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Brief Synopsis of my Experience

Here is my final project for my internship, that breifly demonstrates what I have learned from my experience with Tutor/Mentor Connection.  This is a brief synopsis of what I learned and in what ways I feel that this project can impact the future.  I am greatful for the time I was involved with T/MC and hope to remain connected to it in the future.  The ideas are simple, yet go against the way in what I feel most people think about in terms of how non profits operate and how to address large, societal issues.  I know my thoughts regarding low income communities were almost from a victim blaming perspective, where I did not view the larger system as the force that keeps these individuals disempowered.  Learning to view the world around from this perspective has opened up my eyes on ways to combat this problem that will be more effective, and one key thing I learned is the importance of different nonprofits working together towards a unified goal, instead of working in isolation from each other or even against each other for resources and volunteers.


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A Call to Partnerships

Throughout my internship at T/MC, I have been struggling with the idea of how universities can become actively involved in the nonprofit sector and with tutor/mentor programs, and even provide a source of constant revenue.  One idea is simply to have students involved in the school go out and become volunteers with different organizations, providing the tutor/mentor programs with a constant stream of tutors and mentors, however this would probably only last for a short time (6 months perhaps) and due to this, would have limited impact on the child in terms of needing a stable mentor in their life to promote change.  Merely addressing the academic needs individual children that come from low-income, disempowered neighborhoods for roughly a semester equates to symptom management without fixing the overall problem.  It's too small scale to create lasting change, and the students who come out of a program such as this may feel as though they did all that they could do to help these children.  This is the strategy that I most commonly see coming from universities, and it is a good idea and good things can be done, but I feel as though universities can do so much more.

This report goes into detail regarding partnerships between community colleges and nonprofit agencies to develop funding streams to help adult students through their college career and into an actual career.  The article targets a few different partnerships in different states, and details their funding streams, emphasizing that the funding streams are in constant flux for nonprofit agencies, which tends to limit the amount of time they can dedicate to their mission. The article also focuses on three individuals and how they were changed due to these partnerships.  I feel as though the article, while well written, should broaden its perspective a little bit.  It focuses only on adult students and how the partnerships were able to find them grant money and governmental funding to help them graduate, but it does not specify how the partnerships assisted the nonprofit agency in obtaining funds to operate.  It is left to speculate that the college gained financial resources through local businesses to train these adult students to enter the workforce, thus providing financial resources to the nonprofits.  The nonprofits were focused on locating funding for adult students from low income neighborhoods, to help them gain a secondary education and help them locate jobs.  This is not horribly different from what T/MC is doing, however T/MC is focusing on children from school age to career.  If a child is unable to complete high school, then they would be unable to even go to secondary education.  I believe it is a false assumption to make that people from low income areas need help going to community colleges, when these are the individuals who are motivated to succeed (probably due to a good mentor in their life), graduated high school with decent grades, and realize that there are options out there for them (otherwise they would not apply to a community college to begin with).  These are the individuals who are at the lower risk category to begin with, and this ignores the higher risk individuals who may not realize there are options for them out there, and did not graduate high school.  I feel that meaningful prevention needs to focus earlier in one's life than these examples in the report are.

Keeping that in mind, it leads me to call for partnerships between universities and nonprofits such as T/MC, much in a similar design that the partnerships in the report were designed as.  T/MC is able to educate students in the need for an infrastructure for nonprofits that will better lead tutor/mentor programs to partner with each other, which will hopefully lead to a greater education of the students regarding the need for more, better tutor/mentor programs, not just teaching the student how to tutor a child.  I feel that this would create more change than the traditional "partnerships" that exist currently between universities and nonprofits.

These partnerships could be as simple as a university dedicating some space and perhaps students/financial resources to focus on establishing this infrastructure.  If most every student in a university were to learn the need for an infrastructure to tutor/mentor programs and were to learn the problems facing these tutor/mentor programs that an infrastructure can help to solve (funding problems, locating quality volunteers, volunteer retention, how to start up a new tutor/mentor program, where to start a new program, etc.), then there is a greater chance that down the road a little ways, when these students enter the workforce, that they may begin to create change in the traditional way that people and businesses view nonprofits and the importance of tutor/mentor programs.  This would also encourage systemic thinking amongst the students by teaching them to address the larger issue and not focus only on the individual children.  To help a community that the system is failing, one needs to address the failing system, not just the individuals that are being affected by it.

Partnering with a program like T/MC could also benefit the university as well, as they would be helping to educate and empower the youth in low income communities, which would greatly increase the potential student pool that may wish to attend the university that assisted them so greatly.  This would cut down on the necessity for the university to have to advertise itself nationwide, as there would be a suitable student population locally.  Universities also have partnerships with businesses, so businesses may be interested in financially supporting this type of partnership as well, to increase the employability of the local communities.  This final step follows closely to the organizations that the report focused on, but as I stated, it is only a final step, not the only step.  This article focuses on the benefit that entire cities can gain from increasing the employability of their community and from the partnerships of nonprofits and universities.

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