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.”