Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sharing past articles on Twitter

I've been writing on this blog for 15 years and I feel that some of the articles from the past are better than others.  I've encouraged people to use this blog as a study guide, a planning tool, and a resource for anyone seeking to help kids born or living in high poverty areas now move safely through school and into adult lives, jobs and careers.

To help people find past articles I often share some in Tweets.  Below are two that I posted this morning, showing "end of February" articles.

If you're using Twitter I encourage you to connect with me and follow the Tweets I share and then read some of the articles on this blog that I'm pointing to.

Share with others. Help build the network of support needed to make youth tutor, mentor and learning programs available in more places.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Navigating the Tutor/Mentor Resource Library

I started this blog in 2005 and have posted more than 1000 articles. Prior to that I had been creating PDF essays that I shared here, and before the internet, I used printed newsletters (see archive) which reached up to 12,000 people by 2002. 

This represents 40 years asking the same questions over, and over each year. All focused on helping volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs reach k-12 youth in high poverty hours, with long-term efforts that transform the lives of both kids and volunteers.

I started asking these questions when I first became a tutor in 1973 then a program leader in 1975.  As a leader my role was to focus on creating a structure that would enable individual pairs of youth and volunteers to connect, build relationships, and provide a wide range of learning and mentoring support based on the needs of each individual student. Those needs kept changing from year-to-year, as they grew up. I also had to recruit those students and volunteers and keep them involved.  When we became a non profit in 1990, I had to learn how to raise money to pay the bills, too. 

So, I've learned much. I've collected a lot of information and produced a ton of material. Now, how do I help people navigate this?

I've tried many things, but below I'm going to show just a few.

The first website for the Tutor/Mentor Connection was created by one of my volunteers in 1998 and given the name  The graphic at the left was the original design on the home page of that website. You could click on any spoke and go to a page with information related to it. You can view this page in the Internet Archive. This site was rebuilt in 2006 by a team from IUPUI, then again in 2011 by a volunteer from IUPUI.

In 2008 the site crashed in August just prior to the annual Citywide Volunteer Recruitment Campaign, so Steve Roussos, a volunteer from the  University of Kansas, created a second site, named   While the original site was working again in a few months I began to use the new site to host PDF essays that I had been creating to visually communicate the ideas and strategies that I had been building since 1975.  In 2011 when I formed Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, I used this site as my primary website.

So, if you want to know what resources I have available, you need to take time to tour the site, opening every link, just like going into every store as you (used to) visit a new shopping mall.  To help you along an intern from South Korea created the video below in 2015.

When you're on this website be sure to look at the Mission, Vision and Strategy pages on the right side.

So that's one way to learn what information I host, but it's not a logical, step-by-stem learning guide.

Thus, a few years ago I created the concept  map shown below.

You start with the blue box at the top left, then work your way down, reading the linking text, and opening the links under each box to see what it points to. You might start just by reading through the entire concept map without opening any links. That will give you an overall understanding. Then go back and dig deeper.

Once again, I was lucky to have an Intern from South Korea do a visual introduction of this concept map. She created it using Prezi, then put that in a video.  Unfortunately the original Prezi is no longer available, but the video does a nice job.


Using these videos and concept map you should have enough of an understanding for you to be motivated to dig deeper, into the strategy essays and concept maps and the many articles on this blog.

In the first graphic of this article I wrote "what are all the things we need to know and do".  If you look at the tag cloud at the left, these words represent categories of knowledge that we need to know, if we're going to do everything needed to fill high poverty neighborhoods with well organized, well funded, non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs that help kids entering fist grade today be finishing 12th grade and headed on to college, vocational education and/or jobs 12 years later.

There is no short cut. ALL of these ideas need to be understood and implemented in every city and state of the US and the world.  

One of the tags is "Tipping Points" which represents actions that might make all of this more possible.  I included the graphic at the right in this article, suggesting that the body of ideas and library of links be hosted by a university (or more) and incorporated into a degree program intended to produce leaders who understood all of this information as they entered their careers.

Wona Chang was the intern from South Korea who created these two videos in 2015. Meet her and other interns on this site

If you're read this far, thank you.  Now think of ways you might enlist students from your own community to read these and create their own interpretations, just as Wona and past interns have done. Maybe that could be part of a class at a high school or university.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram. Find links here. I look forward to connecting with you and talking about these ideas and seeing how you are sharing them, or your own strategies.

If you'd like to help Fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, click here

Friday, February 19, 2021

Have you drawn attention to "Black History Month"?

This map shows segregation in the Chicago region and is part of an extensive article titled: "Segregation Map: America is more diverse than ever, but still segregated", in the May 2, 2018 Washington Post. I show the map and share a link to the article in this post on the MappingforJustice blog. 

February is Black History Month and millions are doing something to draw attention and to encourage study of Slavery and Black history in America.
If you've liked, reTweeted, or done anything to draw attention to Black History Month, I urge you to take time to read this article in The Atlantic, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's titled "The Case for Reparations" and reviews the long history of slavery, Jim Crow, separate but not equal, housing discrimination, etc. in America.  

Maps are a valuable tool for showing where people were most affected and where they need the most help.  You can find many map-based articles on this blog.   

In addition, I've been highlighting some of the stories and websites hosting them in articles on the MappingforJustice blog. As I've done this I've added updates to some articles as I find new information.  Here's an example, where I've added updates to this article on Redlining, which is a formal practice that forced Black Americans to live in highly segregated cities. 

I've been building a library of information, freely available to anyone, since 1993.  One section focuses on Black History and another on Poverty, Race and Inequality.   

As I've found new articles I began adding updates to the bottom of blog articles a few years ago.  I created this concept map to aggregate links to some of those and to help readers find the articles I'm hoping many will read.  

In a busy world full of social media too many people don't spend much time reading and thinking deeply about issues that affect them, their children and grandchildren, and their communities.  

I created the graphics below in the 1990s to visualize how a site-based tutor/mentor program can attract volunteers from diverse backgrounds, workplaces, colleges, etc.  As they connect with kids they become a form of bridging social capital, expanding the network of "who you know" that helps people find opportunities and overcome challenges.

However, these graphics also communicate another idea. Those people who become involved can share what they are learning and what they are reading with people in their family, work, college, religious and social networks, educating more people and getting more people involved in helping kids to careers by direct involvement in organized tutor/mentor programs or in working to remove the structural barriers that have built up over hundreds of years.

I've posted nearly 300 articles focused on "learning" on this blog. Most are not aimed at the type of learning students do in school. They focus on learning adults need to do to create a better world for themselves, their kids and grand kids, and for all others at the same time.  You can't read all these in a day, but you could visit many if it were part of an on-going process.  

Think of my blogs as "Sunday School for Future Leaders" where groups of people gather weekly, read some text, discuss it, then go live their lives, hopefully applying what they read.

If you're reading this. Make an effort to share it.  

I depend on contributions to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Click here if you'd like to help. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day! Spread Hope & Opportunity to All

It's Valentine's Day, so I'm pointing to these graphics which were created by two interns from South Korea during a a seven week internship in 2012.  I wrote about it and included a link to the animation in this article.

This article from the DePaul University Center for Writing-Based Learning includes it's own message of Love.  Another article, by Simon Ensor, a professor in France, communicates the same idea and points to ideas I've been sharing at the Tutor/Mentor Blog.

Here's another graphic, also created by the 2012 intern team. Song Me Lee wrote this article, to show how the graphic was created, and to show what she'd been learning during her internship.  I encourage you to look at all of the messages posted by Song Me during her internship.  

On this page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site I post a list of interns from 2006 till 2015, with links to articles they wrote to introduce themselves at the start of their internship, and then links to final reflection articles.  Some provide more information than others, but all show an intent that the intern learn new ideas and new skills from working on their projects.

As I've interviewed students for these internships I've emphasized that one of my goals is that these students continue to stay connected to the Tutor/Mentor Connection library of ideas and to each other, so that in future years they become a community of people who help each other, and who apply these ideas to making the world a better place.


I created this presentation to show a goal of having student-led Tutor/Mentor Connection-type teams growing on high school and college campuses throughout the US and the world.  Anyone who takes a few moments to view my blogs and then shares what I'm writing about, as Simon Ensor has done on his blog, is providing inspiration and motivation for one or many people to take this roll.

I'm still waiting for the first university or high school to adopt this strategy, and for the first corporation or benefactor to endow it with 10 years of funding, but as they say "Rome was not built in a day."   

I created this concept map to illustrate this vision. If you start writing about my ideas and/or creating your own visualizations, share the link in the comment box and I'll add you to this map.

Better yet, create your own map, and add my blog articles to it.  

Through the collective effort of many, we'll gather the bricks needed to build the "Rome" of this vision.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Building a Super Bowl of Support for Youth Serving Programs

If we want great youth serving organizations reaching k-12 youth in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other places we need to provide traditional training to help staff, volunteers, board members learn how to build effective programs.

However, unless we also educate resource providers, volunteers, media and political leaders to take an active, on-going role that delivers operating resources, talent, ideas and technology to programs in every neighborhood, on an on-going basis, few programs will have the resources needed to put good ideas into practice.

Read on. If you agree, share with people in your own network.  

I posted this graphic on my blog in April 2013. It expresses a lot of ideas. So I thought I’d try to break it down into components.  After you review this I encourage volunteers, youth and others to create their own versions, using animation, video, different social media platforms, etc.  

Share your versions with me and on social media. 
Here is same graphic, but with numbers on different parts. In the paragraphs below I’ll show the meaning.

To get to the goal we want we need to influence both resource providers and program organizers.

First, the goal of this graphic, and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC is to help high quality, long-term, site-based tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods. This section of the Tutor/Mentor web library includes dozens of research articles that show the impact of poverty, indicating the potential benefits of mentor-rich programs.

Second, if we want mentor-rich programs in more high poverty neighborhoods, then we must find ways to increase the flow of needed resources to all programs, and keep this consistent for many years. To do that we need to influence what the donor and resource provider do, not just what programs do.

I’ve followed last week's National Mentoring Summit and posted comments on Twitter. More than 1,000 people attended virtual the Summit. I shared a few of my Twitter posts in this article

The workshops called attention to mentoring as a strategy but even with 1000 participants there are too few paying attention.  Two workshops called attention to building relationships as an outcome of organized volunteer-based programs, pointing to social capital ideas and theory.  However, they said, "too few programs actually use social capital terms in describing their strategy and input."  In addition, they reported that "too few schools and educators have strategies intended to help youth build needed relationships."

These are “attention gaps” we need to close and we cannot do that without more consistent, and strategic, support from business, public leaders, media and other potential resource providers.

Let’s look at this chart closer:

A tutor/mentor program supports a connection between an adult volunteer with a youth living in an area where indicators show extra adult support and learning activities are needed. NOTE: many mentoring strategies are not primarily focused on youth living in high poverty. However, there is much research showing that for youth living in high poverty the non-school hours offer risk if not filled with positive learning activities and that there are too few resources in most neighborhoods. The Tutor/Mentor Institute's primary focus is helping mentor rich programs reach youth living in high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago.

There are a wide variety of formal mentoring programs, and many youth are involved in informal mentoring. This 2014 report: The Mentoring Effect, shows that too few youth are engaged in formal mentoring.  This remains true in 2020, and with the remote learning restrictions posted by Covid19, there are even greater gaps in mentoring availability. 

This is one graphic from my web site illustrating a need to support youth for many years. On you can find more graphics like this, which point to a long-term result, which is when kids have made the journey from first grade through high school, post high school learning, and into jobs with family level wages or better. Our aim is to help youth programs build strategies that support this long-term goal.

View this "Mentoring Kids to Careers" concept map for a different version of this #birthtowork idea.

This graphic is intended to illustrate the infrastructure needed in every tutor/mentor program. Most people, including youth and volunteers, don’t see the work it takes to recruit and retain youth and volunteers, and find the operating dollars and other resources needed to build an ongoing program. See this graphic at this link.

This "tipping point" article talks about building future leaders and donors for mentor-rich programs.

This article uses teams on a football field to visualize the idea that great teams need a wide range of on-going support. So do great youth programs.  

I’ve piloted uses of maps since 1994 to illustrate the need for organized tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago. Without the maps donors and media focus on a few high profile programs, or a few high profile neighborhoods. You don't get a distribution of resources to all of the neighborhoods, or all of the programs, which need consistent support.

The oil well graphic indicates the need for programs to help youth from birth to work. See more maps at

Most efforts to support non profits, including tutor/mentor programs, share ideas that help programs improve themselves, and their operations. This concept map shows a section of the Tutor/Mentor Web library that represents a college of resources that tutor/mentor leaders could draw from to be better at what they do.

However, most smaller programs are so overwhelmed and under financed that they can't draw from this information for on-going learning as much as they need to. This section of the library should be read by business leaders, donors and policy makers. It shows challenges facing non profits.

As the Iceberg graphic demonstrated, every program has common needs for a wide range of talent. Few have the money to hire all the talent they need or purchase the best technology and other tools needed to run a high quality business.

This is where we need to grow. Business leaders have tremendous expertise in building chains of stores operating in multiple locations. I wrote about Polk Bros, showing how advertising and sales promotion were used to draw customers to stores. On Pinterest I show many graphics that illustrate the role of business and professionals could take to draw needed resources to volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs all over the city. I created this “Virtual Corporate office PDF” to illustrate the way volunteer talent in many companies and industries could be mobilized and focused on supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs throughout big cities like Chicago.

If programs are consistently supported, and are constantly learning from each other, and engaging all of their supporters in efforts to constantly improve the organization’s impact, they should be able to show on their web sites many indicators of their value and impact. This pdf illustrates some of the things a “shopper” should want to see when looking at a tutor/mentor program’s web site.

Teams of volunteers from business, universities, high schools, etc. could help programs collect and share this information on web sites, and could provide some of the advertising support needed every day to encourage more people to look at these web sites and provide support to help one, or many, programs grow.

As a result of this support there should be many programs with a long-term history and the ability to posts murals like this, showing youth and volunteers who have been part of programs in the past, and who are still connected to those programs today, while helping programs provide services to the next generation of youth.

Now, when you look at this graphic, do you understand what it is showing? Can you share this with people in your own network? Take a look at this blog to see how interns have been creating visualizations and new interpretations of graphics like this. Start a project at your school, or in your church or in your tutor/mentor program, where youth and volunteers create their own interpretations, focusing on your own community and/or school neighborhood if you're not in Chicago.

While Super Bowl advertising is drawing attention to products and services offered by various companies, we need a similar level of outreach to draw attention to ideas like this and to lists of youth tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities, encouraging volunteers to give time, talent and dollars to build great youth tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in more places.

Since we don't have the advertising dollars to lead such a campaign we depend on the voices of individuals.  Can you be one of those voices?  

Connect with me on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram to share your stories.   

If you value what I'm writing about, a small contribution will help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mentoring Summit - in Tweets

 The annual National Mentoring Summit was held this past week, in a virtual format due to Covid19.  I've attended the summit in past years and I really like this format, because of the low cost (no travel or hotel expense) and the ability to get up close with speakers.  The link above points to the Summit website, but since  there was a registration fee, I don't think others can view the presentations, at least not yet.

However, the Instagram page for the Summit does have some of the videos.

As I watched Summit presentations I shared some via Twitter.  Below are just a few Tweets that I posted. Visit this link and scroll through all of the posts for #mentoringsummit. 

The opening session provided many reasons organized youth tutor/mentor programs should be supported. 

I enjoyed the workshop of the Million Women Mentors. In this workshop Jay Flores shared ways he is engaging youth in STEM learning. His videos could be used by anyone.  I shared some of my own ideas.  I did not see any discussions talking about availability of mentor-rich programs in all high poverty areas, nor platforms where the types of programs are separated into specific categories as I've tried to do since 1994.  Then, the four speakers in this panel shared thoughts that could be part of any tutor/mentor program orientation and on-going training of volunteers. Thank you @AricHamilton @aniyaspeaks @_GabiBello_ and ⁦@ClintSmithIII   Then, two youth leaders from HeartsSmiles in Baltimore demonstrated the potential of youth as spokes persons and leaders of any program. 

This last Tweet shows two professional basketball players talking of the importance of mentors.

There was much more. On Twitter I responded to a question raised by the America's Promise Alliance. This is my final Tweet There's much more. Browse through the Twitter thread yourself, or visit the Instagram page. When there is a release of all of the Summit workshop videos I'll update this blog.

I would love to find blog articles by other people who attended the Summit and are talking about "what we need to do"  

I'll close with this question:  "How can we do this better?"  How do we take what was shared in the Mentor Summit and use it to help existing youth tutor, mentor and learning programs constantly increase their impact and how do we help new programs form where more are needed?  How do we influence donors to make more flexible, long-term funding commitments, reaching every program, and every high poverty zip code. 

I don't have the answers but if the conversation is not taking place, we'll never get to where we need to be. 

Thank you for reading.  Good luck as we move further into 2021.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What you find under "What Programs?" search

I've been writing this blog for 16 years so I've probably touched on every thing people need to think about, and do, to make mentor-rich non-school programs available in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago, or any other city.

So, I often look at blog articles from the past for inspiration when posting new ones.

Today I posted "What programs" in the search bar in the upper left corner and here are a few articles that I found.

Feb. 17, 2019 - What Tutor/Mentor Programs Operate in Chicago Region?  This is question I've been asking and trying to answer since 1993 when I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  Click here to read the article. 

March 28, 2016 - What is Information-Based Problem Solving?

Instead of constantly re-inventing new programs why not look at what people already do in different places and borrow what will help your program help kids in your own zip code?  That's the basic goal of the web library I started building in the early 1990s, several years before I started putting my directory and library on line. Click here to read the article. 

January 11, 2013 - 100% of seniors graduate. What does this mean?  Many organizations boast of 100% graduation rates of high school seniors. But, does this mean every youth who joined them in 7th or 8th grade graduated five or six years later?  Click here to read the article. 

June 26, 2017 - Supporting Youth Tutor/Mentor Programs Throughout the City.   In 1993 while I was creating a new tutor/mentor program to serve teens living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago I recognized that one more small program could make a life-changing difference in the lives of a few kids, but would have little impact on the more than 200,000 k-12 kids living in poverty in Chicago.  So we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help programs like ours throughout the Chicago region get the operating resources, ideas and attention each needs to be great at helping kids.    Click here to read the article. 

These are just four of many articles you'd find if you entered "what programs" in the search bar at the top left corner of this blog.  The words in this graphic are tags on many articles that you can find listed on the left side of this blog. Click any tag and you can find dozens, even hundreds, of articles related to that word.

Tomorrow and Friday I'll be sitting in on sessions of the annual National Mentoring Summit, held virtually this year.  As I do I hope some people will be asking some of the questions I've been asking and that a few will visit this blog and let my thinking help them as they look for ways to support kids in their own programs and communities.

If you'd like to connect this page shows links to my social media sites.

If you'd like to help with a contribution to fund this work, click here.  

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Nurturing the Talents of Young People

One of the many highlights of yesterday's inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President was the showcase of the talents of young people, headlined by Amanda Gorman's presentation which you can view here

Amanda is the 2017 The National Youth Poet Laureate, which is an initiative  founded by Urban Word NYC, an organization that provides free literary arts education and youth development programs in creative writing, spoken word poetry.   The 2018 Youth Poet Laureate is Patricia Frazier, who is a Chicago based artist. Read this Chicago Tribune story about Patricia, and see how the Young Chicago Authors program helped her develop her talents. 

Urban Word NYC and Young Chicago Authors are both non school programs funded by philanthropic donations.  They encourage youth writing, expression, creativity and performance, with the help of volunteers drawn from many different backgrounds.  At the right is a 1990s photo from the Cabrini Connections program that I led from 1993-2011, showing three students in a performance before volunteers and other students. From 1975, when I began leading a youth tutor/mentor program, we encouraged activities that stimulated creativity, expression, writing and career exploration.  

These three are adults now and I'm connected to them on Facebook. They each work with young people in various ways.

If you've followed this blog for very long you'll see that I advocate for support of mentor-rich non-school, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs.  The graphic below illustrates some of the types of learning and enrichment activities that are possible in such programs, where the physical space creates an environment for the growth of many different activities and attracts volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds.

In an article I wrote in early January I talked about how "all kids in our programs are different and constantly changing". That means programs need to provide an "organized structure" that encourages a wide range of mentoring, learning and enrichment, just to find something that inspires a youth to aspire for something that they are willing to work to achieve.  Mentor rich programs can do this and they can provide on-going year-to-year support to help kids test different opportunities and to build confidence and skills.  

This NO LIMITS message is on the back of the t-shirt I'm wearing today. It was printed in the late 1990s for the 4th Annual Video Festival showcasing work done by students in the Cabrini Connections program.  It's a message I feel many youth programs share with their youth.

I worked in retail advertising in the 1970s and 1980s for the Montgomery Ward company. We supported nearly 400 stores located in 40 states, where a wide range of merchandise and services were available to attract customers from the area surrounding each store.  Companies like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target and many others have hundreds, even thousands of retail stores located near where potential customers live.

I think of site-based, non-school programs as "retail stores for HOPE and Opportunity". They need to be stocked with mentors and tutors and activities that attract youth and keep them coming back over, and over, for multiple years.  

They need to be located in spaces near where kids live and easy and safe to attract volunteer and youth participants.  That means in a big city like Chicago several hundred are needed.

For such programs to exist they must be supported consistently by volunteers, donors and business partners.  I describe what's possible in the presentation below.

 As you look through this presentation and other articles on this blog you'll see how I use maps to show where these programs are most needed, based on poverty levels and other indicators.  You'll also see links to the MappingforJustice blog, which was used since 2008 to share maps that my organization created, and to show mapping platforms hosted by many others.

Since 1994 I've been maintaining a list of organizations that offer various forms of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs and I was able to plot this on maps for many years. Here's an article with my list of programs, and a discussion of what you should find on their websites to know what type of services they offer. I've never found a partner to dig deeper into this list, to create a better  understanding of the similarities and differences.  That's still a need. 

My goal in writing this and other articles is that many others, including young people who have been helped by organized non-school programs, will use my articles, maps and visualizations as inspiration and models for their own work.

Imagine being able to click into the blue box in the middle of this graphic and finding links to thousands of people who were creating art, poetry, videos, music, blog articles and more to draw "people who can help" to "information they can use" to learn where and why organized non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, and "ways they can help programs grow", then to maps where they can find organized programs and their websites, learn what they do, "then offer help to support their work".

The concept map at the left also shows a commitment that people in the middle can take to help nurture the growth of thousands of young people like Amanda Gorman and Patricia Frazier.  

Anyone can take a role, just by reading this blog, looking at the visuals then sharing with people in your own networks.  If enough do this regularly we'll soon have leaders from every sector of business, entertainment, politics, media and religion working to help grow and sustain a flow of volunteers and donors into youth tutor, mentor and learning programs reaching k-12 kids in every high poverty zip code in America.

And that will lead to many more future leaders like Amanda Gorman and Patricia Frazier. 

Can you take that role?  Can you be part of  President Joe Biden's "Enough" people needed to create the future we want for America?

Visit this page to see links to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIN pages. Or this page to make a contribution to help fund my work.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Service-Learning in Support of Dr. M.L. King, Jr's Dream

Millions around the USA are celebrating the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  Here's an ESRI story map you might include in your learning.  

As in past years I'll be celebrating by learning and adding information to my web library.  Today I'm working on creating a page listing Instagram sites of Chicago area programs. 

I've been using this blog since 2005 to share what I've learned about leading a youth tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975 to 2011. I used an email and printed newsletter to share this in previous years.  

My goal (Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC) 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.

The graphic below visualizes my thinking. There already are many youth tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago and other places, along with countless other non-profits aimed at helping reduce poverty and inequality in America.  Yet, if we plot where these organizations operate, and what age group they serve, or what they do on maps of Chicago, we quickly can see that there is a need for  more programs in many places.

Rather than start new programs from scratch, why not borrow ideas from what is already working? How can existing programs constantly improve? How can donors improve how they provide needed operating dollars? 

I have spent time almost every day for more than 40 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 T/MC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I am 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.

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.

For more than 40 years 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, volunteers, staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where our kids live.

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 is our meeting place. Covid-19 has made this an even greater reality than in past years.  

It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and Tutor/Mentor Connection web sites I 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 from this 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. We need to nurture and grow it in 2021.

Can you help?

Read past articles and visit the various web sites at the left side of this blog and start your own learning. Share these ideas with others via social media, ZOOM calls, videos and create  your own interpretation. Apply the ideas to your own city. 

I encourage you to read the Power Point Essay titled, Theory of Change which is one of several illustrated essays I've produced to illustrate our goals and the community that we seek to engage.

Since mid 2011 I've not operated under the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) non profit umbrella, due to strategic changes made in April-June 2011. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in order to continue to support the growth of the T/MC in Chicago and similar organizations in other cities.  Thank you to those who have made contributions to help me continue this work over the past 10 years. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Social Bonding - Lost Due to Covid19

This photo shows myself and a few volunteers from the tutor/mentor program I led from 1975-1992 as we gathered at a local Chicago tavern following one of our field trips to Indiana Dunes.

I thought of this photo today, and many like it from my archives, and was reminded of how we used social gatherings and field trips to help build social bonds between our volunteers, myself and other program leaders.  It was this bonding that led many volunteers to stay longer with the program and led a few to become leaders who helped operate the program, which from 1975 to 1992 grew from 100 pairs of 2nd to 6th grade Cabrini-Green area youth and volunteers to more than 400 pairs.  Up until 1990 most of the leadership, including myself, were volunteers.

Below is another photo from those years, showing myself and a group of youth and volunteers at a bowling field trip.

We used field trips to encourage high attendance among students and to help build bonds between youth and volunteers, and among volunteers.  We held events on-site such as the annual holiday party and year end celebration, and a break-dancing contest, to further support this social bonding.  This  helped us keep kids coming back year-after-year until they graduated after 6th grade and helped keep many volunteers for five years and longer.  

We started Cabrini Connections in 1993 to provide continued support from 7th grade through high school for the kids who aged out of the original program.  

We met in a huge space at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago until 1999 then moved to much smaller space at St. Josephs Church for two years, then to the space shown above from 2002 till sometime after 2011 (I left the program in mid 2011).   While this space looks crowded it encouraged interaction among kids and volunteers. Youth met many mentors, not just the primary volunteer who was their 1-on-1 mentor.

I've used this graphic since 1990 to visualize the type of programs I led. With the youth as the focus we tried to surround them with volunteers and experiences representing a wide range of  opportunities. As kids grew older many volunteers helped them find part time jobs and fill out applications for colleges.

At the same time we tried to motivate volunteers to stay with us for multiple years so that many would begin to become advocates encouraging others to get involved.

So how well is this happening during Covid-19? Since last March few site-based tutor/mentor programs have had youth and volunteers meeting weekly at their sites and I don't imagine many have had after-hours social bonding events, or have been able to  hold many field trips, if any.  

While many are using on-line meeting spaces like ZOOM, where kids or volunteers are at one table looking at a screen, everyone else is at a table some place else.  It is far too early to know how well this does, or does not, help build social capital, and how well it will support multi-year retention of youth and volunteers.

If the pandemic restrictions stretch into 2022 what will the negative (or positive) impacts be?  Will the social ties be weakened in a few programs, many programs, or all?  

I've posted articles about social capital often in the past.  As you celebrate #Mentoring Month or #MLKDay2021 I encourage you to spend some time at your computer reading some of these, then continue each month through the coming year.

I host a list of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs on Twitter and Facebook and on my website. I've been trying for many years to engage leaders and volunteers in discussions around issues like this, but too few are on-line in these spaces.  You can see remote learning goals that I first developed in the early 2000s at this site

If you are also thinking about social capital and the impact of Covid-19 on site based programs please share links to your articles and connect with me in one of these social media spaces

Thanks for reading. Good luck to you as you move through 2021.

If you value these articles consider a contribution to help fund my work. If you're in a university or some other institution consider adopting the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC.