Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not "Goodbye" but "See you later"

On July 6th, 2009, my first day at Cabrini Connections, the first day of the 2009 Edgewood College Experience, I was greeted by three students: Savon Clark, Sean Mayfield, and Charles Hill. They welcomed me with open arms and we clicked right away. At that point, I had no idea how great of an experience working at Cabrini Connections would be and how much I would get to know these three young men and so many others over the course of 132 tutoring sessions, 19 Youth Leadership Council meetings, eight college visits, and more.

Two years later, here I am again with Savon, Sean, and Charles (above) at the 2011 Edgewood College Experience. They are juniors in high school now. Sadly, however, where they once welcomed me in, they are now seeing me off. Yesterday, July 15th, 2011, was my last day at Cabrini Connections. I was laid off due to the organization's continued financial struggles. Over the last 20 pay periods dating back to September 2010, the staff has been paid in-full and on-time only six times. Next week's Golf Benefit could make or break the organization.

While it has been a tough year and I am sad to see it end like this, I am proud of our accomplishments and I know I personally have learned a lot from everyone I worked with at Cabrini Connections - especially my "partner in crime" EL Da' Sheon Nix. Together, we led a program that won awards from the Department of Family & Support Services Youth Division in 2009 and 2010 for being the best mentoring program funded by the City of Chicago and we had five seniors graduate this year who are all headed to college in the fall. Not too bad, eh?

Thank you all for keeping track of the program on my blog (I had 5228 absolute unique visitors!) and thank you for reading all of my stories (This is my 217th blog post!). I hope they made you smile, and laugh, and think, and reflect. Major cities like Chicago will always have thousands of youth in need of educational and financial assistance. A tutoring and mentoring program like Cabrini Connections can change a young person's life. I've seen it happen. Please continue to support nonprofits like this one with your time and dollars. We are all a part of the solution. One love.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2011 Year-End Dinner

Last Thursday, Cabrini Connections celebrated the end of the 2010-2011 tutoring and mentoring year with its 18th Annual Year-End Dinner. About 250 students, parents, volunteers, alumni, staff, and board members crowded the Cornerstone Academy in Chicago to recognize each other for great accomplishments - the greatest of which is that all five of our seniors graduated from high school and are headed to college in the fall. This video shows the presentation of Graduation Dollars and yearbooks to our seniors, with a special surprise at the end ;-)

Spoil the surprise =>

I would like to personally thank all of my friends and family members who made this such a successful year. A year ago I felt lucky to have the opportunity to remain a staff member at Cabrini Connections, and I look back a year later proud of all that we accomplished. Congratulations!

Bonus video: Video & Filmmakers Club's spring quarter project

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Groupon Deal of the Day

We are live on - the greatest deals site in the world! Please take a moment to check out our page at

For every $10 you donate, Cabrini Connections gets $15 thanks to matching sponsor ContextMedia. With 36 hours to go, we are just 22 donations away from reaching the "tipping point" and locking in $2000+ for the program!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cabrini Connections to be featured on Groupon!

In January, EL Da' Sheon and I had the opportunity to visit Groupon's headquarters at 600 West Chicago Avenue, just across the river from Cabrini Connections. Groupon is a popular daily deals site founded by fellow Northwestern University alumnus Andrew Mason.

Since speaking to a group of about 50 employees there, we have recruited six as mentors (including Cat, above) with several others on the waiting list. In January, I also met with a woman who organizes most of the nonprofit initiatives for Groupon. We talked about many possibilities and have kept in touch since.

Today, I am pleased to announce that Cabrini Connections is going to be featured on with a G-Team campaign during the week of June 6th! G-Team is a community outreach initiative within Groupon that brings communities together to do good, have fun, and make an impact.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Cabrini Connections to gain exposure in the Chicago area and to grant our seniors extra support for college. Our campaign seeks to raise $2000 to double this year's "Graduation Dollars" - our form of scholarships, to be awarded at the Year-End Dinner.

I will post again on Tuesday with specific details on how to get involved. Until then, please share this blog post via email, Facebook, and Twitter, to let everyone in your network know to expect us on next week! Thank you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Student Spotlight: Whitney Hemphill

Whitney Hemphill is a senior at Wells Community Academy High School who is completing her SIXTH year at Cabrini Connections. Whitney was born and raised in Cabrini Green but she is moving to the south side next month. “It’s time for something new,” she says. She enjoyed growing up in Cabrini Green because a lot of people were around and she made a lot of friends, but now a lot of those people have moved away.

Whitney is the youngest of five children. “I used to get anything I wanted,” she says. Her older sister, Angelene, graduated from Cabrini Connections in 2009. She now attends Harold Washington College. Whitney and Angelene were in the Art Club together for several years. That is one of the activities that first hooked Whitney into the program.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jessica Bearden

Jessica Bearden was born in South Carolina and moved to Texas at the age of 5 where she stayed through high school. She is from a south Texas town named McAllen just 10 minutes from the Mexican border. She was very active as a kid, playing soccer and tennis mostly, but also volleyball, softball, and track and field. Much of her free time as a teenager was spent practicing for, training for, and participating in organized sports. She is still very active to this day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Student Spotlight: Marcus Burks

Marcus Burks is the second student to be featured in the student spotlight for a second time (Melissa Young). He was originally featured as an 8th grader at Wells Prep in March 2009. Two years later, he is a rising junior at King College Prep. Marcus is from the far south side of Chicago and has four siblings.

He has three younger sisters who “make me feel like a leader” and an older brother who he’s close with. Marcus aims to be a positive influence in his sisters’ lives because “I wouldn’t want to see them doing anything negative.” What personally keeps him going while he’s looking out for others? “Hopes and dreams of going to college,” he says.