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.

1 comment:

nicolewhite.cabrini said...

Yay! You were awesome! Hurray for maps!