Monday, June 27, 2022

On-Line Opens 4th Timeframe to Connect with Youth

I saw this Tweet today, posted by Julia Freeland Fisher of the Christensen Institute.  It focuses on the opportunities to expand social networks offered by emerging education technologies. I encourage you to click through and read the article.

Maximizing on-line connections has been a passion of mine since going on-line in the late 1990s.  Here's a page where I posted e-learning goals for the ecosystem of people trying to help kids in poverty move through school and into adult lives. 

However, most of my focus has been to maximize face-to-face connections between youth in poverty and volunteers who they meet via organized, non-school, tutor, mentor and learning programs.

Below are three graphics that I've used for more than 20 years to show ways to increase face-to-face student support. 

The first shows three time frames in which kids need learning opportunities. The third time frame, after 5PM, evenings and weekends is when business volunteers are more available and more likely to make weekly commitments that last for many years. This does not mean that business volunteers and donations are not needed at schools and Boys & Girls Clubs during the school day, and right after school during the 3pm to 5:30 pm time frame.

This second graphic shows the same three timeframes, but on a chart that reinforces the need for learning supports and mentoring, starting in preschool and elementary school and staying connected to kids all the way through high school and college and into careers. In this graphic, parents, teachers, social workers, mentors, are all PUSHING kids to make good decisions that we know will help make their lives better. What we need is the partnership of businesses and universities who will use their resources (people, jobs, learning, dollars, technology, facilities) to PULL kids through school and into careers. When there are thinking teams in each industry, and in colleges, brainstorming ways to influence the decisions kids make, and the way the resources of the business and university are used to connect kids with non-school learning programs, there will be more leadership, and more good ideas, being circulated in more places.

The third is a map of Chicago. 

Generals use maps to position troops and supplies in their efforts to win wars. If leaders in business, philanthropy, government, entertainment, etc. learn to use maps like these, to focus resources and strategies in all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities, so that a wide variety of constantly improving, mentor rich, volunteer-based programs grow AT THE SAME TIME, in all of these places, then they can mobilize resources from businesses, hospitals, universities, faith groups, etc. and point them to places where they are needed.

Finally, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We don't need to build a new government in Iraq or Afghanistan, or any place else in the world. We need to help existing programs already operating in Chicago and other cities get the resources, ideas, volunteers, leaders, dollars they each need on a continuous basis to operate in one or more of these places, building and sustaining connections with kids and volunteers, and each other, that build quality and impact at the same time as the PUSH kids through school and PULL them toward careers.

Every city needs a Program Locator database (this was created in 2004 and rebuilt in 2008, but has been an archive since 2018) to help volunteers and donors locate existing tutor/mentor programs and to help Generals understand the existing deployment of troops, and where reinforcements are needed. See my current map and list of programs in this article.

If our leaders borrow some of these ideas instead of creating brand new ideas of their own, maybe they can make some progress over the next 8 to 12 years of winning this war.

Emerging technologies offer many new opportunities to connect learners with information and ideas and with places where these ideas need funding in order to be effectively implemented.

On-line spaces like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other are places where anyone can be the YOU in this graphic, urging people they know to visit on-line libraries and then connect and talk about ways to use these ideas to create a brighter future.

Along the left side of this blog are tags to maps, strategies, articles, and links that we hope the staff of these new generals will read and use as ammunition for the upcoming battles.

I now lead the Tutor/Mentor Connection (created in 1993) via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (created in 2011).  I'd be happy to serve as mentors to these leaders or to anyone else who wants to become more strategic in mobilizing and sustaining resources to help kids through school and into careers.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Follow up to JuneTeenth - Building the Network

I have been writing this blog since 2005, continuing work that I started in 1993, to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs reach kids in more places and help more of them move safely from birth-to-work.

Many of the articles written in past years are as important now as they were then, so from time-to-time, I repeat them.  

Here is what I wrote in December 2016 under the headline of "Building, Connecting Villages of  Hope and Opportunity".


I am one of those people who fear what will happen to our democracy and freedom, and the planet's health, over the next few years.  In some of the posts I've read, writers say "don't lose hope" and "get involved locally with a cause you care about".

These prompted me to create the graphic shown below, which I'll explain in the following paragraphs.

Since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 (and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011), my goal has been to help mentor-rich, non-school tutoring and learning centers be available in a growing number of high poverty neighborhoods. Rather than start new programs, the strategy has been to identify existing organizations who already do some form of tutoring and/or mentoring and help them get a consistent flow of ideas, talent, operating dollars and other resources needed to build constantly improving programs.

When you look at the "oil well" images on the map I want you to think of the 12 years it takes for a youth to go from first grade to 12th grade, and the four to eight years after that to go through secondary education and find a job and/or be starting a career.

Since no program starts out as "the best" the flow of resources needs to help programs launch, then grow, then build and sustain multiple year connections with youth.

It takes a lot of different talents and skills to make this happen. I use the "it takes a village" graphic to visualize this.  In addition, I've created some concept maps that show the range of talent and community networks who need to be involved in supporting each program operating in each neighborhood.

Here's one of the maps in my library, showing supports kids need as they move through school.

Mentoring Kids to Careers - map

The concept map below visualizes a process that should be taking place in hundreds of locations, in the Chicago region, and in other cities, to help programs grow in places where they are most needed, and to help them become great at what they do to transform the lives of kids, families, volunteers and anyone who is involved.

See map at

When I started leading a tutor/mentor program in 1975 I had a full time advertising job, we had no paid staff, and we already had 100 pairs of elementary school kids and volunteers involved. That number grew to 300 pairs by 1990 (with about 30 hours per week of part time college student staff).  I recognized that I could never touch and train every volunteer to know all they needed to know about why we were offering the program and what they could do to be effective tutors/mentors and program participants.  Thus I began to collect information that they could read and draw from to support their own efforts.

I started to create a "learning organization" well before this term was coined in business schools and trade magazines. This is one of many articles I've written to explain that idea.

In all my communications I was asking my volunteers to look for ways to help the kids we work with move through school. I was offering a library of articles (which was put on the internet starting in 1998) that they could read, share, discuss and learn from.  I focused on a process of improvement, or how do we get from "here to there'.  I organized social events, such as getting together for food and drinks after a tutoring session, or field trip, so that volunteers could form bonds with other volunteers and we could build an informal, on-going, discussion of what we were doing, and how they could help.

In 1990 we converted the company sponsored program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters into a non profit organization. From that point till today, my goal has been to bring donors, policy makers, media and other leaders into this same learning process.

Do a Google search for "tutor mentor" then look at the images. You'll find many graphics like this.

Chicago SunTimes, Oct. 1992
In November 1992 six volunteers and myself gathered and made a commitment to form a new program to serve 7th to 12th grade teens who had aged out of the original program.  At the same time a 7-year old boy from Cabrini-Green was shot and killed on his way to school.

The media were once again putting the "it's everyone's responsibility" message on the front page and in editorial stories. However, there was no master database of Chicago tutor/mentor programs so no leader could offer a strategy to fill ALL high poverty neighborhoods with great programs.

So we decided to also create the Tutor/Mentor Connection to fill the void.

In the years since then we have created a huge library of information, including a list of Chicago area tutoring and/or mentoring programs,  that anyone can draw from to understand where kids need extra help, who is already trying to offer that help, and what volunteers, donors and businesses could do to help programs grow.

Between 1994 and 2015 I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences to bring people together to share ideas for starting or building effective programs. I also developed a public awareness strategy to try to draw more attention to the web library and the list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs that I had been developing.

However, I was only reaching a few of the people who needed to be reached, and the system was not effective in connecting people (the village) from different programs with others within a single program, or with volunteers, donors, leaders, parents and students from other programs in Chicago......or with similar people from other cities who were doing the same work.

In the early 2000s I connected with a group of ESL educators (Webheads) who were located in different countries, and who were meeting weekly via the Internet, to share ideas and build relationships.

Over the past few years I've connected with another network of educators via Connected Learning MOOC formats, where people from many different places are sharing ideas and building relationships with each other.

I point to these in various blog articles because they are examples of how people can connect and learn from each other in virtual communities.

Most of my ideas for leading a single tutor/mentor program, or for helping build a city of great programs, have come from others who I've met over the past 40 years.  One entire section of the Tutor/Mentor web library is focused on "innovation, process improvement, mapping, knowledge management, etc" which are ideas anyone can use to build strong non-profits, or build strong businesses.

Look at the graphic at the top of the page once more.

The lines on this graphic illustrate how programs within a city need to be connecting with each other using on-line libraries, communities, blogs, annotation, Twitter, Facebook and other learning tools to constantly innovate ways to increase their impact on the lives of program participants.  The small map in the lower left corner illustrates that people in big cities all over the country need to be talking to each other in the same way.

When you look at web sites of youth serving organizations in the future, hopefully you'll see evidence that shows a program is bringing together a "village" of support for it's participants, and that the community surrounding each program is proactive in offering the time, talent and dollars each program needs to be great at what it does.

At some point in the future you should find maps of Chicago and other cities, with icons on the map showing places where "the village" or "networks of people" are working to help kids grow up, or help communities solve complex problems.  The Tutor/Mentor Program Locator (archive since 2020) interactive map can serve as a model for others to develop such maps.

The November 2016 election shows that we need to find ways to bring people from rural communities and Indian reservations into these same discussions.

We don't need government permission or support or funding to do this. We just need a commitment at the local level to build mentor-rich programs (villages) that build a culture of learning into their fundamental operating principles and then nurture this on an on-going basis.

We don't need to solve the world's problems every day. Just make a contribution to help solve a local problem.

Take a step every day and these add  up to mountains of impact over a lifetime.

----- end 2016 article ----

As you read my blog articles and/or follow my posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, please take the role of the YOU shown on this graphic.

I'm just one person, with a small voice. Thousands of people need to be looking at the same information I am. Events like Juneteenth draw attention to issues of slavery, inequality and racism, but unless they multiply the number of people building an understanding of issues facing us, and working to get more people involved, too little will happen to change history for the better.

When I describe the Tutor/Mentor Connection as a "learning organization" I mean that we learn from work others have been doing and borrow ideas that we can apply to our own efforts.  Below is a recent Tweet showing the network of funders who have been supporting extremists organizations across the USA and the world.  
Scroll through posts on the seeshell Twitter account to see more maps like this. Then look at my graphic in the paragraph above. Is there a network of wealthy advocates that is as well established and focused in its own efforts to protect and expand democracy and create the true freedom that celebrations like JuneTeenth promise?  

Without that type of organization and network we face a difficult task.  

Thanks for reading. Please share this and other posts from this blog.

And, if you're able, visit this page and make a small contribution to help me fund this work. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

29 Years Later - Children's Needs Still Not Being Met

 Like 20 million others, my wife and I watched the first Jan. 6th Congressional Hearing last week, and I watched the second session this morning.  I'm following many conversations on Twitter and many paint a distressing picture of the future, as one group of Americans seems to want to take the country back to the 1950s and impose a minority rule over the rest of America.  

At the same time I'm following the war in Ukraine, and conflict in other parts of the world.  And these are just a few of the challenges facing us daily.  

I created this concept map a few years ago to show challenges facing the US as POTUS46 became president. I've added new challenges, such as Covid19 and Ukraine since then. 

With all of these issues facing us daily, how do I continue my focus on helping kids living in high poverty areas get the extra support needed to help them move more safely from birth-to-work?

I've written about how we keep focus amidst these challenges several times since 2005.  Below are parts of an article written in 2017, with the headline "24 years later - ---" 


While the US focuses on the tragedy unfolding in Texas and Louisiana, I keep thinking of what will be needed for decades to help people in these areas recover from these disasters.

I also keep adding links to this Climate Crisis article, showing that disasters like what's happening in Texas are unfolding throughout the world.

Since 2005 I've written a few articles following natural disasters. They all have the same pace. Urgent need and huge attention and outpouring of help as the tragedy unfolds.  Few using maps, so many areas where help is needed get little attention. In the years following one tragedy another happens and attention goes to a new crisis. Keeping attention and resources flowing five, 10 and 15 years after the tragedy is almost impossible.

That same flow of attention follows urban violence.

I've been reducing my paper trail and am scanning some of my news stories into my computer. Added this one from 1993, which is a letter to the editor written to the Chicago Tribune by Florence Cox, President of the Chicago Board of Education

I highlighted one section where she says:
"We must begin to realize that the needs of Chicago-area children are not being met, and in neglecting those needs, we neglect our own future as a prosperous and safe city."

Here's another article with some quotes from other stories, showing how difficult it is for this nation to focus on complex problems that require long-term attention and resources to be solved.

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 one of four strategies was to generate more consistent attention to issues of poverty, violence, inequality, etc. drawing needed support to all of the non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in the Chicago region. I started using maps to show where they were most needed and where existing programs are located.  

I found another set of notes, with quotes I'd written down during speeches given during the 1997 President's Summit for America's Future, held in Philadelphia, PA.  I was there as a delegate from Chicago and the Tutor/Mentor Connection was there as a Teaching Example exhibitor.

In the letter to the editor and in the Summit speeches, leaders are calling on Americans to become involved in solving complex problems.  The problem is, they have not made this call for people's involvement every day since then, and they have not pointed to web libraries and directories showing information people need to learn from, and lists of existing programs who need their help.

That's still a problem.

Every week for the past 40 years I've spent time trying to connect inner city kids with workplace volunteers in organized, non-school tutor/mentor programs that help these kids move through school and into adult lives.

At different times, like right now, keeping attention focused on this has been more than difficult.  The COVID19 virus seems to be never-ending. The impact on poor people, who can least afford it, will be greatest. 

Maybe the current political divide and growing religious extremism is to be feared even more.  These are people who have never given up on the ideas of one race dominating another, of men, controlling women.  Of one religion over all others. Of minority rule.  

Yet, while we struggle through these challenges and disasters, I feel we still need to look long term. Kids living in high poverty area will need the extra support of non-school youth tutor, mentor and learning programs even more in coming months and years.  So let me share to graphics that visualize strategies I feel we need to focus on.

We all want the same outcomes: More youth stay in school, are safe in non-school hours, graduate, and move to jobs and careers.

To get the result we want we need to do the work shown at the bottom of this pyramid.
At the bottom of this pyramid I show that we need to build a knowledge base, then draw people together to use this information in an on-going planning and actions cycle.  This article describes this diagram.  It can be used in an area as small as a few blocks, or as large as an entire country.

This pyramid could be used to outline steps to overcome the COVID19 virus. Or to deny the agenda of far right conservative activists.

At the top would be results we want. At the bottom should be information aggregated from all over the world to help us understand these issues and how to fight them.  A sub section of that library should be a collection of information focused on specific topics. Visit the Tutor/Mentor web library to see how I do this. 

The second graphic I'm sharing focuses on INFLUENCE.
We must influence what resource providers do; not just what non-profit leaders do.

Having led a non profit youth program for 20 years I know that I was expected to operate a great program, get outstanding results and find the money to pay for all the work that needed to be done.  Think for a  moment of a fish bowl, with hundreds of small fish. When you put a little bit of food in the bowl there is a frenzy of every fish trying to get some of the food. Not all succeed.  That's the problem with how our non -profit funding system works.

In this graphic, which you can read about in these articles, I show t hat we need to Influence what resource providers, business partners, media and policy-makers do, not just what non profit programs do, so that there is a consistent flow of resources to every program, in every area where tutor/mentor programs are needed, so they can all become great at what they do to help kids safely through school.

Here's two more graphics to consider:

If you're at an event, how well can you share your ideas?
I created this graphic as a result of attending large gatherings for many years, where there were great speakers, but there was little interaction between the speakers and individuals in the audience, or between the people who sat at different tables. My goal was to encourage event organizers to create on-line activities that paralleled what was happening in the room, and that kept participants engaged and interacting after the event ended.

Hashtags of Twitter chats
I created this concept map to archive Twitter conversations that I've been part of. Many are on-going. A few are archives.

All of these in some way relate to efforts by different groups of people to help build support systems for kids living in high poverty neighborhoods.

You can click the link at the bottom of each node and join the conversation yourself.  Some of these should have much greater involvement than they have had so far. It's up to event organizers to encourage this, as well as the rest of us.

Very few do this well.  Even after two years of COVID19 and countless ZOOM meetings, I find few event organizers trying to create some form of online interaction that continues after the event.   

Yet, there have never been so many opportunities to grow a single event into a year-round community.

Look at the issues map at the top of this article, and my hashtag map.  Who's talking with others around these topics?  Yesterday on Twitter I saw a post that visualized people within a conversation, defined by a hashtag.  I created my own version, showing interaction with @tutormentorteam.

Mapping conversations is one way to know who is connecting with whom. It's a step toward trying to get more people and talent connected into on-going conversations.  That's the big challenge.  Read some of the articles I've written about this in the past.

Let's turn this negative into an opportunity to learn more ways to bring people together into year-round learning, idea sharing, relationship building and collective action that leads to brighter futures for all kids living in high poverty areas of the US and the world.

I'm on these social media pages. Let's connect.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Show the love of mentoring bonds

It's the end of another school year and celebrations of tutoring and mentoring are being held all over the country.  In most of them there will be many testimonies of the "love" that forms during the year-long, often multi-year, cycle of weekly meetings.  

That reminded me of two projects created by interns in 2012.

The graphic shown above is from an animation created by Song Mi Lee.  She used photographs of students and volunteers from the Cabrini Connections program that I had led until 2011 to create this image. Can you find me in the group? 

The video below shows how Song Mi integrated some of the photos from the heart graphic into a video on her final day with us.

Another heart shape project was created by Song Mee Lee and Sung Hee Jung, and is described in this article. This was animated, and you can find it in this video.

The work space for these projects is in the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum. Visit and you can see how the forum was used to coach interns and engage others.

Our interns were part of a partnership with Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago that lasted from 2007 to 2015. Students came to IIT from South Korea and China for a semester and spent the last six weeks in an internship with a local business or non profit.  During this period we also had student intern volunteers from Hong Kong Baptist University, the University of Michigan, Loyola Chicago, DePaul and Northwestern.

This wiki page describes our goal of recruiting students from many high schools and colleges to do this work. This page shows how students doing this work can be acting as the research team for universities trying to build a better understanding of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

On this page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site I post a list of interns from 2006 till 2015, with links to articles they wrote to introduce themselves at the start of their internship, and then links to final reflection articles.  Some provide more information than others, but all show an intent that the intern learn new ideas and new skills from working on their projects.

As I interviewed students for these internships I emphasized that one of my goals is that these students continue to stay connected to the Tutor/Mentor Connection library of ideas and to each other, so that in future years they become a community of people who help each other, and who apply these ideas to making the world a better place.  I'm still connected to many through LinkedIn and Facebook.

I created this presentation to show a goal of having student-led Tutor/Mentor Connection-type teams growing on high school and college campuses throughout the US and the world.  Anyone who takes a few moments to view my blogs and then shares what I'm writing about, as Simon Ensor has done on his 2016 blog article, is providing inspiration and motivation for one or many people to take this roll.

I'm still waiting for the first university or high school to adopt this strategy, and for the first corporation or benefactor to endow it with 10 years of funding, but as they say "Rome was not built in a day."   

I created this concept map to illustrate this vision. If you start writing about my ideas and/or creating your own visualizations, share the link in the comment box and I'll add you to this map.

Better yet, create your own map, and add my blog articles to it.  

Through the collective effort of many, we'll gather the bricks needed to build the "Rome" of this vision.  Thank you to Song Mi and Sung Hee and all the other interns who helped share ideas and strategies during the time they spent with us in Chicago.

If you'd like to become involved just join the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum and introduce yourself.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Impact of 100+ years of segregation in USA

I've been building a learning library for over 40 years, intended to support my own efforts as a volunteer tutor/mentor, beginning in 1973, and the efforts of hundreds of students and volunteers in programs I led from 1975 to 2011.  When we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 we systematically expanded the information being collected, and began sharing it with leaders, volunteers, donors who were part of organized tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago.  In the late 1990s we began putting this on the Internet, sharing it with the world.

I created the graphic at the right more than 20 years ago to visualize the type of information I was collecting and sharing.  Since 2005 I've used concept maps, like this one, to show sections of the library. 

I've always focused on "why" tutor/mentor programs were needed, not just, how to be a good tutor or mentor, or how to organize an effective programs.  And, I've tried to inspire others to follow my own path, from volunteer, to leader, to advocate.  

Thus, one section of the library focuses on race, poverty, inequality, social justice, etc.  It includes several hundred links.  I added one more yesterday, after watching a webinar hosted by the Albert Shanker Institute, titled "Segregation and School Funding: How Housing Discrimination Reproduces Unequal Opportunity."

You can read the Executive Summary at this link, and find links to the full report, and case studies of seven cities featured in the report.

As I wrote above, I've been collecting links to websites that talk about segregation, inequality, racial justice, etc. for many years. Thus this is an old problem that has never been solved.  During the webinar the speakers introduced a section of the report, titled "The Evolution of the Segregation "Toolkit": 1900 - Present" that detailed tools that have been used for more than 120 years to create and maintain housing segregation in US cities. This starts on page 8 of the full report.

The authors write, "The discussion of this section takes the form of a narrative of sorts, one that unfolds over 120 years, in which individuals and institutions, public and private, display remarkable (albeit destructive and inhumane) agility and creativity in crafting new segregative strategies and adapting old approaches to rapidly changing circumstances. These efforts were so effective that the impact of policies and practices from a century ago are still evident today."

The graphic below was used to visualize the information in the "Toolkit".   

Note that while various laws were passed to end housing segregation, creative efforts were used to bypass those laws.  This is described in detail in the report.

Below I'm going to share a few Tweets that highlight some of the information in this report, including maps.  

These are just a few Tweets posted by the Shanker Institute yesterday.  As I listened to the webinar, I tried to amply what was being said through my own Tweets. I posted the Tweet below on Monday. The message applies to what you need to do to share the Shanker Institute report and motivate more people to read it and the other research in my library. 120 years of not solving this problem is far too long. 

I've posted Tweets in many of my previous blog articles with the goal that you'll go to Twitter and follow these threads, then gather people you know to discuss what you're reading and ways you can get involved in solving some of the problems these Tweets point to. At minimum, you can seek out local youth tutor, mentor and learning  programs and offer them your on-going support. 

This photo shows myself addressing students and volunteers at one of our year-end celebrations. I did this every year for 35 consecutive years.  Every time, while I congratulated people for work done during the previous year, I encouraged them to dig deeper into the information in the library, to know more about where and why tutor/mentor programs were needed, and ways volunteers, and students, could take active roles in changing those conditions.

Around the country thousands of leaders are doing the same as myself, as they end programs for the current school year and begin planning for the next. Some are already actively recruiting volunteers for next year!

I hope you'll read the Shanker Institute report, especially the part about the "toolkit".  People have intentionally created the conditions that elevate White people and devalue people of color for over 120 years.  That won't stop until others are just as creative, and just as persistent, in efforts that counter those efforts. 

As you dig through the library, take a look at the articles about social capital that I've posted on this blog.  Expanding the "who you know" networks of kids and families living in segregated, high poverty areas, is one way to expand the network of those who need extra help achieving the American dream. 

Thanks for reading my posts.

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam and can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.  Please connect and help me amplify these ideas.