Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Expanded Role for Volunteers in Tutor/Mentor Programs

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993, and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011, to help draw extra attention, and a more consistent flow of operating resources, to volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in every high poverty area of Chicago.

The ideas I've been sharing can be applied in any part of the country, but especially in big metropolitan areas where the geographic divides between rich and poor are greater and the population numbers are much larger.

I studied history in college, spent 3 years in US Army Intelligence, then 17 years working in the corporate retail advertising department of a big company.  Thus, the strategies I've developed focus on information-based solutions, which depend on building, and using, comprehensive information libraries.

One thing I've tried to do is build a deeper understanding of the different types of mentoring strategies that exists within a geographic area like Chicago, and the different youth and adults who are the intended beneficiaries of various types of programs.

Furthermore, I've tried to expand the roles volunteers can take to help youth, and help tutor/mentor programs grow in more places, beyond being a mentor, or without being a mentor.

Let's look at this graphic first:

All youth and adults would benefit from mentors helping them journey through life. However, much research shows that youth living in high poverty, segregated, and/or isolated, areas need more help to move from first grade toward their adult lives.  Here's a concept map that illustrates this differently. People living in more affluent areas have more resources to help them overcome challenges. 

Then look at this graphic (click to enlarge). Kids face many different challenges based on differing abilities, health conditions, family structure, etc.  The T/MC and the work I do focuses on kids living in high poverty, where the environmental condition of poverty is the root cause of many challenges they face as they grow from birth to adult lives.   

Volunteers in organized non-school and school based programs can have a huge impact on the lives of these kids.  However, volunteers normally do not have the specialized training needed to address the challenges of kids with special needs. These need much more sophisticated services.  

So, what programs exist serving kids in poverty? How do we find them? How do we help them get the ideas, talent and dollars each needs to be the best it can be? That's what I've focused on since 1993. 

The T/MC launched a survey in January 1994 to determine what volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs operated in Chicago and segmented this information by asking "What type of program?  Pure tutoring; pure mentoring; or combination tutoring and mentoring."  And by age group served:  Elementary School, Middle School and High School.  We shared that information in print directories until 2002 then in 2004 we launched the directory on line, with the searchable Program Locator screen shown at the right.  This is now only available as an archive. 

Visit this article to see the current Chicago tutor/mentor programs map and list of programs. 

As we collected data on youth tutor/mentor programs we plotted it on GIS maps, with overlays showing indicators of need for programs, such as high poverty and poorly performing public schools.  In 2008 we created an interactive map enabling people to search small sections of the city, or look at layers of information, such as mixed tutor/mentor programs serving high school youth.  You can view the archive here. 

If you visit the MappingforJustice blog you can find many articles where I've used map images created from the Program Locator or with our desktop GIS.

While all of this information can help  youth, parents, teachers and social workers find programs, the maps and directory were intended to help leaders make sure that k-12 youth in every high poverty area were being reached by mentor-rich programs.  Our goal was to influence what resource providers were doing to help programs grow while also sharing information that programs could use to constantly improve. 

Unfortunately, I no longer have the resources or capacity to do the survey or create these maps.  Furthermore, while I find some websites with interactive youth program map/directories, I don't find any who are segmenting the information with the layers I was using, or to the degree that I visualize in the graphic at the top of this article.  Nor do I find many attempting to draw volunteers and donors through their platform directly to youth programs in their city. 

Without that information cities will spend millions of dollars and still now know if they are reaching kids in every age group, in every high poverty neighborhood, with a wide-enough range of programs. 

The question we should be asking ourselves, if our focus is on youth living in poverty, is "How can we fill all high poverty neighborhoods with organized, age specific programs, that can build and sustain long-term connections with children as the grow to become adults?    How do we pay for it? Where do we attract and retain talented leaders? How do we keep volunteers involved for multiple years?  

There are another set of questions that need to be answered. Why are these programs needed?   Where are they needed most? The answer may be obvious to many, but I created this concept map to visualize the many obstacles kids and families face if they live in high poverty areas.  Kids in affluent areas also face many of these challenges. However, their families and neighborhoods have far greater resources to overcome them.

Thus, how do we mobilize and educate potential volunteers to build this information base, share it with millions of others, and address these challenges?   How can we teach volunteers, students, alumni and parents to tell stories using this information, powerful enough to draw more people into support of youth in every high poverty zip code?

This is in addition to the questions volunteers and youth program staff must answer weekly.  What do I do as a tutor, mentor to help the youth I'm working with, or the young people in the program I'm involved with? 

These are just a few of many questions to be asked an answered...in many places. For instance, of all of the organizations that offer mentoring, which focus on children living in high poverty poverty areas? Which have long-term strategies? Do cities have  maps showing what neighborhoods are being reached with existing programs? Do they use that information to expand the number of kids reach every year?

Furthermore, who's providing the money and talent to collect, organize, analyze and share this information on a continuous basis?  

Finally, where are the on-line spaces where people are talking about these things?  

So what role do volunteers, and people who don't  have the time to meet directly, and regularly, with youth, take to make this happen?  Here's one presentation titled "Mentor Role in a Larger Strategy".  I hope you'll look at it.

The questions I've posted here just scratch the surface of the questions that might be asked.  Visit this section of the Tutor/Mentor Web library and read the research articles. Visit this section and read some of the blog articles.

Throughout the year, I invite volunteers, program leaders, media, donors and policy makers to dig into this and other articles I've posted since 2005 on this blog, and in my library on Scribd.com.  Do a Google search for "tutor mentor", then look at the images. You'll find dozens more intended to stimulate your thinking.

Become the YOU in this graphic.  Build a deeper  understanding of what types of  programs serve the different needs of youth from different age groups and different social/economic backgrounds. Talk about proactive roles business, volunteers and donors can take to help strong, long-lasting tutor/mentor programs reach youth in more places. Create a "learning organization' where many are involved in this effort.  

If you're hosting this conversation share links on social media so I and others can join you.

Every child is special. Every child deserves a support system that offers hope and opportunity. Some have this when they are born. Others won't have this unless many adults who don't live in poverty make a consistent, heroic, on-going effort to make such supports available. 

If you're writing similar articles on your own blog, or host on-line forums where people are discussing these questions, use the comment box to share a link to your web sites or forums. I hope there are many leading this discussion.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and Instagram. Please reach out and connect with me.  Find links to these sites on this page

Help me continue to write and share articles like this. Visit my FUND ME page and add your support. 

No comments: