Monday, October 27, 2008

The 34th Illinois House District

Recently, I posted several maps that examined the Illinois 15th State Senate District. Today I would like to focus in on the 34th Illinois House District, currently represented by Connie Howard.

I want to emphasize out of the gate that when we make maps to showcase a political leader's district, the maps are not intended to show where service work is, or is not occurring. They are also not meant to endorse, or criticize elected leaders (The voters should make those decisions).

So why do we create maps? Again, we are just trying to analyze specific areas in the Chicago area to see if the spatial data reveal any areas where where additional support for tutoring and/or mentoring programs may be needed... areas where underserved children live with disadvantages created by poverty and underperforming schools and, with a little help, may end up on a better path to higher education and fruitful employment (versus paths ridden with crime and hardship that are frequently exploited by the media).

So let's see what the data we've collected might tell us. In this first map... and please click on any of these maps for a bigger, higher-resolution version...

... we see that Howard's district is made up of a slice of far-southern Chicago neighborhoods, and a sliver of near-south suburbs, cut in half by Lake Calumet. Interstate 94 runs most of the length, transporting potential volunteers past the impoverished Pullman, South Shore and Chatham neighborhoods on their commutes to work. I-80 and I-90 also pass through her district and may serve a similar function.

We also see clearly that there are pockets of relative high-poverty, some associated "failing schools," and... as is often the case, far too few tutor/mentor programs. In fact, we know of only one tutor program, two mentor programs, and zero mixed full-service tutor/mentor options for parents and kids.

Now of course, it is possible that other programs exist in the area, but are not in our database. We live far away and are not as in-touch with the community as those who live there. With this in mind, Hospitals and Universities can help the T/MC update its data, so that the information provided in our maps represent the most comprehensive, and up-to-date data.

Perhaps, for example, the geography department at Chicago State can encourage student teams to research/unveil additional programs and resources... maybe working with us to practice mapping the communities in which they are closely invested.

And, as was the case with Mt. Sinai Hospital in Lawndale, as reported recently by Dan Bassill, Hospital leaders at Jackson Park Hospital can perhaps work together to build strategies that create/support new and existing programs... or encourage staff to volunteer at existing programs?

If you would like to learn more about these strategies, we have discussed the role of Universities and Hospitals specifically in previous blogs.

As has also been discussed in prior blogs, Places of Worship and their congregations provide ideal hosting sites for new programs, as well as places where sermons can tie scripture to service, while pointing members to existing tutor/mentor programs.

Here is a selection of known Places of Worship in the 34th District:

Here are several more:

And of course, tutor/mentor programs are usually operating on shoe-string "not-for-profit"-sized budgets. Large corporations can invest in kids (their future work-force and future customers) by supporting education in their neighborhood through tutoring and mentoring.

As mentioned in prior blogs, businesses need to dig into their philanthropic budgets to fund the programs. This is such a priority. Without funding, programs die and kids are turned back to the streets for guidance.

Businesses can also encourage employees to volunteer.

And/or perhaps they can use their web presence to educate the masses about opportunities to help T/M programs, and why it's so important... maybe they simply post information in-store, spreading the word to customers, clients, and parents?

Mass-Market Retailers (such as pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens) can serve all of these functions:

So can banks!

And of course, why do I mention all of this in the context of an elected political leader?

Well, quite simply, no one guards the best interests of a population like an elected leader. And I can only assume these political leaders are strongly interested in the benefits tutoring/mentoring can bring to the families in their constituency.

It stands to reason then, that political leaders would want to look at these maps - using them as tools - when working with other community leaders (from businesses, places of worship, schools, hospitals, and universities) to build strategies that create and fund tutor/mentor programs...

And in turn, improve the prospects for our children, our economy, and our democracy.

Mt. Sinai Hospital - How can this map be used by the surrounding community?

Recently, Dan Bassill at Tutor/Mentor Connection reconnected with leaders at Mt. Sinai Hospital. He has encouraged them in the past to adopt the role of a Hospital Tutor/Mentor Connection, and reports that the Hospital has indeed launched a Tutor/Mentor program to assist the thousands of CPS students in the vicintity of Lawndale in their struggle to overcome obstacles presented by extreme poverty and underachieving schools.

In his blog he breaks down, in amazing detail, how this map can be used by Hospital leaders at Mt. Sinai and elsewhere... by Fortune 500/1000 company Ryerson, Inc. ... and by the many faith groups near the hospital... each of whom can support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in this area through volunteering, funding, hosting, etc.

Please give Dan's blog a read. It may the most thorough overview on how these maps can be (and hopefully are being) used.

Friday, October 10, 2008

S.O.N. Foundation - Working with the T/MC and the Roseland Community

I would like to introduce the S.O.N. Foundation, a mentor program started by Mr. Robert M. Douglas, and his wife Jacqueline - both business owners who grew up in, and live in the Roseland Community. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas are taking on a much-needed leadership role, in creating a new mentoring program in Chicago. They are actively trying to "build relationships with Churches, Schools, Parks, Business Owners, Police, and Government Officials in and around the Roseland Community. " (This "relationship building" thing sound familiar?)

Just starting out, the S.O.N. Foundation has 20 kids involved and 10 mentors. They explain that they created the program in response to their recognition that someone needs to be "working with youth, developing their skills and turning them away from gangs and drugs" ... "because with out some help our youth will continue suffer." The solution again? Mentorship. Their philosophy is that "if a boy sees a man he can become a man" and through the efforts of adult volunteer mentors, children can become responsible and successful adults, "saving our neighborhoods one block at a time."

But where do you start if YOU want to start a tutoring and/or mentoring program? Well, Mr. Douglas came to visit Dan Bassill at Tutor/Mentor Connection to pick his brain. As Dan says in a recent blog, "The Tutor/Mentor Connection would be happy to meet with your group to help you understand how to use [our] maps, and to coach you on building support for tutor/mentor programs. We'll host a conference on November 21 at The Chicago Field Museum. We hope you'll attend, and begin this learning process."

Next, Mr. Douglas sat down with Nicole here, and the two of them collaborated to create the S.O.N. Foundation blog. This blogging/communicating process is essential. It is crucial that organizations active in tutoring and mentoring are sharing ideas, and broadcasting their messages/services. How else can we learn to better serve the kids? How else can kids and parents learn about us? How else can volunteers and donors have "Wow! I had no idea these programs even existed! I want to help!" moments?

And of course, through an active web presence, awareness of the work others are doing, and potential partnerships can develop. And, well... as in any war, there is strength in numbers, right?

By the way, maybe "Roseland Community" sounds familiar? Maybe you read my blog yesterday about how Illinois Senator Rev. Meeks and his congregation at Salem Baptist Church of Chicago - in Roseland - might use my maps and the T/MC resources at the Tutor/Mentor Institute to increase support for tutoring and mentoring in his district and within the area surrounding the church.

So here we have a grassroots mentoring movement in Roseland, a high profile political and church leader (with a history of investing in mentoring) in Roseland, and resources available through the T/MC to help both of them team up and help develop strategies to build programs, and improve existing programs, for their community's kids (perhaps even implementing a tutoring element to their mentor programs)...

This is a case study in how this should all come together and work.

And a great story on which to end the week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Senator Reverend Meeks (Working with Maps and Politicians To Promote the Development of T/M Programs - Part III)

We here at The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) are always encouraged when community leaders use their position and visibility to spark debate in the never-ending search for solutions to failing schools and poverty. For the past several months, Illinois State Senator James Meeks has been an enormous sparkplug in the news, stirring controversy which has successfully forced these issues into the spotlight.
For instance, over the summer, he blamed Chicago's Mayor Daley for the miserable conditions of schools in segregated and impoverished sections of Chicago. Senator Meeks has also been in the news recently for leading a boycott of Chicago Public Schools (whereby kids would skip the first day of classes and travel to enroll in prestigious New Trier High School in affluent Winnetka... in an effort to spotlight inequity in public school funding). And most recently, he was in the news during the Cubs' (brief) playoff appearance, when he organized a demonstration for school-funding reform by encircling Wrigley Field with parents and students during the Cubs' first playoff game.

Now I'm not supporting or condoning the appropriateness of these strategies. But clearly they were effective in getting the stories toward the front page. Back in August, Dan Bassill wondered if this is enough. In a blog he wrote back then, he challenged both the media AND politicians such as Meeks, suggesting that, "writing infrequent, sensationalist, media stories; making speeches, and marching in the streets won’t get more people personally involved in helping other people’s kids grow up. [Meeks], the mayor, and the media need to be thinking of new ways to get business people (of all colors, and from the city and suburbs) personally engaged in the lives of economically-disadvantaged kids. To me, that means they should be talking about volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring... They should also be talking about how churches, banks, and community health centers in high poverty neighborhoods, and along the routes city workers take in coming and going to work each day, could be hosts to tutor/mentor programs... Finally, they should be thinking of ways to encourage people who go to church every Sunday might give 2 to 3% of their wealth each year to support these tutor/mentor programs... Non school programs need an infusion of private sector and corporate money. Who better to lead in the giving than people of faith?"
And this is what makes Senator Meeks an interesting ally for all of us involved with tutoring and mentoring. In addition to being an influential politician who is championing efforts to improve schools and fight poverty, he is an influential church leader, presiding over the (large) congregation at Salem Baptist Church of Chicago on the far South side, near his 15th district.
So with this in mind, I would like to explore how the Tutor/Mentor Connection's (T/MC) maps can be used as tools to help Senator Reverend Meeks and his constituents work to create strategies that promote the development of tutor/mentor programs.

(click on the map above to see "full-sized" version)
The left portion of the first map features the Illinois 15th State Senate District, currently represented by Reverend Meeks. The northern tip pushes across Chicago city boundaries, but the majority of his jurisdiction is "near-south suburban" and split among relative poverty and affluence. Please note that there are FOUR major highways here, two of which bring commuters directly into, and out of the city. Potential volunteers come through the district and could certainly help support Tutor/Mentor Programs in the 15th and elsewhere in the city.

And speaking of mixed Tutor/Mentor programs, there are not a lot of known ones here, it seems. We currently know of a mere three (3) mixed tutor/mentor programs in the 15th district. This is not uncommon though - as we've seen, there just aren't enough anywhere.

I'm completely confident, however, that Reverend Meeks (whose church and surrounding neighborhoods are featured in the inset map at the top-right corner of this map) would be interested in seeing this map, and working to increase this number of programs. How can I be sure? Well, his public service record is extremely impressive, serving as as the Executive Vice President of the National Rainbow-PUSH Coalition; as a member of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Fire Department, the Roseland Community Hospital, the Korean American Merchant Association, and the Olive Branch Mission.

And look at this! He has apparently already created a mentoring program called “It Takes a Village,” to provide support and assistance to pregnant youth and young mothers! (We do not have this program in our Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program List, and would love to work with Senator Meeks to help support this program, and to build strategies that will increase the availability of tutoring and mentoring in his district.)
(click on the map above to see "full-sized" version)
This second map features hospitals in his district (interestingly we know of no universities or colleges in this district). As we've discussed in earlier blogs, Universities and Hospitals have important and intimate relationships with their communities, and can work to support the growth of Tutor/Mentor programs.

As pointed out above, Reverend Meeks already has a working relationship with Roseland Community Hospital. Perhaps he has already considered forming learning circles which can meet at the hospital - complete with hospital leaders developing engagement strategies that might reach more youth throughout the entire district. Perhaps he or other hospital leaders would like to know about the T/MC's presentation: Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection.

(click on the map above to see "full-sized" version)

Lastly, and perhaps most-obviously, as pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, Reverend Meeks has the ear of over 24,000 followers.

As discussed in the blog on Chicago's Places of Worship, the Tutor/Mentor Institute has a document called "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs", detailing how all church leaders "can be delivering sermons on a regular basis, that tie scripture and service, and point members to tutor/mentor programs that already exist, or to neighborhoods, where new programs need to be created."

Furthermore, Reverend Meeks's influence surely stretches beyond his congregation and into neighboring Baptist churches, Catholic churches, and other "general" Christian congregations in his district (shown in the map above).

(click on the map above to see "full-sized" version)

Also, there are Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches within the influence of Reverend Meeks. Each of these locations represent additional sites where congregations can meet to learn about tutoring and mentoring, and where church leaders can evangelize to get donors to contribute to the growth of programs. Please refer also to Tutor/Mentor Institute's suggested communications strategy for Faith Communities.

In sum, regardless of what you think of Senator Reverend Meeks's techniques in his fight against unjust forces that impede the progress of kids in underserved communities throughout in Illinois, you cannot deny that his heart and passion - and leadership both politically and spiritually - make him a perfect candidate to advocate on behalf of tutoring and mentoring. I am certain that the T/MC and Reverend Meeks will form a perfect alliance for this cause.

I should mention, if it's not already clear, that these maps are not intended to show where service work is, or is not occurring. They are also not meant to endorse, or criticize elected leaders. The voters should make those decisions.

Note: since 2011 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been operated by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. While this is not a tax exempt organization, it still depends on contributions to continue this work. Please consider a small donation this holiday season

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What IS the Tutor/Mentor Connection? A Tour in Maps!

This past week, Nicole at Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) asked me to join her for a visit to The Field Museum here in Chicago. The goal of the meeting was two-fold.

First, T/MC is always looking for partners in their fight against poverty and The Field Museum does some incredible outreach work with kids throughout the city. There is a definite potential for collaboration and partnership here.

Second, The Field Museum had shown interest in possibly hosting the T/MC's autumn Tutor/Mentor Conference (where tutor/mentor professionals meet and exchange ideas, side by side with anybody from the public who wants to come learn more about services available to the community and children).

I was honored when Nicole asked me to come with a handful of maps, and invited me to demonstrate why maps are so important in the work the T/MC does. But honestly, I was a little nervous. How would they be received? I had never done this before.

I decided to focus on clearing up any possible confusion as to what we do at the T/MC. Because the work that the T/MC does is really complicated, multi-faceted, and potentially confusing at first. "Tutor/Mentor Connection".... "Cabrini Connections"... sounds similar. What's the difference? What exactly does the T/MC want to accomplish? You can read about it... you can listen to us talk all day long... but maps give a visual to grab onto, and it's effective.

I was really proud and encouraged by the enthusiasm the maps generated among our new friends at The Field Museum. And I'm excited to report that the conference will be held there on Friday November 21st. Thank you so much Julie, Clinton, Darnell, Mara, and Andy!

I would LOVE the opportunity to come to any of your organizations to demonstrate the work the T/MC does through maps (please do ask).

In fact, maybe I should give a little taste of this presentation right here in this blog for anyone who is confused!

Simply put, "Cabrini Connections" is a single "Tutor/Mentor Program," where middle-school and junior high kids from the Cabrini Green neighborhood come to work with every-day professionals from around the area... working adults like you and me who volunteer their time, giving the kids extra help they need to achieve greater success and confidence at school... and ultimately go on to college and productive careers.

That's "Cabrini Connections"... a single program that focuses on kids in one small neighborhood.

"Tutor/Mentor Connection" (TM/C) is different. It doesn't work with the kids directly. Instead, it keeps a database of ALL T/M Programs (of which Cabrini Connections is only 1 of 200+). T/MC acts as a central directory where parents can find a program that specializes in their kids' needs (location, age group served, etc.)

But more! T/MC is looking to share ideas, goals, and strategies among all programs (of which, again, Cabrini Connections is only 1 of 200+)... an exchange of ideas - to ensure that existing programs maximize their growth/potential with their particular group of kids. Many documents geared toward this sharing these ideas exist in the T/MC's forums and in their library - the Tutor/Mentor Institute. Additionally, T/MC occasionally organizes a semi-annual conference to bring as many people together as possible to exchange ideas and information in person.

But more still! T/MC analyzes the program location data to determine where programs do NOT exist - where, among the most impoverished, high-need areas... where kids are lost in school and running the streets - do we need leadership in creating NEW T/M programs? What resources out there can host and/or finance these new programs... and what resources are available for getting the word out to people who do not even know these programs exist?

This is where maps are extremely helpful. This is what I do.

So, at The Field Museum, I showed a few maps I created. First, the location of all Baptist Churches in Chicago. Notice how many are concentrated in high-poverty, high-need areas:

These churches and their congregations may not have the financial support needed to support the existing programs. But they would make great locations for NEW programs in neighborhoods where the school system is failing the children, and where these students desperately need additional tutoring and mentoring. And the church leaders here can broadcast the message to unknowing parents in the congregation, and make them aware that T/M services exist for their children's benefit.

Then I showed the Lutheran Churches:

Of course, there are Lutheran congregations in high-poverty areas too - and these can serve many of the same functions as the Baptists. But, those in more affluent areas might want to help in other ways too. Perhaps members in the wealthier suburbs who commute, using highways that slice through the high-poverty areas, can take some time each week to volunteer as a mentor. Perhaps their places of employment have philanthropic money budgeted and would like to help contribute financially.

Of course, we here at T/MC have mapped the locations of many other Christian denominations, as well as the locations of Jewish, and Non-Judeo-Christian faiths. I simply chose these two as examples.

Next, I showed those at the meeting the map which illustrates how political leaders can organize resources in their districts, using the Illinois 14th Senate District map.

(click on the map above to see "full-sized")

This map shows the location of universities and hospitals which might have faculty/employees/students/leaders who want to work in a hosting, donating, or informational capacity... to support the kids who reside in the 14th district. Of course, we're not intending to single out the 14th district. This is just one district chosen to exemplify how the TM/C maps can help leaders in a given community organize their efforts to support tutoring and mentoring.

Ultimately the benefit is for everyone. Educated kids who get off the street, take a vested interest in a democracy, help participate in our local economies, and ultimately become leaders themselves... In many communities, some kids are afraid to leave their house, as the Sun-Times reports, due to the rampant frustration, hopelessness, and crime. The TM/C creates maps to supplement the negative news stories, looking for solutions through available resources in communities where crime is featured in the media:

(click on the map above to see "full-sized")

Sounds great, doesn't it? Who would oppose helping kids, families, and communities in need? When I first got here, I assumed maybe the business community would be a little removed and cold toward programs that do not immediately affect their bottom line.

I was wrong. Companies like CVS have a strong philanthropic presence in the community:

So do many, if not all, of the Fortune 500/1000 companies in town:

And elite groups/organizations of professionals, such as lawyers:

Law firms, businesses, other professionals - many see that investing in the area's impoverished communities can help build new markets, replenish struggling markets, and groom new employees, for the benefit of the local economy and in the fight against crime. These organizations are invaluable sources of desperately-needed revenue, volunteers, and information-sharing for T/M programs everywhere. TM/C wants to create new partnerships and inspire more participation among professionals/businessmen everywhere.

We are excited to have a new relationship with The Field Museum.

Please do let The Tutor/Mentor Connection know if you would like to hear more, join our network, partner up, become involved (volunteer, collaborate, spread the word, or donate)... or participate in the conference this fall.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chicago's Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim Faith Groups

(click on the map above to see "full-sized")

Continuing to look at the Tutor/Mentor Institute's document,"How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs"...

Up to this point, I've looked at the locations of known Jewish Congregations and Christian Churches. Of course, there are many in the Chicago area who adhere to faiths that are neither Christian nor Jewish. Followers of the Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths are also in strong positions to take leadership roles and "point members to tutor/mentor programs that already exist, or to neighborhoods, where new programs need to be created."

Again, please take a look at the blog entry for Chicago's Places of Worship for more information on how this can happen, why it's so important, and how all faith communities - regardless of denomination or belief - can use the T/MC's strategies to increase the reach, frequency and consistency of tutoring and mentoring programs.

Pay a visit to the T/MC website to get information about T/M programs in all parts of the region.

And, go to the T/MC Program Locator, or the Interactive Zip Code Map to find locations of programs that can use your volunteer or donor help.