Saturday, January 02, 2021

Mentoring Month Message to Volunteers

As we start a new year, and a new decade, and the National Mentoring Month, we also welcome a new President.

For the past year Democratic Presidential candidates have bombarded us with stories of hope, and change. It would give me more hope for the future, if I could see change in the way elected leaders (and candidates) act as leaders.

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 ( I joined the leadership committee of the Montgomery Ward Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program in Sept. 1994.) 

I formed the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in 1993 to help teens from the original 2nd to 6th grade program at the Montgomery Ward HQ in Chicago get the extra support they need from 7th grade through high school, in order to be prepared for college, vocational education, and the next steps to a job and a career.

When kids and volunteers joining us each year we're making one promise: 

We will do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25. We are only limited by how much our students, volunteers, alumni and supporters are willing to share this responsibility.

Below is a message I shared with our volunteers to start 2008
. This message can be just as relevant in January 2020 to volunteers in any tutor/mentor program, or to newly elected leaders to city, state and national offices. 


I hope that all of our volunteers have had great holidays and that you are looking forward to continuing your role as a tutor/mentor volunteer at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

As you prepare for the second half of the school year, I encourage you to read some of the articles posted at Cabrini Connections - Tutor/Mentor Program in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago (

I've been a leader of a tutor/mentor program since 1974, and I've learned that every volunteer and student are different, and constantly changing. Thus, while I can provide a structure for your participation, I can't teach you everything you need to know, or everything I've learned. I can try to help you, and your student, form a learning strategy, where you know where to find information, and find help, so that as you meet weekly, you know where to go for ideas to stimulate and support your involvement. 

Last Christmas, Rebecca Parrish (a Cabrini Connections volunteer) gave me the book "The Starfish and the Spider" as a present. As I read it, I realized that this book was describing Cabrini Connections and the role of every volunteer, staff member, and leader. It also describes the role of alumni, and veteran volunteers. 

We are a decentralized organization in which each volunteer is the CEO of his/her own tutoring/mentoring business. We succeed in life by our own efforts and by what we can learn from others. Our networks are important. They expand opportunities, open doors and provide resources. 

As you go through the tutoring year, each volunteer is learning to individualize his/her weekly activities based on the needs of your student, your own abilities and time, and the level of experience you have gained. Veteran volunteers, alumni, staff and coordinators are able to support you with ideas, information, and structure, but it is your own learning and networking with other volunteers that gives you ideas for what you do. 

Each week I'm trying to coach you with this email, with my blogs, and with the information and networks available to you on the Tutor/Mentor Connection (which we started in 1993 at the same time as we launched the Cabrini Connections program) website at 

You all already know how difficult it is to motivate many kids to do home work, do extra learning, and take charge of their lives. Imagine how difficult it is for me and the leaders of Cabrini Connections to recruit busy people like our volunteers, and convince them to spend time beyond their weekly tutoring/mentoring, learning how they can become more effective tutors/mentors, or giving help to others who are seeking help. 

Yet, this is the only way we can succeed in keeping the promise we make to our kids. Read more at

I thank you all for your involvement in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. On behalf of our volunteer board of directors, I welcome you back for our 16th year of tutoring/mentoring since January 1993.

Dan Bassill
Cabrini Connections 
Tutor/Mentor Connection 


In what ways will our newly elected leaders support the involvement of volunteers, donors, businesses and universities in programs like Cabrini Connections? Will they use maps to build a distribution of resources into every neighborhood where tutor/mentor programs are needed? Will they use their blogs, web sites, public speaking to connect volunteers with non profits in their district, using links to a Program Locator, so volunteers and donors can search for where to get involved? 

Or will the volunteer and donate button on their web site only point to themselves, in an effort to get elected, or stay elected? 

True leadership lifts up everyone. Real Generals understand the need to distribute troops in all places where the enemy is concentrated, and they understand the need to have an infrastructure that supports those troops with food, clothing, pay, training, weapons, etc. so they are better equipped than the enemy.

Which of our leaders are going to be demonstrating this type of leadership when they take office or ask for our votes again in a few years?

Since I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 Chicago has had three different Mayors and the USA has had four different Presidents and will have a 5th in late January 2020.

I've been sharing ideas like these in printed newsletters, websites, blogs, email newsletters and social media for 25 years yet I still find few leaders using maps to show all the places where kids and families need  help, and where they are distributing needed resources.  I find few using concept maps as blueprints to visualize all the supports needed to help a youth in a high poverty area move from first grade to their first job, with a commitment to "do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25."

I thank you for reading this far and sincerely thank those few who have made contributions in 2020 to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  

Please go a step further and share my blog articles with your own networks so more people see these ideas and adopt them as their own.  Below is an example of one of my own recent Tweets.
The strategy map that I point to in this tweet can be found on this page, along with all my other concept maps.  Open it. Read it aloud. If it makes sense to you, create your own version. Record it. Share it. Maybe in 2021 we'll finally find leaders who will make this commitment. 

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam and you can find me on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram  (see links on  this page). I look forward to connecting with others who share this commitment. 

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