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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
How others view the T/MC
By nsbyrer @ 4:38 PM :: 8520 Views :: Article Rating
Understanding the Tutor/Mentor Connection through the eyes of others who have volunteered time and talent since 1994 to help build the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). These are letters written to support a 2002 Award Nomination submitted on behalf of the T/MC.

From Renee Tucker, Associated colleges of Illinois:This letter is in support of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as a candidate for the Youth Development award.

I have been working with the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) since 1994 as a service-delivery collaborator, as well as a planning committee member for the conference the T/MC organizes twice each year. The staff of this organization do tremendous work and tremendous amounts of work on a shoe-string budget and a big heart.

T/MC's Executive Director, Dan Bassill, is a visionary. He sees where support is needed in his community, and in society at large, and not only thinks of ways to address those needs, but puts those thoughts into action.

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference is a prime example. This conference began in Dan?s brain, with the thought that people doing this important work with few resources should get together to share best practices and express needs that another organization may be able to meet. What a simple thought, and yet there were no mechanisms in place to make this happen.

That?s where Dan and his staff at T/MC came in. They created this conference, very much a grassroots effort, at an incredibly low price, almost fully volunteer staffed and run, to occur twice each year. Dan is so committed to the conference being available and affordable to the smallest, most struggling tutor/mentor programs. He takes thousands of dollars from his own program?s budget to make ends meet and keep the cost of attending the conference under $100 for 2 days of workshops plus food and materials!

Other efforts of the T/MC staff include partnering with a mapping company to provide maps of the Chicago area that show needs for tutoring and mentoring programs in relation to high-poverty areas, schools and park districts. Then, these maps are made available to local programs to use in their own fund raising efforts.

T/MC also utilizes media attention for all tutoring and mentoring programs, not just for its own benefit. T/MC sees the attention as an opportunity to bring up issues on behalf of all programs to build their capacities so that all children may get the services necessary to complete school and be productive citizens. This sharing is a unique characteristic of the T/MC as in most situations I encounter, programs are territorial and protective of "secrets" that could lead to improved funding.

I do not know of a more worthwhile program in my city, a city of 3 million people, to receive an award such as yours. I am most pleased to recommend them, and hope that your committee shares with me a sentiment of sincere appreciation.

I am happy to take calls regarding T/MC, and can be reached at 312-263-2391 x25.

Sincerely, Renee Tucker, Program Director, Associated Colleges of Illinois

Renee was working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Chicago in 1994 when she attended the second Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. She has been part of the conference planning team ever since, and has led the planning team on several occasions.-

From Kenneth H. King II, President, New Concepts, Tutor/Mentor Connection

My name is Kenneth King, Founder & President of New Concepts Tutor/Mentor Connection. It is my pleasure to write this letter explaining what Cabrini Connnection Tutor/Mentor Connection has done for our organization.

In 1995 I was a Board Member and Volunteer mentor for a Not-For-Profit Organization. We had twenty volunteer one on one Mentors but no sense of how to run a successful mentoring program. That same year I attended my first Tutor/Mentor Connection Leadership Conference. I attended the following workshops; How to recruit and retain volunteers, Screening and background checks, and mentoring training.

As a result the one on one Program has grown steadily in the number of volunteers and quality of the program. To date, I still attend these conferences regularly and present a workshop on Team Building for Youth.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection provides a tremendous forum for networking, constantly promotes collaborative efforts, and is increasing the number of children in Quality mentoring relationships. Dan Bassill the President of this organization has an open door policy. He is always available and serves as my mentor.

In 1998, after working closely with Dan Bassill and the Cabrini Connection staff New Concepts Tutor/Mentor Connection was incorporated as a Not-for-Profit 501c3 organization. As the founder of this New Concepts I was honored that we are able to use Tutor/Mentor Connection in our name.

Dan Bassill assisted us with creating the following Mission: To provide an organized program that teaches and encourages adult volunteers to give their time, effort, ideas and insights in seeking life-changing solutions for children living in educationally and disadvantaged environments. Today New Concepts serves over 500 children through our oe on one, Team, and e-Mentoring Programs. Without the Tutor/Mentor Connection, New Concepts would not exist and many other Tutor/Mentor organizations would struggle as a result.

Respectfully yours, Kenneth H. King II

From Julie D. Hamilton, Press Ganey Associates, Inc

During my seven-year involvement with the Tutor/Mentor Connection I have had the opportunity to participate in the organization through a variety of different roles, often at the same time. I have been involved as a graduate school intern, full-time employee, tutor/mentor, volunteer and board member.

Throughout the years I have collaborated with numerous individuals and organizations, and have been given the chance to grow as a leader. I have seen firsthand the remarkable outcomes when a group of individuals or organizations come together to create something.

My first occasion to work with the Tutor/Mentor Connection came in the fall of 1995, while I was a Geography graduate student at Northern Illinois University. Dan Bassill, founder of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, needed some assistance in the creation of maps for the program. Dan immediately recognized that geographic information systems (GIS) were more than just location mapping software. He understood the "science" behind the software and all that it is capable of doing.

GIS has many functions that the Tutor/Mentor Connection is taking advantage of. The Tutor/Mentor Connection?s primary use is to allow the user to analyze data, recognize spatial patterns, and display tabular data in a graphical form. Through the collaboration with the university, the Tutor/Mentor Connection, and the company that donated the software, and a group of interns were able to create a set of maps for Dan that allowed him to better explain the mission of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. A meaningful experience was created for all involved.

The internship ended at the end of 1995 however, I was soon hired to work full-time at the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It was in this role that I was able to create the foundation of the maps that we still use today. I have since moved onto a new job however, I have been able to maintain my connection with the organization as a volunteer leading a group of individuals in data collection and mapping. I have done this for the past six years. The maps are constantly updated with our ever-expanding databases and needs. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to use the GIS the way it is intended to be utilized.

We have used the maps to tell many different types of stories. We have used it as a marketing tool to help a company locate tutor/mentor programs in their areas to partner with. Currently, we have a large financial institute that has taken on a leadership role of displaying maps in their branches depicting nearby programs to show their customers that they recognize a need in the community and are working towards bettering the area. Their intent is to turn the customers into volunteers, and assist in helping parents find programs for their children.

We have partnered with other programs to help them locate resources, volunteers and students. One program was relocating, so I created a map that enabled them to see where their students lived. Armed with this information they were able to find a location that served their population the best. If the Tutor/Mentor Connection did not have this vision of how to use GIS this program may not have found the optimal location.

Also, I have produced a series of maps for the public schools to aid them in their efforts to mobilize schools to reach out to the community. The maps were viewed with much enthusiasm and the comprehension of their benefit to the schools was well understood. These are just some of the ways that the Tutor/Mentor Connection has given me the chance to make a difference in the area.

It has been especially rewarding to see the work in action at our national conferences, recruitments fairs and on our website. In addition to providing information on creating and maintaining a successful tutor/mentor program, the website gives potential volunteers and students an opportunity to connect with a program. This is something the Tutor/Mentor Connection has done an outstanding job of promoting and is another example of how much we can do on our limited resources.

Last year I was elected to the Board of Directors, which has furthered my opportunities to make an impact on my community.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection has given me the ability to further the goals of the organization by becoming more involved beyond using GIS. Recently, I enlisted a group of co-workers to help in compiling the surveys that have been collected for the past eight years to produce our directory of programs. Additional information is gathered in the survey, including student and volunteer demographics, program objectives and years in service. The Tutor/Mentor Connection needed to have this information assembled in a clear and concise report. one of my co-workers stepped up and led the project to its completion to produce a report that supports the need for more volunteers and resources for all programs. This is just another instance of how the Tutor/Mentor Connection reaches out to others and allows them to take on a volunteer and leadership role.

Also, through all of my years I have had the chance to work with a large number of students and volunteers, and witness the amazing interactions that occur when these two groups meet weekly. I am always amazed at all that is accomplished and learned through these experiences. The Tutor/Mentor Connection has provided the possibilities for so many lives to be impacted.

Sincerely, Julie D. Hamilton, Platinum Account Consultant

From James Morsch, Partner in the Law Firm of Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd

Having watched the Tutor/Mentor Connection for the better part of a decade forge unprecedented alliances between organizations serving at-risk youth in the Chicago area, I am proud to nominate T/MC for the William T. Grant Foundation for Youth Development Prize. T/MC, under the leadership of Dan Bassil, has truly become the model program in this country?s tutoring and mentoring circles for how to build collaborations in a community where the demand for services far outpaces available resources.

Essential to its success has been T/MC?s willingness to look beyond its own well-being as an organization and its ability to apply business concepts to the running of charitable programs. T/MC is the umbrella organization for all tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. T/MC provides technical assistance to tutoring and mentoring programs serving underprivileged youth, hosts semi-annual conferences where such programs meet and collaborate on best practices, connects volunteers and donors with such programs, and generally operates as the tutor/mentor community?s ombudsman with the press and with different sectors of society.

In this role, T/MC often finds itself directing resources away from its own organization to the larger tutor/mentor community where the impact of those resources can be greater. In 1994, T/MC helped create the first tutor/mentor program in the country officially sanctioned by the legal community, the Chicago Bar Foundation?s Lend-A-Hand Program. This unique collaboration between the legal community and tutor/mentor community has brought scores of new volunteers and thousands of dollars to programs serving youth in the Chicago area. More importantly, the Lend-A-Hand Program has effectively raised the bar on what it means to be a successful tutor/mentor program by evaluating programs in the grant-making process as if they were money-making ventures and rewarding only those which achieve demonstrable results.

T/MC, through its guidance and leadership of the Lend-A-Hand Program, can legitimately claim that it has helped tutor/mentor programs in Chicago come to the consensus that the development of long-term, one-on-one relationships between kids and their mentors, high attendance rates for youths and volunteers alike, and financial accountability and responsibility are core parts of their missions and that serving youth requires not only a heart but a business plan.

I respectfully submit that T/MC?s innovative role and work in this community well deserves the attention and credit associated with an award from the William T. Grant Foundation.

Sincerely, James A. Morsch, Partner, Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd

Mr. Morsch is a member of the Cabrini Connections Advisory Council and a the Chair of the Executive Board of the Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Lend-A-Hand Program, which is sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association and Foundation. The LAH recruits volunteers and raises funds for one-on-one tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago area.

From Stergios Tsai Roussos, Ph.D., M.P.H., Akouo, Inc.

I am writing this letter as a close friend of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in Chicago, and also as a public health researcher of collaborative health partnerships or coalitions for the past seven years.

In 1997, I discovered the T/MC through a youth development coalition I was working with in Kansas City, who suggested I could learn a few things about how to create sustainable community change by seeing how the T/MC works. Since then, the T/MC has been a rich source of lessons and friendship for me. Since 1998, I (as with others around the country and in Chicago) have been volunteering my time twice a year to provide free workshops to tutor/mentor program directors, volunteers, and stakeholders at the semiannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. I have not missed a conference since then.

I could write a book about how the T/MC models, lives and helps others replicate its collaborative process. But, with four pages, I will stick to the questions outlined in the nomination packet.

a. How does the T/MC share power, resources and control?
T/MC?s primary motive, its reason for starting was to create ways to get people who have resources (power, money, time to volunteer) to those who need resources (e.g., inner city tutor/mentor programs), and to create ways for programs to get their message and communicate their need to those who could fill it (a two-way channel).

It is difficult to think of an activity or action that T/MC does that does not have the principle of sharing at its core. T/MC does not really provide the services many know it for; rather it serves as a catalyst that organizes and ignites others to take action on behalf of the broader community of tutor/mentor programs.

T/MC facilitates or brokers power and resources. For example, the semiannual Leadership Conferences that I volunteer in, leverage the skills of professionals like myself from all over the country, they help leaders from the tutor/mentor community organize into a conference committee, and create forum for formal training and informal networking and exchange that I do not see at most professional conferences that I attend. The spirit of networking is so alive at these conferences. Incredibly (and I know this has caused it to pay out of its own pocket for many conference costs) the T/MC has managed to keep the price of the conferences low because it knows that staff and volunteers in inner-city programs cannot afford to pay for the luxury of a training conference. The T/MC does theses 2-day conferences two times every year, since 1994.

Another example is the Lend-a-Hand program that the T/MC helped to start with the Chicago Bar Foundation. Jim Morsch from Lend-a-Hand wrote one of the letters of nomination for the T/MC. Lend-a-Hand offers grants to cover operational costs to tutor/mentor programs who are found to exhibit "best practices" and who demonstrate how they help other programs replicate those best practices. This example demonstrates sharing of power and resources from the top-down (from the Bar Foundation) but also horizontally, as it encourages programs to share one of the most powerful resources they have -- the wisdom for how to keep their doors open and serve inner-city youth after school.

b. How does the T/MC integrate research evidence in its actions and in the evaluation of the collaboration?
The T/MC is renowned in Chicago for its focus on outcomes and finding what really works so it can share it with others. It?s theoretical framework is well outlined on its several websites but most clearly in the Tutor/Mentor Institute section at the It shows, with an analogy of a wheel and spokes, how different sectors can connect in the middle (to find common ground in) to help tutor/mentor programs provide beneficial services to youth after hours.

Here is a list of resource that I found on its website that it cites and serve as background for why T/MC does what it does:

A MATTER OF TIME, Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours.Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Carnegie Corporation of New York, March 1993.

Redefining Child and Family Services: Directions for the Future", by Joan Wynn, Joan Costello, Robert Halpern, and Harold Richman, Dec. 1992.

Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, by P/PV

Powerful Pathways, Framing Options and Opportunities for Vulnerable Youth, A discussion paper of the Youth Transition Funders Group. October 2001

Mapping an Out-of-School Agenda, Task Brief #10, produed by the Forum for Youth Investment Focus on After-School Time for Violence Prevention, From Eric Digest, Sept. 2001

Youth in Community, Youth in Citizenship: Weaving in a Future Tense, A Report on the Weaving Project: Youth, Civic and Community Development, WK Kellogg Foundation, 1999

The Role of Local Intermediary Organizations in the Youth Development Field, Joan R. Wynn, Feb. 2000

The Availability and Use of Community Resources for Young Adults in an Inner-City and a Suburban Community, Littrell and Wynn, The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 1989

I remember when I first met the T/MC I was impressed with how it tracked changes in its conference participation rates and changes in how many programs got volunteers during the annual volunteer drive that it facilitates. T/MC then and now was not evaluating things for accountability reasons, but rather so it can see how it could better serve the tutor/mentor programs that depend on it.

Another letter of recommendation that you received is from Kenney King, who?s program is just one of countless that have started and thrived because T/MC exists. Kenney?s program honored the T/MC for its efforts by also taking the T/MC name as part of its program ("New Concepts Tutor/Mentor Connection").

Since September 1999, T/MC has been pilot testing a methodology that they adopted with my help, to track how their collaborative efforts lead to specific lessons, accomplishments and changes in Chicago that cumulatively strengthen the tutor/mentor community and infrastructure. The T/MC calls this OHATS (for organizational history and accomplishments tracking system). Through OHATS the T/MC has prepared several reports that show its cumulative monthly rates of "community change" (borrowing a definition used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the research Work Group at the University of Kansas that provided the background research on measuring community change). OHATS also documents how others in Chicago and around the country (some even around the world) are reporting of ways they are modeling and replicating T/MC?s methods, services and philosophy of collaboration.

Another method of evaluation, as well as a service, is T/MC?s use of GIS and mapping to show both discrepancies and areas of success with respect to density of tutor/mentor programs (in a given geographic area) versus density of community-level indicators (e.g., high schools on probation), and the density of supports or resources (e.g., businesses or churches who have sources of volunteers). A combination of its data from its prospectively collected data on community change from OHATS with an analysis of how GIS variables for tutor/mentor programs are changing over time will provide some fairly reliable evidence for how a collaborative initiative like the T/MC can influence community-level outcomes related to tutor/mentor programs.

c. How does the T/MC balance an emphasis on risk reduction with positive youth development?
This question is a little more challenging because it presumes that the nominee?s primary client is youth. For the T/MC the primary client is the tutor/mentor or school-to-work program that serves youth. If these programs cannot be kept alive and if more of them cannot grow in the poor areas that most need them, then youth will not likely benefit. At this broader level, the T/MC focuses on positive program development (while still demonstrating the needs and risks of programs going extinct in specific poor neighborhoods).

The GIS maps help to do this by showing tutor/mentor programs where they are in relation to each other, and facilitating peer-to-peer interactions (many program located around the block from each other do not know the other exists). The Lend-a-Hand program in collaboration with the Bar Foundation also highlights positive program development by show-casing programs that are working well AND take the time to share their knowledge with others (a much less competitive approach to grant making).

d. How does the T/MC hold promise for replication? Has it been replicated?
A few months ago, a team of graduate students from the DePaul University school of management selected the T/MC as its case study, and developed an very detailed presentation and report of the different components and elements that make up the T/MC with the intent to show how it can be replicated. This is wonderful (and now is housed on the T/MC website for others to see). But it is not novel; the T/MC has outlines of models and clearly describes how it does what it does through an encyclopedic amount of information on its websites, at its conference, and other publicity events. In reports on the website generated from its OHATS documentation system, one can see examples of people either asking the T/MC for help to model its methods or say how it is being done in other parts of the country.

Best wishes, Stergios Tsai Roussos, Ph.D., M.P.H </FONT>

Note: We hope these letters help you understand the Tutor/Mentor Connection and inspire others to also become involved with the T/MC.

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