We're surrounded by news of disasters. forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, Covid19, Afghanistan, floods, political chaos, you name it. Within this tsunami of negative news, how do we keep attention flowing to youth tutor and/or mentor programs throughout Chicago and other cities?
In September 2005 I wrote an article
titled "Disaster Challenges all of Us". In that article I wrote,
"We created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 because we recognized the problem charities have of consistently attracting donors. While a few programs are great at getting funds, not every program is as good, thus there is a poor distribution of good programs in all places where they are needed."
Step 2 of our four-part strategy focused on building public awareness and drawing volunteers and donors directly to various youth tutor and/or mentor programs in the Chicago region.
Getting media attention for youth tutor/mentor programs in a world where the latest negative news can put your story on the back page, or out of the news all-together, is a problem I've dealt with for many years.
At the right is a photo from the 1999 Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign
kick-off press conference, held at the James Thompson Center in Chicago. We had media from every major news station. Yet, our story did not make it into the news because on the same day the Mayor was attending an event hosted by a major corporation. On a different year, it was news about President Bill Clinton that knocked our event out of the electronic news.
If we'd had the Internet then we could have off-set this by creating and sharing our own stories.
I wrote about this in an August 2013 article. I'm sharing part of that below, with updates.
On Wednesday, August 14, 2013 I attended the Why News Matters Summit
in Chicago where a variety of speakers talked about "news literacy" and ways to make news literacy education available to youth and adults in more places.
As I registered for the summit I was congratulated by several people for my "letter to the editor
" which had been posted in the August 12 issue of Crain's Chicago Business
. A couple of people said "I passed this on in my network."
As I listened to the Why News Matters
speakers I made notes to myself about how news literacy, and other forms of learning, might be made available to youth in Chicago neighborhoods via non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. Last week I used this graphic in an article, to illustrate how volunteers from different work backgrounds could help build learning activities in different programs
that would help build youth aspirations and skills for careers not modeled consistently by family or community in high poverty neighborhoods.
When I write about "business teams" my vision is that teams from media, arts, video, banking, engineering, etc. might work as a "virtual corporate office"
, with goals of identifying existing examples where youth already are exposed to different types of learning, such as the WhyNewsMatters program at Erie House, then recruit and support volunteers from their industry who would help embed these types of learning activities in other programs throughout the Chicago region (or in other cities).
I've already created a section of my web library with links to Chicago tutor/mentor programs
, and with links to organizations that include health, STEM or arts
as part of their activities. Existing programs can learn from what other programs are already doing. They can bring these ideas into their own programs if volunteers and business partners will help make that happen.
I hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago
every six months from May 1994 to May 2015. Its goal was to share ideas that work in some programs so that they can be duplicated in other programs, reaching more kids throughout the Chicago region.
Its goal was also to find people who are looking at this from a much larger scale than a single program, or a single youth and volunteer. If you're WalMart, or any other big corporation, your "big question" is how to put profitable stores in thousands of locations. Through the conferences, social media, and constant network building, I'm trying to connect with people who are engaged in this kind of thinking.
How do we make mentor-rich programs available to K-16 youth in all place where they are needed? This can only become a reality if businesses, and business volunteers, help make that happen.
How do we get attention for this message within the ocean of other news?
Anyone reading this can share it on social media, in their own newsletters, or in one-on-one conversations with others. If those people do the same we create a chain reaction that reaches people throughout the world.
I created this graphic more than 10 years ago to visualize how an idea shared by one person, and shared by a few followers, can reach throughout the world.
This Tutor/Mentor blog provides 15 years of templates that others could use to create their own articles, focused on helping youth in different cities, or in different parts of the Chicago region. If others were writing such stories, and linking to each other, and amplifying each other's articles, more would be seeing these.
You can do this, too.
I did this a few days ago, reTweeting a Mentoring New York
post with a link to their blog.
If you're writing a blog share it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Facebook. If I see it, I'll try to amplify it to my own network.
Thanks for reading. All of the issues the media point to are important and need attention. However, kids need constant attention too. Without millions of dollars for advertising we need to be creative and consistent in telling our stories.