Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Building a Segmented Understanding of Youth-Serving Programs

Now that school has started, and most volunteer-based tutor and/or mentor programs are past the recruitment/orientation/matching stage, and volunteers are meeting with kids, I think it's a good time to dig deeper, to understand the different types of mentoring strategies that exists, and the different youth and adults who are the intended beneficiaries of mentoring. Furthermore, let's once again look at roles volunteers can take beyond being a mentor, or without being a mentor.

I'm going to share some graphics.   Let's look at this graphic first:

All youth and adults (represented by yellow circle) 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.  

Below is another graphic, from a presentation titled "Defining Terms".  In this I show youth living in high poverty areas as the group I focus on, but recognize that system involved youth, youth with social, emotion, physical needs, youth with parents in the military, and LGBTG youth, all have unique needs. 

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, started in 1993, and through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, started in 2011, I focus on youth living in high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago, where a wide range of mentoring, tutoring and learning supports are needed, in the lives of thousands of young people.  At http://www.tutormentorexchange.net you can find a library of information and ideas that anyone can use to help create programs that reach youth early and stay connected for many years, if the end result is a life out of poverty with a network of people to help achieve that goal.

Someone should be duplicating what I've been doing to support youth in each of the other categories shown on the above graphic, including building a web library similar to the one I've hosted since the late 1990s. 

The graphic shown below illustrates this long term commitment.  It shows kids I connected with when they were in middle school, who I'm still connected with nearly 25-30 years later. Several have college degrees, including advanced degrees. These are just a few of the youth who were part of the tutor/mentor programs I led between 1975 and 2011.

Not all youth serving programs have the same long-term commitment, or focus only on youth in high poverty areas.  Many mentoring formats focus on youth age  16-24 who have been involved in the juvenile justice system, or have dropped out of high school before graduation.  Such program require many different types of support to help a young person get his/her life back on track. 

Other mentoring formats, such as school based mentoring, are not structured for long-term connectivity. Many forms of involvement are "motivational speakers" or short duration classes. These are all part of a mix of needed services, but without at least one organization in a child's life offering a long-term support system, are the others enough to overcome the challenges poverty places in front of kids and families?

So who is doing the research to understand what types of programs are available? 

In 2013 I created the graphic below. I wrote about it here, with an invitation for technologists to help build a graphic that programs might be willing to put on their web sites. Imagine a common graphic showing what age you serve, what time of day, what part of the birth to work pipeline, etc.

Until we build a more segmented understanding of the different types of programs within a city, and who they are intended to serve, then use maps to better understand what neighborhoods are well-served and which are under-served, we'll never be able to build a marketing strategy that leads to great programs reaching k-12 youth in all places where such programs are most needed.

The question we should be asking ourselves 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?  

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

Every child is special. Every child deserves a support system that offers hope and opportunity. Some have this when they are born. 

Most kids live in neighborhoods with a wide range of adults modeling opportunity and helping kids through school and into adult lives.  However, kids in high poverty areas don't have such a diverse network of support. Most kids in these areas 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, Instagram and LinkedIn (see links here). I look forward to connecting with  you. 

There's one other page I'd like to call your attention to. It invites you and others to send small contributions to help me continue to do this work. 

Thank you to those who read and share my posts and to those who also send contributions! 

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