Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Memorial Day - Remember by Your Service to Others

I spent three years in the US Army from 1968 to 1971, following my graduation from college. I was no hero. I was lucky not to be in a combat zone. I was fortunate to spend time in Baltimore, Washington, DC and in Seoul, South Korea, where I expanded my understanding of the world.

When I returned from South Korea, with my tour of active duty completed, I spent six months working at the Woolco department store in the DeKalb, Illinois area, then came into Chicago and joined the Montgomery Ward company as a retail advertising copywriter.  Over the following 17 years I rose through the ranks and held various management roles in the advertising department between 1980 and 1990.

Leo & Dan - circa 1974
Shortly after joining Wards I was recruited to be part of the company sponsored, volunteer-led, tutoring program that connected employee volunteers with 2nd to 6th grade kids living in the Cabrini Green housing complex, which was located near the Wards headquarters complex where I worked.

I was assigned to work with a 4th grade boy named Leo, and at the end of the first year his mother said to me "He talks about you all the time. You've got to tutor him again next year." I did, and we've stayed connected for the past 45 years.

I've given this 'get involved"
message every year since 1975
At the end of my first year I was also recruited to be part of the committee of volunteers who led the program, then the next year, I was tapped to be the leader. I held that role until 1992 when I and a few others left the original program and formed a new program  (Cabrini Connections) to help kids who aged out of the first program after 6th grade have a support system that helped them from 7th grade through high school and beyond.  I led that until 2011.

As we were launching the new kids program a 2nd grade boy named Dantrell Davis was shot and killed in Cabrini Green and the media headlines were demanding that "everyone take responsibility". 

I had been building a list of Chicago non-school tutor/mentor programs since becoming a leader in 1975, using it to invite peers to connect and share ideas on a regular basis, so I knew that no one had a master database of existing programs, thus, no one could lead an on-going communications effort intended to help great tutor/mentor programs reach k-12  youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago. 

So, as we created the new kids program we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  The graphic below visualizes our local commitment to youth in one program and our global commitment to help youth connect with volunteers in other programs throughout Chicago.

I started trying to find ways of using maps in 1993

Over the past 28 years I've continued to lead that effort, with various degrees of success in different years, and also with an on-going series of set-backs and struggles, that ultimately led to the creation of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011, and a decline in what I've been able to accomplish in the years since then. 

Yet, I still maintain a web library and use my blog and newsletters weekly to draw attention to this information and try to motivate others to take meaningful, on-going roles, in helping youth tutor/mentor programs grow in multiple locations.

I created this concept map to show milestones from 1992 through 2019.  In the upper left corner you can find this link, showing milestones from 1965 to 1992.

1990-present time line - open map

The goal of this work has been to help well-organized, mentor-rich, non-school youth programs grow in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities around the country. The strategy applies to rural areas and reservations, too, but with different challenges driven by the size of the geography and the low density of the population and pool of potential volunteer mentors.

I'm writing this the week before Memorial Day, which celebrates the  ultimate sacrifices service men and women have made in all wars.  I've posted Veteran's Day and Memorial Day themed articles often since 2005. They all focus on what we can do to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in foreign wars, from many countries, not just the USA.

I have received various awards and recognition for my years of service, ranging from the Army Commendation Medal in 1975 to an honorary PhD from Illinois Wesleyan in 2001. 

However, the best reward is the "thank you's" I've received, such as this, and this, from kids and volunteers.

I don't find many people who have been in leadership roles at youth tutor/mentor programs for as long as I have been. I find even fewer who have spent as much time every week for 25 years or longer to help youth tutor/mentor and learning programs grow in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago or any other place in the country, or the world using the four part strategy I have piloted since 1993.

I keep looking for such people. I also keep looking for a benefactor who will recognize my efforts and provide more than a "thank you" to help me upgrade everything I've been doing, while embedding the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute in one or more  universities and/or think tanks.

Thus, this is my Memorial Day 2022 message:

Remembering the sacrifices of those who have given their lives, bodies, spirits and loved ones to this country can be best done by making daily commitments to actions that reduce poverty, strife, inequality, conflict and destruction of Mother Earth and other forms of life.

I hope you've read this and will share it with others as you do your own remembrance.

Here's my FUNDME page. I hope you will help me continue doing this work. 

No comments: