Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Creating a Service Learning Organization that Mentors Kids to Careers

I started this blog in 2005 and often use past articles for new updates.  Below is a 2020 version of an article I wrote in December 2005, talking about "volunteering in tutor/mentor programs as a form of service learning".  If you've read some of the messages I've posted to this Blog since then you'll see that I led a small non profit between 1993 and 2011 that aimed to connect workplace volunteers with children and youth living in neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty.

Our goal then, and now, is to create an organized framework that encourages volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, advocates, friends, leaders in on-going efforts that make a life-changing difference for these kids. By life-changing, I mean that the kids will not be living in poverty when they are adults because they will have the academic, social/emotional and workplace skills needed for 21st century jobs, plus a network of adults who can and will open doors to jobs and mentor them in careers.

In the image above I show myself with Leo Hall who was in 4th grade, and living in the Cabrini-Green public housing development of Chicago, when I first became  his tutor/mentor in 1973.  We're still connected. He's living in Nashville and he and  his wife have raised two outstanding young men, who both have attended college. Here's an interview we did in 2016.   

I have spent time almost every day for more than 45 years trying to figure out better, more efficient, and lower cost ways to accomplish this goal.

I have learned to mine the knowledge and experiences of others to innovate strategies for tutoring/mentoring, rather than trying to develop my own solutions to problems. Using Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I have been trying to share what I know, and the process of learning and service that I apply in my own daily routine, so that there are more people in more places accepting this role and responsibility.

So how do we make this vision a reality? We create a "learning organization", which is also the ideal of many of the best businesses in the world. We also create a "service culture" modeled after the work of heroes like Cesar Chavez, whose core values included sacrifice and perseverance, commitment to the most disadvantaged as well as life-long learning and innovation.

I created a ppt visualization of this strategy in the early 2000s, then in 2006 and 2010 two interns from Hong Kong and South Korea created animated versions.  One can be seen in this video

In a learning organization, everyone is engaged. In the world of Cesar Chavez, everyone is willing to make huge commitments, and sacrifices of time, talent and treasure to help disadvantaged people move to greater health, and greater hope and opportunity.

My goal has been to find ways to draw a growing number of our stakeholders into this learning process and to build an on-going commitment to service (as opposed to random acts of kindness). This process is intended to include students and volunteers, staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where kids in the programs I led were living. It also aims to engage leaders and volunteers from other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other cities, plus people and organizations in the communities that don't have high poverty, but benefit from a world envisioned by Dr. M. L. King, Jr. as well as a 21st Century America where there are enough skilled workers to meet the future workforce needs of American industry.

The Internet has been a growing meeting place since the late 1990s. It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On T/MC web sites we collect and host information that shows why kids in poverty need extra help, where such help is needed, who is providing help, and what volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can do to connect adults, kids and learning in an on-going, constantly improving process of mentoring kids to careers.

If we can find ways to increase the percent of our kids, our volunteers, and our leaders and donors who are drawing information on a weekly basis, and reflecting on this information in small and large groups, the way people in churches reflect on passages from the Bible each week, we can grow the amount of understanding we all have about the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We can innovate new and better ways to succeed in our efforts.

This process has already started.  When I first wrote this in 2005 I was leading a non-profit organization with the capacity to raise money from individual donors, corporations and foundations.  Since forming the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 I've not had a consistent source of funding, so much that was built through 2011 is now in need of new leaders and new life.

Yet the strategy remains the same. We need to nurture and grow it in 2020.

Can you help?

Visit the various articles shown at the left side of this blog, and the websites I point to, and start your own learning. I encourage you to read the Power Point Essay titled, Theory of Change . This illustrates our goal and the community that we seek to engage.

This and other PPT essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library illustrate the T/MC vision and the community of organizations that we seek to engage. Then share your own knowledge, time, talent and dollars to help us build this service and learning organization.

Every December I launch two ways for people to contribute money to support the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

1) make a birthday gift to support my Dec. 19 birthday. click here
2) contribute to the T/MI Fund  - click here

Thank you to the small group of people who have made contributions in past years. You're the reason I'm still able to collect and share this information.

Thank you all for reading my articles. 

Daniel F. Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present)
Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present)

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