Interns and volunteers working for the Tutor/Mentor Connection are asked to review what we do and write articles that share their understanding from their own perspective. This was written by Karina Walker, a 2010-11 NU Public Interest Fellow.
What would happen if every at-risk teen had the support and individualized attention of an adult tutor/mentor?
That is a question we ask ourselves daily. Studies consistently demonstrate that students matched with adult mentors are more likely to stay in school, less likely to use drugs, and more likely to go on to higher-education. In addition, students matched with tutor/mentors gain valuable social skills, increased self-esteem, and improved study habits. Although the benefits of tutor/mentor programs are well-established, thousands of students across the Greater Chicago Area do not yet have access to such opportunities in their communities. Approximately 200,000 students in Chicago live in at-risk neighborhoods and would benefit from matches with a tutor or mentor. Nationwide, an astounding 15 million students need or want tutor/mentor opportunities who are not yet involved in such programs.
Our mission is to provide an organized framework that empowers and encourages adult volunteers to give their time, skills, and support in seeking life-changing solutions for youth who live in educationally disadvantaged environments. This means we connect inner-city youth to adults from various backgrounds who serve as one-on-one tutor/mentors, advocates, and role models to these teens.
The Tutor/Mentor Connection champions tutoring and mentoring throughout the Greater Chicago Area not just in one neighborhood or with one program. We seek to increase the presence of tutor/mentor programs within high-poverty communities on regional and national levels. Our strategy involves the ongoing commitment and support of businesses, political leaders, faith institutions, universities, and individuals.
What does the Tutor/Mentor Connection do?
What are the funding needs of the Tutor/Mentor Connection?
While the technologies and strategies described above are integrated into the T/MC’s current actions, none are fully funded. Currently, the organization depends on borrowed volunteer time to innovate and sustain these concepts.
The T/MC has grown the way most small businesses grow. It started with a vision designed to solve a problem. Since 1993, its leaders have volunteered time and talent using whatever funds could be raised to convert the vision into an action plan that is now attracting attention throughout the world.
In many other states, Mentoring Partnerships exist that do similar work to that of the T/MC, yet their annual budgets range from $300,000 to $1 million. The T/MC has never had more than $225,000 in a single year to impact the third largest city in America.
The T/MC aims to “quicken the pace of its progress” and is seeking grants and social investment of $500,000 per year for three years (totaling $1,500,000). These funds will support project management, information collection and analysis, programming, software and hardware acquisition, and will help the T/MC stretch the application of these technologies in its ongoing commitment to expanding the availability and quality of comprehensive mentoring-to-careers programs in Chicago and in other major cities.
The Tutor/Mentor Connection strives to create opportunities for all kids to flourish through caring relationships with adult role models. By expanding our efforts to connect adults to programs serving inner-city youth, we heighten kids’ opportunities to blossom to their full potential and to move from poverty into higher education, jobs, and successful careers.