Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dreams Become Reality for Former Mentee and Mentor!

Below is a GREAT story of the power of the Cabrini Connections' program and how not only the students benefit from being involved in the program, but how the volunteers that work with the students benefit from seeing all of their hard work, dedication, and commitment pay off. This is not only another great entry in the Cabrini Connections' story, but another example of why programs like Cabrini Connections need to be put in place in neighborhoods all over the country.

Just wanted to share with all of you that a couple of weeks before Christmas I had the distinct honor of watching Diara Fleming graduate from Northern Illinois University. It was one of the most amazing things I have witnessed. In just over 4 years, Diara has worked her way through NIU to graduate with a GPA of over 3.0. She plans to go on to graduate school as soon as possible.

For those of you who don't know Diara, she was a bright student at both Cabrini Green Tutoring and the Cabrini Connections. She graduated from Walter Peyten High School and went straight to NIU. Although the road was not easy for her- Diara has done tremendously through her career at NIU and I am confident she will accomplish amazing things. Diara will tell you that she could not have graduated without the support of many others outside of her family which simply did not provide the support she needed.

I tell you this not to be boastful in any way of my involvement- but to stress how critical it is for programs like Cabrini to continuing pairing up tutors/mentors so they have the support network they need to be successful.

Wishing everyone at Cabrini a very Merry Christmas!
Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Right Playbook vs. The Right Personnel

In the NFL there has been a handful of teams that have dominated the league in the last 10 years. Teams such as the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianpolis Colts etc...There are many factors that have contributed to the success of these teams over the years. Some would argue that they have some of the best players in the league, the most knowledable coaches, an outstanding front office, an unrivaled playbook, or a combination of it all. For whatever reason these teams have continued to dominate the National Football League and the impressive part is that the dominance has and continues to be consistant over the years.

As I continue to attempt to draw comparisons of the Cabrini Connections program to an NFL team, I wonder what truly does lead to success. Does success come from having great players that perform a step above the rest and the playbook is secondary; or if put in the 'perfect' system with an extensive playbook the players will come together in a way that leads to success of the team? Many people will argue both sides.

As a former athlete, but a current Head Coach here at Cabrini Connections I'd have to say it is a combination of both. This tutoring/mentoring game that we are playing is constantly evolving and the outside factors that affect our players such as poverty, underachieving schools, lack of parental invovlement at times, should cause a chain reaction to the thoughts and approach that the coaches and front office respresentative have to take to prepare our players for success Meaning that the playbook that we use should change as well. Just like in the NFL, something that worked in the 50's may not work or be as effective in the present and if you have a quartback that can't throw over 20 yards it wouldn't be smart to keep calling for the Hail Mary.

Since this is one of our bye-weeks for the holiday season, I studied all of the plays in the current playbook for the Cabrini Connections' program and there were a lot of plays, packages, and schemes that were either outdated or did not look like a good fit for the current personnel. With the current personnel there are some great talent in the players and coaches that has led to some huge wins in the past two seasons. At at recent Award's Banquest the Cabrini Connections' TEAM was honored as the #1 TEAM for Mentoring across the 6 Regions of Chicago, which is like winning the Super Bowl in this sport.

But there will be no parade through the streets of Chicago, no trip to Disneyworld, no car for the MVP of the the big game. Due to our personnel, our playbook, our fan base, our lack of a marketing/advertisement department, or a combination of all four...our season and maybe even the entire franchise could be coming to an unfortunate end. So tell me sport's world which one is it, The Right Personnel or The Right Playbook that leads to success?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Cabrini Connections Does It AGAIN..."

I just wanted to share some really good news on the Cabrini Connections' front. Assisted Program Coordinator, Bradley Troast, and I(EL Da' Sheon Nix, Administrative Coordinator) just returned from a Delegate Agency Meeting hosted by The Department of Family and Support Services. This is where we get our funding from the city each year. DFSS host 3-4 Delegate Agency Meetings a year where all of the programs that are funded by the city of Chicago are invited. The last meeting of the year is the meeting geared towards thanking all of us for the work that we do for the city and most importantly the youth.

The Cabrini Connections' staff are proud to announce that Cabrini Connections received the Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Performance in Youth Opportunities for the 2009-2010 Year (official hardware coming in January). We were recognized as the #1 Mentoring program across all 6 regions of Chicago!!!!! And...this is our 2nd year in a row. So I guess we can be considered Back to Back Champions!!!

With there being so many programs and organizations across the City of Chicago that are doing great work that benefits youth, adults, schools, and communities as a is a great honor to be one of the programs at the top of that list. We are not only appreciative of this recognition, but we are also thank for all that make this type of opportunity a reality. So we would like to definitely the volunteers that share their time, talents, and knowledge with the youth in the program, the students that are volunteers as well because they are not forced to come to the program. These students want to be here in Cabrini Connections, and take advantage of the resources so they can put themselves in a position to be successful in the future and to reach all of the goals and dreams they have. I personally want to thank all of the staff here at Cabrini Connections for all of the hard work and dedication you all put into making project.

Lastly, I want to thank a group of people that may not get enough credit or recognition for their contributions to the success that we have in Cabrini Connections, and this group is the donors. There are so many donors that I've never personally met and maybe have net stepped foot in the center, but you support shows that you believe in the program, the work that we do, and maybe most importantly...the youth! Know that without your support there is no way we could do the work that we do for the youth and volunteers we serve. With your continued support we will not only be able to keep the doors open, I'm confident that we will continue to provide the best possible services we can, we will earn more awards, and we will continue to turn "Dreams Into Reality"


Cabrini Connections - the past Decade

Below is a chart showing Cabrini Connections students who participated until their senior year and graduated each year since 1997.

This is one of several charts that Dan Bassill, President of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, posted on the Tutor/Mentor Blog.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep an organization like Cabrini Connections in business for so many years, or what the strategy is to connect our teens and volunteers?

We posted many of the organizational planning documents on wikis more than 3 years ago with the goal that a growing number of students, volunteers, staff and donors would read them, and begin to share in the effort of shaping the direction and success of the organization.

For us to be a true "learning organization" and share these habits with our teens, we need to find time to look at this information, reflect on it, and share it with friends, family and potential investors.

This 4-part strategy illustrates how the information we collect and share can be used to help Cabrini Connections and its students, and can be used by anyone else to help young people in other parts of Chicago.

Have a safe and happy holiday. I hope you enjoy reading this material.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Once in Cabrini Connections...ALWAYS in Cabrini Connections"

The Cabrini Connections' program has over 800 volunteer alumnus and over 500 student alumnus and we truly feel that once you have been a part of the program you will always be a part of the program...and the network. Earlier today, Bradley Troast (Assistant Program Coordinator) and I received a surprise visit from former volunteer Stephanie Rogers and former student Aarion Woods.

Stephanie started in the program as a tutor/mentor in the Fall of 2008, but in the first couple of weeks changed her role and began in the College Zone part of the program where she remained there for a couple of years. During her time as an active volunteer Stephanie not only assisted students and volunteers on a weekly basis, but she also either joined efforts or came up with other projects that assisted with bringing in resources for the entire program. Stephanie remains connected to the program through the internet and by visiting from periodically and by sharing information to the staff, volunteers, and students that are still active in the program. Ms. Rogers also makes an effort to donate to the program.

Aarion Woods joined the program in the Fall of 2008 as well and was paired with, now Board Member, Mike Ozmeral. Aarion faced a lot of adversity outside of the program, but worked extremely hard to be as consistent as possible with his attendance and taking full advantage of program resources. Unfortunately Aarion's homelife and lack of resources forced him to become inactive in the program. But Aarion's strong personality, charm, and his willingness to continue overcome adversity has put in a position where he is now working and taken courses to get necessary certification at his place of employment to move up in the ranks. During his visit today he was all smiles and displayed a sense of pride when talking about what he has been going through...but more importantly how he has overcome those obsticles.

Thanks to first year volunteer, Brian Kamajian, Bradley and I were able to share a great job opportunity at the Wyndham Hotel with Aarion who immediately contacted his good friend AND Cabrini Connection's alumnus, Lawrence Brown, to share the information about the job. Before hanging up the phone both Aarion and Lawrence made plans to travel to the Wyndham on Thursday during the open timeslots to acquire more information about the job opportunities.

Bradley and I definitely enjoyed catching up with Stephanie and Aarion and to hear about all that they have been doing outside of the program, but it also felt good to exchange information and resources as well. This is a perfect display of how the Cabrini Connections' program is one big network and how that network can and should benefit any and everybody that has, is, or will be a part of the Cabrini Connections' TEAM.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Volunteers Step Up To Organize FUNdraisers

We have had several volunteers AND students answer the call of doing what they can to get the resources needed to keep the doors of the program open. Here are a few of many ideas and efforts that are currently in place. Please make an effort to support these events and share with those in your network

Santa's Naughty or Nice Charity Pub Crawl

HO HO HO - What better way to feel the joy of the season than to fill yourself with HOLIDAY SPIRITS and give a little something back to the community? For a donation of $10 (or more), you will get the company of some very fine individuals and a big red Santa hat (first 45 attendees).

-Elena Lugo and Melanie Munsey

Beard For Kids

This holiday season I’m participating in the Beards For Kids 2010 Challenge. I’ll be growing a beard from now until the end of the holidays and have a goal of raising $10 per day for Cabrini Connections. Please help me reach my goal by donating here today:

-Gabriel Chapman

Matt Golden's Fundraising Page

I have asked family and friends to help me raise $2,000 for Cabrini Connections in the month of December. I have set up a website on FirstGiving and have already raised $270! Hopefully, our contributions can help Charles Hill and other students continue to succeed at Cabrini Connections.
-Matt Golden

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Beards For Kids! Support Cabrini Connections!

Fellow Tutor/Mentors,

Along with a few friends, I created this week to raise money for Cabrini Connections. Check out the site: (Also,

I'm wondering if any of the male tutors would be interested in participating...AND if any of the female tutors might be able to get any of their male friends to participate, as well!

The idea is to try to raise $10 per day per person up until New Years. I think this is a very modest goal and that together we can build a critical mass to really make this a success!

I've included a short email below to make it easy. Please let me know if you're in by sending me a note and a picture of you sans beard!

Thank you!

Here’s an email you can send to friends and family:

Dear Friends,

This holiday season I’m participating in the Beards For Kids 2010 Challenge. I’ll be growing a beard from now until the end of the holidays and have a goal of raising $10 per day for Cabrini Connections , a program in Chicago that helps underserved kids finish high school with the goal of moving on to complete college and have successful careers.

The program has helped countless students during its almost 20 years of existence, and I want to make sure they’re able to continue doing the good work that they do!

Please help me reach my goal by donating here today:

Thank you and happy holidays!

--Gabriel Chapman

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

'Tis The Season & Cabrini Connections' Is The Reason

Over the past couple of weeks the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection staff have been encouraging all in the program to make an effort to share the "Cabrini Connections' Story" and their personal experience with those in their network. We have also been taking part in our annual Holiday mailer. The packages of information will be going out to many past, current, and hopefully future Cabrini Connections' supporters. Our aim is to share a little more about what all we do here at Cabrini Connections with the youth and volunteers who participate in our program, and by sharing this information we hope more and more people will be willing to support our program in various ways.

Beyond just the mailers that we are sending out to the large group, the entire staff, and hopefully students and volunteers, will personalize letters for personal use. Individually, we all have been taking some time to think of people in our own personal network that we feel would not only like to hear more about what we do, but could further support our program. Whether the support comes from just spreading the word about Cabrini Connections to people in their network, donating a dollar or two, sharing other valuable resources, or all of the above...we will be appreciative of any support that is provided.

Over the weekend I will continue putting my list together continue making an effort to reach out to people who not only have been supporting me and my career, but the people I selected to add to my list are also people who care about improving the lives of youth.

In order for this to continue we need your help in finding holiday donors. Please send this form to people you know, telling of your involvement and asking for their help. If you reach out by email, point people to our blogs, or videos, to show the work we do. Or pick up some holiday fund brochures, with art created by our teens, and mail them to friends, family, co-workers. We have these at the Cabrini Connections center at 800 W. Huron, Chicago, Il. 60642 .

In today's tough economic environment people all over are cutting back on their giving, but if everybody can just give a little, that adds up! And there are still many people in the world who have benefited greatly from having tutors, mentors, and just a variety of support networks, that have the ability give more than others. And as a result of that success, these individuals have the opportunity to GIVE BACK in a huge way, especially during the holiday season!

~Happy Holidays~