Thursday, April 15, 2021

Recipe for Success – Who’s in Your Kitchen?

I first used this idea in an April 2007 article. I've updated it, but the ideas are the same. Nothing has changed.

Are you developing a program to help kids in your community? What’s your recipe? Do you have all the right ingredients? Who’s helping you? Who are you learning from? Read on if you’re concerned about the way your state is helping poor kids in your community move through school and to jobs and careers. 

The graphic at the left illustrates four issues that each have an impact on the nation’s ability to reach youth living in high poverty neighborhoods and help more of these kids grow from first grade into jobs and careers. 

For instance, we may all want to reduce drop out rates, or increase the number of minority men and women entering careers in law, medicine, engineering and the sciences. But do we have a DISTRIBUTION of programs reach kids in poverty neighborhoods?


Do we start these programs when kids are just entering school? Do we keep them going, with age-appropriate learning supports and career focused mentoring? Do we build student aspirations? Do we connect kids with men and women who can mentor the excitement and opportunities of these careers on an on-going basis, then open doors to scholarships and jobs? 

We all want better educated kids, but the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program of the early 2000s focused primarily on test scores, not the additional learning and enrichment and social/emotional support that many kids living in high poverty neighborhoods need. Following the lead of NCLB, donors put too much emphasis looking for test score evidence from youth mentoring and youth development programs. Furthermore, many of the advocates for a system of learning supports are still only focusing on the school as the place kids connect with mentors and extra learning. 

Read this July 2020 article where I share information from the Christensen Institute, focused on relationships as a valuable outcome of youth tutor/mentor programs. 


Why not use the non-school hours as another channel of learning and enrichment. In big cities like Chicago, this is perhaps the most likely time when a busy business volunteer will make a long-term mentoring connection with a youth living in a poverty neighborhood. 

Finally, we can’t have good programs in all the places we need them with the current level of FUNDING and the current focus on project funding vs. program and operations funding. In one section of the Tutor/Mentor library I focus on challenges facing non-profit organizations. These are the same struggles of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs that operate in the nonschool hours. 

Below is a graphic I created to emphasize the need for on-going, flexible operating dollars to support youth tutor mentor programs that had a strategy that connects youth and volunteers for many years. Read the article at this link


Every time you visit a Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, or look at one of our maps or graphic illustrations, we want you to be thinking of the many different ingredients that go into the recipe for helping kids in poverty grow more successfully from first grade to first job and a career. 


This is a conversation that needs to be taking place in thousands of circles. In businesses, universities, hospitals, k-12 schools, and in churches and political organizations. In truth, we know these are taking place. However, the T/MC goal is to connect these conversations, just like we combine butter and sugar with other ingredients to make cookies. 

 We can make some of these connections at face to face conferences. However, the only way to keep these connections growing, and to keep learning from all of the research that is being generated each year, is to build our connections and learning on the Internet. This way we can learn and collaborate with people in other cities and countries, not just our own neighborhood. 


I've been building lists of Chicago tutor, mentor and learning programs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The only place that works well to view the programs on a list is Twitter. View my list here.   The only problem is that too few programs are actually posting on Twitter, or attempting to engage in conversations that identify what works and the challenges that every program faces.  It takes a commitment from every organization to build a network. Donors are not encouraging this from what I can see. 

 Who’s in your kitchen? How are you connecting different stakeholders in your own community? Can you connect your network to the T/MC, via one of the places where we're on social media?

In articles on this blog that I've posted since 2005,  I’ve linked to sections of the Tutor/Mentor Library with articles on each of the key issues that we need to understand, discuss and innovate new ways of doing the business of helping kids grow up and become part of the 21st century economy.

I encourage you to visit past articles and incorporate these into a curriculum that develops future leaders and supporters of youth tutor, mentor and learning programs throughout Chicago and America.

If you'd like my help in understanding the ideas just reach out to me on one of the social media platforms where I'm active. 

If you value the ideas I'm sharing, consider a small contribution to help me keep doing the work. 

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