Friday, April 30, 2010

Cabrini Connections Loses a Life, but Gains an Angel...

For any and everybody who has been following my Sport's Concepts articles this will be the first and I hope the last article of this nature in this series. The National Football League is made of hundreds of players, coaches, owners, and numerous staff that all come together to make up what is known as the NFL. All throughout the off season the players that make up the different teams of the NFL are looking at film, working out, running, and preparing for success in the upcoming season in which at the end...there will only be one team that can be the Super Bowl Champion. But there are moments in which the goals of the organization, the championship rings, the player stats, and the money are irrelevant; and that is when someone in the NFL family losses their life. Those in the NFL, and all others, know that death is inevitable, but I'm confident that all are shocked, saddened, and heartbroken when a coach, player, former player, front office personnel, and even when a well known commentator loses their life.

Just in the last 10 years the NFL has tragically lost players such as: Darrent Williams (Denver/Homicide), Pat Tillman (Arizona/War Causality), Corey Smith (Detroit/Lost at sea), Chris Henry (Cincinnati/Road Accident), and there has been countless others in the NFL who have suffered untimely deaths.

The Cabrini Connections organization is just one of the many teams that make up the Tutoring/Mentoring League and less than a week ago our league, just like the NFL, we have suffered the loss of a great player. Ms. Cierria Thomas of the Cabrini Connections' organization was a 4 year veteran to the team and was definitely on the rise on the team and in the overall league. Many of her Cabrini Connections' teammates remember her as being a pretty quiet and shy young lady, but her position coach (mentor) Tonya Myers and the Cabrini Connections' coaches and front office staff remember her infection smile, her quiet confidence, and her dedication to her church and her religion.

There was a turning point in Cierria's career when during the summer months, Cierria took part in the Story Catchers summer program in which the quiet and shy Cierria Thomas acted and performed throughout Chicago in front of audiences of all sizes. I think her mentor Tonya Myers and other Cabrini Connections' coaches would agree that as a result of her experience in that program her confidence grew, her voice became louder and stronger, and it was just an overall beneficial experience for her.

On on Sunday, April 25th a fire broke out in her Chicago home and Cierria Thomas tragically lost her life as a result of that blaze. Her brother, Charles Thomas who was a former member of the Cabrini Connections team, was able to escape without any significant injuries, and their grandmother, who was in the home as well, is still in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in the fire.

When a life is tragically lost in the NFL, the entire league, players, coaches, media, and all that make up the National Football League, rally in support of their fallen "family" member to not only show their support and honor for that person, but to show respect, appreciation, and love for that person and all that person has contributed to the league. In the Cabrini Connections' organization we have begun to do the same. We altered our tutoring/mentoring sessions to discuss the tragedy and provide an opportunity for others in the league to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We are encouraging all to attend the memorial services for Ms. Cierria Thomas, we are encouraging the entire league to find it in their hearts to support the entire Thomas family during these dark times, and we will discuss ways in which we can educate the entire organization about fire and overall safety. In the NFL flags are lowered, there are moments of silence before games, and other ways in which to show respect for the loss...and we will continue to brainstorm ways to show our respect for our fallen player.

Again, I truly hope that this is the first and last Sport's Concepts entry of this nature. If you would like to show your respect and your support for Cierria and the Thomas family, please view information listed here. The ENTIRE Cabrini Connections' organization would like to say we will miss you, we love you, and thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life!

Rest in Peace Ms. Cierria Thomas

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Former Mentor tells story via Tribune blog

On the News page of the Tutor/Mentor Connection site we pick up feeds from local and national media. I clicked into this story today, and found it was one of our former volunteers, Candice Warltier writing about her experiences.

How many other volunteers and students are telling this story? Connect with us on Facebook, or Linked in, or on this blog so more people can read these.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Prayers and Condolences for the Thomas Family.

Cabrini Connections' students, volunteers, parents, alumni, donors, and all other supporters; it gives me great sadness to share the news of one our Cabrini Connections' members losing her life this past weekend. Veteran student in the program, Cierria Thomas, a 16 year old student at CICS Northtown Academy tragically passed as a result of a house fire over the weekend. Cierria Thomas has been in the program since September of 2006, along with her older brother Charles Thomas who graduated from the program last summer. Cierria Thomas was the mentee of veteran volunteer Tonya Myers.

Cabrini Connections' family please keep the Thomas family in your thoughts and prayers during this tough time they are facing. She will truly be missed. Tragedies like this are examples that life can be short, and should encourage all to live each day to the fullest because tomorrow is never promised today. As an organization we will continue to try to find ways to better the lives of all that enter the Cabrini Connections' organization, but today we will mourn the loss of one of own and send our prayers and condolences to the Thomas family.

Here is the information for the Memorial Services for Ms. Cierria Thomas:

Friday: Viewing of the body is being located at A.A.Rayner 318 E. 71st. St. Chicago, IL between 5-7pm

Saturday: 10-10:30am wake & 10:30-12:00pm funeral at Victory Worship Center 3750 N. Neva Chicago, IL.

If anybody would like to send cards, flowers, or any other forms of support for the Thomas family, the contact information below should be used:

Hendrix Family
c/o Thomas Family
96 Marina Drv.
Des Plaines, IL 60016

R.I.P. Ms. Cierria Thomas


Friday, April 23, 2010

Who Really Wants To Be #1

In the NFL and I'm pretty sure in every other professional sport's organization, every player, coach, and franchise wants to be #1. I'm sure throughout each individual's life they have dreamed of one day hosting up that championship trophy, plaque, and/or medal and while raising 1 finger in the air, they shouted "I'm number 1!"
But what does it take to get to that point; how does a player, coach, or organization go from dreaming about being number 1 to actually accomplishing that goal? What it takes is a lot of preparation, hard work, commitment, dedication, and sacrifice...and a little bit of luck! Drew Brees and the entire New Orleans' Saints organization would not have been crowned Super Bowl Champs this year if they did embody those qualities listed above.

As the Head Coach of the Cabrini Connections' organization, my hope is that every member of the team wants to be #1 as well, but just like in the NFL and any other league, career, or profession the individuals all have to buy into the concept and strive to be #1. And "buying in" for our organization is being present and on time for the weekly practices, being prepared to work hard from the beginning to the end of the practice, communicating effectively, striving to get "one day better" everyday, taking advantage of each and every opportunity, and spending time outside of the team practices to ways to improve individually.

Each and every day my Offense and Defensive Coordinator (Coach Troast) and I are evaluating the players and coaches on the Cabrini Connections' team and analyzing what they are doing on and off the field in our pursuit to be #1. And we will continue to work towards that goal. Next week during our Wednesday and Thursday practices we will be discussing this goal being a #1 organization and all that it takes to reach that goal. And for the remainder of the season and over the summer months we will continue to communicate the work ethic, attitude, and dedication needed by all on the team before the 2010-2011 season begins.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The 1st Cabrini Madness Award's Presentation was a Success!

The 2010 Cabrini Madness FUNdraising officially came to an end last week with the first Awards Presentation! During the tutoring/mentoring sessions last Wednesday and Thursday, we presented a variety of awards to a few of the many people who really contributed to the overall success of the project. No, this was not the ESPYs but we had a GREAT time!!!

We are started off the presentation by acknowledging the students and volunteers who had Perfect Attendance during our 2nd Quarter of tutoring/mentoring (Jan-March). We presented each person with a certificate to show our appreciation for their commitment, dedication, and loyalty to the program, especially during the winter months.

We then presented Sean Sullivan with an award for winning the Cabrini Madness Bracket Challenge. Very similar to when people all over the world complete the March Madness bracket for either money or bragging rights, Sean was one of the few people in the program who entered the contest this year. Sean scored 37 out of a total of 40 points which earned him the title this year, and he received half of the total amount of money collected and a t-shirt from the Big Ten Network that was donated by Big Ten Network personality Tim Doyle.

The next part of the presentation was the individual and team awards that were earned as a result of all of the hard work, dedication, commitment, and program advocacy not just for Cabrini Madness, but really for the importance to the existence to the entire organization.

Category #1: Rookie of the Year

Criteria: First Year student or volunteer of the program who excelled in the Cabrini Madness tournament

Nominees: Sandra Lee, Matt Barnes/Torquil Carlisle, and Tim Minton/Jessica Newberg

Award Recipient: Tim Minton/Jessica Newberg for leading their team to 2nd place in the tourney with their very first day in the program being the day the tourney was launched

Category #2: Most Improved Team

Criteria: Teams that either got off to a slow start and/or just continued to progressively get better throughout the tourney

Nominees: TEMS, Changemakers, Give Hope

Award Recipient: TEMS team members brainstormed to very successful events (Game Night Fundraisers) that propelled their team from the bottom of the rankings to being one of the tourney elites

Category #3: 6th Man/Woman of the Year

Criteria: Person who was not either officially in the program or was not an active member in the program, but excelled in their role to contribute to Cabrini Madness

Nominees: Mike Ozmeral, Clair Armbruster, and Katie Culliard

Award Recipient: Katie Culliard, a member of the Green Team and is the girlfriend of a veteran volunteer. She successfully reached out to her network and was able to bring a significant amount of funds to her team, and the overall CC, T/MC organization

Category #4: Captain of the Year

Criteria: Provided great leadership to their individual team in Cabrini Madness

Nominees: Toni Pullen, Ayana Martin, and Jessica Newberg

Award Recipient: Ayana Martin, of Give Hope was one of the few student captains and she led her team to the Final Four spearheaded some very successful fundraising ideas for her team.

Category #5: Most Valuable Event

Criteria: The fundraising event that created the most team work, advocacy, and overall support and success

Nominees: The Lebrons, Give Hope, The Awesomes

Award Recipient: The Awesomes, held an event at the Green Heart Shop in February that not only brought in nearly $700, but the students of the event put together their own promo commercial.

Category #6: Most Valuable Player

Criteria: Person who excelled above the rest in their ability to successfully advocate for the program and obtain great results.

Nominees: Tim Minton, Charles Hill/Sean Mayfield, and Carolyn Grunst

Award Recipient: Carolyn Grunst, of the Guaranteed Victory team brought in nearly $3,000 on her own and was able to obtain a $2,500 from an individual donor that propelled the team to a tourney VICTORY!!!

And we ended the night by providing the members of the Championship with their plaques!!! The members of Guaranteed Victory brought in over $6000 in less than 2 months and are crowned as the CHAMPIONS of the 2010 Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Tournament!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 Art & Film Festival Is A Success!!!

The Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection's staff would like to thank each and every person who contributed to the overall success of this year's Art and Film festival. All of the volunteers, donors, students, parents, guests who came out, and the Palette and Chisel all came together to provide a very nice 2010 Art and Film Festival. We definitely want to give a special thanks to Jacqueline Shay (Art Club Coordinator), the Chicago Cares volunteers in the Art Club, and to each and every current student and Cabrini Connections' Alumni who took the lead in providing this opportunity.

Throughout the night we had over a 100 supports who attended the event and shared in a great event and positive experience. Thank You! There are many people who wanted to attend but couldn't for various reasons, but YOU can still show your support by providing a donation of any amount and donations can be mailed in OR submitted online. We are now preparing for what I think is the best Cabrini Connection's event of the year, and that is our Annual Year End Dinner that will take place on June 10th at Cornerstone from 6-8pm. At this event there will be students, parents/guardians, volunteers, staff, board members, donors, and many CC, T/MC guests all coming to assist us in not only celebrating another successful year, but assisting us with building momentum for the 2010-2011 tutoring/mentoring year!

And YOU can help us work towards the Year End Dinner and the theme for next year which is "My Dreams are My Reality!" that was submitted by CC senior Dijana Smith, by showing your support. Become a supporter, become a volunteer, become a donor!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cabrini Connections' Coaching Clinic

First and foremost, for all of those who were following my Sport's Concepts stories I want to apologize for the delay. For the past couple of months we have been hosting our first annual Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Tournament and wanted to focus on basketball analogies and wait until the season was over to get back to football.

And I wanted to start back with the upcoming Coaching Clinic that will be taking place here at Cabrini Connections. At various times throughout the year, especially during the off season, NFL coaches from around the league participate in coaching clinics. At these clinics the coaches share ideas, concepts, visions and goals that they hope will benefit them so in turn what they learn at the clinic will benefit their players/team as they work towards that ultimate goal....a Super Bowl Championship! Many of the head and assistant coaches then retreat back to their own facilities to break down and analyze the information to incorporate the knowledge into the play calls and schemes of the team.
As the Cabrini Connections' team begins the 3rd quarter of our season and prepare to end the season in a great position, we will be hosting our own Cabrini Connections' coaching clinic in the near future with some of our key Assistant Coaches...our Volunteer Coordinators. At Cabrini Connections were always looking to get better and prepare our players and coaches with the necessary resources to be successful in and outside of the program. And as the Head Coach of the organization, I truly believe much of the success of the team comes from the leadership within the program.

A couple week's back we conducted a training project for our Volunteer Coordinators (Alexandria Hill, Kasey Brink, John Knight, and Diana Castaneda) to test their strengths and weaknesses in the areas of Communication, Preparation, Accountability, Teamwork, and Overall Ability to Lead Others. This was a 3 week training project that ended on March 25th. The purpose of this project was to evaluate our leadership within the program and how we could learn from this project to lead our Cabrini Connections' Team to a Championship.

We planned on meeting today to breakdown the project, but we will reschedule for a day and time that works for everybody. This is a pivotal point in the Cabrini Connections' organization and the benefits, changes, goals, and attitudes that come about as a result of this meeting could provide great enthusiasm for the remainder of this meeting and build momentum heading into the 2010-2011 Tutor/Mentor Season!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cabrini Connections Art Festival, April 16 - Bring a Friend!

The Annual Cabrini Connections' Art and Film Festival is next week, Friday, April 16!!! Last year's event was a blast and I am confident that those who were able to come out last year would say the same thing. This year we are looking have a great time as well.

The 2010 Art and Film Festival will be held at the Palette and Chisel Art Academy (1012 N. Dearborn) on Friday, April 16th from 6:00-10:00pm. As always there will be a silent auction and raffle, along with beverages and light appetizers. The gallery will be open from April 15th-April 27th to display all of the great art work that the Cabrini Connections' students and guests have been working on throughout the year.

Read more about the Art Festival and see work created by our teens, on the Art Club blog. The art club meets every Monday evening in the Cabrini Connections' center, where the students learn a variety of artistic skills and techniques from club coordinator Jacqueline Shay and volunteers from Chicago Cares.

The Art and Video festival is a showcase for the work done by youth and volunteers. It is also a fund raiser to help pay the costs of space and insurance so these enrichment and learning activities can take place. Visit this page to make a donation, or this page. You can also print this form and mail a donation.

Learn more about Arts, Video and enrichment programs at

Plan on coming out to a GREAT event, and as always bring a friend.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Look Back on the 2010 Cabrini Madness Season!!!

Following a staff meeting that took place at the end of 2009, the Cabrini Madness FUNdraising idea started from some simple notes on a piece of paper. Assistant Program Coordinator, Bradley Troast, and I met to follow up on the information provided during the staff meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to come up with ways in which to bring in some much needed funds and resources in the 1st Quarter of 2010. And from those simple notes on a piece a paper we are proud to say that Cabrini Madness grew into something amazing! Please take a couple of minutes to look back on the 2010 Cabrini Madness Season:

Cabrini Madness Season: January 6th-April 5th, 2010

Number of Team: 13

Number of Participants on Roster: 114
Students (37)
Volunteers (37)
Staff, Coordinators, Board Members (25)
Outside of the Program Members (15)

Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Events:
-Passion's Team
John Knight's Birthday Celebration (Feb. 26th)
Cabrini Madness Bar Night (March 12th)

-The Lebrons
Market Bar Event (March 5th)

The Green Heart Shop Event (Feb. 27th )

-Give Hope
Pizza Party (March 17th and 18th)

-Green Team
Sandra Lee's Cabrini Madness Bookmark Sales (March 27th)
Spring Break Pool Pary (March 31st)

Game Day Event(s) (March 13th and 20th)

Cabrini Madness Promotional Videos: 9 total
-Episode #1
-Episode #2
-Awesomes Shop and Sip Commercial
-Episode #3
-Episode #4
-Episode #5
-Episode #6
-Episode #7
-Episode #8

Teams that Advanced to the Elite 8:
-Guaranteed Victory, Team Impeccable, The Green Team, Each One Reach One, TEMS, Give Home, Passion's Team, and De'Jour's Team

Teams that Advanced to the Final 4:
-Guaranteed Victory, Team Impeccable, The Green Team, and Give Hope

Championship Round Teams:
-Guaranteed Victory and Team Impeccable

2010 Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Tournament Champion: Guaranteed Victory

"The Cabrini Madness Championship game turned out to be an instant classic!!! Team Impeccable made a HUGE play at about 10:45pm and went up on Guaranteed Victory pretty big. So Guaranteed Victory dug deep, remained poised and focused, and played their hearts out. And with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, New York Giants' starting Defensive Lineman, Barry Cofield made a $2,000 donation to put Guaranteed Victory on top and what turned out to be the game winning shot..."

Approximate Number of 2010 Cabrini Madness Donors: 360

Total Amount Raised in the 2010 Cabrini Madness Season: $23,109.89

As the Administrative Coordinator I am extremely proud at all of the activity that was a result of the Cabrini Madness tournament!!! There were more videos, events, and individual donors in this one FUNdraiser than any other event in the Cabrini Connections' history!!!! That is a HUGE accomplishment that all should be very proud of. Unfortunately the hardships and negative factors that serve as roadblocks for our youth's future continue, therefore our efforts to eliminate those roadblocks must continue as well and we will continue to seek out your help.

Please continue to support our efforts here at Cabrini Connections, and encourage others to do the same. Please visit the website and subscribe to the eNewsletter to see all that is taking place here at Cabrini Connections and check out our donation options here.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Career Week: Day 4 (The Conclusion)

While many students either slept in or spent the day having fun with friends in the nice weather, two Cabrini Connections' students (brothers) Israel Dosie and Marquise Cook took advantage of a great opportunity. These two students signed up for the final day of the Cabrini Connections' Career Week in which we have used this week which is the Chicago Public School' Spring Break as an opportunity to show our students various jobs, businesses, and even colleges/universities in which our adult mentors call work and school. To see where all we have been this week you can see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 by clicking on the links.

Today was the 4th and final day of our Career Week, and we could not have asked for a better day to go on the campuses of two great institutions. We started our day off by getting a private tour and informational session at Loyola University from Iesha "E" Wilson who is an intern at Cabrini Connections and a current graduate student at Loyola. "E" gave the group an in depth information tour ranging from academics and athletics to financial aid and the overall life of a Loyola University student. Both Israel and Marquise had a wide range of questions and "E" did an amazing job of answering any and all questions that the students AND staff had. One of the main attractions that caught the group's eye was the athletic facility in which the basketball teams play their home games. We had an opportunity to walk on the court and view all of the banners hanging on the wall.

Israel and Marquise are both 7th graders and Israel is interested in pursuing a career in Architecture and Marquise a career in Robotic Engineering, and this was a great opportunity for them to just get a feel of college life and a better understanding of the habits and things in which they need to be working on now so that they can put themselves in a position to reach their future career goals. We then completed the great Loyola tour, thanked "E" for taking out the time to show us around, and headed to McDonald's for lunch before we began Part 2 of our career day.

(Welcome our NUPIP Fellow, Bradley Troast, to summarize the Northwestern side of Day 4...)

After lunch we boarded the "L" to Northwestern's Evanston campus. Israel and Marquise attended our NU college visit in the fall, but the official campus tour only covers south campus. Therefore, this time around, we focused on north campus. Wednesday night volunteer and current NU senior Michael Abers and Thursday night volunteer and current NU graduate student Sonali Murthy (left) led the tour.

We began with a visit to Leverone Auditorium within the Kellogg School of Management where we sat in on a real lecture in progress. The professor - in front of at least 100 students - was using a camera to project his notes in real-time onto the big screen. Israel and Marquise, both members of Tech Club, were definitely intrigued.

Next, we passed through Annenberg Hall, home of the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). Our administrative coordinator, EL Da' Sheon Nix (main author of this blog), graduated from SESP and was actually able to introduce the students to his former advisor. Cool!

Further north, we entered the Pancoe Life Sciences building to visit Michael's lab. He is a biochemistry major and though he couldn't show us any mice in person, he did describe some wild experiments. Our favorite was the mice that "smell light." Their sense of light is switched with their sense of smell. They are blinded, but when the lights come on, they begin to sniff. Wild!

From the lab we went to Northwestern Technological Institute, the second largest building in the United States under five stories (the Pentagon is first). Michael and Sonali stopped in the auditorium to talk about their collegiate experiences and to answer questions from Israel and Marquise. They emphasized responsibility. Professors won't call you if you miss class like we do when you miss a tutoring session. You have to do your readings, go to class, talk to the professor, etc., to do well. If you don't do those things, you'll be left out to dry.

To close out our trip, we visited the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center. Undergraduate students have free access to this huge gym on the lake, which Israel and Marquise were very happy to see. They even got in on some basketball! - challenging two NU students to a game of two-on-two. Israel's team pulled out a 9-7 victory, but everyone was all smiles afterward. Just another way of making connections!

Thank you to E, Michael, and Sonali for showing us your schools. You are helping our students create a vision for their future!
Overall, we had an amazing 2010 Career Week and we would like to thank each and every student, volunteer, intern, staff, donor, and all those who came together to make these opportunities possible. And although we have a career week, with the help of more and more volunteers and donors we can provide these opportunities and many more all throughout the year so that all Cabrini Connections' students can say "MY DREAMS ARE MY REALITY"