Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reel Talent Productions Keeps the Cameras Rolling This Summer.

The Cabrini Connections' program offers a lot more than the one on one tutoring/mentoring structure that most are familiar with. In the Cabrini Connections' program we offer what are similar to electives in high school for our youth as extra learning opportunities in the form of Clubs. Currently we have an Art, Writing, Technology, and Video and Filmmaker's Club that any and all of the students that are enrolled in the one on one tutoring sessions can sign up for.

All of the Clubs do the majority of their work during the academic year, and have the option of continuing on throughout the summer months. This summer our Video and Filmmaker's Club, led by Northwestern University alumni and Cabrini Connections' volunteer Shu Ling Yong, decided to not only continue on this summer, but to apply for a Department of Family and Support Services' Mini Grant. The grant was approved in the early summer by the City to fund the Club's project of researching and putting together a documentary about health of young females and how their male counterparts seem to have more opportunities than they have when it comes to sports and fitness.

The Club's leader, Shu Ling Yong, recruited two co-leaders for the summer project, Jane Wong and Jon Vogel and together they interviewed and screened their three student interns. Cabrini Connections' veteran students Melissa Young and Marquita Fisher, along with prospective Cabrini Connections' student Alisha Ward have already begun their work of researching, interviewing, and filming for their project. They have also been working closely with the staff and participants of the Girls In The Game organization to gain more knowledge and take in key pointers for their summer project.

The student interns stopped into the Cabrini Connections' program today to do some work on-site and was visited by a very special guest. Former 1st NFL draft pick and Chicago Bear, John Tait, stopped into the program. I was able to show him around the facility, share more about the Cabrini Connections' program, and he was able to interact with the group. Before leaving the group left the facility they paused for a group picture with the special guest. Mr. Tait told me before exiting the building, "Keep up the great work!" And with more consistent connections to the necessary resources to be successful...we plan to!

During the summer months when the activity in the program slows down in comparison to the school year, it is nice to not only have the students and volunteers come into the facility, but it's also nice to see the students and volunteers continuing to work hard on perfecting their craft. The Video and Filmmaker's Club continues to be one of the most popular and productive extra learning opportunities in the program, and I can't wait to see their finished products at the end of the summer. We also would like to thank John Tait for stopping in to say hello!

Friday, July 22, 2011

We Present to YOU, the 2011 Cabrini Connections' Golf Benefit

I would like to start off by saying that, WE SURVIVED!!! With temperatures reaching, if not peaking, 100 degrees yesterday, we successfully hosted our 2011 Cabrini Connections' Golf Benefit at the Highland Park Country Club. This is an annual event hosted by the organization to not only raise funds for the organization, but to also provide an opportunity for participants to network, advocate for the program, celebrate program highlights, and to HAVE FUN!
After the early morning registration, the participants headed inside to cool down and to have some lunch before the shotgun start at 1pm. Around that time we had nearly 70 golfers in the carts and ready for fun in the sun on the greens. The participants enjoyed a fun filled day out on the course, all while trying to stay hydrated and out of the sun as much as possible. But even with the heat, I'd say that all that took part in the event had a GREAT day!

As the sun began to die down and the golfers completed their rounds, the Cabrini Connections' staff, students, and volunteers headed inside to set up for the evening events of food, drinks, and the silent auction. I think EVERYBODY enjoyed this part of the evening, especially with the air conditioning included! This is the part of the evening when everybody had an opportunity to not only cool off, but to network, hear from the Cabrini Connections' Board Members, students, and myself, as the new Executive Director of the organization. And with being in this role less than a full week of hosting the biggest fundraiser of the year, I'd say it was a success.

Thanks to all of those that contributed by being sponsors, volunteering to help with the behind the scenes work the day of and the preparation leading up to the event, the GREAT staff at the Highland Park Country Club, and a VERY VERY SPECIAL THANKS to staff member Toni Pullen, the 2011 Cabrini Connections' Golf Benefit was a lot of fun. Although we did not hit the financial numbers that we had hoped for on the day of the event, we feel the actual event can and will lead to further financial support in the near and distant future. The Annual Golf Benefit, like many of the other FUNdraising events that take place in the organization looks to hit great numbers the day of, but we hope that what takes place as a result of the actual event is what will lead to future support. Hopefully everybody that was present at the event enjoyed their experience and will find ways to not only continue supporting the organization, but will share their experiences and the program to those in their network, so they too will consider being a supporter of the organization.

If YOU would like to know more about the Cabrini Connections' program please visit the website and hopefully you too will become a FAN of the Award Winning...CABRINI CONNECTIONS' PROGRAM!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Edgewood College Experience...2011

The Cabrini Connections' program strives to connect people to resources; students, volunteers, parents, and even donors who are looking for a program like ours to donate...we explain to them why our program is a great selection. But for us to be able to connect people to resources we need to understand the needs of students and volunteers and also the needs of the program; but we also have to be able to collaborate with others and access those needed resources.

Dr. Tom Holub a professor at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin has been one of the many sources of resources to the Cabrini Connections' program for 13 years now! Each summer Dr. Holub and a number of his graduate students visit the program for 3 days for what we call "The Edgewood College Experience!"

This was another successful installment of that experience. We had a great group of Edgewood visitors, an outstanding group of Cabrini Connections' students, and just an overall great activity for the Cabrini Connections' program. What made this year different was the leadership that three of our most recent student alumni provided. Imann Mitchell, Cierria Tharpe, and Kanah Bradley are three of our 2011 graduates and not only signed up to participate in the experience this year, but they also served as student leaders assisting the Edgewood guests and working with the younger Cabrini Connections' students. These student leaders did a GREAT job!

Hopefully this opportunity will be the start of a lifelong relationship between the students of Cabrini Connections and the group from Edgewood. We hope that not only does the Edgewood students aim to remain connected to the students, but we also hope they will continue to try to assist the overall program by connecting us to resources they may know of. This could come in the form of new volunteers in the program, funding that our program could use, or as simple as more and more people reading and becoming a fan of the work that we do so they can possibly connect us to future resources. With our biggest FUNdraisor of the year taking place on Thursday of next week, annual golf benefit, the Edgewood College visitors could possibly participate as golfers, attend the dinner, or take advantage of the online bidding opportunity! Again, connecting people to resources is what we aim to do and we definitely want to thank Tom Holub and the 2011 Edgewood College visitors for being one of those resources for our students of the Cabrini Connections' program!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NFL Star, Barry Cofield, Calls for Support for the Annual Golf Benefit

Northwestern University alumni and starting Defensive lineman of the New York Giants, Barry Cofield, will serve as the official Spokesman of the 2011 Cabrini Connections' Golf Benefit. After completing a very successful 2011 Year End Dinner, we are on to the next major event in the organization, the Annual Golf Benefit. The 2011 Cabrini Connections' Golf Benefit will be held Thursday, July 21, at Highland Park Country Club. This is one of the most important fund raisers of each year and we are looking for this year's event to be THE BEST one ever, and Barry and the Cabrini Connections' TEAM could use your help?

Mr. Cofield is a huge fan of youth and GIVING BACK to the community, and he has been a fan and supporter of the Cabrini Connections' program for several years now. In 2008 the Superbowl Champion Barry Cofield supported the Annual Golf Benefit by donating an autographed jersey to the silent action. And since that date, Barry has continued to follow highlights of the program and has continued to support the program in a variety of ways. After a recent visit to the program's facility in April, Mr. Cofield has since joined the Advisory Board and accepted a request to be the 2011 Golf Benefit Spokesman. Barry said, "I'm passionate about working with today's youth in order to make the future brighter, Cabrini Connections' is dedicated to the same goal and they are the best at what they do!"

Don't forget to visit the golf website and join the New York Giants', Barry Cofield and the Cabrini Connections' staff, by seeing how YOU can support the 2011 Golf Benefit and the Cabrini Connections' program. Barry Cofield recently stated that he will be in attendance at the golf benefit and is looking forward to assisting with the success of the event and with obtaining the necessary resources for the Cabrini Connections' program to be successful.

Barry Cofield at a Charity Basketball Game in Sandusky, OH.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"I Present to You...the 2011 Cabrini Connections' Year End Dinner"

Last evening the Cabrini Connections' program capped off the 2010-2011 tutoring/mentoring year with our Annual Year End Dinner. This was truly a remarkable event filled with speeches, performances, awards, great food, nearly 250 attendees, and a special tribute to our 2011 Cabrini Connections’ graduating class! This graduating class is truly unique in the fact that:

* 4 out of 5 seniors have been in the Cabrini Connections’ program for six years!

* Those same 4 seniors were also members of the Cabrini Green Tutoring Program and upon graduating from that program in the 6th grade they continued on with our program.

* 1 of the mentor/mentee pairs have been working together since the start of the student’s 7th grade year. Meaning they have been a mentor/mentee pair for six years!

*Lastly, ALL 5 seniors will be enrolled in a college or university in the Fall of 2011!!!
-Kanah Bradley (Southern Illinois University)
-Cierria Tharpe (Illinois Institute of Art)
-Victoria Rivera (Western Illinois University)
-Whitney Hemphill (Chicago State University or Robert Morris University)
-Imann Mitchell (Robert Morris University)

Check out this video of the seniors receiving their Graduation Dollars and yearbooks!

Class of 2011 from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

We are not only very proud of our 2011 graduating class, but we are proud of our entire Cabrini Connections program! The Cabrini Connections' staff would like to thank everybody that came out to help us celebrate another chapter to the "Cabrini Connections' Story" and we definitely would like to thank all of the students, volunteers, parents, and donors that all played a part in putting this event together. We are thankful and appreciative for your support of the Cabrini Connections' program.

The room was electric last night and hopefully everybody still has that feel good feeling right now! Hopefully EVERYBODY will take those positive feelings one step further and share with those in your network the impact that this program has on the lives of so many people. Tell them all about the RECORD BREAKING, AWARD WINNING, the ONE and ONLY Cabrini Connections' program!!! We are hopeful that they too will want to support the program as volunteers advocates, and/or a donors!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Moving beyond the past to the future

Tonight will be the annual year end dinner celebrating the work done at Cabrini Connections in the past year.

I've hosted these dinners every spring since 1975 in my role as leader of the Montgomery Ward-Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, then Executive Director of Cabrini Green Tutoring Program Inc, and since 1993 as President of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I won't be at tonight's dinner because I won't be officially part of Cabrini Connections after July 15. It's too painful for me to stand in front of you all asking for your help in making Cabrini Connections available to youth and volunteers for a coming year, when that call to action now will need to come from El Da'Sheon Nix and the Board of Directors.

If I were at the dinner I might want to talk about the history of the organization and show photos from the thousands that have been taken in the past 35 years. I might want to talk about what I've learned and why I've built a passion for the second part of Cabrini Connections, the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I would invite you to stay connected to me and to the information and ideas that I'm sharing on my blog and this web site.

I've received numerous awards and recognition over the past 35 years.

None have been more important to me than hearing the success of our teens and seeing the interaction they and volunteers have each year. The Dinner is special because it showcases this in so many ways. I don't want my leaving to take away the attention from what we have been trying to do at Cabrini Connections.

So I will say to all of you, "Keep the vision alive. Keep helping each other. Keep in mind that the only way we'll solve any of the problems we face is if each of us says "If it is to be, it is up to me".

Cabrini Connections is available because of the efforts of many volunteers over many years. Some of them have worked hard to find the money needed to operate the program. Over the past few years finding this money has been more difficult and that has led the Board of Directors to think that separating the Tutor/Mentor Connection from Cabrini Connections will give them a simpler story and more ability to raise the needed money.

Raising the money has always been about telling the story of why we are involved and why what we do is important to people who have the ability to give money. If all of you keep doing that you should be able to find enough donors.

I will continue to try to help from my role as leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and as a long-term member and supporter of the tutoring/mentoring that has been taking place in Cabrini-Green since 1965.

Congratulations on another year. Good luck in what you do to help each other in the coming years.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cabrini Connections to be featured on Groupon!

We are excited to announce that Cabrini Connections is going to be featured on with a G-Team campaign for three days, June 7-9! Launched in November of 2008, Groupon is a website that features unbeatable daily deals - 50 to 90% off - on the best local goods, services and cultural events in more than 500 markets and 46 countries worldwide.

G-Team is a community outreach initiative within Groupon that brings communities together to do good, have fun, and make an impact. G-Team has been working in Chicago to help mission-driven organizations like ours raise money and raise awareness, channeling the collective buying power of Groupon followers and our local supporters.

We need your help to make this a successful campaign...

1. Subscribe to Groupon ( in Chicago before the campaign launch
2. Check the daily Groupon e-mail to view our campaign, which will be featured along the right hand side of the main deal and under the list of daily deals
3. Support the campaign with a pledge and spread the word to friends and family, encouraging them to do the same

Thank you for your support! Read and share the full announcement on Bradley's blog here:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NU Gives Back...To Cabrini Connections

On Saturday May 21st the Cabrini Connections' program hosted a group of 14 Northwestern University students as part of the NU Gives Back: Service Day. Hundreds of Northwestern University students spent their day in various non-profit organizations, schools, and communities throughout the Chicagoland area as way of "giving back" with a day of service.

We had a GREAT group of fellow Wildcats that selected Cabrini Connections as their service site. We started the day with introductions which was great because as staff we wanted to get to know the students better, but it was also a good idea because not all of the students knew each other before the introductions. The Cabrini Connections' staff then provided the group with more information about the history of the organization and information on the present Cabrini Connections and the Cabrini Green community so that the students could have a stronger connection to the program as they completed their responsibilities for the day.

And before it was time to get to work, we provided a preview of a "Challenge" that we were going to close the day with. We asked all of the students to write down the names of five people that they consider to be their mentors and to keep those names in mind as they complete their service projects for the day. And then they were off to work!!!

The 14 students broke up into teams and completed a variety of tasks for the day. Some cleaned and organized the storage room, some students completed a mural on the wall of the front office, while others cleaned and provided maintenance work on the desks and chairs, organized the library, cleaned the desktops on all of the computers in the computer lab, and a variety of other projects that needed attention in the center. We had the music going, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of teamwork, and more and more relationship building as we all got to know each other throughout the day.

The day started around 11am and ended around 2pm, but at 1:30pm we got back together as a group to present this "Challenge." At the start of the day we discussed the pieces to the puzzle that make programs like Cabrini Connections' work. The NU students said you need students, volunteers, a safe environment, staff, and donors. We then expanded that last piece to the puzzle that was mentioned, the donors that provide financial support. As we got back together as a group a couple of students talked about their experience that day and shared that with the group. We then asked all of the student to take out their notecard with those five names on there and posed this "Challenge:" the students have to contact their five mentors and thank them for all that they have and continue to do in their lives, share their day of service experience with them, and encourage their five mentors to support their day of service efforts by making a donation to Cabrini Connections. The student that brings in the most donations by our Annual Year End Dinner will be awarded a special invite to our Annual Golf Benefit.

I know I am biased but I feel that Cabrini Connections' is a GREAT program, but we are only GREAT because of all of those that come together to make this work. The students, volunteers, parents, staff, Board Members, community partners, and the donors! When you have all of these pieces working together, supporting each other, and working towards a common goal, success HAS to be the result. So I encourage you to become one of those pieces to the puzzle and help Cabrini Connections continue to be GREAT!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kanah Bradley Makes Her Selection!!!

As we get closer and closer to the end of the school year, we also get closer to saying good bye to our 2011 graduating class. Just recently one of our seniors made her decision on where she will be heading to continue her education. Von Stueben High School senior, Kanah Bradley, who has been in the Cabrini Connections' program since March of 2009 has made the decision to attend Southern Illinois University this fall! Kanah was researching several colleges and universities, and has decided that Southern Illinois University would be the perfect fit for her to pursue her dreams of a career in medicine.

Kanah and her mentor Autumn Sharp have been working together for nearly two years here in the program, and they also spend time outside of the program as well. Autumn said this about her student's recent decision to attend SIU, "I am excited to see Kanah graduate and move on to SIU. I think she will do extremely well and we'll see her accomplishing her goal of being a doctor."

We are not only proud of Kanah and excited about this next step in her life, we are thankful of both Kanah and Autumn sharing their time, experiences, and commitment to the Cabrini Connections' program. We are looking to create more and more life changing stories and experiences like this one, and we are going to need more and more support from others to help us create these stories. If we can get consistent financial support and resources, we will then be able to keep the center open, filled with a strong leadership of staff and coordinators, that will lead dedicated and committed students and volunteers grow in the program...and THAT will lead to more and more SUCCESS stories like that of Kanah Bradley!

Monday, May 02, 2011

YOUR 2011 Cabrini Connections' Year End Dinner

Cabrini Connections' 2011 Year-End Dinner will be held on Thursday, June 16th, 6-8pm, at Cornerstone Academy, 1111 N. Wells St. (same as in past years). We are looking to make this the BEST Year End Dinner ever, and your support by attending and/or donating to the event will help us reach this goal! This event is often hailed as the best of the year, which makes it a great time to support the program with a donation.

Individuals or businesses are encouraged to donate at one of the following levels:

Homework Helper - $50
Extra Credit - $100
Student & Volunteer Achievement - $200
Honor Roll - $500
Senior Sponsor - $1,000
Future CEO/Leader - $2,500

Checks made out to Cabrini Connections can be mailed to 800 W Huron, Chicago, IL 60642.

You may also donate online via PayPal.

We are hoping that YOU will make an effort to attend this event and assist us with not only wrapping up this year on a positive note and successfully sending our seniors off to the next phase of their life, but we want you to assist us with keeping the momentum going for the upcoming year! Please complete the RSVP form if you plan on attending this year's event! RSVP for the dinner now!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cabrini Connections, A New Beginning!

Since 1993, Cabrini Connections, a/k/a Tutor/Mentor Connection, (the “Corporation”), a 501(C)(3) Illinois not-for-profit corporation, has operated two programs. The program known as “Cabrini Connections” is a volunteer tutor/mentor program for kids 7th through 12th grade, which is operated from its location near Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood. When the organization was formed in 1993, building an organization to provide mentoring, tutoring and other activities to support teens moving from 7th to 12th grade was its first priority.

However, the founders recognized that there was no leadership in Chicago helping small tutoring programs like Cabrini Connections get the resources they needed to grow. Thus they built a program to fill this void. That program is known as “Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)”. T/MC now provides products and services that help tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities increase volunteer involvement, improve quality, and reach more youth; thereby acting as a clearinghouse for information on best practices for tutoring programs.

On April 11, 2011, the Board of Directors of the Corporation unanimously approved a plan to move toward separating the two programs currently comprising the Corporation. The purpose of this step is to allow each program to focus on its mission, thereby allowing both programs to become more efficient and effective. The separation will be effective on or about June 15, 2011.

Upon separation of the programs, the Corporation will continue operating the Cabrini Connections program, serving youth and their families. EL Da' Sheon Nix will become the Executive Director of Cabrini Connections. The Tutor/Mentor Connection will be operated as a separate stand-alone entity. Dan Bassill, the organization’s founder, will lead the new Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Both Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection have been providing outstanding services for over 15 years not only to youth and families in the Cabrini Green community, but to communities throughout the Chicagoland area and beyond. With hard work, dedication, commitment, and a collective effort both programs can and will continue to provide those same great services to those that need it the most.


Volunteers and supporters are encouraged to provide full support to El and Dan as this change is being made. If you would like to be involved in the re-structuring and future direction of the Tutor/Mentor Connection please follow the articles on the Tutor/Mentor Blog and on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Improbable" rise from poverty

In today's Chicago SunTimes was a feature story about Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, and is rise from birth in a high poverty neighborhood. He was compared to President Obama and his own rise from poverty.

In this article Patrick talks about how a teacher saw his promise and told him about a program ---called A better Chance -- that would show him another world.

This is what we're trying to do at Cabrini Connections. It's hard to measure the immediate impact because we're trying to help kids grow up.

I first learned about A Better Chance in the 1990s when I was contacted by A Better Chance Edina, from Edina Minnesota. I looked at their web site today and the page where they show the cost of their program. They say "The average cost to run the program with twelve students is $175,000.00 per year." That's over $10,000 per student.

We don't have nearly the same level of funding, and we don't send our teens to a private school, yet we have the same goals and our volunteers are trying to have the same impact on our teens. If we can show another world, maybe students will expand their aspirations and we can help them get there.

We're finishing this school year and struggling to find needed money. Due to this long-term struggle the Board of Directors has decided to narrow its focus to the Cabrini Connections program and no longer focus on the Tutor/Mentor Connection which we have led since 1993.

As we work through this change we will need volunteers and donors to step forward with even greater energy, talent and responsibility than in the past to help assure the ability of Cabrini Connections to help our kids become future leaders in their own adult lives.

More details on this new structure will be coming in the next week or two.

Friday, April 08, 2011

2011 Cabrini Madness Season Recap

A Look Back on the 2011 Cabrini Madness Season!!!

After a very successful 2010 Cabrini Madness debut season, the Cabrini Connections’ program was back at it and geared up to have an even better 2011 season. And a successful season it was!!! With many new and familiar faces, with some new creative ideas and concepts, and that returning competitive edge…the 2011 Cabrini Madness season served to be a great source of program advocacy and financial support for the same GREAT cause…CABRINI CONNECTIONS!!! So take some time and let look back at what was the 2011 Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Tournament

Cabrini Madness Season: February 7th-April 4th, 2011

Number of Team: 13

Number of Participants on Roster: 126

Students (39) Volunteers (46) Staff, Coordinators, Board Members (19) Outside of the Program Members (22)

Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Events:

-Team 5D’s

Game Day Event

-Boom Goes The Dynamite Teen Party/Dance at Cabrini Connections Bowling Night at Timber Lanes

-Cabrini Loyalty Bake Sale & Guessing Contest Happy Hour Event eLoyalty Donation Bin Idea Chicago Office Jean’s Day

-The Dream Team

Birthday Causes on Facebook

-The Free Agents

Happy Hour Event

-The Golden Stars Candy Sales Campaign

-The Green Team

The Wing Thing Happy Hour Basketball Viewing Event & Concert

-Team High5ive

Snack Sales Campaign

Cabrini Madness Promotional Videos: 8 total (possibly 9)

Teams that Advanced to the Elite 8 (+ Play in Team): -Team High 5ive, Change Makers, The Green Team, Boom Goes the Dynamite, The Golden Stars, Cabrini Loyalty, The Dream Team, Cabrini AllStars, and The Kids Are All Bright

Teams that Advanced to the Final 4: -Cabrini Loyalty, Cabrini AllStars, The Dream Team, and The Kids Are All Bright

Championship Round Teams: -The Kids Are All Bright and Cabrini AllStars

2011 Cabrini Madness FUNdraising Tournament Champion: Cabrini AllStars

"The Kids Are All Bright provided some great fireworks down the stretch to make the Cabrini Madness tournament interesting, but it was Tim Minton and the Cabrini AllStars that prevailed in the end. Tim Minton called a timeout, gathered his team together, and provided what would be the game winning speech. He and the Cabrini AllStars rallied to pull out the $6,652 to $4308 victory!!!"

Approximate Number of 2011 Cabrini Madness Donors: Over 600!!!!

Total Amount Raised in the 2011 Cabrini Madness Season: $27,500(+) -more donations from Cabrini Madness has been coming in…

2011 Cabrini Madness Awards: We ended the 2011 Cabrini Madness season with our Annual Award’s ceremony to recognize all that made the 2011 season successful and to honor those that went above and beyond by presenting individuals and teams with some hardware. The names of the awards come from those that won the awards the previous year.

The Minton Rookie of the Year Award: Jason Tennenbaum Rising new star to the Cabrini Madness season

The TEMS Most Improved Team Award: The Kids Are All Bright

Team that started off low in the ranks and made continuous progress throughout the season

The Culliard 6th Man/Woman of the Year: Cabrini Loyalty (Team)

Person (or Team) that was not officially in the Cabrini Connections’ program, but contributed GREATLY to team’s success

The Martin Captain of the Year: Diana Restrepo Captain that led team to great success all season long

The Awesomes’ Most Valuable Event: Boom Goes The Dynamite (Bowling Night) Team’s event that brought in the most financial support

The Grunst Most Valuable Player: Tim Minton Person that brought in the most money that contributed to their team’s overall success

We had an amazing 2011 season of Cabrini Madness, but the support for the GREAT cause of Cabrini Connections' doesn't stop as that season ended. The Cabrini Connections' program is year around, and support for overall program needs to happen all year long as well. So if you missed out on supporting during the Cabrini Madness season and would still like to support the students, volunteers, and staff that make this program what it is...please submit your support here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Help Shape Future

Below is a graphic taken from a Planning Cycle PDF that I created several years ago.

For Cabrini Connections to grow and improve in the coming years we need to expand the number of people who are involved in the planning cycle and building of organizational capacity. I can coach that process for any volunteers who want to get more involved. You do not need to take a formal role as a member of the Board of Directors to take a lead or help with this process, although if you want that type of involvement we are always looking to add new people to the Board.

See Dan or El if you'd like to know more about this planning cycle and other resources that are available to help volunteers, students, donors and others become more involved in shaping the future of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Future Leaders - In Development

Below are two videos posted to the Internet this week. The first shows how students are building leadership and fund raising skills by their participation in the Cabrini Madness and other events that help us keep Cabrini Connections available to them and future students. As with other Cabrini Madness videos our students are the actors which helps them develop confidence in themselves. It also shows them how to use video to communicate ideas and motivate people to respond.

Encouragement Promo from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

The second is a new video created by Dan Bassill, that shows how Cabrini Connections is a "collective effort" of many people, over many years, to help inner city youth go through school and on into adult lives. In this video Dan shows how the the leaders and past volunteers in Cabrini Connections created the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which is a larger scale collective effort intended to draw needed operating resources to all tutor/mentor programs in the city on a more consistent basis, thus helping Cabrini Connections get more of the resources it needs, too.

This second video is also the result of a collective effort. We first learned about CamStudio from a volunteer based in the UK who used it to create these videos to show her network how one of the T/MC web sites works. She learned about us when George Siemmens, who is in Canada, wrote this blog article about the T/MC on his web site.

In both of these videos we're focusing on raising visibility, connecting leaders from different tutor/mentor programs with each other, and finding donors and philanthropic investors who will provide the capital needed to support the on-going efforts of our students and volunteers. We're also demonstrating how easy it is for any of our students, volunteers, leaders and friends to create videos that help others understand what we're doing so that they are more motivated to use their own time, talent and dollars to help us.

If our teens (and volunteers) practice this form of learning, leadership and communications over many years they will have tools, skills and habits that enable them to mobilize help from many sectors to help them solve any problem they ever face in the future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Talent Show - This Saturday, March 26

Cabrini's Got Talent" will be held this Saturday, March 26th, at 5pm at Cabrini Connections.

Tickets are only $2. Pay at the door. Cash, check, or credit card. Performers get in free.

Food will be provided potluck-style by parents. Please bring a dish for the crowd! It will be much appreciated :

Food will be served at 5pm. *Performances begin at 5:30pm* and should last about an hour.

We have 10 students and volunteers scheduled to perform, but there is still time to join them.* "Last chance" performance reviews are this week* at Cabrini Connections: Wednesday 4-6pm and Thursday 5-6pm.

*URGENT NEED:* We could really benefit from the use of a stage and a microphone and amplifier. Please call the office at 312-492-9614 if you have any leads. Thank you!

*SPECIAL NOTE:* Support one another! This is a great, cheap, convenient, student-led event - a perfect opportunity to showcase the program to your family and friends. These talented students and volunteers deserve a full house! See you there!

Monday, March 14, 2011


Monday 3/14 - Happy Hour - Please join The Free Agents for happy hour on Monday, March 14 from 6:30-8:30 at Redmond's Ale House [] (3358 N Sheffield Ave.) and enjoy FREE domestic drafts for the duration. If you are so moved to make a donation in support of Cabrini Connections in return, that'd be awesome! No minimum donation required. For more info or to RSVP, visit the Facebook event page

Tuesday 3/15 - Wing Eating Contest - On Tuesday, March 15th, The Green Team is hosting a wing-eating contest at Cabrini Connections. Come as an individual or group and pay $10 for 10 wings per person. Teams compete in groups of 2 or 4 and the fastest two teams will face off in a bonus round for a chance to win the inaugural "Wing Bling" trophy! For more info or to RSVP, visit the Facebook event page

Thursday 3/17 - Chili Sale - Running for Cabrini [] will be
selling chili for only $1/bowl during the session from 6-7:45pm.

Friday 3/18 - Midnight Bowling for Cabrini Connections Event - Boom Goes The Dynamite is hosting a bowling charity event at Timber Lanes [] (1851 W Irving Park Rd.) on March 18, 2011 from 10pm-2am. A $30 suggested starting
donation gets you unlimited bowling, shoes and loads of fun for 4 hours. Cash bar. For more info or to RSVP, visit the Evite page

Team High5ive [] is selling candy and snacks and The Golden Stars [] are selling candy bars

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Good to Great and Cabrini Connections

The Mission of Cabrini Connection is to "Engage workplace adults in structured activities that make a life-changing difference for youth living in economically and educationally disadvantaged neighborhoods." At last June's dinner Tangela Smith Marlow told of how Cabrini Connections has had a transformative impact on her life. This video captured these words.

During the next weeks and months members of the Cabrini Connections community are urged to take part in deep thinking and strategic planning that determines the future of this organization beyond the current school year.

We have provided an organized structure for more than 18 years, thanks to a core group of leaders and a wide range of donors and volunteers. It has never been easy and there has been constant change in the leaders involved. Yet with the help of volunteers who step forward to take over for those who proceeded them, we have continued to provide this space for others to try to have an impact.

If you look at the Program Locator map and search for tutor/mentor programs serving high school kids, you see only 82 listings of places that we know of doing some version of what we try to do here. Many neighborhoods have no programs. Many programs are smaller that we are. Thus, just making Cabrini Connections available and keeping it here for 18 years is a measure of success.

We have many resources on the Cabrini Planning Wiki that you can put everyone on the same page as to the history of Cabrini Connections, it's mission and purpose.

One wiki is titled Good to Great. In this we talk about key values, products and services that we offer.

It's time for new eyes and new leaders to be looking at this information, update it for the future, and take the ownership role that assures the organizations has the resources to achieve this mission.

During future tutor/mentor sessions we'll begin to introduce this planning process to current volunteers and students. If you'd like to take an active role in this process please contact El Da'Sheon Nix or Dan Bassill at 312-492-9614

Monday, March 07, 2011

So Much More Than Tutoring and Mentoring...

Cabrini Connections is a tutoring and mentoring, volunteer-based program, but we are so much more!!! Besides tutoring and mentoring services, we provide not only site based resources for our participants, we also provide off-site opportunities that we feel can and will assist the students with their current and future academic and career goals. One of the many resources that we provide are college and university trips, and today we visited DePaul University!

Over the years we have visited many of the colleges and universities in the Chicagoland area, but what made this trip a little more unique than the rest was the fact that this entire opportunity was set up by a parent of one our current students. Rhonda Parrow, mother of 2nd year student Aaliyah Griffin, is a graduate student at DePaul University and she is involved with a program at DePaul that sets up tours similar to the one we went on today. There were a total of 5 students and 2 staff that took part in this opportunity, and although it was a smaller group, those that attended had a very positive experience.

The visit started with lunch at the Welcome Center and we also were provided an hour long admission's presentation given by a current DePaul University student. This presentation provided the group with any and all of the information about the school, financial aid, classes, social life, and more! Following the information session we then were greeted with our tour guide and he walked us around the campus providing us with more information about the life of a DePaul University student. One of the biggest attractions for the group was the student center on campus which serves as one of the main meeting places for DePaul students to eat, play games, socialize, homework.

Our group spent a little over two hours on the campus and it was a great opportunity for the students and staff to get more information about the university, what it takes to get into the school, life after graduation, and the opportunity to just envision themselves walking on a college campus in the near future! We definitely want to thank Rhonda Parrow and the DePaul University for providing us with this great opportunity, we greatly appreciate the great service that we received today.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Good to Great and Cabrini Connections

As we head to the final months of the 2010-11 school year I encourage volunteers, staff, students and supporters to spend time reading sections of the Cabrini Connections planning wiki such as this section titled Good to Great.

Each year is a cycle where we begin to look from one year to the next, with new volunteers growing into leadership roles. As more members of our community become familiar with these planning documents, more become owners and more talent is unleashed to help us succeed in connecting youth and volunteers in life-changing mentoring and tutoring.

The wikis can be edited (they need editing) and new ideas can be added. As our teens look at these they can become more engaged in shaping the direction of Cabrini Connections and of their own futures.

As you have questions or want to discuss the information and ideas please contact Dan or El or set up a time when groups can discuss this information.

Monday, February 28, 2011

They Brought Their "A" Essays!!!

We officially wrapped up our Black History Month festivities in our last two sessions of the month of February on a very high note. After weeks of promoting the "Bring Your A Essay" contest for Black History Month, we were honored to announce the names of the students that received the Runner Up Prize and the Grand Prizes.

The essays that we received were very well done and definitely reflected that the students not only were focused during the documentary, but it also showed how the documentary directly affected them and those around them. And that is exactly what we were looking for in this essay, we were looking for students to observe the "Bring Your A Game" documentary and reflect on the film and how it relates to the their life.

During our Wednesday Night session we had the pleasure to present freshman student, Arden Harris, with the Grand Prize of $50 and she was also presented with an additional special prize. Wednesday Night mentors Matt and Barbara Barnes donated 2 televisions the previous week, and Arden was able to take her pick out of which tv she would like to take home as well! Before receiving her prizes, Arden shared with the group a little about her essay and said, "be sure to get your education because no matter what you want to do in life you will need an education." And that statement holds true to not only the students that were present, but the adults in the room understand her point as well.

On Thursday Night we were able to provide a runner up prize as well. Wells High School, Whitney Hemphill, received recognition and the runner up prize of the 2nd donated tv. Whitney's essay was well done also and displayed how important her education is to putting her in a position to obtain the career she is looking for and providing for her own family.

We congratulate all of the students that entered the contest this year and encourage all of the Cabrini Connections' students to take advantage of opportunities like these. Not only are there usually prizes attached to these contests, but they also provide other valuable lessons that can be utilized in and outside of the program.

Arden Harris' "A" Essay:

Many young African Americans grow up doing things they see others do. They grow up thinking that it is ok to stand on street corners all day and not want to do anything or be anything in life. According to the film Bring Your A Game, what most young people do not see is that in order to become a famous rapper, an NBA basketball player, or a politician, you have to get an education. The young African Americans who do not want to do anything in life are the same ones who taunt others who try their best in school, so that they can get ahead. What many young people do not realize is that a good work ethic and a good education will help them in the future but they have to do the rest.

No matter what profession young people choose it’s important that they stay in school. However, Bring Your A Game shows that 25% of Caucasians, 30% of Asians, and 50% of African Americans drop out of high school each year. To many young African Americans it is cool to get bad grades, act defiantly, and get into trouble. Those same young people aspire to become NBA basketball players or even rappers; what they do not realize is that education is important for success. In the movie people from different professions like rappers, authors, and mayors come together and show that no matter what they wanted to become, education came first.

Putting education first is not always easy. These young people cannot do it alone; they need guidance from people who are willing to help them achieve their short-term, as well as their lifetime goals. Young people need to learn that in order to get ahead that may have to make many sacrifices, but in the end it will be worth it. Instead of going to the biggest party of the year, they may have to be at home studying for that big physics test because that is going to get them to places that they want to be in life, but that party won’t. As a community, everyone needs to step up to help young African Americans because, just like a ripple effect, every action that a person in the community makes affects someone else around them. In the words of Robert Francis Kennedy, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

By: Arden Harris

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cabrini Madness. Cabrini Future.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with readers about the importance of the current Cabrini Madness Fund Raising Campaign.

Cabrini Connections is a volunteer-based organization. I’ve led it since 1993 after leading the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program from 1975 to 1992. *see timeline.

Until 1990 I was a volunteer myself, with a full time advertising job. Every year for the past 35 years I’ve made an effort to enlist other people to share the responsibility for helping inner-city youth and workplace volunteers connect in a meaningful and life-transforming process.

When we became a non-profit in 1990 this meant we also had to recruit volunteers to serve on a Board of Directors, which is required for non profit status, We also had to find volunteers to help with raising the funds needed to operate. Our first Directors were people who had been tutors/mentors. Over the years others have come as a result of relationships with incumbent board members. Some still have started out as tutors/mentors, such as Ray Dowdle, Victor Trotter, Mike Hayes and Mike Ozmeral.

Our Directors are no different than any of the volunteers with Cabrini Connections. We don’t have people who come from wealthy families or who lead big companies and can control donor decisions. We’ve relied on advertising and network-building to tell our story and find new donors every year. Yet we know that good fund raising is a result of good relationships and family ties.

Over the years we’ve had the bad luck to loose some of our strongest supporters, such as the Montgomery Ward Company and HSBC North America due to their own business conditions. That means instead of growing revenue each year we’re often struggling just to replace money that won’t repeat from the previous year. This year for instance, we will need to replace $20,000 given by HSBC North America in 2010 which won’t repeat in 2011.

It’s this inability to keep major donors involved from year-to-year that makes philanthropy such a difficult model for building long-term organizational success. Read more about challenges facing non profits.

I’ve had many people help me in my 35 years of leadership. In 1978 one adviser said “If you don’t write your plan on paper, you don’t have a plan.” Thus, I’ve written down the reasons we offer tutoring/mentoring, the strategy, and what it takes to be successful. However the number of people who actually read this each year was pretty small because of limited ability to make copies available to a large network of people (and lack of time/interest). With the Internet I’ve put many of my ideas and the annual plan on the Internet so anyone can look at it, with the goal that more people will share ownership and responsibility for our success. We still don’t have many people reading this, but it is now available to anyone who is interested.

What does this have to do with Cabrini Madness? Everything.

This event has enlisted more students, volunteers and alumni in telling friends, coworkers and family about what we do and asking for donations than any other event we have offered. As a result, more people are beginning to look for information to show why a program like this is needed and how we show that donors should support us when there are so many other causes in the world demanding donor attention and investments.

I hope that means more people will read the articles I write at and more people will take time to review this animated map showing the information we share on our web sites. As you build your own understanding, you’re better prepared to tell others.

However, asking people for money is only the first reason that Cabrini Madness is important.

We need to be building a network of volunteer and alumni leaders who can support any future staff who join the program. While El and Bradley are doing a great job, they may choose to go to other jobs and careers (especially if we can’t find the money to pay them or provide adequate working conditions and support for their efforts.)

In the past when we’ve had leadership transition, I’ve been here to help recruit and train new staff. I’ve drawn from the annual plan that I’ve written to provide a structure that new people could use as they grew their own understanding of their role as a leader.

However, I’m 64 and can’t be counted on to be here for more than a few more years…if that long. Thus if we are to continue to provide a safe and supportive place where volunteers and teens can connect, and that continues this connection into alumni years, we not only need to find secure funding that can attract and keep people like El and Bradley with us, but we also need to build a volunteer leadership corps that will provide us with program coordinators, group leaders, fund raisers, and Directors who can work together and who have a history with the program and a passion for what we do, and who have a deep understanding of the strategy and resources of the organization.

This volunteer leadership will continue the traditions of Cabrini Connections and make the hiring decisions that give us new staff and Directors in the future.

I feel my role is to coach a new generation of leaders who will support the continued operations of Cabrini Connections, and who will help make sure that programs like Cabrini Connections are available in all poverty areas of Chicago and other urban areas. The ideas I share on the Tutor/Mentor Institute serve that purpose.

As you brainstorm ways to motivate friends to provide donations to your Cabrini Madness team, realize that the cost of space, insurance, technology and utilities alone is more than $100,000 each year. We must find grant makers and benefactors who will provide major gifts each year--as well as continually growing the list of people who made donations of $5.00 to $2500--from among the people we talk with as we compete for Cabrini Madness Donations.

Use this chart to develop your outreach strategy and prioritize who you try to share information with. It shows that the people in your immediate network are connected to other people in their own network. And some of these people may be connected to people who can make major gifts. These are the people we need to be reaching. We need to find ways to show them why we are important and why they should invest.

This is an on-going process of learning, network-building and relationship building. It requires the involvement of many people, including our alumni and their families, not just myself and our small paid staff or the volunteers on our Board of Directors.

Cabrini Madness and events like this will determine what Cabrini Connections will be in the future....or if it will still exist 10 years from now.