Friday, December 28, 2007

New Journalism Project, Starts Jan 22

In partnership with the The Urban Youth International Journalism Program, Cabrini Connections, is launching a new journalism club, which will meet on Tuesday afternoons, from 4:30 to 6pm, beginning January 22. We will be providing handouts about this in the Wednesday and Thursday sessions, beginning Jan. 9. Please make sure the youth you work with understands this opportunity:

Why is this important?

The role of our student as a communicator and journalist of his own life, and his/her role in the tutor/mentor program is one we've been trying to teach kids to take for many years, both in print and in video and on websites.

People talk of kids as leaders, but you seldom see them helping kids to learn how to research a problem, think through solutions, then use communications tools to get other people involved, get resources, and keep people involved for the long time it takes to solve a complex problem.

Our problem is that kids are more influenced by the poverty around them than they are by schools, or by our volunteer tutors/mentors. We can change that if we can get the kids involved as owners of their own future, and the future of their peers, siblings, and kids to follow.

The Urban Youth International Journalism Program is a great way to accomplish this.

Teens who participate in the Tuesday night program will be studying with professional journalists. They will learn valuable skills and get career advice. Those who are selected, will be be publishing article in Residents' Journal, and they will earn a competitive freelance salary for each article that is published.

This will expose their perspectives to a city-wide audience. By studying the
press, they learn what is wrong with it, and how to change media for the better.

Here's info about our partner:

The Urban Youth International Journalism Program broadens the intellectual, educational and career horizons of youths who live in public housing and other low-income neighborhoods by training them to communicate their perspectives and priorities in print, on the internet and on television. The program trains youths to be critical producers and consumers of media.

Youth reporters learn how to conduct research for articles; how to find and interview sources; how to structure and write a news piece; and also how the
media works in a modern democracy. Past articles produced for the Urban Youth International Journalism Program include ones about one young man's experiences
in the Cook County jail, teenage pregnancy and police brutality.

We hope that many students take advantage of this and as a result, many become more creative thinkers and more effective writers and communicators. This will have a huge impace in their success in school and in life.

Please make sure every one of our students knows about this opportunity.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Parties at Cabrini Connections

Guest article submitted by Kyle Petit:

Here’s some background information about me before you read on:

My name is Kyle Petit and I’m currently a senior at the University of Missouri. I’m from the Chicago suburbs home for Winter break. I thought it would be fun to come volunteer at the center while in town. This is a recap of my first two nights spent volunteering at Cabrini Connections.

Last Wednesday (December 19th) was my first night here at Cabrini Connections. Each Wednesday, while school is in session, high school kids from the neighborhood come into the center to receive an hour or two of tutoring/mentoring from a specific volunteer that is assigned to them throughout the year. The volunteers I met ranged from local college students to working professionals. Each volunteer I met was extremely nice and seemed really happy to be here working with the children.

I would estimate that there were between 20-30 high school students from the neighborhood in attendance this night. The atmosphere was very relaxed and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to talk to some of the local high-schoolers.

DeSean is a 10th grade student at nearby Wells High School and has been coming to the center since he was in 7th grade. He is also an exceptional artist as shown through the murals he painted that were on display inside the center.

All of the children I met seemed very happy to be a part of the program and they appeared to have an inseparable bond with their tutor/mentor. It really made me wish I was still in the Chicago area throughout the year, so that I was able to volunteer on a weekly basis and be able to form a lasting connection with one of the students as well.

The following night was set aside for the middle school aged children. I would estimate that there were between 50-60 children in attendance in that night. Needless to say, this set of children was a much more boisterous group than last night’s. These kids were a lot of fun to be around because there was never a shortage of excitement. A lot of them were extremely talkative. I talked to some children while we made Christmas ornaments in the designated art station. Jamal, a local seventh-grader, showed me some of his paintings that were on display. I was particularly impressed with his painting of Luol Deng.

All in all, the two nights spent here were a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people- both volunteers and local students. I’m looking forward to volunteering here at the center until I have to go back to college in mid-January.

Here is the link to see photos I took from these two nights.

Thank you Kyle, for writing this article. We're constantly looking for others who will tell the story of Cabrini Connections. If you'd like to help, just email

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good to Great in a Decentralized Organization - The Cabrini Connections Holiday Vision

I've been a leader of a tutor/mentor program since 1974, and every year I feel that I have a greater appreciation for the gifts I've been given, and the lessons I learn from the people I meet through this organization. Last Christmas, Rebecca Parrish gave me the book "The Spider and the Starfish" as a present. As I read it, I realized that this book was describing our organization.

We are a decentralized organization in which each volunteer is the CEO of his/her own tutoring/mentoring business. You individualize your weekly activities based on the needs of your student, your own abilities and time, and the level of experience you have gained. We can support you with structure, ideas, information, but it is your own learning and networking with other volunteers that gives you ideas for what you do.

In a utopian world, our kids would also be growing into CEOs who take charge of their own futures, drawing support from each volunteer, from Cabrini Connections, and from the network of resources made available by the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

While I'm the catalyst that has drawn hundreds of people together each year, our success comes as each of you and many others become the leaders and owners of the vision of Cabrini Connections. If we surround kids with a wide range of adults from different workplace backgrounds, we can expand their experiences, their aspirations, and the network of adults who can help them reach jobs and careers.

If we help make programs like this available in every high poverty neighborhood, we can not only help thousands of kids and volunteers enjoy the same experiences as Cabrini Connections, we can also create teams of volunteers who work in the same industry, and who will work as a group to help programs like Cabrini Connections be more effective at connecting kids and volunteers and mentoring youth to careers.

In another book, titled Good To Great and the Social Sectors, a flywheel effect is described, which is a process of constant learning, and constant improvement, that makes good organizations great.

I hope that over the holidays you'll read these books, and review the goals and mission of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

We need to be applying this thinking in our own ongoing efforts to help each of us and our kids become owners of their own futures, and to help Cabrini Connections be the type of organization that can support you the way each volunteer and student needs to be supported.

Finally, I encourage each of you to think of yourself as the CEO of our fund raising efforts. As you tell your friends and family about your volunteer involvement, point them to the Cabrini Connections donor page so they can make a contribution to support your involvement, or become a volunteer themselves.

On behalf of our volunteer board of directors, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

Dan Bassill
President, CEO
Cabrini Connections
Tutor/Mentor Connection

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Make a Holiday Donation to Keep the Hope Alive

Each December we invite volunteers, alumni and those who want to help inner city kids succeed in school and in life, to make donations to support our work. I hope you'll do that, and that you'll forward this message to friends, family and co-workers, in Chicago and throughout the country. Just point them at the Cabrini Connections donation page, and they can print a form to mail with a donation, or use the on-line PayPal to submt a donation.

You can also join the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection Cause on Facebook, and make a donation via that site.

As you consider your choices of holiday donations, I encourage you to read the stories of some of our teens and activities that are posted on this blog, then also look at the Timeline, that shows the growth of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1965, when employees of the Montgomery Ward corporation started the tutor/mentor program that led to Cabrini Connections.

In addition to the time line, I encourage you to look at the Metrics page, this shows many ways that we quantify what we've accompished. Most important, is the growing list of youth who graduated from high school and college.

Then view this video and see how our teens are asking for your help.

Without the help of our volunteers, and people who make donations throughout the year, we could not provide this community of support. Please help by making a donation and encouraging others to do the same.