mentoring (9)

12637703889?profile=originalI've hosted this Ning site since 2007 with the goal that teams from colleges, faith groups, businesses, etc. in Chicago and other cities would use the information and ideas to build strategies that make mentor-rich youth programs available in all  high poverty neighborhoods, and help each get the on-going flow of talent and operating dollars needed to constantly move from good, then to great, at helping kids move safely through school and into jobs.

I've used concept maps to provide a guide to all of this information, including the one shown on this graphic (see here) . This is a "Learning Path" that can guide learners through the basic information on the various web sites in some sort of sequence.  In 2015, an intern from South Korea, via IIT, converted this into a Prezi, with an English language narration, then a Korean language narration. After that she converted the Prezi to a YouTube video, which you can see here.

This illustrates roles students from many cities and countries can take. As they do their own learning, they share what they are learning via visualizations and blog articles they create and present to adults and other students, thus enlarging the community of people understanding and applying this information.

There's no fee to engage your students in this process. You're invited to join this group, or start a new group, where I can coach students from my base in Chicago.   I'm available to connect on Skype or come speak to your students, for a fee that would include costs involved.  I hope to see groups from many places creating these presentations in the future.

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I've been reading Curt Bonk's book titled the World is Open and have put in dozens of sticky notes on pages with links to on-line learning resources that he mentions.  I intended to go back and find these, one at a time, and add them to my own library on the Tutor/Mentor Connection site.

However, Curt's already done much of the work of building a list of resources. Visit this page and this page and you'll find resources that anyone can  use in their own teaching, mentoring, parenting and learning.

If you visit this page and begin to use some of the resources please post a comment to this blog sharing what you looked at and how you used it. Bonk's book focuses on "sharing" via the Internet. We can put the spirit of the book to work in our own efforts if many of those on the Tutor/Mentor Connection will share ways they are using the information he is sharing.

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You can do it. Most kids love to talk about themselves and are thrilled when adults give them their full attention. You might be surprised to hear what they want to be when they grow up.


You can provide mentoring through a volunteer program such as those sponsored by the National Mentoring Partnership, Tutor/Mentor Connection, The Boys & Girls Club, Read Aloud America, America’s Promise, the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation and many other organizations. They welcome individual, community and corporate participation.


You can also mentor a child more informally any time, anywhere throughout the year: during a meal, while doing chores around the house, during TV commercials or on the way home from soccer practice. Simple questions such as “Who do you think designs soccer stadiums?” can lead to conversations about diverse career choices and areas of study.  


One-on-one conversations can uncover important clues about what will motivate a child in life and in school. Listen carefully and tie that clue to a school subject, an exploratory field trip or an informational interview with someone who works in that field.


You can elicit important information through shared creative activities too: reading aloud, singing, dancing, painting, exercising, visiting museums, going to movies.


The key is to hone in on what makes a child glow with enjoyment, curiosity or a sense of achievement and to help them connect that to their schoolwork and life skills development.


You don’t need to preach or judge. Only encourage, nurture and appreciate. Think back to what it meant to you to have an adult care about your thoughts, dreams and opinions. That’s where strong self-esteem starts and self doubt ends.


If you don’t know the answers to a child’s questions, find them together. Knowing how and where to find answers is a fabulous life skill in and of itself.


Visit libraries and museums, go on field trips, source varied reference materials, interview experts – show kids how rewarding it is to explore the world around them. Along the way, they will become more comfortable with finding their place in it.


You have a lot of wisdom to share about your work, education, career path and professional experience. Share how you have learned –or are still learning- to deal with challenges and opportunities along the way. Use all of it as your mentoring curriculum.  It’s good stuff!


Sharing stories or regrets about the good, the bad and, yes, the stupid decisions you have made will help a child feel more at ease and less anxious about his or her own decisions. Kids appreciate honesty. (And they can spot a poser a mile away.)


Instill a respect for all professionals and what they contribute to our working world.


 Let kids know that ‘work’ is not a negative four-letter word, but a privilege and a compliment. After all, being hired by someone means they think you will be important to their success!






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Thanks for Mentoring Experiences

I posted a message on Facebook telling how I'd been involved for 37 years and how my life has been enriched as a result. One of our former students posted this response:

No, THANK YOU for caring when no one else would, you started a movement and I have watched it blossom into something I couldnt imagine back at St. Matthews Church, you and your family have sacrificed so much time, and Im proof that just one person can make such a huge impact on someone's life. Love ya Dan...Im getting the itch to start my own :)

Hearing from alumni like this just reinforces my point on how I've been blessed by making a consistent effort to help others.


We need leaders and investors who will think of the Tipping Points that would enable more programs Cabrini Connections and long-term leaders like me to be involved in more places. If members of this group and our network share these ideas in their own networks on a regular basis, we can find those people and motivate them to join us.

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To Supporters of Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs

Please see attached story (my May 23 blog item...K-Town Church.) It is a report written by a Wheaton College student who was doing an internship with World Vision 8 or 9 years ago. I forwarded it to Dan Bassill of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and he sent it to WVON for a PSA. I don’t think it ever aired.

Dan posted a blog article on May 28, titled, violence,Drugs and Mentoring - Chicago which included a video of a CBS 48 Hours program.  The church in the 48 Hours  program that Dan mentioned is my church…the site of a tutoring program that is a part of the TMC.

We’re on hiatus now. We had a very successful run. I tried very hard to keep it going. But I ran out of committed tutors and parents also left us. And my job became more demanding, my health and my mother’s health waned…. So I could no longer soldier the program. I may retire next year. If so I will be looking to get our program going again…or connecting with another program.

You’d be happy to know that Sammy from the story is about to finish his freshman year at Concordia University in River Forest. He is on the football team.  I just talked to him and his mother yesterday (May 19, 2013.) He is looking for a summer job. Let me work this network further on his behalf. He was a success but the story is not over yet. He is bright, hardworking and personable. He can work as a mentor, athletic assistant, landscaping, construction…..he is pursuing accounting and architecture….so he can also work in and benefit from office work. He works with the children at my church.

Editorial Note:  Maxine sent me this information via email and I encouraged her to post it here. I've also invited Maxine and Samual to speak at the June 7 Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago.  With her email to me, Maxine said:

"I’d love to hear back from you re the 48 Hour news report and our tutoring program. You may remember me. I came to a few TMC conferences. Also, maybe you can help me find a job for Sammy. (PS: I’ve also got 2 co-eds at Eastern Ill. Univ. looking for summer jobs who are alumni from our tutoring program.) Maxine 312 751-4837"

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Editorial Note:  This is a story that was written in 2004 to tell the story of a tutor/mentor program operating out of a church on the West Side of Chicago. That church was highlighted in a 2013 CBS 48 Hours Video showing drug dealing in front of the church.  

Maxine Williams was the coordinator for the FunDay School tutoring program that was operated by SunRise Missionary Baptist Church from about 2003 to 2008. We did very well for most of those years with an enrollment of more than 30 children at one time. We were connected with resources by TMC but the program became more demanding than our volunteer base could handle. Several of our alum are now in college. The program operated in a low skilled, low income, crime ridden area recently featured on a CBS national news.

The West Side of Chicago: Part of the World
Featuring the FunDay School Tutoring Program

Two police cars drive by as I stand outside the church at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, waiting to visit a tutoring program. “It’s a nice day in the neighborhood today. Some days it’s kind of scary,” Maxine tells me. But even on this “nice day,” Maxine hesitates before getting out of her car until the church is unlocked and we can go right in.

Sun Rise Missionary Baptist Church is located in West Garfield, a neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side that is known for its drug activity. Outside the church building is a worn and vandalized sign for the 4400 Van Buren Block Club, which prohibits drugs, loud music, loitering, and gambling.

The predominantly African-American congregation of 300 members is devoted to bringing hope and resources to West Garfield. As Ronnie, a deacon who also volunteers as a tutor, explained, Pastor Homer Gardner, is respected in the community; when people see him coming down the streets, they put away the drugs they are using or selling. Many of the church members grew up in the area and have moved to other parts of Chicago, but they stay in the church and come back to tutor “because [they] remember when the neighborhood wasn’t like this.”

In an effort to give today’s kids a childhood that is safe and comparable to their own, the members of Sun Rise have developed a biweekly tutoring program at the church. They have planned their sessions with the help of World Vision of Chicago who supplies support, training, and some tutoring materials to churches that desire to start tutoring and mentoring programs. They named the program the FunDay School. Every other Saturday morning, kids from the neighborhood come to FunDay School to get help with their homework or to work on basic skills like reading and math.

“I need to get serious about school now—I just been playin’. But now I’m doin’ real good. No more Ds or Fs—I’m gettin’ good grades now.” This is the first thing that Sammy, a fourth grader, says when I ask him about school. Sammy tells me excitedly that he did all of his homework on Friday afternoon. He picks up a colorful book about leprechauns and begins answering comprehension questions such as, “How would you spend a pot of gold?” He writes that he would buy an outfit and a Playstation 2, and would give the rest to the church.

After that comes spelling words. Sammy gets all the way up to the sixth grade list of words and beams with pride in how much he is learning. When he hits the seventh grade list, he switches to a history exercise and asks me who Harold Washington was. I tell him that Washington was the first African-American mayor of Chicago, and Sammy adds him to his personal list of “people who did good,” which currently includes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesse Jackson. We take a break and share some cheese crackers.

The FunDay School seeks to give the kids what they need most: education and love. Maxine, one of the facilitators, often hugs the children and gives them the love that many of them need. She saw this need at a back-to-school fair and cook-out that the church put on this fall. Many children came alone, and some seven-year-olds came with their toddler siblings, whom they were taking care of. These kids also start school already behind, because their parents have not been able to teach them the basic tools they will need. Deonte is in kindergarten, and this morning Maxine is teaching him about the letter B. She sketches Bs for him to carefully trace with a thick red pencil, and asks Deonte what words begin with that sound. “Boy, bat, bug…”

At the next table sits Terrence, a tenth-grader who is now tutoring after being a former student of the tutoring program. Having grown up on the West Side, he explains, “The neighborhood got bad about three or fours years ago—people started getting killed and stealing.” Terrence now attends North Lawndale College Preparatory High School, where he got accepted on merit of his good grades. One of his classes, a Business/Entrepreneur class, recently started a successful vending machine business. Terrence’s goal after graduation is to attend Atlanta Tech and study law there, in order to “become a lawyer and defend innocent people.” Meanwhile, he is helping Sun Rise educate leaders for Chicago’s communities, and also providing a much-needed male role model for the young boys in the program.

At the end of the tutoring session, Maxine takes me on a tour of the neighborhood, pointing out the glass-strewn vacant lots that used to hold homes, apartment buildings and thriving businesses. She explains the history of the area: After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., riots tore Chicago apart. People fled the community, leaving behind very few resources and little hope. The families who stayed on the West Side faced crowded, under-funded public schools and few services. With FunDay School, Sun Rise is one of the groups trying to resurrect the neighborhood, beginning with its youth. When I ask Maxine if she sees any hope for the community, she responds, “We are the hope.”

Maxine believes that World Vision’s program fits perfectly with its overall vision statement. “World Vision seeks to help the at-risk children of the world, right? Well, that’s what FunDay School is! There is a great need here on the west side of Chicago. And, we are part of the world.”

(This article was written by Kristin J. Niehof, an intern at World Vision of Chicago, in October 2003. Kristin graduated from Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL) in June 2004.)

FunDay School will start its 2004-05 school year on September 25, 2004. It seeks volunteers. It also needs donors. It needs textbooks and workbooks for all grades, snacks for the children, reference books, school supplies of all types, computer software and instructors, donations to cover costs for outings to sporting events, plays, museums, the circus, etc. and a larger place to hold the sessions, if we have a year like last year. The program offers its services on every other Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at 351 S. Kilbourn.  Call Maxine Williams, 312 751-4837 to find out ways you can help.



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I created this graphic last week to illustrate the progression of thinking that I've followed for the past 20 years.

I know from my own experiences and those of others, and from much reading, that connecting youth with caring adults can have a positive impact.

I also know that building and sustaining these adult-youth connections in high poverty neighborhoods is very difficult without some organizational structure to enable youth and adults to meet in safe places and without supportive mentor-leaders in place to support weekly interactions. Thus, finding the existing volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in any city, and finding ways to help them get the ideas, talent, resources, volunteers needed to operate and constantly improve would seem to be a good idea.

Once we agree that organized programs are a good idea, then if we plot locations of existing programs on a map showing poverty and other indicators of youth needing extra adult support, we can quickly identify neighborhoods with few or no programs.  It would seem that leaders in business, media, politics, philanthropy and other sectors would want to work together to help existing programs grow and to help new programs grow in areas that are without programs.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) which I started in 1993, and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, which I formed in 2011, I'm trying to support all three levels of this thinking.   Browse the articles I've posted here, here, and here and in my blog to learn more about this thinking and to find ideas that you can apply to support these ideas in your own community.

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12637695674?profile=originalThis photo shows Mike Trakan with one of the maps he has created for Tutor/Mentor Connection since he joined us in Jan 2008. View the maps and read the articles he writes on the mappingforjustice blog

The T/MC received a $50,000 donation from an anonymous donor in Nov. 2007 which enabled us to hire Mike and rebuild our mapping capacity. We used this money to also create aninteractive program locator where you can create your own map.

We depleted all of the funds from this grant in early 2009 and have been organizing events like theTutor/Mentor Jamconcert to raise money and encourage more people to use the maps. 


We need help finding another angel investor who will help us continue this mapping. Please forward this story to people in your network who might help us find such a donor.



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I've led Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1993. That was well before the internet became such an important tool. I've used computers to organize and communicate my ideas since around 1980. Thus, much of what I've created in the past is stored on floppy disks that may never be opened again.

Most of our ideas show the role of an intermediary, or third-party leader, who brings together people and ideas in places that connect directly with youth living in high poverty, who would not have this help if someone did not make it a life-long priority to take on this T/MC type role.

In the past couple of weeks I've browsed back through some of my old files, just to remind myself of ideas that I had put on paper, letters I had written, and people I had tried to connect with. Some of these ideas had almost been forgotten as new ideas replaced them. Some were still relevant, and might become realities today if given some new attention.

Many of these focus on engaging the time, talent, and resources of universities, and their alumni.

In the Groups section on this forum we have many sub groups. One is a Northwestern University group. Another is a University of Michigan group. Another is an Acacia Fraternity group, which has chapters on more than 20 university campuses. All have the same goals of engaging people who have something in common, in team-based efforts that help us help inner city kids to careers.

In the Northwestern group I've posted an update showing how we have many alumni on our staff, who are writing blogs showing what they do, and how others are involved. I also added links to three documents that I had created almost 10 years ago, showing steps that might lead to university engagement.

We'd like to see groups from every university forming and using these ideas. We'd like to see more people from NU, Michigan and Acacia in the groups we have now, trying to make the ideas a reality, taking ownership of the T/MC vision so it's not depending on just myself, or a few other people.

You don't need to host your group on our Ning site. Deanna Wilkerson of Ohio State University has set up a group on this site.

What we do want to do is make sure there are connections between these groups, so people and ideas can be shared from place to place, enabling us all to constantly innovate new and better ways to use our assets and resources to make a positive difference in the world.

You can find more ideas to support university involvement in these links

* business school connection

* service learning ideas

* Tutor/Mentor Connection ideas/pdfs

Please join us, or share your own link. We can do more by working with each other than by working in silos, or even, against each other.

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