Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Illinois State Representative District 9

My maps try to expose spatial relationships among community resources, with the hope that political leaders can use the maps and exposed relationships as tools to encourage and motivate collaboration... putting minds together to forge strategies that improve communities through improved support for tutoring and mentoring.

To this end, in the past, I have created maps that examine political districts that contain some of Chicago's most impoverished and underserved areas, including:
However, the office for Tutor/Mentor Connection is not in any of these districts. We share office space with Cabrini Connections, the tutor/mentor program that serves 7th through 12th graders with ties to the Cabrini Green neighborhood.

I thought this week that it was time to look even closer to home... at the resources and potential collaborations that could help support new and existing tutor/mentor programs in Illinois State Representative District 9. (Interestingly, our office lies on the south side of Chicago Avenue - just inside the Northeast corner of District 9, and many of the kids who walk here from the row houses of Cabrini actually live in District 5, on the other side of Chicago... I mapped and discussed District 5 in January.)

Illinois State Representative District 9 is currently represented by Representative Art Turner.

The first map below shows that District 9 contains the whole spectrum of wealth distribution. From the riches of downtown's West Loop commercial district... to the heavily impoverished North Lawndale neighborhood (where Art Turner was born and raised... and currently resides according to his website), commuters who take the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Dan Ryan Expressways into work each morning are likely to cross through one of the district's panhandles of poverty and converge on the streets of downtown.

(Please remember to click on any of these maps for a bigger, higher-resolution version...)

As we've seen over and over (and the trend continues in the map above), there is a clear and consistent relationship between poverty and the occurrence of "failing" schools (schools that are on the state and federal "watch" and "warning" lists and are at risk of penalty and sanction). This map shows that there are currently 26 "failing schools" in this district's high poverty neighborhoods - schools that are responsible for teaching and guiding thousands of struggling students. In our searchable online database, we know of (and have mapped here) only 18 programs that are currently trying to improve the chances for students to overcome the obstacles of poverty. Do the math. Cabrini Connections works with 70 students. If each of these programs has a capacity of 70 kids (and this is a huge assumption), it becomes a no-brainer that this district needs leadership and strategy-building to accommodate the tutoring and mentoring needs of its students and their overburdened schools.

My maps can be used by community leaders as tools to help organize such leadership and strategy-building.

Who are the potential leaders in communities like those that exist in District 9? And how can they help?

The business community can help in so many ways. And this isn't just about helping kids. Business is about expanding markets on some level, right? The money that is sitting in that red box around the Loop in the map above can go toward funding programs that help educate future employees, and put money into the pockets of local consumers with banking needs.

A philanthropic check cut in the amount of $50,000 to $100,000 is a token of goodwill and a tax write-off for many of these companies.

For a non-profit tutor/mentor program, this can be the the difference between life and death... for the kids, it is the difference between continued work toward college and jobs… and increased income… perhaps homes and cars that need to be insured?… Lots of real estate available for branch locations in new untapped markets:

There are ways businesses can help without cutting checks. Businesses can promote the programs and encourage employees to fill needed volunteer roles with their special talents... skills you might take for granted, like book keeping or graphic design (or even map-making) that can be a god-send for non profits.

Furthermore, banks or
Mass-Market Retailers (such as pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens) can use in-store kiosks to cheaply post program information – creating awareness for customers, clients, and parents:

If you are affiliated with a company that might be interested in helping support tutoring and mentoring, please contact me and I will help you use our tools at Tutor/Mentor Connection to find programs and organizations to support. (Of course, please feel free to contact Dan Bassill as well for more information on donating, volunteering, or supporting the Cabrini Connections program here in District 9.)

But business and industry aren't the only ones who can help.

In between the skyscrapers of the Loop and the severe poverty of North Lawndale, condos and offices push west into the steadily gentrifying Near West Side, and approach the pockets of low poverty around the district's universities and hospitals.

Similar to the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side, District 9 has a wealth of hospital and university resources. University of Illinois-Chicago and Rush University are here with their affiliated hospitals. I've already discussed at length in a previous post the role Mt. Sinai Hospital can play in District 9's North Lawndale neighborhood.

The bottom line is that hospital leaders at Stroger, Bethany, Mt. Sinai or any of the nine hospitals in this district, can work with Representative Turner, perhaps using Tutor/Mentor Institute strategies as a starting point, to increase support for new and existing programs - and ultimately improve the overall health of the entire West Side of Chicago.

I refer you to additional discussions on strategies and roles Universities and Hospitals can play in the improvement of non-school tutoring and mentoring, if this is your particular area of expertise.

We can't forget the role churches and other places of worship can play in the lives of a community's residents, as well as in developing support for tutoring and mentoring. The locations of churches or mosques in Distric 9 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.

And if faith leaders at the locations above can commit to social justice through tutoring and mentoring, imagine what all the Baptist church locations in District 9 could do if they worked together to connect the rich people in the Loop and Near West Side with the poor people in Lawndale?

So why does Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) create maps of political districts again?

First, 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).

Again, the T/MC creates maps that show where poverty and poorly performing schools are located, and where volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are located. Hopefully, the maps help community leaders determine where additional support for tutoring and/or mentoring programs may be needed...

... and where community assets, such as businesses, churches, colleges, etc. can collaborate to draw attention to poverty, and create long-term strategies that support students through tutoring and mentoring and ultimately help everyone in the community by improving the prospects for our children, our economy, and our democracy.

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