighborhood helping youth move through school and into work.

This is one of dozens of graphics that I've used to visualize the ideas I've been sharing since 1994. If you're creating similar graphics please connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN and share them.

If you're not, the please share my graphics and blog articles with your network.

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