Monday, December 14, 2009

R.I.P. Ashton Wise: Stop looking for the overnight solution.

This past weekend, the Chicago Tribune and affiliates reported that sixth grader Ashton Wise and his father were shot with a shotgun while sitting in a parked car in the heavily impoverished South Shore neighborhood. Ashton was not involved in gangs. Instead, Ashton will be remembered as a star pitcher and catcher in the South Side Little League.

His father (who survived) was "not an absentee father," Department of Children and Family Services Director Erwin McEwen (Ashton's baseball coach) said, "If a dad who's committed and with his kid every day can't keep his kid safe, don't tell me it's gang-related. It's community-related."

Here's an example of the many families who are trying to live the American dream but are caught in the crosshairs of poverty.

Similar to the outpouring of support we saw for mentoring as a long-term salve for poverty and teen violence this past fall from political leaders in the wake of the Derrion Albert murder, McEwen addressed reporters about teen violence and poverty in general, "We did not get into this situation overnight... Stop looking for the overnight solution."

"I think we have to do things to strengthen our families."

(please click on the map to expand)
This push for "new anti-violence methods," echoes what Tutor/Mentor Connection has been urging citizens for years. Poverty, crime, strengthening communities... these are all complex issues that will take a lot of people working/thinking together in a lot different places over a long period of time to reverse.

I hope McEwen, Garvey, and you buy into this reality and start now to help push the pendulum back. You and people in your network concerned with challenges related to poverty (crime, education, workforce development) can help take the lead to build more alliances aimed at attacking the "Core of the Problem."

Our maps and strategies featured here on this blog are intended to facilitate the process of building more and better mentor-to-career programs throughout Chicago's high poverty neighborhoods... long-term solution-minded programs... to try and reach the next generation one kid at a time, and prepare them to choose paths off the streets and into colleges and careers. (Current known programs are represented by green stars in the map above, and I think you'll agree they are too few and far between.)

If you look at the map above,
  • You will see high poverty neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago near the Wise residence and the crime scene (represented by increasingly deeper shades of red/blue as poverty increases).

  • You will also see community assets on the map - such as churches, businesses, universities, hospitals, and museums. These are places packed with powerful individuals, with a visible presence in the community... places with open missions to support the community, and the power to build alliances (using their political and financial leverage and their reputation/visibility).

  • Alliances and media buzz can then mobilize more dollars and volunteer interest in the name of mentor programs that aren't currently household names (and thus don't have the name recognition to easily challenge for large grants awards), and yet are actively working on small budgets, with small staffs, and in innovative ways, "to strengthen our families," as Erwin McEwen put it.

  • Lastly, look again at those few green stars on the map. These are known tutor/mentor programs where YOU can make a difference on an individual level.
Tell people in your network that might want to volunteer an hour each week. Volunteer yourself! Where? Follow the CTA, Metra, or Highways on the map above, on other maps on this site... or better still... use our online interactive map tool to find volunteer or donor opportunities closer to you :

But hey - time is short, right? If you don't have time to roll up your sleeves and work at the front lines of the war on poverty, you (or someone in your network) might help these non-profits with a tax deductible donation.

And please consider donating to Tutor/Mentor Connection directly, or through our holiday fundraiser, to help us continue to provide these map and strategy resources to you, community leaders, programs, and students... so that we see this image to the right less and less often in the future. (Ashton Wise crime scene, photographed by Chris Sweda of the Chicago Tribune.)


This cannot be emphasized enough... Do you know leaders in your network who might want to join our alliance? We have documents and articles for you to send to them:

* Political leaders can find tutor/mentor-building strategies here. Other information and more maps can be found here for your needs. We also have strategies and maps available for your local alderman.

* Faith leaders can support non-school programs in the community. There are examples and maps here to get started elsewhere on this blog. And here is an important strategy document called "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs."

* University leaders can ally on behalf of the safety and well-being of neighborhood kids. This is discussed here.

* Bankers can look here for ideas and strategies toward workforce and economic development of neighborhoods through tutoring/mentoring.

* Retailers like Walgreens and CVS in the map above can find ideas here.

* Grocery Stores have a large stake in the pulse of the community. See how they can get involved here.

* Hospital leaders from the several hospitals that show up on the map above can ally on behalf of tutoring/mentoring as well. Look here for reasons why. Look at this strategy document, called "Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection" for details on how to get started.