Invitation to Universities - updated

Invitation to Universities - updated

As school is starting for another year, millions of people are starting another round of conversations that loosely could be titled "How do we motivate kids to learn?", or, "What role does my organization have in helping kids from poverty reach jobs and careers?"

I wrote that in August 2005.  I've repeated it often in articles on this blog since then.  If you're one of those people, or if you know someone who is thinking about these questions, please consider the introduction and invitation that I wrote in 2005:

I am president of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), based in Chicago. The T/MC was started by a small non profit called Cabrini Connection, back in 1993. I've provided web links below that I hope you'll visit to learn more about our work and our history.

In 2005 I was also a Commissioner on the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, so while my primary focus was increasing volunteer based tutoring/mentoring in Illinois, my ideas apply to increasing effective volunteerism and service in all parts of Illinois.

For the past 30 years (in 2021 it's now 46 years) I've been accumulating knowledge and experience about how to connect workplace volunteers and inner city kids in long-term mentoring relationships that transform the lives of both youth and adults. Since I learned how to put information on the Internet in 1998, I've been putting my knowledge on T/MC web sites, so that others could learn from me. I've also been building a library of web links, that connect visitors to the knowledge of other people who are concerned with poverty and workforce development, and education and diversity. Thus, visitors to our web site can learn from many people, not just from me.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to continue the T/MC after the strategy was discontinued at the original nonprofit. Don't be confused by the names. It's the same strategy, with a different tax and revenue structure. 

Since beginning to use the Internet in the late 1990s I've been reaching out all over the world looking for colleges that might take a role in helping to facilitate the use of this knowledge among students and alumni.

The goal of such programs is teach students and graduates to be leaders of organizations that connect workplace adults with, knowledge, with peers, with resources, and with inner-city kids in long-term tutoring/mentoring strategies that lead kids into jobs/careers by age 25.

While we lead one program with this strategy (Cabrini Connections), we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to help every tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region get the resources (volunteers, leaders, dollars, training, technology, etc.) that would enable them to grow in their ability to mentor kids to careers. Through the Internet, this now helps people all over the world.

In the Tutor/Mentor Connection portal (http:/ the navigation bar will lead you to a variety of sections that help you understand this strategy and that help people connect with programs, with information, and with each other in an on-going process aimed at helping every youth born in poverty today be starting a job/career by age 25.

I encourage you to visit the Distribution of Programs section and see how we're using GIS maps and a searchable database to help people understand where programs are needed, and where existing programs are located.

I also encourage you to visit the Tutor/Mentor Institute Library section and read some of the power point essays. They not only illustrate our role, but they illustrate the role that companies or business associations can take to lead strategies that engage their employees in volunteerism, and in strategies that create future employees and customers.

Among the power point essays you can see a few that show how this might take shape in a university, in a hospital, and in the legal community.

You'll see that our web sites have a ton of information and that some sections focus on e-learning, collaboration and innovation. If you think of our web sites as our Bible, or a Curriculum, then our goal is to help groups of people read and reflect on sections of this information on a weekly basis for many years.

If you're a first time visitor to my website, think of it as a huge shopping mall. Walk through it, opening the links into each sub section, just to learn what's there, just like you'd walk the mall, looking at what each store offers.  Later you can dig deeper into those sections that interest you.   

If learners tie this reading and reflection into their volunteerism, philanthropy and direct service, then each time they meet with a youth in a volunteer program, the information in the T/MC portal will become more relevant and important to them. As they become an advocate for the kids they personally get to know, some will use their talent, leadership, and wealth (obtained as they grow older) to build the infrastructure needed to help every kid in the Chicago region (or any other city) get more of the support they need to go up the pipeline into a career. View this presentation to see how this concept was visualized by college interns from Hong Kong and South Korea. 

Hopefully, many will also use this knowledge and their political muscle to dismantle the structural racism that has been embedded in America over the past 150 to 400 years.

The reason I am looking for university partners is that this information needs to be packaged in a 4 to 6 year curriculum where students learn through regular classwork, and through a variety of internships, service-learning, work-study and volunteer activities. I believe that if a university adopted this as a curriculum, its graduates would soon be in demand from volunteer based programs in all parts of the country.

(see this idea - read more)

Furthermore, I believe that alumni who don't go into direct service, but go into industry and professions, would become leaders in workplace and government strategies that PULL kids to careers, using their employees, dollars and jobs as resources. If we can teach people to take that leadership role, we can make a huge impact on how successful non profits are in getting the resources they need to successfully do their work.

My organization was too small to do this in 2005, and is even smaller in 2021. Universities are already doing some of this, but I've not found one who expresses the mentoring-to-career strategy, or the citywide support strategy, that we outline at the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Thus, this offers a teaching opportunity for anyone who might want to take this on.

Furthermore, I've found no one who consistently tries to draw donors directly to individual tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty area of Chicago, or any other city.    

While we host an Internet strategy, we also hosted a November and May Leadership and Networking Conference ( every six months from May 1994 to May 2015, to share these ideas and to enable other tutor/mentor leaders to network and share their own vision for how to help kids to careers. Colleges often provided space for these conferences (see this presentation), which enabled us to keep the costs low.

Beginning with the first conference in May 1994 we developed a quarterly event strategy that drew programs together, built public awareness and drew volunteers and donors directly to programs included in the Chicago Programs Tutor/Mentor Directory.  

While I no longer host these events the way they were in the beginning, I still promote tutor/mentor programs in these time frames, using email and social media. For instance, since school starts this month, my August newsletter focused on volunteer recruitment.  

A university or leadership team in any city could rebuild this strategy, rebuild the websites and interactive program locator, give it renewed energy and greater visibility, and continue the work the T/MC started in 1993.

This is needed since the problems of poverty and inequality are still with us in 2021.

Once you've had a chance to browse the web site, I hope you'll want to meet to learn more about what I've been doing and ways we might integrate some of this (or all of it) with some of the goals of your university or leadership group. Furthermore, I hope you'll want to discuss how the strategies of the T/MC could increase support for all steams of volunteerism, not just tutoring/mentoring.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you'll forward it to others who might be interested.

Daniel F. Bassill
Cabrini Connections (1993-2011)
Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present)
Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present)

Illinois Commission on Volunteerism
and Community Service  (2002-2008)
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