Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Network Building and Mapping Ideas

Over many years of recruiting volunteers and donors, I've found that people over simplify what we're doing as the short term act of tutoring, or homework help, rather than the long-term process of building student aspirations and expanding the network of adults who help kids to careers.

Thus, I've started creating diagrams to illustrate my ideas. The one on this page shows how volunteers, leaders, friends and/or donors can connect people in their network to Cabrini Connections and other tutor/mentor programs, and to information that will help these friends do more to help our kids at Cabrini Connections, or kids living in high poverty in other neighborhoods, or other cities.

This spring I've started using concept maps, a free on-line took, that enables you to visualize ideas. Here's one that illustrates what I mean by a comprehensive, long-term support system.

I'm always learning new ways to express ideas, and new ways to engage students and volunteers. Thus, recently I was showns some concept maps created by youth in middle school and high school. These map out their home school study strategy, and serve as a portfolio (log in as guest) of what they have accomplished.

This is something that individual pairs of teens and volunteers at Cabrini Connections could be doing, or that a technology team could do to map their strategy.

I encourage you to take a look at these links and see how you can apply them to your tutoring, mentoring, and motivation work.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Experience in Ireland, August 2007

Each year the students of Cabrini Connections participate in a wide variety of learning and enrichment activities, provided by their mentor, the organization, and by friends of Cabrini Connections. Below is an article written by LaFaye Garth, one of two students who went to Ireland for two weeks in 2007.

Wow, my trip to Ireland this summer was wonderful. It couldn’t have been better! I was accompanied by eight other bright individuals from Chicago. We had a blast! During our stay we enjoyed the great out doors and the beautiful green scenery. I must say that it was a very adventurous experience. I found myself doing things that I never thought I’d do.

We did so many activities, seeing the Famous Cliffs of Moher, a real cave, grave yards, doing a gorge walk, shopping, going to a doggy sanctuary, and seeing old castles and much more. We also did so much walking. However it was well worth all of the fun we had. Sometimes I was tired because the days were filled. We also met students from Paris, France. They were so cool and I loved their accents. There is so much I learned and I will carry this experience with me forever. The most memorable things were the gorge walk, riding Quad Bikes, my warm-hearted host families, touring Galway City, my group leaders, and the other students. Ireland is a very beautiful country although it is expensive. I recommend anyone to apply for the trip because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Oh, and of course the first week I was excited and half way through the second week I was homesick.

This trip is organized by the Center for Cultural Interchange. It's an example of the wide range of activities a tutor/mentor program can offer, if its volunteers and supporters reach into their own experiences and network and take the lead in organizing and finding the money to fund activities.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Welcome to 2007-08 Cabrini Connections

This week Cabrini Connections is holding orientations for returning and new volunteers on Monday and Tuesday, and for returning and new students on Wednesday and Thursday. Next week we start our 15th full year of tutoring/mentoring at Cabrini Connections. It's been 42 years since 1965 when volunteers from the Montgomery Ward corporation in Chicago started tutoring 2nd to 6th grade kids living in Cabrini Green(view timeline). My experience with that program (1973-1992)led to the formation of Cabrini Connections in October 1992.

The smiling face of the young man on this page provides a reason for why we offer Cabrini Connections each year. He'll be in 7th grade this year and he joins us after being part of the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program last year.

Our goal is that six years from now he's still smiling (see success steps), but with a high school diploma and a number of options for college and a career. And if we can keep some of our volunteers and alumni connected with each other, and with this student via the internet, we want him to have the help he needs to be starting a job and a career of his choice by age 25.

For this to happen for all of our teens, and for kids living in poverty in other parts of Chicago, we need our volunteers and students to become innovators, using information we provide on the web site to find ways to motivate each other to stay involved each week, and finding ways to build and support student aspirations, work and study habits, and decision making skills that help them avoid negative choices as they move through high school.

At the same time, we want our students, volunteers and alumni to take ownership of Cabrini Connections, and a growing responsibility for recruiting other volunteers and finding donors who will provide the thousands of dollars that enable us to provide Cabrini Connections' support every week for the next year, and many years after that.

If you're a returning student or volunteer, thank you for joining us again. If you're a new student or volunteer, thank you for choosing to spend time with us. On behalf of the staff and leadership of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, I look forward to getting to know you as we journey through the coming school year.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Message from 2001 graduate of Cabrini Connections

At a recent event Ana Llorens met one of our alumni in a chance encounter. Ana asked her to email us with an introduction and update on her life since Cabrini Connections. Here it is:

Well lets strat off by saying that my name is Akhia L. Plamer and my mentor/friend's name is Karla Van Fleet (used to be Gruenwald). Karla his been a part of my life for over 15 years. This woman has held me through so many satuations in my life and shared smiles, laughter, and tears with me. I am blessed to have a woman like Karla in my life.

As for myself I am an only child. Growing up in Cabrini Green it was just me and my mother. She was a determined parent to make sure that her child didn't get caught into the streets. After graduating from St. Joseph(on Orleans Street in Chicago) I continued my education at St. Scholastica Academy. I graduated two and a half years ago from Northern Illinois Unv. with a BS in Early Childhood Education and I'm planning to persue a teacher certification and maybe a masters in eduaction.

However, I am currently working at St. Vincent DePaul Center as a Pre-K assitant teacher.

It's great to hear from alumni and this shows the long-term bonds that are formed from the matches of volunteers and youth first made at Cabrini Connections or the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program (which serves 2nd to 6th grade kids prior to coming to Cabrini Connections).

We'd like to here from more of you (including our alumni volunteers). Submit your stories using the form on this web site.