Monday, April 29, 2024

Retaining Volunteers in Tutor/Mentor Programs

We're nearing the end of this school year and are at the end of the annual April Volunteer Recognition Month.  Volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs all over the country have been making an effort to recognize the people who have given time and talent over the past year, while are also (I hope) looking for ways to motivate many of those volunteers to return for another year when the 2024-25 school year begins in late August.

I've been digitizing newsletters and yearbooks from the two tutor/mentor programs I led between 1975 and 2011 and thought I'd do some volunteer recognition today.

Below is a page from the 1991-92 yearbook of the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago from 1975 to the fall of 1992.  

This program was started in 1965. I joined as a volunteer in 1973 and became a member of the leadership committee in 1974. In the summer of 1975 I was chosen to be the leader when the incumbent announced during a summer planning meeting that he was "going to Europe and would not return for a couple of years".   When I took the lead the program was already recruiting 100 pairs of kids and volunteers at the start of the year.  In my last year, 1991-92, that had grown to 440 2nd to 6th grade youth and 550 volunteers.  You can see the yearbook PDF at this link

I left that program in October 1992 and with six other volunteers formed a new program, intended to help kids who aged out of the first program after 6th grade have similar support to help them through high school.  At the same time we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to help similar programs grow in all high poverty areas of Chicago.

Below is a page from the 1999 Annual Report for that program.

Starting with only seven volunteers the program grew quickly, reaching nearly 100 volunteers by the end of the 1998-99 school year.  If you look at the list of veteran volunteers on this page and on the one from 1991-92 you'll see many of the same people. That's because many volunteers from the first program came to the new program with their students, as those kids joined Cabrini Connections.  You can see this Annual Report in this PDF

Note that by 1999 I was using the Total Quality Mentoring graphic to describe how we were recruiting volunteers from many different backgrounds.  That was true in the first program, too. 

In this PDF I describe the concept of Total Quality Mentoring.

By sharing my annual reports and newsletters I hope that I'm providing some inspiration for how others might build activities in their programs that help them recruit and retain students and volunteers for multiple years.  It's these long-term relationships that have the greatest benefit and it's the experience of veteran volunteers that helps newer volunteers become part of the program and stay involved longer.

You can view 1975 to 1992 yearbooks for the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program at this link.

You can view 1994 to 2009 annual reports for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection at this link.  

As you look at these annual reports you'll see several thousand volunteers who participated for one or many years. I am tremendously thankful for the time each person contributed to helping create a brighter future for the kids we were working with.  

Now I want to share a President's Message from a January 2005 e-Mail newsletter.  You can open the PDF and read the full newsletter at this link

The heading of my message was "Competing for Attention" and it was written after a year of "unbelievable acts of violence caused by nature and caused by humans."

I wrote, "In the aftermath of these have come equally magnanimous acts of kindness and generosity.  While this leads me to be thankful at the same time as I fear what the next tragedy will be, I feel that we need to look at charity in new ways if we're to maximize the benefits of the generosity that is in this world."

I went on to write

----- begin Jan 2005 ------  

"This is why I participate in a variety of Internet forums that connect people from around the world with each other. 

I feel that out of the Tsunami tragedy will come some innovations that those of us working with kids might benefit from. Right now donations are coming from all over the world to a variety of charities serving the Tsunami because of the high public visibility the tragedy has generated. I feel that if we can create a portal that tells why it's important to help kids, with doors leading to each continent, each nation, each city, and each neighborhood where kids need help, this portal can serve as a funnel for dollars, volunteers and similar resources to go to individual programs in each neighborhood. While there are some on-line charity portals, like, these promote all forms of charity, and thus don't have the passion and appeal that could be generated by having portals that focus on specific channels of service, like tutoring/mentoring. 

Rather than reinvent the wheel, my dream is that we could find people who share our passion for helping kids and will share their talent to build such a portal, or to make existing products available to other streams of service. I'm sure such people and organizations exist. We just have not connected yet. In the Discussion section of there is a database and a GIS discussion group where I'm gathering volunteers who might help with such a project.

Once we have the portal every organization that offers any form of tutoring, mentoring, career development, etc. can share in building visibility and traffic, knowing that this helps each of us increase the revenue pie that we end up splitting. In six months much of the attention to the Tsunami will be turned to some other tragedy and the people in these countries will be just like us, struggling to draw attention and consistent revenue to the work of rebuilding lives. The type of portal I'm trying to build could be a benefit to these countries just as much as it will be a benefit to you, me and thousands of others like us. 

This email goes to more than 3,000 people. A print newsletter goes to almost 14,000 people (when we can find the money to print it-the last print newsletter was sent in 2003). Some of you have been connected to me and the Tutor/Mentor Connection for more than a dozen years. Some are getting this email for the first time. While my intention is to share information that I hope you can use, this is also an invitation to everyone who reads this far on this email to contact me to explore ways we might work together. As Margaret Mead once said, "it only takes a few people to change the world". It only takes a few of you to join us in 2005 to make this a better year for thousands of organizations serving kids living in poverty. 

While it is almost impossible to have two or three thousand one-on-one conversations each week, it is very possible to meet in on-line forums where thousands of people can share ideas and unite in joint action. In the Discussion Section of a few such forums are listed. I hope you'll join some and that we can meet on-line.

---- end Jan 2005 ----

I've never been able to find a group willing to work together (of provide funding) to build the type of portal that I described in that 2005 newsletter.  I was able to build an interactive tutor/mentor program locator in 2008 and keep it available until 2018, but not able to update it after 2010.

On this planning page you can see the vision for the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and find a link to a "next step" of adding a fund raising capacity to the platform, that would enable donors to directly donate to programs listed in the database. 

I've continued to use social media daily to share ideas and connect with others.  I'm still looking for program leaders who "share in building visibility and traffic, knowing that this helps each of us increase the revenue pie that we end up splitting."

In the Tutor/Mentor library I've three lists that point to organizations doing part of what I envisioned in 2005. Find those herehere and here.  If you know of others doing what I described, please share the link in the comments. 

As you read my newsletters I hope you'll share them in your own networks.

Thank you for reading today's post.

At this page you can find links to where I'm active.  Please connect with me and encourage your friends to do the same.

Finally, there's a cost for me to keep these archives available and to keep updating the Tutor/Mentor library.  If you can help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, visit this page and use the PayPal feature to contribute. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Building Social Capital

I've been sharing pages from printed newsletters that I created in the 1990s in the past few blog articles, along with portions of e-Mail newsletters sent from 2000 to 2010.  These show a consistency in the advocacy I've been doing for 30 years, and the need for new leaders to carry this forward for the next 30 years.

Below are two pages from a 1999 newsletter. You can open the PDF at this link

In this page is a subhead that reads "Building 'social capital' for America's future." in this I wrote about hearing Dr. Robert D. Putnam speak in December 1998 at a  UIC Great Cities annual Winter Forum. I wrote that "Dr. Putnam's research shows that "Americans have dramatically deserted the voting booth, the family dining table, the church pew, the union hall, the PTA, and even the bowling league and coffee klatch" over the past 25 years. He suggested that new forms of social interaction must be generated in the coming years.  

I countered that "while most forms of social capital have declined, the number of students and volunteers participating in the 5pm-7pm tutor/mentor program sessions held at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago has increased. While other forms of networking have declined, this program's ability to connect adult volunteers from widely diverse social, ethnic, faith and geographic backgrounds has increased. Programs like this, which connect adults and children in weekly one-on-one and group settings --- where everyone has a shared vision of making life better for the children we serve --- is one of the best investments in social capital, diversity education and workforce preparation any company could invest in today."

I have continued to advocate for organized, volunteer-based, tutor, mentor and learning programs as a form of social capital since 1999.  In 2016 I wrote this article, pointing to Putnam's "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" book.  It's one of more than 30 articles on this blog that focus on social capital. 

I think many organized tutor/mentor programs connect kids and volunteers the same way we did in the programs I led, but when I visit websites or look at social media posts, I don't find many describing what they do as a form of social capital building.  I hope my articles inspire more to adopt this thinking.

Maybe donors will begin to look for this and reward it with funding. 

The next page of that 1999 newsletter is shown below.


Once again you can see examples of how I've been using maps. 

Under the heading of "MENTORING WORKS, BUT....", I wrote "Communities need a strategy to help mentoring programs recruit, train and retain volunteers, to make sure programs are where they are most needed, and to make sure they receive ongoing funding, so they can stay connected with a child for as long as that child needs their help...even into a career."

They still do. 

Open the PDF and read the full article, and the rest of the news that we were sharing in 1999.

I've continued to repeat this call to action over the past 25 years.  Below is a graphic I created for this 2016 article

It's the same message, with a different visual presentation.  

That's the point of this and other articles that I've been writing. I've been preaching this message of building and sustaining organized, mentor-rich programs that reach K-12 kids in high poverty areas for 30 years. 

Yes, there are actually thousands of people calling for support for mentoring and tutoring programs. I point to hundreds of youth-serving programs at this link. Many have sophisticated, far-reaching advertising and PR strategies that call attention to their own programs.

However, I don't find any using maps to focus attention and resources on areas of high poverty within specific geographic regions, or calling on volunteers and donors to support programs in every high poverty area, the way we did from 1993 to 2011.  Nor do I find many using visualizations that show long-term support needed in every high poverty area.   Or who has piloted a year-round event strategy to help programs grow. Or who have led that strategy for 30 consecutive years.

So, I think I'm unique. In fact, one of my volunteers once accused me of being so far in front of other people with my ideas that no one was able to follow me.  That's why I've used my website, blog and visual essays to share ideas.

But I'm just one person. With the help of six other volunteers we created the vision of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in November 1992.  We had no source of financial support. We launched the site-based Cabrini Connections in January 1993 with seven volunteers and five teens. We did the planning for the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and launched it in January 1994.

In the summer of 1993 Montgomery Ward made a multi-year commitment of $40,000 a year to fund our work and donated an entire floor of its corporate tower in Chicago for our operations.  In total that year we raised only $50,000 in cash, but the value of donated space and corporate services was much greater.

Each year from 1994 to 2000 we raised more money to fund our efforts and raised over $400,000 in 1999.  Then Wards went out of business and we lost their financial support and donated space and services. To stay connected to the kids we were were working with we had to rent space in the Cabrini Green neighborhood.  

This increase in expense and loss of income came as we endured the financial meltdown in 2000, and then entered 2001, and the 9/11 tragedy that led to a drastic reduction in funds available to us.  We cut expenses, such as ending our print newsletters and printed directory and moving almost entirely to a web-based communications strategy.  

By 2007 we had rebuilt our donor base and were receiving contributions as large as $50,000. Then the financial markets collapsed, and in 2009 and 2010 we struggled.  That led to my leaving Cabrini Connections in mid 2011 and forming the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and help similar intermediaries grow in other cities.

I say all this to emphasize that we never had much money for advertising and public relations. Our newsletters never were sent to more than 12,000 people, and then only three or four times a year.  

Too little to change the world.

A couple of weeks ago I published this article showing how I've reached out to universities for the past 30 years for the talent and manpower needed to expand the reach, frequency and impact of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the ways we were helping our own teens through school and into college and careers.

Skim through this presentation and you'll see numerous examples of how student interns have helped.  

But is has not been enough.

As you look at my printed newsletters from the 1990s you see a problem that persists around the country in 2024, and will continue, unless more people adopt an information-based strategy like I've piloted and devote their own time, talent and resources to leading it for the next 30 years.

This 1998 story in Crain's Chicago Business described the work I had been doing since 1993.  It's one of dozens of stories I share on this page.

This could be YOU!  This could be a page on your university's website, showing work your students, faculty and alumni were doing.

It just takes two or three people, with a big commitment (and a major donor) to launch such a program. 

Thank you for reading this article. Please share it with others in your network,  particularly people who might bring my archives and lessons into a university in your city or state.  

Let's connect on social media.  Visit this page to find links to where you can connect with me.

If you're able, please visit this page and make a contribution to help me continue this work for another few years. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Commitment Needed from top 100 CEOs - 1996 newsletter

In last Tuesday's post, I showed a President's Message from a 2004 Cabrini Connections-Tutor/Mentor Connection newsletter. Below is my President's Message from my winter 1996 newsletter, written eight years earlier.

On page 2 of the newsletter you can see three elements.  At the top right I show a design for an ideal, long-term, mentor-rich program that recruits volunteers from multiple backgrounds and keeps kids involved for many years.    I call this Total Quality Mentoring because it's a constantly improving process, based on what we learn from our own work, and what we learn from other people.

Below are three maps of Chicago, under the headline of "How many programs are needed in Chicago?". The map on the left shows locations of Chicago Public Schools. The map on the right shows the 109 schools on the State of Illinois School Probation list.  The map in the middle shows locations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that we discovered through our surveys. The shaded areas are high-poverty areas of Chicago.  

The column on the left is the  President's Message.  You can open the PDF version of newsletter and read it there, but I'm posting the full text below.

------ begin 1996 President's Message -------

109 city schools put on probation
In each of those schools 85% or more of the students failed to score at national averages on reading tests!

Once again, the test scores are out and the schools are under siege! Hold them accountable!  Fire them if they don't perform! It's a "long-needed" call to action" reports the Chicago Sun-Times

If this is a wake-up call, I think it's a bomb aimed at the wrong target. Sure, the poor education Chicago kids receive borders on criminal, but the wake-up call should be to the civic, business, religious and political leaders of this city.

To those who read about the school probations and thought, "It's about time," I suggest reading a few books on this subject. One would be Reclaiming our Schools, by Maribeth Vander Weele.  Another would be Savage Inequalities, by Jonathon Kozal.  And another, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, by Nancy Denton and Douglas S. Massey.

These problems did not arrive overnight, and they will not end by putting schools on probation. This tragedy won't end until the best minds, the top leaders and a much broader group of citizens make a lifetime commitment.

Reports from Chapin Hall and the Carnegie Corporation tell how poor the after-school infrastructure is in most poverty stricken inner-city neighborhoods.  In their books, Vander Weele and Kozal tell how poor the infrastructure is in many schools, and how weak the will to rebuild those schools is.

Our "blueprint" for change involves a knowledge distribution system that suggests kids need adult role models from pre-school through work.  It also suggests they need to experience arts, sports and have access to computers, with people who can model their use --- just like the kids in the suburbs.

We have developed maps to illustrate how serious this is.  All 250-plus tutor/mentor programs combined don't come close to matching the density of public schools, and in some areas where they are needed, no programs exist at all.

When we print an overlay showing business presence in some of these neighborhoods, we find some very well known corporate names, some who take a great credit for community betterment programs they operate. The problem is, they don't do this with a vision that says a Total Quality Mentoring program should exist within one mile of every corporate site they operate in the city, or that their involvement should assure that these programs are well funded, have access to the latest technology, have volunteers from their company and business associates serving as mentors and leaders --- and that once a child joins the program, there is a full commitment that the program will do everything in their power to see that that child graduates from  high school 4-, 8- or 12-years later.

When we have that commitment, from the top 100 CEOs in Chicago, we will begin to have real school reform.

--------------- end 1996 President's Message --------

You can do a Google search and find the books I mentioned.  And you can look at articles I've posted on this blog since 2005 and find similar messages.

Unfortunately, very few people ever saw my newsletters.  In 1993 our mail list was 400 people. It grew every year and by 2000 we were sending the Newslink version of our newsletter to a list of about 8,000 supporters and the T/MC Report version, to a list of about 12,000 (with overlap between the two).

That's a really small number.  Imagine if we'd had email newsletters and social media in the 1990s.  More people would have seen my letters and maybe we would have made it through the turbulent financial struggles of the 2000s without splitting the Tutor/Mentor Connection from Cabrini Connections in 2011, or by creating two separate nonprofits in the early 2000s when we began to recognize the need.

However, since persistent poverty in highly segregated neighborhoods is still a problem in 2024, my newsletter archives offer a rich orchestra of ideas that anyone could draw from for a new advocacy that might accomplish more in the next 30 years than I have in the past 30.

But, a few people need to read them, then share what they are reading with others.  That's what the graphic below is telling you.

The big circle represents the resources on the library and the archives I point to in my blog articles.  The smaller circles represent groups of people reading and discussing the ideas, and ways they might implement them in Chicago or their own communities.

Below are two visualizations done in 2011 by an intern from South Korea, to interpret this graphic.


I shared these in this blog article.  They illustrate how someone else can look at my articles, newsletters and visualizations, then create and share their own interpretation.  This could be happening in thousands of places, with a shared goal of bringing more people together to help reduce poverty by helping kids born or living in these places move through school and into jobs that enable them to raise their own kids free of the negative impacts of poverty.

Over the coming year I'll post more of the newsletters from the 1990s and early 2000s, along with the President's Messages that I included in each of them. 

I'm on Twitter  (X), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media platforms. You can find the links on this page.  I hope you'll connect and help me find other people who share the same goals.

Thank you for reading this article.

If you value what I'm sharing, please visit this page and make a contribution to help me pay the bills. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

What if political campaigns raised money for youth programs?

I've been sharing archives from the work I've done since 1993 to help volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in high poverty areas. Today I'm going to point to email newsletters I wrote in the early 2000s.

Below is the President's Message from the August 24, 2004 newsletter (open PDF here).

This text says:

Editorial: Which candidate is helping you get volunteers and dollars for your tutor/mentor program? Most of the tutor/mentor programs that I know of don't have large advertising and PR budgets. Many, like Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, struggle to find money for rent and payroll. Thus, during the election season it is even more difficult to get our call for volunteers heard.

That's a reason we created the T/MC. Its strategy is to create a larger public awareness of tutoring/mentoring by connecting tutor/mentor stakeholders via the Internet and face-to-face meetings. As hundreds of individual programs, networks, and business and professional partners take the lead in calling for volunteers, links to web site portals, like or create a larger flow of potential volunteers and provide multiple choices of where they might volunteer. If you use these services and participate in the campaign, you should be more effective at recruiting volunteers for your individual program.

As leaders in other cities and states build their own T/MC type strategy we hope to link web sites and link campaigns so that we ultimately have a voice during August and September that is as loud as those of commercial advertising and political candidates. If our strategy works we can create this level of public awareness at a fraction of the money being spent on the fall elections by our major political parties.

Maybe we'll even reach a point where the VOLUNTEER NOW button of a political candidate's web site has a link to the local volunteer center, not just to the candidate's campaign committee!!

In another part of the newsletter, this is what I wrote:

It says:

The Tutor/Mentor Connection web sites have hundreds of links to resources that programs can use to improve quality and support volunteers. In 30 years of leading a tutor/mentor program I've learned that every student and volunteer is different, and they are constantly changing. No training program or manual can provide everything each person needs. Thus, I've focused on building a library of materials that volunteers can use to develop their own skills. The focus of our training and communications is to lead our volunteers, staff and leaders to this information so they begin to use it on a regular basis.  

These messages are as relevant in 2024 as the were 20 years ago.

With the 2024 election season in full swing, millions (billions?) of dollars are being raised to fund political campaigns, just to get people elected or re-elected.  

In 2004 I called for part of that money to be used to support needed youth programs and other important causes.  That's still the case.

In 2004 I also pointed to the resources I was aggregating to help volunteers in tutor/mentor programs become more effective tutors, mentors and advocates, helping their own students and programs, and helping others in different parts of the cities where they live or work.   That's still the case.  Except, the library is much larger today than it was 20 years ago.

Last week I posed this article, sharing my 30 years of reaching out to universities.  And yesterday on the Mapping for Justice blog I posted an article showing my 30 years of using maps to draw attention and resources to every high poverty area of Chicago.

As I look at my archives I'm embarrassed by the number of spelling and grammar errors.  I could have benefitted from having a proof reader!

I can't change that, but you can.

As I share this archive, I also point out that too few people ever saw what I was publishing, because I never had the money to buy advertising, and never was a high profile celebrity who could attract readers just by asking.

Thus, everything I'm sharing would be "new" to most people.

In my final slides on the "Reaching out to Universities" presentation I included a map showing cities in the US with high concentrations of poverty.   Skim through past articles on this blog and you'll see many more stories showing that Chicago is not the only place where a Tutor/Mentor Connection type strategy is needed.

Thus, my archives represent a resource that anyone might use to create and lead a new campaign (with better editors and writers, and more high profile leaders), using my past work as a starting point for their own articles and visual presentations.

The starting point is your own curiosity and learning.  Dig through my archives. Find stories that resonate with you. Re-write them. Post them on your own blog. Share them with your own network. 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Maybe in 10 or 20 years you'll be able to share a similar archive.  Maybe you'll be able to point to thousands of kids who you've helped.  Maybe you'll have made a bigger impact on reducing poverty concentrations.

That's the goal.

Do you ever feel like my articles are similar to the messages I gave each year to youth and volunteers in the tutor/mentor programs I led from 1975 to 2011?   

Thanks for reading, and sharing.  

Connect with me on social media.  You can find link on this page.

If you're able, please make a contribution to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and help me continue this work.  Visit this page

Thursday, April 11, 2024

30-year history of reaching out to universities

Last December I posted this article asking "What if students in every city did this?" 

Youth in every part of the world could be writing articles similar to what I've written on this blog since 2005 and in newsletters back to 1993. 

I promised that "In a few weeks" I was going to write an article showing my efforts since 1993 to build strategic alliances with local and global universities, which would lead to students doing the research and writing that I dream of.

Today's the day to share that history.

Open this PDF presentation and stroll through 50 pages of history showing how I connected with universities throughout Chicago, the Midwest, and other countries, starting in the late 1980s when I led the Tutor/Mentor program at Montgomery Ward's corporate headquarters in Chicago.  

You'll see pages like the ones below, that show evidence of those connections and include links to documents on my Google drive.

These are just a few examples that show important work done by interns over the past 30 years, which I've highlighted on other pages in this PDF.

Please spend a little time looking at the slides. On your first visit, just walk quickly through each slide, so you can see the range of universities I've connected to.  Then, pick a university you're interested in, and open the links on those pages.  These show some of the interactions that I had which led to student involvement.

The slides show 30+ years of engagement. Valuable work was done. Yet, they all have one common weakness, which is a lack of ownership at the university, and no integration into a long-term university-led effort to support the growth of well-organized, non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs in all high poverty areas around the university, or the cities where they are located, or places where some of their student live.

The projects with Illinois Wesleyan from 1993-2004, Columbia College of Chicago in the mid 1990s and with IUPUI from 2002 to 2011 came closest to becoming a formal university based initiative.  But these never took root because I did not have the wealth, or fund raising ability, to fund faculty and student involvement, and no one at the university was willing to take on the fund-raising role.

Below is page 57 of the presentation.  Universities establishing Tutor/Mentor Connection programs and implementing the ideas I've piloted would represent "tipping points", or actions that change every thing else that happens.

At the bottom of the page I asked, "What if a wealthy patron, like MacKenzie Scott, who is giving millions of dollars to nonprofits, or Dr. Ruth Gottesman, who gave a $1 billion dollar donation to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, were to fund a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy on one or more campuses for 10 to 20 consecutive years.

Don't give the money to me. Set up a competition and award it to universities who spend time reading this presentation and digging through my blog archives, then present a plan for engaging students and faculty in long-term learning that continues well past the years they graduate.

What might universities do differently to prepare leaders to lead needed youth, tutor, mentor and learning programs in high poverty areas that help youth to, and through, college and into careers. Or to train other alumni to support them as on-going  volunteers, advocates and donors?

Yesterday was a day of raising money for Illinois Wesleyan. I made a small donation. they raised a lot of money.  What if such a campaign were raising money each year for non-profits led by their alumni?

That was the idea that a University of Chicago Business School student worked on in 2006. 

Creating leaders who are constantly learning from peers and leaders who are consistently providing needed operating and innovation dollars, could be a degree program at any university. The on-going flow of student interns could come to nonprofits with greater preparation to contribute to the work being done, building on work done by previous interns.

Please share this widely.  As this slide shows, neighborhoods of concentrated poverty are spread throughout the USA.

Without a consistent, on-going, comprehensive effort, not much will change over the next 30 years for people living in areas of persistent poverty.  I've proposed a strategy that might make a difference.

I suspect that my presentation could be turned into a book, or could have an audio narration.  I hope some people will be interested in doing that.

Thank you to all of the faculty and students who have helped me since 1993. The work you did was really impressive and of great value.  

I especially want to thank Dr. Minor Myers, Jr., President of Illinois Wesleyan University from 1990 to 2003, for his constant encouragement.  

You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and other places (see links  here).   

And, if you want to help me pay the bills and continue to maintain and share this resource, visit this page and make a contribution.

Monday, April 08, 2024

HOPE for the future.

I confess. I did not go out and watch today's Eclipse.  I did follow it on social media and in news reports. I wonder how many people drew inspiration and renewed hope for our planet and its living beings from watching the sun disappear behind the Moon, then reappear a few minutes later.

Is that a metaphor for the way the problems in the US and the world seem to be blotting out hope for the future? 

I was looking for inspiration for today's article and skimmed down the list of tags on the left side of this blog. I saw one for HOPE and opened it. I found this 2018 article, which I've re-posted below.

--- begin 2018 article - --

I've been building a web library for more than 20 years with links to articles that inspire me in my efforts, and hopefully help many others in their own work to create a better future for our kids.

The Connected Learning #clmooc group is one that I have followed since 2013. One of the ways members stay connected is by creating and sharing creative projects. I've hacked a few of these in the past (that's encouraged) so when I saw a Twitter post from Sarah Honneychurch yesterday, I saved it to my PC, then added some of my own ideas. See it below:

As we start another week I point to many places around the world, and the US, where people suffer for a variety of reasons.

View on Twitter

Here's Sarah's original, which she tagged with "AprilDoodle #ILLomo #Wish Upon A Star and #clmooc".  The "Wish" idea resonated with me, so I added a little color to the stars, and I pointed to some places around the world, and the US, where there's too many people suffering and where "HOPE" may be in short supply. 

Syria, Yemen, Sudan and  Mayamar are are among the places I've highlighted. I also point to racial and social justice issues, healing for planet Earth, and call for "peace in all conflict areas".

I ran out of stars to point to all the places where help is needed so included a graphic showing the United Nations' Global Sustainable Development Goals #SDGs.

It's not enough to "wish" for good things to happen and problems to be solved so I also included this "ENOUGH" graphic, which I've posted in this blog multiple times since the late 2000s.  Here's one post where I've put this into a video.

Thank you Sarah Honneychurch and  others in the #clmooc community who keep posting ideas that inspire me in my own efforts.

There's much to do.

---- end 2018 article ----

If I updated that graphic I'd add stars for Ukraine, Gaza/Israel, and parts of the USA where people seem to have lost their blasted minds as they pursue a religion-based government, fueled by money and self-interests of billionaires and the Russian government.

The eclipse only lasted for a few minutes, depending where you were (see this article). The troubles facing planet Earth and her living beings will last much longer, but if you have HOPE, you can believe that after the darkness, there will be light again.

But, we will need to work together to make that happen. 

Friday, April 05, 2024

More maps now in my archive

A couple of weeks ago I posted this article, showing map stories the Tutor/Mentor Connection created since 1994 to draw volunteers and donors to youth programs in high poverty areas of Chicago.  The graphic at the left is part of that collection. 

I've continued to aggregate maps from different files in the archive so I encourage you to take another look and see what's there.

While I received donated ESRI software in 1995 to use in making maps, I depended on interns from Northern Illinois University to set up my map-making capacity in our tutoring program office in Chicago.  Then, mostly depended on volunteers to make maps for me in following years since I could not find the money to hire someone with GIS expertise.

Then in 2007 an anonymous donor gave us $50,000 to build our map-making capacity.  Mike Traken joined us on a part time basis in January 2008 and made our maps until 2011 when, due to diminished funding, I was no longer able to keep him on staff.  

Yesterday I created a folder in my archive, showing maps Mike created, such as this one featuring the Illinois District 9 Legislative District.

The maps tell stories. This shows the level of poverty in the district and shows universities and hospitals with facilities in the district. Green stars on the maps show existing youth tutor and/or mentor programs in the area.  Hospitals, universities and businesses are assets who should be strategic in using their resources to help tutor/mentor programs grow, and help kids in those programs, and local schools, move through school and into jobs and careers.

Ideally there should be many more green stars in this district than what my map shows.  

Note, this map was made in 2008 or 2009. What would a map of that district look like now? 

This link will take you to the folder with maps that Mike created.  When you open it you'll see this screen.

Above the maps shown are 14 folders, each with maps related to that topic. Thus, the map of District 9 is in the "Political Leaders" folder, where you will find 9 other folders in addition to the one for District 9.  

Hopefully, these inspire you to make your own maps and map-stories to support the growth of needed services in Chicago or in other places.

I wrote an article in 2014 using these map-stories, with the headline of "Without Effective Leadership, Same Problems Will Continue".  

That's been my message since the 1990s.  

I wrote, "I can not find evidence that any leader, from any industry in the Chicago region, has devoted consistent advertising resources to draw attention to tutoring/mentoring, and to draw volunteers and operating dollars to programs throughout the city, or to programs near places where they do business, or where employees or customers live.

I can not find evidence that the current, or former mayor of Chicago, or any alderman, state elected official or county president, has led a weekly, yearly campaign, intended to draw needed volunteers, dollars and technology resources to the tutor/mentor programs operating in various Chicago neighborhoods. Even the occasional public declarations of support for Chicago's kids don't work like a Polk Bros ad to draw attention to tutor/mentor programs all over the city, and to motivate people to volunteer time, or give operating dollars, to support existing programs, or to help new programs start in neighborhoods with great need, but too few programs."

I think the Tutor/Mentor Connection offers a template that others can learn and build from. That's why I've been archiving all of my records.  Now I just need to find some wealthy visionary who will fund a program at a university, where these records are part of a study curriculum that prepares leaders to adopt the strategy in every city with high concentrations of persistent poverty.


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Tuesday, April 02, 2024

What You Can Do to End Poverty - 2005 Letter

I've been digitizing more of my archives for the past few months, and again today. I've been sharing some files, like these yearbooks, on social media. The result was 67,200 views of this blog in March 2024.

I did another batch today, which requires looking at old files and seeing if I should put them in my Google drive folder.  I found a letter I wrote in October, 2005, as a "Letter to the Editor" which I hoped the Chicago Tribune would publish.  I was going to post it here, but decided to look first, to see if I had posted it in 2005.

Yes. I did, on November 3, 2005.  So I'm going to share what I wrote then: 

---- start Nov. 2005 article ----

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, I attended a meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, where more than 200 people were given information that showed the "State of Latino Chicago". This highlighted the huge contribution Latinos are making to the Chicago area economy, and the need for more programs to help Latino youth move through school and into careers. On Nov. 2nd I attended a meeting at the Union League Club of Chicago where the No Child Left Behind law was discussed. At the same time a lunch was being held where others were focusing on ways to build better schools.

What these meetings had in common is that they were not connected to each other with an internet strategy that would have enabled participants from all three meetings to connect with each other, and with the speakers. They also did not have a strategy for engagement, that would increase the number of people personally involved in long-term efforts that help kids in poverty move to careers.

In September, people from the Connect for Kids group in Washington, DC helped me develop a letter to the editor that illustrated the role of tutoring/mentoring as a civic engagement strategy. I met Connect for Kids through internet networking and this is an example of what's possible when such networking is a strategic goal of people who host face-to-face meetings.

I sent my letter to the Chicago Tribune in mid October and it has not been published. So here it is for you to read:

What you can do to end Poverty, by Daniel F. Bassill

Alicia and Marquita were in elementary school when I first met them 15 years ago. They were normal kids, except they lived in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood of Chicago, where the role models and life experiences were anything but what normal kids in most parts of America grow up with. The Cabrini Green neighborhood has a high concentration of poverty, many people living on welfare, and strong street gang involvement. This is the neighborhood that shocked the nation in 1992 when 7-year old Dantrell Davis was shot and killed while walking to school. It’s a neighborhood where more than 40% of the kids drop out of high school before graduation, and where many who do graduate never move on to college and careers.

Today, Marquita has graduated from college and Alicia will do the same next year.

What happened to take these girls off the path toward poverty, and place them on a different path toward college and careers? The answer is simple, but powerful. They were able to participate in a comprehensive volunteer-based tutor/mentor program that connected them with adults who mentored them, helped with school work, talked about options and choices, and just plain cared. In elementary school they were able to participate in a program hosted by the Montgomery Ward Corporation in Chicago. After 6th grade they were able to transition to the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, which has supported them for the past 12 years. This year they have become part of the adult tutor/mentor corps, and are now volunteering to help other Cabrini Green children move through school and into college then careers.

In the aftermath of Katrina, people in Chicago and across the nation are asking what we can do about poverty. I’m not a teacher by training and I don’t have special skills. I started mentoring a fourth grade boy living in Cabrini-Green in 1973 and became leader of a volunteer-based program in 1975. Thus I have 30 years of experience in recruiting volunteers and connecting them with inner-city kids. While I did not have much experience when I started, my understanding of the issues and my commitment to volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring has continued to grow with each passing year. I’ve learned the difference between being poor and being poor without hope.

I’ve also learned how tutoring/mentoring can be one of the best strategies for civic-engagement, workforce development and education reform. Long-term programs connect youth and adults from both sides of the economic and social divide in a long-term process of service and learning. This leads to a better understanding of poverty, and a stronger commitment to do what is needed to provide paths to hope and opportunity for kids who need extra support to succeed in school, move to college and find help in starting jobs and careers.

I would like every adult who is not living in poverty to become personally involved in helping build and sustain long-term tutor/mentor programs in every neighborhood where concentrated poverty is the largest obstacle to succeeding in school and moving to jobs and careers. That is how we are going to improve our schools, reduce youth violence, lower the costs of the juvenile justice system and meet the workforce needs of the 21st century.

The way to get everyone involved is for people from every walk of life – business, churches, hospitals and universities – to step up as leaders and make children living in low-wage families a priority. Businesses can use their intranets to provide information about where tutor/mentor programs are needed, and ways to contact existing programs. They can use their advertising to encourage employees and customers to volunteer in programs throughout the Chicago region. Universities can encourage their students to talk with local children about what college is like, and can develop research and teaching programs that connect students and alumni with training resources and tutor/mentor programs throughout the country. Every organization can use its website to publicize volunteer opportunities and to increase the number of people who are learning ways to become involved in tutor/mentor programs. The ways to take action are as endless as the numbers of children in need.

Such a leadership strategy needs to guide volunteers and donors to all neighborhoods where there are high concentrations of poverty, not just to the few brand name programs in highly visible neighborhoods. If we increase the number of people who are willing to commit time, talent and dollars to efforts that help end poverty, we will reduce dependency on government and build programs that last more than a few years.

No business would be successful if it advertised sometimes, and sometimes not. Children take a long time to grow up, and they will only be successful if adults like us get personally involved, stay involved, develop an understanding of poverty, and grow into leaders who bring in new volunteers to do the same. We’re building a system of support for this type of involvement. We call it the Tutor/Mentor Connection. You can find us and similar support networks that operate in other cities by using Internet search tools like .

By the time you read this, the media will probably be turning its attention away from poverty and to the next "hot" issue. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn our attention away from the children who need us.

---- end 2005 article ----

I'm pleased to report that in 2024 Alicia and Marquita are both doing well. I'm connected to them on Facebook, along with many other alumni from the tutor/mentor programs I led since 1975.  I'm seeing many now report on their own kids, or grandkids, finishing high school and college.  And, I'm seeing many starting new families.  

I found another letter in my files today. I wrote it to university contacts in 2008.  It included this paragraph, asking "What are all the things we need to do to assure that all youth in the city where your  university is located, or where your students and alumni live, are starting jobs/careers by age 25/"

You can read that full letter here.   

Imagine if students and faculty at various universities were looking at the documents in my archive, just as I am, and then were sharing them with others at their universities and where they alumni live and work.

Could we build a more consistent and innovative strategy to connect with kids and families in areas of persistent poverty with long-term support that helps them build jobs and careers so they can raise their own kids free of poverty?

I hope you'll share this and that another 65,000 people will view my article in April and every month after that.  Maybe that will increase the number who follow me on social media.

Maybe it will also increase the number who go to this page and make a contribution to help me continue collecting and sharing this information.