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.

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