Friday, December 31, 2010

Make a Move

It's the last day of 2010 and we've had a great year at Cabrini Connections. My favorite moments include the Year-End Dinner, our college visit to Northwestern University, and our recognition by the City of Chicago as the top mentoring program. Thank you all for reading my stories. I wrote 117 blog posts this year and I always get comments from friends and family members who say they've read them. I consider you a part of Cabrini Connections' extended family and I appreciate you keeping us in your thoughts.

If you would like to make a year-end financial contribution to the organization, you can do so on my fundraising page here: I'm raising money to help cover one month's rent at our tutoring center in 2011. It takes $5300 a month just to keep the doors open, but what goes on inside those doors is priceless. If you haven't seen my walkthrough video before, I've included it below.

Happy New Year to you and yours. See you in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

All in a day's work

Last Thursday, EL Da' Sheon and I attended a Delegate Agency Meeting & Recognition Luncheon for the City of Chicago Department of Family & Support Services Youth Division. You may remember, last year we won an award "For Outstanding Performance in Youth Development." Well, this year, we were honored again, "For Outstanding Performance in Youth Opportunities." Of all the programs funded by the city for mentoring, we are the best! Thank you to every student, volunteer, staff member, board member, and donor for making this possible. I hope you will continue to support us as we go for a three-peat in 2011!

On Thursday night, we held our last tutor/mentor session of the quarter. It was an "open" session for the holidays, meaning students could bring food and play games if they chose to, or continue working as usual. Attendance continues to be fantastic and both students and volunteers finished at over 85% for the quarter. (Our goal is 80%.) Listen to holiday messages from our students below.

A parent called at the end of the night to warn her daughter about a shooting in Cabrini Green on Cambridge Avenue where they live. Two fellow students ended up walking her from our center to the area. A policeman had to walk her the rest of the way to her house. It is stunning to think that someone was being shot at on the other side of the bridge while we were celebrating the holidays at 800 W. Huron. It is a sad reminder of why programs like Cabrini Connections are still needed in this area and in high-poverty areas around Chicago. Mike Trakan's recent series of maps does a good job of picturing this situation. I recommend viewing them on his blog here.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Student Spotlight: Carmenlita Jackson

Carmenlita Jackson is 16-years-old. She says she was “weird as a kid” and has “made people laugh” all the way from pre-school. At her graduation, when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she jokingly said, “a mommy.” Her mother and grandmother in the audience laughed and rolled their eyes.

Presently, Carmenlita attends Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in the Douglas community area. As a freshman, she didn’t like it too much; as a sophomore, she was an honor roll student; and now, as a junior, she says it’s hard again, “but I’m going to get through.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Youth Leadership Council Meeting 12/2/10

Youth Leadership Council held its second meeting of 2010-2011 on Thursday, December 2nd. Two projects were on the agenda: creating a suggestion box and stuffing holiday mailing envelopes. Cierria volunteered to take the lead on the suggestion box, which is intended to be a place where students and volunteers can anonymously suggest, criticize, or praise programs and policies of Cabrini Connections. Cierria created the box after the meeting, during her tutoring session. It is now located on top of the supply cabinet.

For the bulk of the meeting, Cierria, Savon, Melissa, and I stuffed, labeled, and stamped envelopes for our 2010 Holiday Appeal. We had a great assembly line system allowing us to get several hundred envelopes put together, which were later sealed and mailed by a volunteer during the session. Thank you to all the Youth Leadership Council members for helping out during this labor-intensive meeting. At the next and final meeting of Fall 2010 on Thursday, December 16th, we will decide on a group project for winter quarter and begin planning.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Student Spotlight: Cierria Tharpe

17-year-old Cierria Tharpe is a senior at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center. This is her SIXTH year at Cabrini Connections and she has been with the same mentor, Diana Restrepo, the entire time. “She listens to me,” says Cierria. “I can go to her and tell her anything. She’s like family to me.” It sounds like their relationship has grown to a great place, which is now especially useful because Cierria is going through the college admissions process.

“I’m ready for college,” she says, “but I’m in that phase where I don’t think I can get in.” Cierria was on the honor roll in grammar school, but she wishes she had done better in high school. Her recommendation for students headed to high school is: “Don’t loose focus… Get your work done or you’re going to make it even harder on yourself.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Lindsay Devick Richardson

Lindsay Devick Richardson was born in Downers Grove, a western suburb of Chicago, as the youngest of three girls. She went to small elementary and middle schools (about 60 people in each), but she went to a huge high school (600-700 people)! She says high school was a lot of fun, she was big into sports (volleyball, track, and gymnastics), and it was nice to feel a part of something.

Next, Lindsay ventured to a school with more than 20,000 people: The University of Tennessee. “I wanted to try something different than my little bubble,” she says. It took a long time for Lindsay to figure out her major, but eventually she chose journalism. (Read: You don’t have to know what you want to be right now!)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reader contest

Cabrini Connections continues to have its best fall quarter in some time. Last year, attendance for students and volunteers the week after Thanksgiving was 71%. Can you guess what it was this year?

Leave your guess as a comment and the person who's closest before Friday will win two free AMC Movie Theatre passes!

UPDATE: Congratulations, Miles! You are the winner! The correct answer was 89.4%. 67 out of 77 students and 77 out of 84 volunteers attended sessions and clubs in Week 11.

Monday, November 29, 2010

2010-2011 Youth Leadership Council

After weeks of campaigning and a night of speeches, six students were elected to the 2010-2011 Youth Leadership Council in late October. Wednesday night representatives are Savon Clark, Charles Hill, and De'Jour Stewart, and Thursday night representatives are Cierria Tharpe, Mylana Williams (above), and Melissa Young (below).

The council held its first meeting on Thursday, November 18th. After brief introductions (they all know each other already), we talked about identity, goals, and expectations - What is the Youth Leadership Council and why does it exist? A good layout of the council plan can be found here on Chris Warren's blog (my predecessor who revitalized the Youth Leadership Council in 2008). The new council will continue to form its own rules and roles, but Chris's plan is a good starting point.

Continuing in the meeting, we reviewed project ideas from last year's council and brainstormed project ideas for this year. Since it is a brainstorms session, anything goes! Ideas included a snack bar during tutoring sessions, a lock-in, a dance, painting the walls to bring more color into the center, a homecoming event for alumni, creating a mascot for the program, and more. As winter quarter approaches, the council will decide on at least one project to pursue, but for the remainder of fall quarter, their focus will be to assist with the holiday fund raising campaign.

On November 17th and 18th, when EL and I talked about the status of Cabrini Connections with our students and volunteers, all six members of Youth Leadership Council joined us up front to help lead the discussion. On the way out that night, they distributed holiday appeal letters to students for them to take to friends, family members, teachers... anyone who may take interest in their participation at Cabrini Connections. Lastly, on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, council members came in to write personal appeal letters to potential donors, several of which can be read here.

Congratulations to the new members for being elected and thank you for immediately helping where you are most needed. I look forward to writing further updates about the accomplishments of this group over the course of this year. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Conference video

Last Friday, Tutor/Mentor Connection held its biannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Over 100 leaders, volunteers, and stakeholders from the region took part in 20 presentations covering topics in branding and marketing, new media and technology, volunteer recruitment and retention, and more.

Special thanks to the three presenters who became involved through my asking - Brad Manilla and Anthony Bernas from let's dabble, LLC, CoCo Calixto from BUILD, and Amy Ludwig from Illinois Campus Compact. It was a pleasure to welcome you and I appreciate your contributions to the conference. I believe many others did as well!

You can read comments from attendees on Karina's blog here. Our next conference will be in May 2011, but until then, you can find us online in our Ning forums. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New reports

First up is our 2009-2010 Student Character Report. Each year we ask mentors, teachers, and parents to assess strengths and weaknesses observed in their mentees, students, or children. Graphs of responses from each field is included as well as analysis. Please take a look!

The 2008-2009 report can be found here.

Second is our 2009 Financial Overview. It breaks down the expenses and revenue distribution of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection for the 2009 fiscal year. It shows how money is allocated to our different activities and initiatives, but also how a large portion goes to rent, utilities, insurance, and personnel. In a free program like ours, these costs can be invisible. Therefore, with this overview, we hope to give potential donors insight into what all goes into making our organization successful. Again, please take a look!

The 2008 Financial Overview can be found on page 14 here.

If you have any questions about these reports or the process by which I make them, please comment or send me an e-mail. Thank you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Coy

First year mentor Lisa Coy grew up about an hour south of Chicago in “a small town full of corn and cows.” She stayed there through high school, but had to get away for college. “People stay comfortable. They stay where they know,” she says, “instead of merging out into other places… I wasn’t myself there,” so 10 years ago she moved to Chicago.

“It was really scary,” she says. “I was scared to get lost,” but eventually, getting lost is what introduced her to different parts of the city. “I pushed myself further to explore new things… to see what is out there besides what is in front of me.”

Lisa attended Columbia College Chicago where she majored in Vocal Performance, singing classical blues and jazz music. Again, her explorations of the city were useful. She got to know professional artists around Chicago and started singing at various jazz and blues clubs. She even sang at the Jazz and Blues Festivals over the summer in Grant Park.

Student Spotlight: Starisha Owens

14-year-old Starisha Owens has always lived in Chicago. She loves everything about the city. A hidden gem (a place she likes to go that others might not know about) is Martin Luther King Jr. Park Roller/Inline Skating Rink. When she gets older, however, Starisha wants to “move away from all the craziness” and “be by myself for awhile.” She dreams of moving to Los Angeles or Atlanta after graduating from college.

Starisha is in the 7th grade at Walt Disney Magnet School. In general, she says she loves school. “All of my friends are there. It’s like a family.” Starisha’s favorite subject is writing because it helps her express her feelings. It helps at school and at home because when she can’t talk to anybody else, she can talk to her notebook. The subject she struggles with most is math, but she plans to get better by staying focused, working hard, and constantly looking over her notes. Good plan!

Columbia College Visit

On Friday, November 12th, four students (Kierre, NyShanell, Starisha, and Akeim) and I visited Columbia College in downtown Chicago. Each fall we try to visit one university or college per month because it is prime time for applications. However, while our seniors may get the most tangible use out of these visits, we encourage all students to take advantage of the opportunities. Even for our elementary school students, it is important to begin the visioning process now.

Two big wins!

Last Thursday night, Michael Bridges and his mentor Jason Tennenbaum enjoyed a night at the Chicago Bulls game courtesy of ContextMedia! The Bulls defeated the Golden State Warriors 120-90. My friend Rishi Shah, CEO of ContextMedia, was kind enough to donate the tickets. His company also donated the TV which runs in our center.

Our method for selecting which lucky pair would get these tickets was... whichever Wednesday night pairs were free on Thursday night had to pick a number 1-100. We preselected 33 as the winning number because that is the number of tutoring weeks in a year. It is also Scottie Pippen's jersey number. Jason ended up coming closest with his pick of 32, which he chose because he is a big Los Angeles Lakers/Magic Johnson fan. Maybe we should have disqualified him for that, but we gave him the tickets anyways and he and Michael had a great time. Thanks, ContextMedia!

Also last week, on Saturday, several mentors and their friends took advantage of free tickets to the sold out Northwestern-Iowa football game. Big thanks to Betsi Burns and John Mack from the Northwestern athletics department for donating 25 tickets to the program! It may have been cold and rainy, but the 'Cats pulled off a dramatic comeback in the 4th quarter to beat the Hawkeyes 21-17, making the trip well worth it. Now it's on to Wrigley Field! Go U!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Program walk-through

Check out this new video, featuring ME, as I walk through Cabrini Connections. This was shot on Wednesday night by Mitch Holzrichter in one continuous shot on the first take. Yes!

For the full story, please read Dan's blog post. Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waiting for "Superman"

Thanks to free movie passes provided by MENTOR, four members of our staff including me were able to see the new school reform documentary Waiting for "Superman" yesterday. It is a very impactful film and I encourage you to see it if you have not already. But while it has much to say about the school system, it does not address the network on non-school programs, like Cabrini Connections, which help support the overall education system.

This is something we will talk about at the Tutor/Mentor Conference next Friday where our closing keynote/panel will feature education experts discussing where tutor/mentor programs fall in reflections on Waiting for "Superman". The movie does ask people to take action, and we are listed in Top Resources on WFS's Chicago page, but what truly are the next steps?

For more information on attending the conference, click here. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Jason Tennenbaum

Jason Tennenbaum was born and raised in West Los Angeles, California – and ‘West’ means he was raised close to the beach. He says he loved the outdoor lifestyle and was at the beach all the time. Overall, there were good and bad parts about living in LA, though. “It doesn’t have great city lifestyle,” he reflects. “It’s more suburban… but as a kid, you don’t know the difference.”

As he neared high school graduation, Jason knew he wanted to go to a college on the East Coast. “It was a chance to explore; to try something different,” and when he visited Boston, he fell in love. It has more colleges than any other city in the U.S. and it has the highest percentage of college-aged residents.

Student Spotlight: Andrion Rutledge

Andrion Rutledge attends Lincoln Elementary School where he is in the 7th grade. His favorite subject is math and his least favorite subject is French, however, he does appreciate that Lincoln requires students to take foreign language classes. (I didn’t take my first foreign language class until the 9th grade.)

At school, Andrion plays shooting guard for the basketball team. Basketball is his favorite activity and he dreams of one day becoming an NBA star. His favorite team is the Chicago Bulls.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Cookies for a Cause"

On Saturday, October 30th, fourth year Cabrini Connections student Melissa Young hosted her 2nd Annual Halloween Bake Sale to benefit the tutoring program. She came up with this idea all on her own last year after wondering why we didn't have a Halloween event and, also, how we raised money. She promoted the event to mentors, mentees, and to people in her own neighborhood and school. She collected donations of baked goods from those people as well. And when it came time for the actual event last Saturday, with the help of several student and adult volunteers, she raised over $225!

Thank you, Melissa, for taking charge and giving back to Cabrini Connections. One of our former students, Isaiah Brooms, has raised over $1000 in the last week after sending a message to his network about the influence of this program in his life. He also pledged to match donations up to $600 total. It is a joy to see current and former students advocating for Cabrini Connections. They are the ones who benefit most and they are the ones who exemplify the effectiveness of this program with their successes.

The more we can get alumni (students and volunteers) involved, the better! Please continue to follow Isaiah's story and look out for an update from me soon about new forms of alumni engagement. Thank you.

Cabrini-Green gone? Cabrini Connections gone?

My boss Daniel Bassill wrote last week about the false perception that some have that Cabrini-Green is almost "gone." He linked to a Chicago Sun-Times article which includes maps, statistics, and details about plans for the area moving forth. If you do the math, as Dan does, you will realize that hundreds of low-income kids still live in the area. Cabrini Connections has the capacity for 80 students and we are always full. These students continue to grow, continue to learn, and they need your support (in spirit and in dollars).

Cabrini-Green's historical markers - namely, the high-rise towers - may be gone, but many of the families who lived in them still call the area "home." It is a community like any other and our students are proud of their roots there. As we write-off the negative memories of Cabrini-Green which made it infamous, please insert stories of our students' hopes and dreams from this time forward. You can read their profiles here. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Student Spotlight: Melissa Young

Melissa Young (left) is a junior at Josephinum Academy. Since grammar school, she had always been a C student, but now she has a B average. She tells me, “I found a way to make it easier… by studying more, doing my homework, and going up to teachers before school, during lunch, and after school.” Melissa’s tip for 7th & 8th graders who will soon be in high school is: “Make sure your teachers know your name. Be the outside student instead of falling in the crowd.”

She says she was inspired to improve her grades after learning about how colleges look closely at your junior year. As long as she can show improvement over her four years, Melissa believes she can get into a good college or university. Her dream schools are Columbia College, Northwestern University, and DePaul University.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Shannon Murphy

Shannon Murphy was born in Phoenix, Arizona before moving to the suburbs of Chicago at a young age. She began in Villa Park, Illinois but moved to Lombard in the fourth grade. Interesting fact: she lived in the same subdivision (Butterfield East) as the Iwami family. You may remember Melissa Iwami from the spotlight two weeks ago… she and Shannon went to grade school together and saw each other for the first time in 15 years at this year’s golf benefit!

That is not how Shannon discovered Cabrini Connections, though. It is just a major coincidence. She found out about our program through her old boss whose coworker, Julie Hamilton, is on our Advisory Council… with Melissa’s dad, Bill Iwami. (My mind is blown.) Shannon has been a volunteer for two years now and says it has been “a really good experience.” She works with Crane 11th grader Breonca Hyles on Thursday nights. “Breonca is really, really, really smart,” she says. “I think she has a good future ahead of her.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Charles Wynn

First year mentor Charles Wynn was born in Syracuse, New York, but his family moved to Toledo, Ohio when he was in sixth grade and he had to make all new friends. He was also subject to culture shock because he moved from an all-black neighborhood to one which is predominately white. He says, “It helped me out in life,” though. “It taught me that the world is bigger than your community.”

Charles describes himself as a friendly kid who loved to play sports. He is the youngest of four siblings, which he says was always a pro. “I got everything I needed… [and] there were a lot of mistakes I didn’t have to go through.” But, like most kids, Charles wanted to grow up, and having three older siblings only made the urge stronger.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Student Spotlight: Breonca Hyles

Thursday night mentee Breonca “Bebe” Hyles is from the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago. She has enjoyed the start of her junior year at Crane High School, but says it has been challenging with the added pressure of the ACT test. Her favorite subject is history, mainly because she has a good teacher, while her toughest subject is science, though she still enjoys it.

Her tip for 7th & 8th graders who will soon be freshman in high school is: “stay on track”/”don’t fall off.” It’s important to get off to a good start so you can maintain a good record throughout high school. The first class you take and the last class you take effect your GPA in the same way.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Four weeks from today

Tutor/Mentor Connection will host its 32nd biannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference on Friday, November 19th at U.S. Cellular Field where the Chicago White Sox play. We expect about 100 program leaders, volunteers, and stakeholders at the conference, but the average White Sox game draws 27,000 people!

Though we won't have that many attendees at the conference, I know we have that many fans. Thousands of youth in this city benefit directly from tutor/mentor programs and all 2.9 million of us benefit indirectly from a more educated, healthy, and prepared workforce. Tutor/mentor programs teach academic skills which lead to educational success, but they also teach intangible skills which create better human beings. To view Cabrini Connections' 2009-2010 Student Character Report, click here. It shows some of these outcomes I speak of.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Melissa Iwami

Thursday night Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Iwami (seen here with EL at Martini Madness) was born and raised in Lombard, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. She is an only child and admits, “I always got a lot of my parents’ attention.” She says it was “good and bad,” but she thinks she has a much better relationship with her parents because of it. She loved growing up near a big city and has always been outgoing and talkative. She has relatives in different neighborhoods of the city who exposed her to a lot at a young age.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Student Spotlight: Alexis Spears

14-year-old Alexis Spears is an 8th grader at Franklin Fine Arts Center. Her favorite subject is science because she enjoys working in the lab. She is also good at math, but isn’t quite ready to say she likes it. At school she is part of the music and dance clubs. She is also on the volleyball team.

For high school, Alexis would like to attend UIC College Prep, a campus of Noble Street Charter School. Long term, she is interested in working with kids as a pediatric nurse. She babysits a lot and is the oldest of many siblings, which means she has been informally training for her dream job for years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Northwestern University College Visit

Yesterday, on a day off from school (Columbus Day), 23 students from Cabrini Connections visited Northwestern University in Evanston. Myself, EL Da' Sheon, and Karina, all alumni of Northwestern, chaperoned the trip. We were also joined by former volunteer, and forever an advocate for the program, Stephanie Rogers.

This was the largest group we've ever had for a college visit, which I believe is a result of a renewed commitment to the program in 2010-2011 and is a testament to the success of our College Zone. Our vision is that every child who joins a tutor/mentor program in 7th or 8th grade is starting a job and career of his or her choice by age 25, and trips like this fit directly in with that. In order for our youth to fulfill this year's theme, "My Dreams are My Reality!", they need to see themselves on a campus, eating lunch, walking through a dorm, acting like any other student. This is the reality they some day hope to achieve.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Student Spotlight: Kanah Bradley

Kanah Bradley grew up on the south side of Chicago before moving to the north side, where she lives now, when she was 10. She has two siblings: one sister (28) and one brother (26). As much as she loves the city, Kanah, who is a senior at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center, wants to move out of state for college. Her dream school is Duke University, but she is also interested in Cornell, Howard, Stanford, and, after this week’s college visit, Northwestern.

Volunteer Spotlight: Matt Golden

Wednesday night mentor Matt Golden grew up on the North side of Chicago in the Old Irving neighborhood. He is an only child and his parents still live on the northwest side. Matt says it was great growing up in Chicago because he enjoys the hustle and bustle of a big city. His favorite time of the year is the summer: “Seeing everyone out… going to the beach; to Cubs games… it makes the winters tolerable.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Student Spotlight: Cantrell Strauther

13-year-old Cantrell Strauther (seen above in Video & Filmmakers Club) is in the 8th grade at Lincoln School. His favorite subject is science because of the labs and projects. His most recent experiment involved making gas burn. (Be careful!) Cantrell’s least favorite subject is math, but he cites his mentor, Jeremy Brown, for helping him get better. They meet together on Thursday nights and have done so since March 2010.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeremy Brown

Second year volunteer Jeremy Brown (right, at 2010 Art Festival) grew up in Peoria, Illinois; the sixth largest city in Illinois with a population of over 110,000. He spent the first 23 years of his life there, which means he went to college in the area. Jeremy graduated from Bradley University in 2002 with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering. Bradley is an “awesome, smaller school” with about 5300 undergraduate students. He appreciated its low teacher-to-student ratio because it allowed for more discussion in classes and for him to ask questions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Martini Madness 2010

Held in October each year, Martini Madness is a celebration of the fall and the start of a new tutoring and mentoring year. This fundraiser, now in its fifth year, takes place at The Store on North Halsted Street (map). This year it will be on Friday, October 1st, from 6:30-9:30pm. $40 per person includes open martini bar, soda, and appetizers.

If you are unable to attend or you are not in Chicago, you can still participate by purchasing (or selling!) raffle tickets. They are $20 each or 3/$50 and prizes include overnight hotel stays and tickets to sporting events (click here for a full list). You do not have to be present to win, so anyone can enter!

You can use our online donation page to register for the event and/or purchase raffle tickets. You may also send a check to Cabrini Connections, 800 W. Huron, Chicago, IL 60642. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at 312-492-9614.

Thank you so much for your continued support. I hope the stories and pictures in this blog convey the great work we are doing. I would love for each and every one of you to visit our center some day. It would be a pleasure to welcome you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Shuling Yong

Shuling Yong was born and raised on the island nation of Singapore in Southeast Asia. She describes it as “a bustling little city about the size of Chicago,” and since it is near the equator, it feels like summer all year long. Shuling came to the United States three years ago after graduating at the top of her class. She received a scholarship to study anywhere in the world and she chose Northwestern University.

Student Spotlight: Jordan Stephens

First year (first month!) student Jordan Stephens has already established himself as an excellent addition to the Cabrini Connections family. Jordan, who attends tutoring on Wednesday nights after switching from Thursday, has joined two clubs (Art and Tech), is on time to all activities, and has not missed an SVHATS entry (5-for-5). His mentor, Sundi Brewer-Griffin, who Jordan met last week, is a graduate of Northwestern University who intends to help him with math and reading.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Their Own Words

At Cabrini Connections, we have an online communications portal (SVHATS) which is used by students and volunteers to record every session. Students are asked, "What did you work on today?," "What are your goals for this week?,"What is your biggest challenge?," "What is your most recent accomplishment?," and, lastly, for students and volunteers, there is an open feedback field for questions or concerns. Two weeks into the 2010-2011 tutoring season, we have received many great comments. This is a sampling.

  • I had a great time with her. From the one evening that I had spent with her, I could tell that she is a wonderful person. She knows what she wants to do and is very goal oriented.
  • Really organized tonight, so much more so than last year. Seemed like all the speakers knew what was going on. Great start!
  • She seems really motivated to stay on track and I think this will be a great year!
  • I really enjoyed the session and am glad to be back. He was extra talkative tonight.
  • She is a great student and has a great head on her shoulders.
  • My mentee is dedicated and I am impressed with her effort to work on her assignments.
  • She seems like a great girl and I am looking forward to working with her!
  • Things are very well with my mentor he's really cool and have a lot of connections.
  • she's really great i like her!!!!!
  • I think that every thing is going great with my mentor. It could not get better.
  • Nate is the best. He is actually king Nate.. He is always there when i need him. i pretty much love nate.
  • shes listen to me i listen to her and shes gives me great advice i love my mentor
  • I really like my tutor. THE BEST.
  • I LOVE MY TUTOR.! :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Ankit Vadher

Second year volunteer Ankit Vadher (pictured in the thumbnail above) was born and raised in Chicago – the Rogers Park/Ravenswood area – before moving to a northwestern suburb (Wheeling) at age 9. He lives back in the city now, and when asked why he loves Chicago, is almost at a loss for words. “The different neighborhoods… the culture… the people… that friendly Midwestern attitude… there is so much to explore.”

Ankit breezed through high school, graduating in just three years. He regrets the decision now, saying that a full four years of high school helps you truly appreciate what is expected in college. He was not mentally prepared and thus did not take college as seriously as he should have early on.

Nonetheless, Ankit says college was “one of the best experiences of my life.” He graduated from University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC) in 2003 with a double major in finance and information decision systems (IDS). His first job upon graduation was as a bond trader at a proprietary shop.

He traded with partners’ money, so there were no customers per se, and he was able to make trades based on his discretion. All this was done electronically, so he was not on a trading floor, but he was moving plenty of money (millions!). There’s much more to it, so if you are at all interested in stocks and bonds, talk to Ankit!

Now, Ankit works on the other side, for a company that makes trading platforms for traders. He has worked there for five years in three different positions. Currently, he is a relationship manager for all clients in the Midwest.

In his spare time, Ankit likes to work out (especially running), hang out with friends (hosting parties), and cook (“experimentally”). He also loves traveling. “Next stop: Eastern Europe.”

Ankit is South Asian and culture is a big part of his life. He says, from a young age, “it was all about education and schooling.” The expected trajectory for kids is to become a doctor or engineer, get married, and have a family. Job security is very important, which is partly why he is no longer a trader (a job he loved).

At Cabrini Connections, Ankit co-leads Art Club, which meets on Monday nights from 5:30-7pm. They work with pastels, watercolor, pencil… whatever you want! This year they plan to screen-print t-shirts, collaborate with Video Club on a photo project, and more. How do you join? Just show up!

Ankit’s advice for students is, “Try to live outside your comfort zone and you will experience a lot more in life.” He also says, “Don’t have expectations. Expectations take the joy out of life.” You are a wise man, Ankit. We appreciate your service.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Student Spotlight: Avery Harris-Russell

First year student Avery Harris-Russell is a 9th grader at Ogden International High School. His favorite subject is social studies because, “I love talking about what happened in the past,” and, “I want to know what my ancestors went through.” This reminds me of a famous quote from James Baldwin: "If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Training Camp, Preseason lead to Week 1 Win

It has been a September to remember at Cabrini Connections. I apologize for my lack of posts recently, but I assure you, I have been keeping busy with the start of the 2010-2011 tutoring season. I am very excited to be returning for a second year as Assistant Coach, during which time I can build on existing relationships and ideas while also meeting new people and exploring new possibilities. Cabrini Connections began its 18th year last week, and EL Da' Sheon ("Coach Nix") and I are determined to make it the best yet.

At the end of last year, we made a commitment to meet over the summer with every student and volunteer who wishes to return to the team. We did this 1) to check-in with matches during what is usually a three month off-season, 2) to receive further feedback about the program and its resources, and 3) to assess all players (students, volunteers, and coordinators). These meetings were tremendously productive and gave us the opportunity to address issues - positive and negative - face-to-face.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Drumroll, please

Last Sunday, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection held its 1st Annual Tutor/Mentor Jam at darkroom on West Chicago Avenue. Nearly 150 people attended and over $2,000 was raised as five bands performed, a comic MCed, and food was served by Man B Que. Above, listen to Veteran Volunteer Brea Adams speak at the Jam about her experience as a tutor/mentor for Crystal Townsend.

I would like to thank everyone who came out in support of this event, especially my friends, some of whom are pictured below. Tutor/Mentor Jam is strategically timed to take place at the start of the school year when many out-of-school time programs are looking for volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor/mentor, please contact me directly or use our program locator to find a program near you. Thank you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Game Day & Buffet

As part of the Cabrini Connections program, we offer various incentives throughout the year to encourage and reward students for doing well and fulfilling expectations. We strive to offer rewards to those with the greatest attendance each quarter, and after third quarter, the end of the year, rewards become extra-special because we have more time to plan.

In June, Ana Tate was awarded a bicycle for being the only student with perfect attendance for the entire year; earlier this month, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders with 75% or better attendance in third quarter were invited to Dave & Buster's; and, last but not least, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders with 75% or better attendance in third quarter were invited to a "Game Day & Buffet" here at Cabrini Connections.

This past Saturday, Chuck "Diesal" Seaton of Concepts by Design hooked us up with four 42" flat-screen televisions with Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 video game systems. We also provided sandwiches from Subway and wings from Hooters. We started the day off with group "get to know you" games like Catchphrase and a fun worksheet called "The Number Game," and then kids were free to roam the center and play video games.

Thank you and congratulations to all of the following students who were able to attend: Savon Clark, NyShanell Freeman, Kierre Halbert, Arden Harris, Dionte Herron, Charles Hill, Charles Kilpatrick, Sean Mayfield, Brittany Murphy, Reggie Murphy, Amari Roby, Ana Tate, Malina Tate, Crystal Townsend, Olivia Williams, and Patricia Williams.