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. 

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