Tutor/Mentor Connection

Connect knowledge, volunteers, youth and make a difference.

Introductions: History of Tutor/Mentor Connection

This weekend I was invited to join a mentoring list serve hosted by Dr. David DuBois, at University of Illinois, Chicago. I started typing an introduction, and found that it is longer than most people might read. Thus, I'm posting the introduction here and anyone who wants to take the time, can read it .

I'm Dan Bassill, President of a Chicago non profit called Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

The Cabrini Connections part is a site based, non-school, volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring program that was formed by myself and six other volunteers in late 1992. We had all been part of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program prior to that, which was formed by employee volunteers in 1965. I became a volunteer with the Ward program in 1973 and its volunteer leader in 1975. Between then and 1990, while I held various advertising management jobs with Montgomery Ward, the tutoring program grew from 100 pairs of kids/volunteers to over 300 pairs who met once weekly at the Wards Headquarters in Chicago by 1990. Up till 1990 this was not a non profit, thus we operated with less than $30,000 in funding, but with more than 50 volunteers from various companies, including myself, in leadership roles.

You can read this history, and see a time line of growth from 1965 to 2008 if you visit http://www.cabriniconnections.net/about/history.asp

When we formed Cabrini Connections in 1992, we also created the Tutor/Mentor Connection. In my previous years leading the Montgomery Ward program I observed that no one had a master database of tutoring and/or mentoring programs in Chicago, and media were inconsistently giving attention to tutoring/mentoring, or to all of the neighborhoods where tutoring/mentoring programs were most needed. In my advertising jobs at Montgomery Ward, we created 3 waves of weekly advertising which we sent to 20 million people to draw attention to more than 400 stores in 40 state. I recognized that without this type of consistent public attention, pointed at all tutor/mentor programs, and all poverty neighborhoods, only a few brand name programs and a few highly visible neighborhoods would get the consistent resources needed to build long-term programs.

Thus, as we created Cabrini Connections we decided to build this database, and collect information that would not only help tutor/mentor program leaders and volunteers, but would help businesses, media, donors and volunteers "shop" to choose where to get involved and how to get involved.

We launched a survey in January 1994 with the help of Metro Chicago Information Center, a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, and a PR firm named Public Communications, Inc. 120 programs responded, providing the basic information you now see in the Program Locator at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net. (Note: the server on the www.tutormentorconnection.org web site is being replaces, and that site is not accessible this week).

Of the 120 programs 54% said they had little or no contact with peers. Over 70% said they wanted more contact and 90% said they would come to a conference if it fit their schedule and was low cost. Thus we hosted a first conference in May 1994. We also published our list of programs as a first directory. Response was good enough to both, that we held another conference in November 1994 and more than 200 people attended. We published a second version of the Directory in 1995 and begin to organize a public awareness campaign, to draw attention to the programs in the Directory.

Our focus has always been to create a better understanding of who the different tutoring /mentoring programs are in Chicago, and where they operated in relation to where high poverty and poor schools were located. In the Program Locator you can search the database for more than 240 listing of programs that offer tutoring and/or mentoring. You can also see maps we've created to help point resources to all parts of the city and suburbs.

Over the years we've developed this strategy. I encourage you to review this strategy map".

This is a long introduction, but it is intended to provide a basis of understanding and networking. We've identified many who operate tutoring/mentoring programs, but do not yet know much about who is doing research or evaluation, especially around some of the issues we focus on, such as availability of programs for each age group, in high poverty neighborhoods, impact of programs on volunteers, and role of volunteers in building sustainable resources for programs.

I hope you'll introduce yourself and tell about the tutoring and/or mentoring program you lead, or your role in helping such programs grow in the community where you live.

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