Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Mission Impossible - Reflection

I have not led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program since mid 2011, yet, I continue to share what I learned from 35 years of leading a single program, to try to help similar programs reach k-12 youth living in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other places. I know the challenges these programs face every day because I faced them, too. Here's an article I wrote in 2010, titled "Mission Impossible".

----- start----

I've led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program for 35 years. I believe the lives of youth and volunteers are enriched in many ways because of participation in these programs. The program I lead now is called Cabrini Connections. It operates in rented space at 800 W. Huron in Chicago and has 75 active teens and 90 volunteers. We have 9 seniors who will graduate from high school this spring and 7 are already accepted into college. 1/3 of our teens have been with us 3 to 6 years. 

 More than 100 of our alumni, going back to the boy I first mentored in 1973, are connected to us on Facebook. 

When we created Cabrini Connections in the fall of 1992, we had a second goal. We realized that tutor/mentor programs are needed in all high poverty areas, and that no one had a master database showing what programs were in Chicago, or where they operated. Thus, there could be no consistent leadership intended to help tutor/mentor programs reach more kids in high poverty areas. We called this new effort the Tutor/Mentor Connection

 One of the tools we have created to show where programs are needed, and where they are located, are maps, like the one above. 

 By building a master database of programs, we not only can show where they are located, and where new ones are needed, we can invite programs to work together to generate more of the resources we all need to do this work. 

  That's where this becomes Mission Impossible.

 While I read in many places how it is important to reduce the isolation of non profit leaders, and provide better information that parents, leaders, donors, etc. can use to know what services are available to young people, I've not been able to find the dollars needed to provide a consistent level of support to Cabrini Connections, or the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

 The economy, environment, politics, terrorism all seem to work against us. While I have a passion for this work, there are high poverty neighborhoods all over the world where charity dollars are needed to support programs working with youth, the environment, health issues, etc. It seems an impossible task to draw consistent attention, and a consistent, on-going flow of flexible operations dollars to all of these places, on an on-going basis.

 Yet, to me, this is the only way we can help our teens grow to adults, or others can make a dent in solving complex problems.

As I researched some ideas for this blog, I found a poem by: Edgar A. Guest, titled, It's Better to Have Tried

 'Tis better to have tried in vain,
Sincerely striving for a goal,
Than to have lived upon the plain
An idle and a timid soul.

 'Tis better to have fought and spent
Your courage missing all applause,
Than to have lived in smug content
And never ventured for a cause.

 For he who tries and fails may be
The founder of a better day;
Though never his the victory,
From him shall others learn the way.

 I share a wide range of information on the Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Institute sites, showing my thinking, and the strategies that I've developed over many years. While I hope benefactors step forward and help us fund this work, I also hope that even if I don't succeed, "others will learn the way" from me and find ways to make these ideas work in the future.

 Here's a couple of other blog articles related to this:

Do a Mitzvah Every Day.. in honor of Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz

Many to One - strategy of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

---- end 2010 article ----

This is a 1994 article from the Chicago SunTimes, where I'm with one of our students (who now is a college grad and mother of a college student!). In the background is a map of Chicago, with high poverty areas shown in the shaded areas.

We're almost to the end of 2022 and a huge election is coming in two weeks.  While I've spent the past 12 years continuing to try to draw attention and support to tutor/mentor programs, I've also continued to build an information library that anyone can use to know where such programs are most needed, why  they are needed, and other challenges that also need to be addressed.

The words of the Edgar A. Guest poem still ring true.   I hope you feel the same.

More than ever I hope that "even if I don't succeed, "others will learn the way" from me, and find ways to make these ideas work in the future."

Thanks for reading.  Thank you to the small group who use this page to send small donations that help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  

Find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Let's connect. 

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