Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicago Bears Star and Cabrini Connections' Fan Nick Roach, Set's Great Example for Youth

This past week, NU alum and Chicago Bear's Linebacker Nick Roach, had a spectacular game versus the Seattle Seahawks. Roach who has stepped into the starting Middle Linebacker role after injuries to Brian Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer early in the season, has stepped up in a huge way. Series after series Nick continued to make key plays that eventually contributed to a Chicago Bear's win.
Nick Roach had a great game on the field, but his determination, hard work, and dedication is setting a great example for his fans, especially the Cabrini Connections' youth off the field. Nick Roach attended the Jimmie Biggs Memorial Golf Benefit in July and interacted and engaged with many of the Cabrini Connections' students, staff, volunteers, and guests/supporters of the program, but Nick spent a lot of his time sitting and talking with Savon Clark. Savon is a 9th grader in the program and has dreams of becoming a football player just like Nick. They sat and talked over dinner and Nick not only answered questions that Savon had about school, football, and life, Nick provided Savon with some helpful tips on how he can reach any and all of his goals.

I'm unsure if Mr. Roach took advantage of any tutoring/mentoring program like Cabrini Connections on his road to the NFL, but I'm a 100% he had a network of people (mentors) assisting him through throughout his life; providing him with advice, making themselves available when he had questions or concerns, and just supporting him and the decisions he made. And this is exactly what we are trying to provide the youth here at Cabrini Connections so they too can reach their goals, dreams, and aspirations like Nick Roach.

Nick, keep up the great work and please continue to show the youth that are looking up to you how hard work, dedications, commitment, and determination pays off!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Veterans on the Team Step Up!

The NFL is not only filled with veteran players and coaches, but league leaders in the NFL are led into successful seasons by the veterans who take on leadership roles on the team. Because of their experience, knowledge, and because of ability to lead on and off of the field, these players and coaches are respected by rookies, players and coaches from other teams, and NFL fans around the world. Veterans such as Tom Brady, Brett Farve, Orlando Pace, Bill Belichick, and many other NFL veterans who have and continue to make their mark in this profession are what some consider to be the pillars of their respective organizations...and to the National Football League as a whole.

The Cabrini Connections' organization has many different veterans that put themselves in leadership positions in our program by using the same strategies as some of the NFL greats. They work on their consistency and dedication to the program, they lead by example in and outside of the program, and they step up and rise to the occasion where the organization needs someone to make a big play.

And we have 3 veterans on the team who have done just that...stepped up! First, I would like to highlight veteran Cabrini Connections' player, Melissa Young. Melissa is a 10th grader and has been in the program for over 2 years. In our program, just like many other program, obtaining the necessary resources to keep the program up and running has been a struggle, and Melissa has stepped up and provided an opportunity to help out our program financially. Two weeks ago, Melissa provided the Head Coach and the Program Coordinator with an idea for a Bake Sale on Halloween Day where all the proceeds will go to the Cabrini Connections' organization. Not only did Melissa sit down and put together an official plan for this event, she has already been putting together a small committee to ensure success of her project. Her project is called "Halloween Trick or Treat Bake Sale" and it will take place at Cabrini Connections on Halloween Day from 12-2:30pm.

Two of our veteran coaches have stepped up as well to assist in the fundraising efforts. Art Club Coordinator, Jacqueline Shay, and veteran tutor/mentor Sarah Randag are taking the lead on a couple of projects on their own.

Jackie, who has been a serving as a Art Club Position's Coach for over 3 years, is in the process of launching a Cabrini Connections Phoneraiser. This project is asking for people to donate used cell phones, inkjets, laptops/notebook computers, ipods, digital cameras, and digital video cameras to the Cabrini Connections program so that we can turn the items in. In return the program will receive financial compensation for the donated items. We are hoping to launch this project in the upcoming weeks.

Sarah Randag, who has been in the program for over 2 years is working towards putting together a Wine Tasting Fundraiser for the program. Sarah is teaming up with the owner of the Cellar Rat Wine Shop here in Chicago, to host a Wine Tasting Fundraiser at that the shop's location on Sunday November 22nd from 5:30-7:30. This event will be open to the first 35 people who RSVP and pay the $25 fee. The Cellar Rat Wine Shop is located at 1811 W. North Ave and more information about this event will be provided in the near future or contact EL Da' Sheon at 312-492-9614.

As the Head Coach of the Cabrini Connections' organization I would like to give a big "pat on the back" to Melissa, Jackie, and Sarah for stepping up and making BIG TIME plays for our team. My hope is that they continue to perform at a high level and that others on the team will follow their lead. We are a team with a lot of history and a lot of pride, and it will take many more on the team stepping up for us to have continued success on our road to a record breaking season and future success.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cabrini Connections' Students Visit Northwestern University

The Cabrini Connections' program is all about connecting students to resources as they work towards graduating from high school, college, and entering a career by the age of 25. And what better university for a student to visit than THE Northwestern University. 2009-2010 Program Assistant, Bradley Troast, did a remarkable job of planning the perfect trip and opportunity for the Cabrini Connections' student who were out of school for a CPS in-service day.

A wide range of students attended this trip. Our program provides services for 7-12 grade students residing in and around the Cabrini Green housing community, and we had just that in the group who took part in this opportunity. There were seniors all the way to seventh graders, who wanted to learn more about Northwestern, but more importantly the overall process of what it takes to get on the right track for college. Several of our veteran students attended the trip, but we also had some of our very new students who joined the group.

After a short ride on the train up to Evanston, we took a brief tour of South campus before we entered Alison Hall for lunch. The staff at the dining hall pleasantly greeted each person in the group and then the fun began. This was many of the students' first time in a college or university dining hall and at lunch time at that. Our students were a little nervous and hesitant to blend in with the older Northwestern students, but quickly became comfortable as they entered various lines to get their food. We then all ate together in the dining hall and were greeted by several of Bradley's NU friends who took the time out to eat lunch and interact with our students. They provided some helpful tips about how to survive college, things that the students could be doing now to ensure a college opportunity, and more importantly, just encouraged the students to continue to reach for their goals.
Next, we were off to an official informational session at the admissions office, and this was truly special becausee it was filled with next-year prospective students and their parents. This gave our students a real opportunity to be around students who were in the process of making their college decision and hear many of the questions that they had for the instructors. We then were led on a tour of the campus where the students got to see many of the historic buildings, landmarks, the student center, and just the overall life of an NU student.

I am confident that our students had a great experience and learned a lot with this opportunity. We would like to continue to provide our students with these types of opportunities to equip them with any and all of the resources they need so that they too will one day be able to say "I am a college student!" For this to happen we are going to need more and more people to support the Cabrini Connections' program and our efforts. One way is to make a donation to support the NU vs Illinois Challenge. Your gift to the NU Team and Cabrini Connections helps us continue the tutoring/mentoring that we offer, and shows the generosity and commitment of NU alumni to help inner city kids to college and careers.

Thanks Northwestern University for a great experience and opportunity yesterday...and the education you provided me, Bradley, Nicole, Chris and all of the other NU alums who are a part of the Cabrini Connections' program!!!

~Go Cats~

Monday, September 21, 2009

NFL and Cabrini Connections...Opening Week Excitment!!!

Last week the the NFL and the Cabrini Connections' program both officially kicked off the 2009-2010 season. The NFL used the summer to prepare for what every team hopes will be that magical season. Each player, coach, and entire organizations in the NFL had summer preparation, training camp, and pre-season games before there were lights, cameras, and action for that first game of the season. There were some winners, some losers, some highlights, and some injuries in that first week, but that week was just one of many as the ultimate goal of holding up that Super Bowl trophy does not take place until February 7th in Miami, Florida.

The Cabrini Connections' program went through a very similar regiment over the summer to prepare for our opening week, and what we hope will be a magical season in the world of tutoring/mentoring. We used the summer to assess what is needed in the program, get the players and coaches that we needed to add to our team, and we also had to say goodbye to several of our key players and coaches. There were planning meetings, interviews, recruiting trips, and a lot of time spent to not only taking notes from the previous season but setting goals for this season. And last week, our first week of tutoring/mentoring, I am happy to say that we had a very successful week. There were nearly 70 coaches (mentors) and nearly 60 players (students) who showed up ready to not only have a great game(tutoring/mentoring session) but an overall great season!!!

In the NFL and in Cabrini Connections, if the first week is any indicator of what type of season the team will have, I am confident in saying that we will have a record breaking season. We have veteran coaches and players, some outstanding rookies, and several new additions in our leadership positions that can and will assist with getting our program the much needed WINS that we will need this season.

So get your tickets to the game, get your popcorn ready, and prepare to support a great team, a great program, and a overall great organization!!! 2009-2010 is OUR year...don't you want to be a part of it!?!?


Monday, September 14, 2009

Let the Program Begin!!!

After a summer full of doing the behind the scenes and the prep work for the 2009-2010 tutoring/mentoring year, we are proud to announce that we have officially started our year. Last week we hosted our student/parent and our volunteer orientations for all of our returning, new, and prospective students and volunteers. We conducted orientations for each group so that we could accommodate a variety of schedules and to work around the Labor Day Weekend. And I am also proud to announce we had a very very good turn out in both the student/parent orientations and the volunteer orientations. This is a GREAT way to start off the year and leads me to believe that this could be a very special year for the program.

This year the program has many familiar faces returning to the program, but we also have nearly 20 new students and volunteers who have joined the Cabrini Connections' team for the 2009-2010 year. Each year we try to have between 75-80 student enrolled before November and even before the first day of tutoring (which is scheduled for the Wednesday) we have 78 students on the roster. And we have nearly 90 volunteers who will be actively involved with the program throughout this year!!! Another very positive note is that many of the new students and volunteers have used the summer months to make that initial c0ntact, so they will be able to hit the ground running on that very first official day.

This Wednesday and Thursday will be our first tutoring/mentoring sessions of the year and there is just a very positive feeling within the program, that this year has the potential to be the best over in so many different ways. We feel that if our students, parents, volunteers, and donors continue their 'buy in' and all groups always has the question "What can I do to better the program..." then this will be the best year ever! As staff we will continue to try to work towards that buy in all throughout the year with various activities ideas, and events. But the immediate need is simply financial support to provide us with the opportunity to continue our efforts.

We are always encouraging all that have a connection to the program to continue to tell the "Cabrini Connections' story" to those in their network and let those who hear the story make a decision if they will become a supporter, a volunteer, or a donor to the program. With all involved continuing in those efforts we are confident that the Cabrini Connections' story will get better and better and the audience hearing the story will become bigger and bigger, and as a result the resources needed will be made available.
With that being said....Let the 2009-2010 Program Begin!!!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Than Tutoring and Mentoring

Most people know Cabrini Connections at a tutoring/mentoring program for 7th-12th grade youth residing in and around the Cabrini-Green Housing community. But we are so much more! All of our student are matched up with their own personal tutor/mentor and the pairs come in on Wednesday and Thursdays for the tutoring/mentoring sessions, but we also provide a variety of enrichment courses that our students can take advantage of.

Currently the program offers Art Club, Video and Filmmaker's Club, Tech Club, and Writing Club. The Art Club is currently being lead by veteran Volunteer Jacqueline Shay, and co coordinator Nicole Gordon will hopefully be rejoining the team after taking some time off. The Art Club meets on Monday evening 5:45-7:15pm and the student take part in a variety of art project throughout the year that ultimately lead to an Annual Art Festival in the spring.

The Video and Filmmaker's Club is a revitalized program that has been a part of Cabrini Connections for year. Innervision Youth Production (IYP) was the former name of the club that was lead by Rebecca Parrish. Currently 1st year volunteer Michael Alexander and Assistant Program Coordinator, Bradley Troast, are leading this club that meets every Monday from 5:30-7pm. The 8-10 students who are currently in the program have gotten off to a quick start this summer and are already in the process of putting together their very own scary movie!!! The club also were in the right place at the right time and were featured on the CBS Ch. 2 news earlier this week.

The Tech Club has gone through some changes in the leadership positions over the last year or so, but former Tech Club Coordinators Steve Pawlik and Alice Toth were lead the program for the 2008-2009 school year set a very solid foundation within the program. Currently, GIS Mapping Coordinator for the organization, Mike Trakan, is coordinating the club that meets every Tuesday evening from 6-7pm. The students are working on a variety of projects, some that include using photo shop, flash animation, and they have also been working towards designing their own personal websites.

The Writing Club meets every Wednesday evening from 5-6pm and this club too has gone through some changes in leadership over the past year or so. When I began with the program in 2008, Jen King and Shannyn Nellett were coordinating the program and leading the group at the time with a variety of writing and overall projects that allowed the youth to communicate and express themselves. At the end of the year Shannyn took some time off from the program and Jen led the program solo for the majority of the 2008-2009 year and they ended the year on a very high note by performing a skit at the annual year end dinner.

Now heading into the 2009-2010 season Shannyn Nellett is back and leading the program with new Writing Club Coordinator Jessica Vandivier, while Jen King is taking some time off from the program. And Shannyn and Jessica have hit the ground running with tons of new and exciting ideas for the Writing Club for this year.

We are truly excited and optimistic that all of our clubs will be a huge hit with the students in the Cabrini Connections' program. Not only are the students being provided an opportunity to take advantage in some fun and exciting projects while being in the clubs, participating in the clubs can count as service learning hours for our students and the clubs can lead to job and intern opportunities.

As you can see, Cabrini Connections is much more than tutoring and mentoring but a program that is filled with many opportunities and resources than can and should contribute to the overall success of our students inside and outside of our program.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Words of Advice

Here's some good advice for all of us as we start a new school year.

Find more videos like this on Fireside Learning: Conversations about Education

This video was posted on the Fireside Learning forum by Ed Hitchcock.

This is one of many forums where I learn new ideas and share my own experiences. I encourage members of Cabrini Connections to learn to use these forums for their own learning and networking.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cabrini Connections on Channel 2 News

On Monday evening, Channel 2 News did a story about Cabrini Connections. You can see it on their web site.

The story focuses mostly on the Cabrini Connections side of our work, connecting youth and volunteers with each other, and extra learning and enrichment opportunities, such as arts, video and technology.

Tonight and tomorrow night we're hosting volunteer orientations. Student orientations will be Thursday and Frida
y. We hope everyone will attend.

Not much was told about the second part of our mission, which is helping programs like this be available to kids in all poverty neighborhoods. That's the role the Tutor/Mentor Connection takes.

The story was filmed a week ago, on 8/30/09, and the message "we're broke" was accurate at that time. We were only able to pay half of the weekly payroll because of lack of cash. However, last Friday, 9/4, we received a $35,000 grant from HSBC North America.

As we start this week, we're not as bad off as we were a week ago, but the main message of this story, and of blog articles I've written in the past few weeks is still true.

Unless we find one or two major benefactors, who will make a multiple year commitment to helping us continue Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, we may not be here in the future.

At the same time, we need to keep the donors who have helped us since 1993 and who are still sending contributions of $25 to $500 to help us. We thank all of you who sent in contributions last week. Please continue to reach out to people you know and ask them to help.

It does take a village to raise our kids. With your help, the Cabrini Connections village wills still be in place throughout the coming year, and in many future years.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Illini vs NU Challenge

For many this time of the year is like Christmas. The kids are heading back to school, the NFL regular season is about to kick off, and the college football season is about to kick off as well. Whether you are fan of an underdog such as the UNLV Rebels, a front runner fan of a team like the Florida Gators...you love this time of the year!

I am a former Northwestern University football player whose career was cut short with a knee injury. But life didn't stop there. I continued to hit the books, because I was a student before I was an athlete, and graduated in 2004 with a BS in Education and Social Policy(major was Human Development and Psychological Services). Now I am the Administrative Coordinator of the Cabrini Connections' tutoring/mentoring program working towards putting youth in a position to be future alumni of the college or university of their choice.

While I am an NU alum and the Administrative Coordinator, former U of I star QB, Kurt Kittner is a board member of the organization. We both are not only huge football fans and supporters of our Alma maters, we both believe in the power of the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection organization. We believe in the program so much and both are extremely competitive from our playing days, that we have come up with a FUNdraising competition.

The Illini vs NU Challenge is a fundraising competition where I am looking for Wildcat fanatics to submit donations to this site leading up to the BIG game between the Wildcats and the Fighting Illini on Nov. 14th, and Kurt Kittner is doing the same with his Fighting Illini faithfuls. This is not just a friendly competition between two former football players, but an opportunity for football fans and fans of tutoring/mentoring to make a HUGE difference in the lives of the youth who participate in our program.

So whether you bleed purple for the Wildcats, you are and orange and blue fanatic for the Fighting Illini, you think this is a unique and fun idea, or you truly believe in what we are trying to do with the Cabrini Connections' program...please do 3 things:

1. Take a look at these sites
(NU) vs. (Illini)
2. Support one and/or both sides

3. Share with those in your network so they can do the same

I set a goal of $10,000 for the NU side leading up to the game and Kurt has done the same. Hopefully NU will not only get a win on the field and in this FUNdraising competition, but I do hope that Kurt and I reach our goals and maybe even go well beyond the $20, 000 total.
We thank you for any and all support!!

go fighting illini(smile)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A 4th Quarter Hail Mary...

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the delay in the Sport's Concepts' post. Due to other pressing issues, I had to put this post on the back burner. But here is the latest article to the series and hopefully be the most talked about.

Throughout the history of the NFL there have been some truly memorable plays that not only changed the outcome of that game, but also changed the game of football forever. Usually these type of unbelievable plays come in the form of a sack to seal the win, an interception return for a touchdown as the clock expires, a kickoff return for 90 yards to take the lead by one. These are the plays the leave us all in awe and are the type of plays that are forever embedded in our memories.

But there is another type of play that nearly every team in the history of the NFL has in there arsenal to use when the situation calls for it. When the team is down 6 points in the 4th quarter, they are 75 yards away from the end zone, and there only 7 seconds left...yes, you guessed it, its the Hail Mary! This is the type of play that every coach hates to have to use, and that is simply because if the team is forced to use this play its because they need it as a desperation play to try to steal a win.

NFL QB greats such as Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, and probably the best to ever do it, John Elway were masters of rallying their team to 4th quarter victories and perfecting the Hail Mary play.

The Cabrini Connections' program has been forced to call a Hail Mary. Due to the economic climate and financial shortage in the program, we got the call from the coach's box to run the Hail Mary to win this game. It's the 4th quarter 3 seconds to go, and we are down by thousands of dollars, and if this play is not ran to perfection then the game could be over. Similar to the NFL the stakes are very high when it comes to wins and losses, but I have a feeling that the stakes are even higher in this game that we are currently playing.

If we don't connect on this Hail Mary then the game that we will be losing is a program that means so much to so many people; volunteers, students, staff, alumni, and all other supporters of the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connections' organization. It's a fact that many lives can and will be affected if this play is not successful.

Instead of crossing your fingers, saying a prayer, and wearing your lucky hat to ensure a 4th quarter comeback, we are asking you all to submit a donation you are comfortable with, tell any and all of those who could also be boosters or fans to do the same, and visualize YOU being that next star player who catches that Hail Mary pass that not only wins the game but creates one of those memorable sports' moments for our program's.