Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Student and Volunteer in the Spotlight (11/25/08)

2008 Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council

This week we’d like to congratulate 6 individuals rather than just one for our Student Spotlight. These 6 students will be making up the 2008-2009 Youth Leadership Council! Three students from each tutoring night, Wednesday and Thursday, were elected to the council last week by tutors and students. These students not only got up in front of tutors and their peers to give an election speech two weeks ago, but sat down in front of everyone and fielded questions last week as part of a “Town-Hall” style debate. Last week, democracy reigned at Cabrini Connections as everyone lined up at 3 designated polling places to cast their votes for the 3 students who they thought would best represent them on the Youth Leadership Council. Now we are proud to announce that the following individuals will comprise our 2008 YLC:

From Wednesday night:

DeSean Hale
LaFaye Garth
Eboni Rivera

From Thursday Night:

Savon Clark
Sean Mayfield
Cierria Tharpe

We are putting these youth in the spotlight because they are the future of Cabrini Connections. The ideas they bring to the Youth Leadership Council and the decisions that they make will fundamentally affect the way Cabrini Connections operates. These youth will be assisting Cabrini Connections Staff in making decisions pertaining to everything from field trip destinations and the tutoring schedule to coming up with strategies to increase youth involvement and attendance in the Winter months.

One of these 6 students will also be representing Cabrini Connections on a Regional leadership council. This council is comprised of a youth representative from each of the numerous tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections around the Chicagoland area. This representative will not only earn the opportunity to make decisions that affect youth all around Chicago, but he/she will also receive $200/month to reward their leadership.

Congratulations Eboni, LaFaye, DeSean, Cierria, Sean and Savon on your election victories, we’re excited to see the change you bring to Cabrini Connections in the year to come!
Volunteer in the Spotlight
Joe Alverson
This week, we’d like to bring some attention to 2nd year tutor/mentor and Senior Electrical Engineer Joe Alverson. He started mentoring at Cabrini Connections last year on the recommendation of a number of friends and immediately threw himself into it. He was matched up with Lincoln Park High School 9th grader and Cabrini Green resident William Gallion right away and has been “really really enjoying it” ever since. William came to the program last year struggling with his math homework and now, one quarter into his freshman year, finds that math is his strongest subject. In speaking with Joe, he expresses how hard a worker William is and is quick to give the credit to William for his dramatic improvement. However, it is obvious that Joe provides William with a great role model, someone who it not afraid to work hard towards a goal and achieve it, inspiring others in the process.

In the past year working with William, Joe has really pushed William to realize his potential. For example, in preparation for the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which is very important in Chicago since it’s used to weed out low-performing applicants from the best magnet schools, Joe came to William’s house every day for a week to help him study. In doing this, Joe not only helped William gain enough confidence and skills to ace the ISAT, but he also developed a valuable relationship with William’s family, with whom he ate dinner each night in exchange for his tutoring expertise. Joe has developed a great relationship with William’s family, even going so far as to attend a family reunion, where the rest of William’s family, seeing what a great influence he is on William, strongly encouraged that he stay with William through High School graduation and beyond!

Perhaps the secret to Joe’s strong mentor/mentee relationship with William is that he encourages William to meet with him outside of tutoring to augment the tutoring/mentoring he gets each week at Cabrini Connections. Joe and William frequently go out and grow their mentoring relationship together, going to the movies, talking about politics and even building furniture!

Joe makes it clear that mentoring means a lot to him when he says “it’s nice to give your time back to the community and see that you are having a direct impact on someone else’s life”. We are so glad that we here at Cabrini Connections can facilitate strong and mutually beneficial mentoring relationships like Joe and Williams and we’re looking forward to seeing them both grow in the coming years! Congratulations Joe!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leadership from the Players

As part of the sport's analogy series I want to continue this week by giving a little more background information about myself and my start with this organization. I have been an athlete nearly my entire life. I have played on numerous basketball, football, and even baseball teams throughout my career. On those teams I found a way to become a leader as a captain of nearly every team that I have been apart of. The hard work that I put into athletics, and lets not forget academics, allowed me to earn and accept a full-scholarship to Northwestern University as a member of the football team. Due to a career ending injury I was unable to display my athletic ability on the football field at Northwestern, but I am able to continue to display my leadership ability in the field of Social Service!
When I came for my interview for the head coaching job at Cabrini Connections, the General Manager of the Team (Mr. Dan Bassill) expressed to me "how the work Cabrini Connections does is similar to the work of a football team, and the role of the leader was like that of a head coach." Mr. Bassill showed me the diagrams that he created, which are the playbook/blueprint if you will, and how if the various team member (volunteers, donors, kids, and staff) was taught and followed this playbook, then the team would have a great chance on being victorious! Victory would come in the form of great team work to build attendance, participation, skills on the road to a career for students by the age of 25! For this to all take place the G.M. encouraged me to build upon my experiences from athletics (football in particular) and develop and diagram 'plays' and strategies that would help the Cabrini Connections team to be more successful at turning out great players, great coaches, and an overall great team!

This past week I would say that the Cabrini Connections' team got one step closer into turning out those great players that front office and the coaching staff is looking to have. The Cabrini Connections' team is in the process of putting together a Youth Leadership Council who will serve as our youthful captains! The captains will not only have to be the ideal players of the Cabrini Connections' team, these captains will be the voice of the entire student population. Like the captain of any football team, these students who signed up for the panel have worked hard, led by example, familiarized themselves with the playbook, and have and will continue to buy into the overall Cabrini Connections' program.

The coaching staff was looking for 3 captains for Wednesday sessions and 3 captains for Thursday sessions, and in the past two weeks over 12 students have displayed the reasons why they should be the captains of the team. Most were present for sessions, some stood in front of the team and voiced why they should be captains, and some took part in a questions and answer session that was followed by the voting. And their efforts have definitely impressed not only the coaches but also the other players on the team...their peers. And on Wednesday and Thursday of last week the 6 youthful captains that the Head Coach and the Assistant Coach (Chris Warren) were looking for were chosen!

The entire Cabrini Connections' organization and all of the supporters who follow our program will be notified in the near future of who these 6 leaders/captains are who will not only continue to grow and become better players on the team, but will lead other players in the right directions as well all strive for victory. From the coin toss to walk to the locker room, hopefully these captains will follow the leadership and directions of the coaches so that during the game (tutoring sessions) the other players follow their example.

A Perfect Networking Opportunity

On Friday November 21st the Tutor/Mentor Connection hosted the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference at the Chicago Field Museum. This conference provided an abundant amount of opportunities for each and every person who attended the conference. There were numerous workshops, panels, and two very good keynote speakers at this conference. Attendees of the conference had the opportunity to attend these workshops and panels and not only obtain very beneficial information, but attendees had the opportunity to share information about their personal lives and about the various programs that they are apart of as well.
Another key feature of the conference was the ability to take part in workshops that were relevant to a person's own interests. If a person was looking to get more information about how to evaluate their own program, how to recruit and retain volunteers and students, and/or how to raise money during the holiday season, that person had the opportunity to get all of that information in just one day at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference!

This conference had something in it for any and everybody who is or wants to be apart of this field; from a person who is looking to start their own tutor/mentor program to a person who has been in this field for more than 20 years, the conference provided information and opportunities that can and will be beneficial. Besides the workshops, panels, and the keynote speakers one of the biggest advantages of attending the conference came in the form of just being able to network!
As the Administrative Coordinator of a tutor/mentor program I know that I do not have all of the answers to build a 'perfect' program, have all of the knowledge it takes to obtain 100% attendance rates for all mentors and mentees, nor do I have all of the skills to get a million dollar donation, but at the conference I was able to surround myself with people who could assist me and the Cabrini Connections' staff in those areas and more!

As the title states, "A Perfect Networking Opportunity," the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference was just that! In my experience alone I was able to get a resume from a former Social Worker who is looking for work and hopefully get her an interview at a Social Service agency in the Chicago area, I was able to connect two people/programs to an NU alum and former football player who is a writer, I was able to get more information on how to successfully recruit and retain volunteers and students, I was able to get information on how to successfully evaluate students on more than just academics but on the 'soft skills' as well, and as a result of this conference I was able to meet, interact, and build what I hope is a lot of future partnerships with what I call professional colleagues.
True, there are many arenas and ways in which people can network in this field, but I have to say, and I'm sure others that attended will say, that the two conferences that the Tutor/Mentor Connection hosts each year is one of the best ways in which to not only get information and meet other dedicated professionals in this field, but also one of the best ways to build upon those relationships to provide more and even better tutor/mentor programs throughout the world!
So I hope that all of the people who attended this conference will use this as a way to do more for tutor/mentor programs with the use of collaborative efforts and will find a way to attend the next conference in May. And when that conference does take place, be able to share all of the success stories that took place as a result of this November conference.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Student Spotlight: Joshua Vera

Hello all! Cabrini Connections is proud to announce that 7th grader, Joshua Vera, is in our Student Spotlight this week. Find out more on Chris' blog at:


Monday, November 17, 2008

Volunteer Spotlight: Jen King

Just a heads up that Jen King, Writing Club Coordinator and 3 year veteran volunteer, is in our Volunteer Spotlight this week! Read more here at


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lots happening. Read the blogs.

Read the blogs by Chris, Nicole and Tech Club to sty informed with what's happening at Cabrini Connections

This week Chris writes about college visits.

Also read this week's student spotlight and volunteer spotlight

In Nicole's blog you learn about tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region.

And the Photo Friday's articles on the Tech Club blog provides ideas of how to use technology. Volunteers are welcome to join tech club as well as teens.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Coach Same Mission!

The Cabrini Connections' program can be compared to a sports organization in so many ways, there is teamwork, coaches, a mission, and a desire and passion to be victorious! I will begin and hopefully continue to complete weekly blogs that show the comparisons of the two.
This week I would like to focus on the role of 'coaches.' Nearly 8 months ago a new coach joined the Cabrini Connections' team and began doing all of the necessary tasks that a new coach should do when joining any team. The new coach should do some research and learn the history of the program, get to know the other coaches/leaders of the team, begin to know the players, figure out other key members of the team, and set the tone and the attitude for the entire team in an effort to continue or move into the right direction. All of these items and more are needed when setting the foundation of a winning program or continuing the tradition of a successful team!
Cabrini Connections' is not a new organization and has been considered one of the premiere organizations in the tutor/mentor field. The coaches and leaders before myself have all brought great ideas, attitudes, dedication, and leadership to the team that has created a solid foundation that has and still contributes the the current team's success!
In March of 2008 I became the new head coach of the Cabrini Connections team. And although I became the new head coach of the team, it was understood that a great foundation had been set and the team was full of valuable leaders (board members, staff, volunteers, students, and supports) who all contribute to carrying out the mission of the program.
As the new head coach of the team I have been and will continue to research the history of the Cabrini Connections' organization, brainstorm and collabarate with other key coaches in the program and in the tutor/mentor league, and interact and engage with the players on the team (mentors and mentees) in an effort to set the tone and attitude of the team. And in an effort to build upon that foundation that has been set by the coaches before me and continue the winning ways of the team, I will use my previous experrience and networking ability, my leading by example attitude, and my ability to recruit and retain the most talented, skilled, and dedicated coaches to lead the players to continuous victorious. And those victories that I speak of is the mission/goal of the program which is for each and every player (mentee) who enters the program will be in a career by the age of 25.
As the head coach I will also continue to recruit the most dedicated, talented, and committed players (mentees), but maybe more importantly continue to train and work with those coaches to transform the less dedicated, less talented, and less committed players into players who truly believe in the mission of being victorious; because that is our jobs as coaches and leaders of Cabrini Connections. Our job is to first get these players to believe in the organization (Cabrini Connections), work with, train, and provide any and all resources to the players so they can be victorious and fulfill the mission (and that takes place before, during, and after tutoring/mentoring sessions), and instill in the players that once they are victorious they in return become coaches and train the younger players that looked up to them!
As the new Coach of Cabrini Connections these are a few of the philosophies of the program that I feel that truly relate to any and all successful sport's organizations. And although I'm new to the coaching role at Cabrini Connections I believe in and I'm committed to carrying out the overall mission of the TEAM!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Former NFL Quarterback Joins the Cabrini Connections' Team

As Cabrini Connections continues to try to recruit adult tutor/mentor leaders to work with the students who participate in the program, we are truly excited to have a natural born leader, Zak Kustok, join our program as a new tutor/mentor. Mr. Kustok is a former Northwestern University superstar quarterback and a former NFL quarterback as well. More than just being a record breaking quarterback who earned numerous awards during his playing days (Big 10 Champion in 2000), Zak Kustok was a proven leader on the field and will hopefully continue that leadership ability inside of the Cabrini Connections' program.

As a quarterback there are numerous skills and talents that a leader of team must posses in order to gain the confidence of the players on the team, make important decisions, and lead the team to victory. Now that Mr. Kustok is no longer on the field, those skills of being a leading quarterback can be applied on the Cabrini Connection's 'field!'

We are looking and encouraging each and every tutor/mentor within the program to become a quarterback within the program. In order for our team to win, and a victory is getting all of our students into a career by the age of 25, each and every tutor/mentor within the program must lead by example, gain the respect and trust of the students, pay attention to detail, know and understand the role of all the other members on the team, and understand the Cabrini Connections' playbook. I am confident that if each and every member of the team (staff, volunteers, students, and donors/supporters) become leaders within the program we can and will be victorious!

Mr. Kustok we thank you for joining the Cabrini Connections' team and we hope that you can share your leadership and team building skills with us all!

St. Cloud State University visits Cabrini Connections

One of the big pushes this fall and throughout the entire year will be to get our students interested and exposed to the college experience. On October 29th Admissions Representative, Cortez Evans, visited the Cabrini Connections program and provided our students the opportunity to learn a little more about St. Cloud State University. Mr. Evans not only talked about special programs, opportunities, and resources that the University offers, he also discussed what our students can be doing currently to ensure a enrollment at the University.
During the presentation and video clip that Mr. Evans provided, he asked a lot of questions that directly applied to many our students which sparked further interest of those students. He discussed their Nursing program that interested LaFaye Garth and Terrisha Brownlow, he discussed athletics and the football program that interested returning student Raheem Muhammad, and he discussed their study abroad program that interested many of the students who attended the presentation.
Following the official presentation, Mr. Evans continued to meet and greet other volunteers and students in the program in an effort to educate everybody on the resources that could be obtained by becoming a student at St. Cloud State University. Cabrini Connections would like to thank Mr. Cortez Evans for not only visiting the our program and sharing information with our students, but for assisting us with getting our students interested in attending a college in the future and successful career following college!

Cabrini Connections' Student and Volunteer Spotlight

Student/Volunteer Spotlights
Angelene Hemphill is this week’s Student in the Cabrini Connections' Spotlight:
Zak Kustok is this week's Volunteer in the Cabrini Connections' Spotlight:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cabrini Connections' Celebrate the Halloween Holiday

For the 2008 Halloween season the Cabrini Connections students had the opportunity to take part in an essay contest. The students were asked to write a 1-page essay on the true history of the holiday and to share their most memorable Halloween experience. There were several students in the program who took on this challenge in an effort to earn the right to go to the field trip to Navy Pier's Haunted House on Halloween night.

In relations to the overall tutor/mentor program this essay was much more than just an essay with a reward for the winners. The Halloween essay contest provided numerous teaching and learning moments for the mentees and also the mentors. Because of this essay the students had the opportunity to use the Internet and other forms of technology to do research on the topic. The students worked on their organizational, writing, and grammar skills as they put their research on paper. The students then had the opportunity work on their presentation skills as they presented their essay to the all of the mentors and mentees who attended the sessions last week. Technology use, research enhancement, organizational, writing, and grammar skills along with presentation skills are all necessary for each and every student within the program no matter what career choice they have for the future. Because of this essay contest, mentors had the opportunity to teach the students these valuable skills.

Looking back the reader can see that besides earning a fun filled night at Navy Pier's Haunted House Halloween night, the four students who won the contest (De'Sean Hale, Eboni Rivera, Charles Hill, and Yolanda Hyles) learned and/or enhanced valuable skills that are and will be necessary for any career choice they may have for the future!!!