Monday, December 13, 2010

Running For Mayor: State Senator James Meeks

Helping Local Politicians Support Tutor/Mentor Programs

"Our goal is to make sure every third-grader is reading at a third-grade level." - State Sen. James Meeks

(Part 5 of T/MC's 2010 "Mapping Solutions" online gallery)

Maps can be used by elected leaders to help quality youth programs grow in all parts of their districts. My last blog showed an overview of Chicago's wards and incumbant aldermen. More on city council later.

Today, I would like to zoom in on a particular district, Illinois Senate 15th, currently represented by Reverend James Meeks, who just happens to be running for Chicago Mayor in the coming election.

When Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) makes maps that zoom into a neighborhood or district, we can reveal points of interest - community assets - that can be used to support or build tutor/mentor programs, in an effort to ensure that the third graders to whom senator Meeks refers in the quote above, do in fact receive the scholastic and decision-making foundation needed to remain interested and successful in school and beyond.

Today, I am featuring a map (click to enlarge) from our recent map gallery that shows a thematic overlap between our politicial strategies, and our faith-based strategies featured in Part 2 of this "map gallery" series.

As always, in today's map I show areas of high poverty and schools that are not meeting state and CPS standards, in relation to known tutor/mentor programs. Remember, the capacity of each of these programs on the map is far less than the enrollment of each of the overwhelmed and underachieving schools shown. With this in mind, ask yourself whether we need to build more programs to supplement the efforts of schools and parents, to make sure at-risk students stay on track for long-term academic and vocational success. Then ask yourself where these might be needed.

This particular map reveals a selection of Christian faith-based assets that might take the lead in making this growth happen. Since we are featuring Mayoral candidate Meeks, the map features Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, which Reverend Meeks founded, where he worked as pastor, and where he remains a spiritual leader - not only for Salem Baptist's 24,000 followers, but also for the dozens of other Baptist congregations in his political district, represented here by dark blue crosses.

Tutor/Mentor Exchange has a document called How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs, detailing how a spiritual leader like Meeks "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."

Perhaps Senator Meeks can use his influence (spiritual and political) to lead other denominations in his district as well. Non-Baptist Christians on this map are represented by light red crosses. 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.

Reverend and Senator (and perhaps Mayor) Meeks is no stranger to the wisdom of mentoring. While he is probably more famous for speaking out on the problems created by inequalities in the education of our students, he has also taken action, having initiated a mentoring program called “It Takes a Village,” to provide support and assistance to pregnant youth and young mothers. We still do not have this program in our Program Locator, and would love to work with Senator Meeks to build new programs for the students in his district where our maps suggest a need.

(I should mention 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.)

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We at Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) have spent the past several years using maps to identify and analyze areas of our city where support for at-risk youth needs to grow, in order to make our students brighter, our workforce stronger, and our streets safer.

We operate on a non-profit budget and rely on donations and charity to continue our work, using state-of-the-art GIS technologies in support of our community-based mission.

Please consider a small tax-deductible donation to this important charity this holiday season.

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