Thursday, January 04, 2024

National Mentoring Month

Below is a photo from 2001 when the US Post Office issued a mentoring stamp to help celebrate and draw attention to mentoring in America.  My organization (Tutor/Mentor Connection, 1993-present) introduced it during the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago, which I began hosting in May 1994 and continued hosting every six months until May 2015.

The conference was part of an on-going effort to help volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs reach K-12 kids in high poverty areas of Chicago and other places and help those kids through school and into jobs and careers, with the help of adults they met through these programs.

I began my volunteer involvement in 1973 when I joined the tutoring program at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters in Chicago. I was matched with a 4th grade boy named Leo and we met every Tuesday after my work day ended.  We're still connected over 50 years later!

During mentoring month much of the focus will be on the "act" of mentoring, which could be workplace mentoring and could be mentoring of youth with disabilities.  

I want that to expand to focus on the infrastructure of mentoring.  I demonstrate this below.

I created the graphic below several years ago to visualize the many different reasons mentoring and/or tutoring are needed and the different types of organized programs needed to meet each category.

Below is an another graphic, showing this information in a different way.

I've posted several articles in the past few years (here, here and here) talking about building a "segmented understanding" of what types of mentoring and tutoring are needed based on "who" is being mentored.  During National Mentoring Month I urge you to read some of these.  

While the above graphics visualize the different needs of youth in America, they don't show where these kids live and/or where organized tutor/mentor programs are most needed.  I've been trying to use GIS maps since 1994 to do this.  Below is a concept map that shows my history of using maps.

Between 1993 and 2010 the Tutor/Mentor Connection was able to collect and maintain information about organized volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, which could be sorted by type of program (pure mentoring, tutor/mentor, pure tutoring), age group served (elementary, middle school, high school), time of day (school day, after school, evening/weekend), and location.

While we shared this information in a printed directory from 1994 to 2003 that rarely reached more than 1000 organizations (non profits, foundations, media, political, universities, etc.)  In 2004 a program locator was created that made this information available to the world. In 2008 a map-based program locator (shown above) was created that had the same search features as the 2004 program locator, but reversed the process, starting with a map of the Chicago region, then enabling a process of searching for programs and program supporters in specific zip codes, community areas or neighborhoods.

Visit this page to learn about our efforts to build the program locator and to find ideas for building your own version. 

Unfortunately, I've not been able to raise money or find partners since 2011 to systematically collect and segment information about Chicago programs or maintain the program locator directories. They are now only available as archives.  

That brings me back to National Mentoring Month.  

While most efforts will focus on the act of mentoring I hope leaders will step forward to build Tutor/Mentor Connection-type learning programs at one, or more universities in  Chicago and other urban areas, where students will duplicate the work my organization did from 1994 to 2010 and what I've tried to continue since then, through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

I urge leaders to build a segmented understanding that not only shows what types of programs are needed and where they are most needed, but shows what programs already operate in these areas and are constantly searching for volunteers and donors.  Here's another page that shows uses of geographic information systems and data. 

Use this blog, the MappingforJustice blog and the website as a text book to build your understanding of what a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy might be and how you might build it as part of a degree program on a college campus. 

Share what you are learning through your own blog articles and on social media so others can learn from you, just as I've been sharing so you can learn from me.  

Thanks for reading.  I hope you'll share this article with your network and connect with me on social media platforms (find links here). 

Finally, I want to give a special thank you to those who sent contributions in 2023 and in previous years to help me continue to do this work.  Please continue in 2024 and help me find a benefactor who will bring this strategy into a university. 

Visit this page to make a 2024 contribution. 

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