Monday, July 12, 2010

One year later

Today, we kicked off our 12th annual Edgewood College Experience, a three day mini-camp during which youth from our program work with graduate students in education from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, on fun activities, brain games, and more. Last year, this was my first day on the job. You can read my introduction here and my Edgewood recap here.

It's hard to believe all that has transpired in the last 365 days. When I read my predecessor's "One year later" post last summer, I could sense his love for this work, but I couldn't feel it yet. I couldn't comprehend it. One year later, I know exactly what he was talking about. I am so happy with my position here and I am so grateful to be surrounded by more than 70 young people, almost 100 adult volunteers, and five invaluable staff members.

In the nonprofit sector, we talk a lot about disadvantages and lack of resources. We talk a lot about poverty and violence. Much of this exists and much of this is true, and it is important to understand. But on the ground here at Cabrini Connections, we are in the business of facilitating positive mentoring relationships to combat those negative circumstances. Despite what you may hear about certain neighborhoods or schools, our kids are kids like any others. They laugh, they listen, and they have dreams. Diamond wants to be a doctor. Israel wants to be an architect. Mylana wants to be a singer.

As I enter Year 2 in this position, those dreams are what keep me going. I want to see our 8th graders get into high school. I want to see our 12th graders get into college. I want to hear parents talk about how much this program means to them. Though we are a one-on-one tutoring and mentoring program, we are all on the same team. (See EL's sports concepts.) We are all assets to each other and with this many adults volunteering their time in one space, our youth are in a position to take advantage of some great opportunities.

The more I value the work of Cabrini Connections, the more I understand the necessity of Tutor/Mentor Connection. While we do great work at 800 W Huron, there need to be facilities like this all across Chicago; all across the nation. After-school hours are a vulnerable time for youth and if we can engage them in positive, academic- and career-oriented activities, we will all be better off. We are training the next generation.

I can see this on the ground, but I need others to see it, too. I would love to have more people in power such as businessmen, politicians, or athletes reading this blog and Dan's blog, visiting our web sites, or visiting our tutoring site, in order to recognize the value of our program. Our students are developing close bonds with adult role models. They are also creating and navigating formal and informal networks which will serve them for life. Think about all of the people who have helped you achieve your dreams along the way. Now think about how things would have turned out without them.

Our newest employee, 2010-2011 Northwestern University Public Interest Program Fellow Karina Walker, has already started this way of thinking. After writing a Day 1 introduction just like I did, she proceeded to create a great "launching pad" map which effectively illustrates what I was just talking about. I hope that you will follow and support Karina during her first year as you did mine. My blog was a great source of storytelling and connecting. I had 4,000 site visits in 12 months and each person averaged 2 minutes on my site. Incredible!

Please continue to share these stories with your network. We can make those numbers even bigger next year! This form is great for thinking about who you know and who might support our work. Every person you connect with is another node on my network. Thanks so much for the assist! Much love to all.

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