The Tutor/Mentor Business
written by Sara Coover Caldwell, 1997

Sara Coover Caldwell is President of Amphion Productions, a California-based production company. Caldwell is a writer, producer, with many awards to her credit.

Sara Caldwell became a volunteer with the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program in 1988. One of her first volunteer projects was to produce a 30-minute documentary of the program, which aired on public TV in February 1990. Caldwell became one of the founding members of Cabrini Connections in 1992, served as a member of its Board of Directors from 1993 to 1997, and now serves as a member of its Advisory Council.

This article was written by Caldwell in 1997 after Cabrini Connections was selected to be one of 50 groups with a teaching example display at the President's Summit for America's Future, with the idea of converting it into a book which could provide heart-warming stories of kids and adults who have had life-changing experiences as a result of participation in Cabrini Connections and other tutor/mentor programs, and as a means of showing how citywide networks of such programs could be created, as the Tutor/Mentor Connections is doing in Chicago.

The article has not been published elsewhere, so we've decided to publish it here, and invite any magazine who would like to reprint it, to do so, as an example of what can be done to help at-risk kids, and the commitment it takes to build and sustain a program like Cabrini Connections.

The Tutor/Mentor Business

He didn't care if the other kids thought he was a nerd, he couldn't see without those glasses. His mother would shake her head in despair every time some bullies knocked them off his face, softly whistling his name with slight condemnation -- "Isaiah!" How many more times could she tape up the cracked frames? He looked at his mother through those nerdy glasses before leaving, then made his way down the fourth story hallway, separated from the chilly autumn air by only a chain-link fence. He hugged the inner wall, passing three pubescent girls skipping rope, their bobbing braids topped with bright plastic baubles, light feet suddenly tangling in the rope. The girls eyed him accusingly, one sneering, You made us mess up, you dumb nappy head! He met a girl like her once, a neighbor whose name he never knew. He remembered seeing her fall from a much higher place, remembered hearing her shrill screams before and after the man took her to the roof. But he was out of the Hornets now. The Cabrini projects were supposed to be safer. He wished he could forget that girl.

I'd like a second grade girl, I said to the harried young woman manning the desk, around which clusters of anxious students and volunteers were checking in. Twenty minutes later, the now calmer young woman at the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program (CGTP) introduced me to a fifth-grade boy.

This is Isaiah. It's his first time here, too.

She told me she would try to pair me with a young girl the following week. Tonight, I could sub for Isaiah. It's not that I particularly wanted to tutor a little girl. Older boys intimidated me. I didn't hang around many kids at the time, despite aspirations to help one from a neighborhood whose dark reputation terrified me.

We were left alone. I babbled incessantly, filling the awkward silence with meaningless words, as we looked for an empty table to sit at in the spacious warehouse hall. The poor boy mumbled polite, almost incoherent replies to my barrage of questions: Where do you go to school? Do you have brothers or sisters? What is your favorite subject? That's all I remember about the first time we met. What I remember about the second time is the way his eyes lit up when I entered the room. It surprised me, and I realized I was stuck with him.

Nine years later, now nearly 2000 miles apart, Isaiah and I are fast friends, staying in touch primarily through the wonders of the internet. He's a sophomore at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, following six years at private and military schools, funded by private grants. The once-shy boy is now taking center stage in college plays. He's studying theater and reaching for the stars.

Although Isaiah and I were paired together by chance, the growth of our relationship, of my greater understanding of his social condition, and of his personal success were not. Instead, they were part of a well-thought out process that began evolving over fifteen years before we had ever met. A process which most volunteers like myself took for granted, not realizing the incredible time, toil, and dedication taking place behind the scenes. In the 1970s, there were fewer 'poverty' neighborhoods than today -- 187 where 20-40% of the residents were poor, compared to almost 250 in the early 1990s. Very impoverished neighborhoods, with over 60% poor, also jumped from 5 to 63 in that time frame. Some believed that this increase was not due to chance but was a form of economic and racial apartheid resulting from conscious governmental policy.

The early '70s also saw a variety of church- and business-based tutor and mentor programs spring up throughout the city, though no one really knew how many were operating, where they were, or how many children were being served. While a number of programs had originated, there were no measurable results by which to gauge the success of the different models. And the programs had little, if any, communication between each other. This isolation between tutor/mentor programs would exist until 1993, when Cabrini Connections would become the first citywide program in Chicago to connect programs together for mutual benefit.

Cabrini Connections was the brainchild of Daniel F. Bassill, its president and CEO, who brought with him twenty years of experience, plus a few lessons from the school of hard knocks.

In 1972, the gangly, mild-mannered Bassill joined the Montgomery Ward retail advertising group. The following year, a co-worker encouraged him to volunteer with the CGTP, one of fifteen such programs initiated by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) in the mid 1960s after violent riots rocked Chicago and destroyed many of its neighborhoods. Some programs were sponsored by churches, others by corporations such as Sears, Quaker Oats Company and Borg- Warner. CGTP was loosely sponsored by Montgomery Ward, with a team of employees providing the leadership on a volunteer basis.

Although initially more interested in the attractive female co-worker who had encouraged him to join the program, Bassill became very committed to the young man he was assigned to work with, an energetic fourth grader named Leopoleon (Leo) Hall, who at age 10 was nearly 5'7" tall and weighed more than 200 lbs. As Isaiah and I would do so many years later, Bassill and Leo met once a week for three years. Over the next twenty-five years, Bassill would attended every one of Leo's graduations, including his 1992 graduation from Memphis State University. At the end of his second year, Bassil was recruited to become the CGTP leader after the incumbent leader announced he was moving to Europe. He annointed Bassill 'since he talks so much.'

Although Bassill was initially a reluctant leader, he immediately took steps to improve the program and ensure its long-term growth. Most significantly, he persuaded Montgomery Ward to provide a small office for volunteer leaders to meet and centralize files. In reviewing the growing history, maintained in these files, Bassill was able to understand how afterschool programs really could contribute to a child's healthy development. Using this research, Bassill asked representatives of the CHA, public schools, and Montgomery Ward for their support and commitment to sustain the growth of the program.

During this time, Bassill was transformed into a Management By Objectives (MBO) disciple when Montgomery Ward flirted with this latest management fad. For Bassill, it became more than a fad. He saw the guiding principles as an effective way to manage a business, be it advertising or tutoring. Bassill adopted many MBO philosophies and from that day to this, has a poster tacked next to his desk that reads, "Exactly what are we doing? How can we do it better today than we did yesterday? How can we turn out a product with less time, expense, and effort?" With limited bucks, Bassill was going for the bang.

His efforts were boosted when local consultants from the National Right-to Read program joined the CGTP in 1978. Together, they introduced the concept of tutoring as a business, with a quality service to deliver. Their ideas were (and still are) unusual for many non-profits -- that leaders and volunteers should commit to the program as they did to their jobs, using business strategies such as developing organizational frameworks, a customer-focused attitude, and year-to-year business plans projecting short term and long term goals.

With the help of the Right-to-Read group, Bassill introduced a variety of learning activities, training programs, and reading rooms. Local schools began supplying student information for tutors to use, and a part-time secretary was hired to help track attendance.

As part of a new strategy, Bassill wanted to improve the process of building the volunteer management team and educating new volunteers on the theory and practice of running a tutoring program. Volunteer leaders were burning out, dwindling to only three or four by the end of the year. Borrowing from his MBO experiences, Bassill redesigned the program into a broad-based volunteer management structure involving ten to twenty volunteers in leadership positions to run the growing program.

Members of this executive committee organized volunteer recruiting, volunteer training, student recruiting, a full schedule of parties and field trips, and various writing and arts programs that by now were standard experiences during the 30-week school year.

By 1990, 300 volunteers and as many students were attending the CGTP, with improved retention and participation rates. Nearly 85 percent of the children attended every week's session, with nearly 1/3 having perfect attendance by 1990.

The growth and improvement indicators were paralleled by a growth in Bassill's networking base of beyond Cabrini-Green and even Chicago. His outreach led to weekly brown bag networking lunches. Not by any grand design, but by self interest and survival did a growing network of Cabrini Green based tutor/mentor program leaders develop. While the headlines in Chicago and around the country continued a rotation of violence, poor school performance, racism and poverty, few leaders in Chicago or from Washington launched any sustained effort to reach program leaders like these brown baggers to say "how can we help you succeed?"

Unknowingly, the networking lunches and meetings that Bassill initiated began to fill the void. With partnership from the Fourth Presbyterian Church Tutoring Program, the LaSalle Street CYCLE tutoring program, and a few others, Bassill built a self-help network of tutor/mentor program leaders, and a template for the current Cabrini Connections outreach efforts.

Over the years, this networking and the increasing quality and visibility of the CGTP resulted in a variety of awards, media stories and a growing national awareness. In 1988, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's Center for Early Adolescence cited the CGTP as a best practice model.

By its 25th anniversary, the program had provided more than 100,000 hours of one-to-one tutoring to over 2,900 children, with an ever-growing assortment of enrichment activities such as motivational speakers, writing and reading contests, a reading library, a computer orientation lab, field trips, and special events. The program also began a mentoring programs for older kids, something sorely lacking in the Cabrini Green area. The CGTP's Junior Assistant Program provided special learning and mentoring programs designed specifically for them.

Perhaps the most important measures of success were not in fact measurable, including the many lifelong bonds which were formed. It was a place where two young friends, Toi and Kaealya, would first meet each other, an event they would remember years later.

Kaealya: Don't know where I met you, girl... Little tutoring, yeah.

Toi: That program gave us a lot of support, a lot of TLC. I get support at home from my Mom.

Kaealya: Not me, I live on my own. I've got problems at home. Not a good stable place to be. I don't want to be like my mother.

Toi: My Dad always say, you should listen to me. My Mom say it ain't for him to say what I should do, what I shouldn't do. He don't live here. I get more money than my daddy do! He make almost a thousand a week, but after child support, he get like twelve dollars! The lady he lives with is slow, she let him live there for free. Me, I want to be successful, to get away from here.

Kaealya: I don't like the violence here. I was never scared until 8th grade. Then there was crossfire when we'd get out of school. Don't make sense for people to be fighting. If you got rid of gangs and mothers who abuse drugs, who don't take care of their kids, it would be okay. Six, seven year-olds in the play ground out at midnight -- make sense. Makes me mad. But who can I beat up and take it out on? 

From Non-Profit to Non-Governance

The 1980s brought changes to the program's host, Montgomery Ward, including management turnovers aimed at making the company more profitable in an ever- more-competitive retail marketplace. For Bassill, these changes resulted in a new team of ad executives coming to the company every few years, each time "cleaning house" by shrinking his staff and increasing his work-load. Bassill weathered the changes until February of 1990, when he was told, "Find a new position in the company, or leave it. You have to be out of your office today."

For several years, Bassill had been considering a change that would allow him to devote more time to tutoring, though he had not expected it to be a one-day transition. Given the choice of staying with the company at no loss of pay (Bassill was earning $60,000 annually with stock options and a sizable annual bonus), or the choice of going to an out-placement with six months of severance, Bassill chose the latter, feeling that it would be nearly impossible to continue his time-consuming leadership of the tutoring program while learning a new job and earning new management trust. At the same time, he saw this as the opportunity he'd been waiting for. With the support of his newly pregnant wife, he left Montgomery Ward and entered a job search process which many, many other white collar workers in America were finding to be all too common.

A break came when Chuck Curry of The Quaker Oats Company, which had for years provided busing for volunteers and milk and cookies for the kids, asked Bassill if he would represent Quaker Oats as a 6-month Loaned Executive for the United Way/Crusade of Mercy's annual fund-raising campaign. Bassill told Curry of his interest to convert the tutoring program to a non-profit and expand it to up to 12th grade students, while building Montgomery Ward-style tutoring programs in other neighborhoods where such programs were needed. Quaker Oats agreed to provide funds for this from their foundation, understanding that while Bassill would receive a salary from Quaker Oats for as a Loaned Executive, he would also draw a salary from the tutoring program as its new executive director.

With the approval of the CGTP's executive committee, Bassill began the process of building a non-profit structure. Working with lawyers from Montgomery Ward to incorporate the new non-profit and develop an organizational structure, Bassill recruited Pat Wilkerson, a long-time volunteer leader, to serve as the first president of the new board of directors. Unknowingly, the board recruitment effort was the beginning of the end of Bassill's tenure with the tutoring program. Bassill admits he made a 'fatal flaw' in the board development process.

"We built a board of directors on top of a 25 year-old organization which had an entrepreneurial pyramid structure with myself, acting as CEO, at the top," explains Bassill. "Because we already had the fewest people at the top doing the most work, I didn't want to tax those volunteers even further. Not understanding the negatives and conflict in non-profit structures, I assumed that we were creating a structure that would allow me to continue to build and improve what by general consensus was a pretty good program. I ended up creating a board without a central vision of what we were doing or how we would operate. I realized this mistake too late. While we needed everyone to focus on helping us get to where we were going, we ended up spending board meetings just fighting about how we would interact at the board level."

Board president Patrick Wilkerson, Manager of Advanced Engineering and Systems at Fel-Pro in Skokie, agrees that a central vision was lacking:

"Dan looked at the board as a fundraising group, with the rationale that the more people he got, the more funding the program would get. This backfired on him. Everyone Dan selected for the board was a leader in the community -- all strong-willed individuals with their own ideas of what tutoring meant. They brought those ideas to the board, which conflicted with the ideas of the initial creator. Without the common vision at the onset, Dan and the board pulled in very different directions."

The board's goal was to create the best possible program for 1st to 6th graders based on the charter and mission, which Wilkerson now describes as too narrow and limiting in scope. When Bassill wanted to add new programs, the board felt he was challenging the charter and turned down his ideas, wanting Dan to stick to running and improving the program as it existed, not expand it. Bassill believed that most members had not carefully read or understood the charter, which clearly talked about a vision to expand their support into other neighborhoods.

The charter did in fact state a goal to 'Expand and improve the quality of the Tutoring Program and use it as a resource for other volunteer programs' and 'communicate our knowledge to other programs through workshops, leadership conferences and newsletters.'

"Had the board just committed to implementing these goals," reflects Bassill, "we would have had a happy life. While we fought somewhat over the direction of the program, we were most divided by the style of management. Me as CEO versus the board as CEO."

"Couple the problems with the logistics of running the business -- namely staffing, budgeting, and Dan's compensation and incentives -- and you ended up with a pretty heated battlefield," says Wilkerson.

According to Bassill, the majority of the board had no understanding of the program's complex structure which had been developed over the previous 15 years, the interaction of ideas and volunteers intended to motivate a student and an adult to attend on a regular basis or to work toward greater academic performance. They had no value for the program's history, and little commitment to do the homework needed to catch up. At the same time, Bassill and Wilkerson had no previous experience with the development, leadership, or politics of non-profit boards.

"In hindsight, I walked into a trap of my own making," reflects Bassill. In our rush to create a non-profit so the program would continue running smoothly, we created a structure where conflict was inevitable.

Initially, a big bone of contention was the board's desire to reduce the number of activities to just reading, writing, and math, eliminating others that had taken years to build, or which were needed to raise dollars and additional volunteers for core activities. The board began to hold private meetings excluding Bassill. A few of the more vocal members challenged Bassill's integrity and honesty, accusing him of being self-serving, racist, insensitive to children, and using his position for personal gain.

"I was deeply hurt," says Bassill. "Whereas I felt my fifteen years of volunteer service would make my motives beyond challenge, I was betrayed by those in whom I had placed my confidence and trust."

Bassill's battles with the board were compounded by a busy work schedule, the challenges of being a new father, and supporting a mother who was battling cancer.

"I had to sacrifice most other interests in my life," he recalls. "The two years struggling to succeed with the CGTP were an ultimate test. Especially when my mom died in June, 1992."

Bassill's contract renewal became another gripe. The board asked him to accept a reduced salary of $30,000 with the condition he also give up his summer work at United Way. Attorney Michael Moshier, lawyer for the board, provided a brief stating that Bassill's current salary was already too little compared to other similar non-profit executive salaries. By a narrow margin, the board conceded to Bassill's demands to retain his current $36,000 salary and keep his part-time United Way position.

But soon the meetings became so combative, that Bassill wrote a letter of resignation. A part-time CGTP employee talked him out of the idea, instead suggesting a meeting of volunteers and directors to clear the air. The board agreed to the meeting but refused to set a date.

Finally, in late September of 1992, just one week after the launch of the 1992 93 tutoring year, and with over 400 students and 500 volunteers just getting to know each other, three board members marched into Bassill's office and told him he had three hours to pack his belongings and leave the building. They gave no reason for dismissal, other than it was the right of the board to terminate the contract.

"Ultimately it came down to the decision of whether we needed Dan if he wasn't going to play ball," says Wilkerson. "With a very close vote, something like seven to four, the board voted that Dan be fired."

During the following weeks, Bassill held a number of meetings with supporters to determine if it would be appropriate to try to regain control of the program. Volunteers called a general meeting with the board, and many wrote to log their complaints. Several long-time volunteers also resigned in protest, including Wilkerson.

Ultimately, Bassill decided it was time to close the door on the CGPT, hoping to open another:

"While I was driving home on the Kennedy Expressway one afternoon, it came to me that I could use my 17 years of experience to help other people run or establish quality tutoring programs. I didn't actually need to be in an existing program to do this, let alone one with 800 participants and inadequate staffing, not to mention a combative board of directors. Once I understood that, the weight was lifted. It became a matter of starting over, but this time with some hindsight. My vision was to form a new organization to serve a need -- tutor/mentoring for 7th through 12th grade students in Cabrini Green -- and to build a leadership group that could help other programs serving any grade level throughout the city develop."

"Dan did a great job of recovering from the experience," says Wilkerson. "Just to have the guts to start over. He's chosen helping children as his life's work, with incredible up-hill battles along the way. Why, I don't know. It seems like total craziness to me."

Dantrell's Legacy

On October 13, 1992, a mother walked her 7 year old son to school for the last time. When a sniper's bullet killed Dantrell Davis outside Jenner School in Cabrini Green, a media blitz hit the city, then fanned out through the nation. Although twenty-six other children under thirteen had already been slain that year, Dantrell became a symbol of innocence against everything evil his inner-city environment represented.

Newspapers honed in zealously, highlighting every detail of Dantrell's life and death. We were vicarious witnesses at his funeral as he lay in a white suite and powder-blue bow tie, while his mother threw herself over his coffin in anguish. We heard dozens of kids in his neighborhood express their loss, fears, and anxieties. And we learned more about others who had preceded Dantrell without note. We were also reminded that death is not an abstract concept for many of these children, but a grim and all-too common reality.

The front page headline of the Chicago Sun Times read, "7 Year-Old's Death at Cabrini Requires Action," with an editorial that concluded with, "This isn't something you can let the other guy be indignant over. It's past time for you to take responsibility for solving the problems of Chicago. Please don't let this be someone else's problem. It's yours. It's mine. Let's retake our city and begin working to solve the horribly destructive problems of poverty, helplessness and racism."

Dantrell's death helped bring some measure of peace to Cabrini Green, at least for a while. Guns were seized, metal detectors installed, and sweeps instigated throughout the neighborhood. Spending on security measures increased significantly, and area gangs agreed to a truce. Between 1992 and 1993, violent crime in the area decreased from 405 to 271 incidents. Unfortunately, as of this writing, gang shootings were becoming commonplace again, forcing schools to periodically shut down during gang crossfires.

Indirectly, Dantrell's death became a catalyst in the creation of Cabrini Connections. Though he had not attended the Montgomery Ward tutoring program, many kids in his building and at his school had. And while the media launched a "do something" crusade, with exhortations for everyone to get involved, Bassill knew this type of hype yielded little result. Although the media and public figures said more role models, safe places for kids, and programs to compete against gangs were needed, the city knew next to nothing about the majority of programs already operating. Rather than reaching out to help these existing programs stay in business, improve, and expand, they touted new ideas with no histories or proven track records.

As part of Cabrini Connections, Bassill wanted to implement a research and marketing plan that would locate every existing tutor/mentor program in Chicago and pool resources between them. The plan would also include the development of programs in areas where few existed. He rationalized that without quality programs in every neighborhood, city leaders had limited ability to effectively distribute hope, motivation, and opportunity to every child in every neighborhood of the city, as they were proposing.

The Northwestern Alliance

Bassill and a volunteer core of six ardent supporters held their first meetings at the Northwestern Train Station in late October, 1992. Dubbing themselves the Northwestern Alliance, they created a vision for Cabrini Connections aimed at helping a growing number of CGTP 2nd through 6th grade alumni move through high school and into work, while providing volunteer training throughout the city. They also hoped to help other programs grow and expand.

More and more research was pointing to the importance of mentoring as an effective way to support children's healthy development. New York's Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development issued a widely cited report on the challenges facing 20 million adolescents in America. According to their research, young people who were left on their own or with peers after school were significantly more likely to become party to a number of social ills-- substance abuse, sexual activity leading to unwanted pregnancy and disease, crime, and violence -- than those who were engaged in constructive ideas. The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago affirmed these findings and expanded on the need for infrastructures to connect isolated youth programs throughout the city. A report by Mayor Richard Daley's Youth Development Task Force, Chicago For Youth: Blueprints for Change, concluded that many support systems -- including families, community centers, and schools -- had disappeared or been significantly weakened, despite evidence to support their need from a social and economic standpoint.

All this research only confirmed the need for a program like Cabrini Connections. Unlike other organizations, Cabrini Connections planned to integrate three separate endeavors -- tutoring, mentoring, and school to work activities -- into a single, long-term commitment. Their slogan was pioneered by WGN personality Merri Dee: "If it is to be, it is up to me."

"These kids were unlucky enough to be born into poverty, in an environment where they often don't have a full range of family and community members to model," says Bassill. "There aren't the expectations, from the day the child is born, to go beyond high school and enter a career where they'll earn a living for the rest of their lives. Instead, many of these kids have negative role models who don't work, who live day to day or are addicted to drugs, or that encourage criminal behavior. There's also tremendous peer pressure not to be different. Without a structure that surrounds these kids with positive expectations and reinforcements, from pre school until work, it's extremely difficult for young people to change their attitudes or expectations for themselves."

Cabrini Connections

The goals and bylaws set in the initial meetings, amid the din and chaos of the crowded Northwestern Station, are still the core of Cabrini Connections today. In writing the bylaws, the new board built a governance structure based on Kenneth Dayton's essay, 'Governance is Governance'. They even went so far as to write Dayton, former CEO of Dayton Hudson Corporation, to determine the 1993 relevance of his 1986 essay. Within two weeks he responded that "more people are using it now than when it was written".

With a common operating vision, the new board development process was intended to slowly recruit directors who understood the program and had proven their ability to commit time to its governance. Two of the original volunteers joined Bassill in forming the first board, choosing the name Cabrini Connections to signify their combined history in Cabrini-Green and linkages with other tutor/mentor programs throughout the city. Although they had proven their commitment, the first two members lacked board experience. One of those was Donna Giampietro, a controller at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

"I remember we had our first meeting in a conference room here at Illinois Masonic," recalls Giampietro. "There were just three of use, plus the other board member's baby since she couldn't get a sitter. We had no idea how to even conduct a board meeting and we were laughing, not knowing what to say. I felt like I was playing at being a board member, not being the real thing. But Dan kept making us conduct the meetings professionally, and as new members came on, it started to feel natural. Now, five years later, I feel like I'm really part of a group of leaders that are very focused on what their tasks are."

To avoid the kind of board bickering that had predominated the CGTP's meetings during Bassill's tenure, the new chairman of the board, Ray Dowdle, a national account manager with the Schwartz Paper Company in Morton Grove, also headed up a 'Glue' committee to keep board members, staff, and volunteers united and committed. 'Glue' activities included regular get-togethers, such as fundraising events and barbecues in Dowdle's back yard.

"I try to be aware of the teamwork aspect of the board and make sure that everyone feels comfortable about their contribution," says Dowdle. "People sometimes think they're sliding on their commitments if they can't devote a lot of time, but everything they do, large or small, adds up to a lot. So I make sure they feel good about whatever they are doing and encourage them to reach greater hights. And I look at the interaction between board members and staff to make sure they understand each other's role. Board members need to appreciate what the staff are doing since they are the lifeblood of program."

"Ray really helps keep board members together," says Giampietro. "I think you get more accomplished when you feel comfortable in a group. In five years, I haven't seen a single conflict during board meetings."

From the beginning, the organization was structured with two key components or 'services': The Kids' Connection and The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). These programs were created based on experience, areas of need, and knowledge-based research.

The Kids' Connection

With little encouragement at home, 9-year old Jimmy lacked direction. He'd seen some nasty stuff in the hood, had worries about his own future. And inside, he yearned to be part of something special, to find his place. He was lured to the tutoring program by stories of Christmas parties and Halloween treats. There, he met Faye -- bright, energetic, and savvy. Faye hit him over the head with the importance of education. She told him what he needed to do to get ahead, that good jobs didn't just happen. The lessons echoed in his throbbing temples, slowly penetrating through the years. Somehow, ten years later, it all started making sense. Things clicked. At 19, secret yearnings were realized when Jimmy was hired by Cabrini Connections to work for the same people who had once tutored him. He was part of something important. He'd found his place.

The Kids' Connection was created to serve 7th-12 graders, with the ultimate goal of getting students through college and/or into careers. Program founders drew heavily on their combined 40-plus years of CGTP experience to set this component up.

In January, 1993 the new organization launched its first student program, meeting twice a month with fifteen teens at Wells high school for lunch mentoring sessions. In February, they began a Saturday morning mentoring/improvisation session at St. Matthew's Church on Orleans Street, on the east fringe of Cabrini Green, meeting with five students in the day room of the church. One of the first students to join was Anita Gunartt, who would later become editor of the Cabrini Connections' student magazine, Wuz Up?

"The plays... when I was younger, I had no problem doing them," says Anita. "I'm too shy now, but it was fun. It's made me more mature, more responsible. Cabrini Connections explains itself -- it connects you with people that will take you higher. Not to the highest place... the only one who can do that is the Lord."

With an operating budget of zero dollars, Cabrini Connections incorporated that same month, with Bassill picking up the legal fees himself.

"In some ways, I could not have done this if it were not for my mom," he says. "She left me a small inheritance which I could live off of for about a year. It was money I didn't expect and didn'Őt earn, so I felt I could justify using it as income while starting Cabrini Connections."

In April, Bassill reopened conversations with Montgomery Ward executives, saying "They fired me from the CGTP, not you."

He proposed that while the CGTP should continue to support more than 400 kids in their 2nd through 6th grade program, Cabrini Connections could take them from 7th grade through college and work. It was what the executives who supported the first tutoring program had wanted all along. They not only offered funds, but an entire floor in the Montgomery Ward Tower on Chicago Avenue.

"This was a real turning point," says Giampietro. "It felt like we'd gone from a tutoring program on wheels to a legitimate business."

By August, Cabrini Connections moved into the 20,000 square foot of office space with an exotic four-sided view of the Chicago loop, including the Cabrini Green neighborhood. Montgomery Ward also set up fifty desks and chairs, library shelves, and telephones. Bassill supplied his own personal Macintosh computers, stocked his desk drawers, and opened shop.

"The Kids' Connection was an extension of everything we ever learned about building a tutor/mentor program for 2nd through 6th grade kids, and what we had started to build with the 7th through 10th grade Junior Assistant program at CGTP," says Bassill. "In fact, many of our founders and first volunteers came from the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, and some continue to this day to volunteer with both programs."

Gena Schoen, a long-time volunteer and former Montgomery Ward employee, was brought on staff to help manage The Kids' Connection.

"Each year, it's taken more effort to run the kids' programs," says Schoen. "And it's been full of frustrations and challenges. We've had to firm up discipline and now conduct an initial interview with each prospective student to try to get kids committed to the program and to make sure they understand what our expectations of them are. We also want our volunteers to be committed so that they'll keep coming back. So far, it's worked really well. We've even stopped many of our recruiting efforts and get most of our volunteers through word of mouth."

Activities were designed around a Career Success Steps action plan, the Cabrini Connections blue print for bringing a child from 7th grade through high school and into college and/or a career. The steps are a succession of accomplishments and activities that start with getting students and volunteers to attend consistently, then add additional experiences, training, and support to motivate students to use education as the path to a career.

The first two steps focused on building regular adult and student participation in one-on-one partnerships.

"This is an after-school program," explains Schoen. "We constantly have to provide activities, organization, and reinforcements which keep both the adults and students attending regularly, even in the winter when it's so cold and harsh outside. Our goal is to promote education through our mentors, who can demonstrate the relationship between learning and opportunity in every weekly session."

"As this takes hold students become more and more motivated to learn, which is the key to real school reform in most inner city neighborhoods," suggests Bassill. "It can't happen with a one-stop visit by some celebrity, like a famous basketball player. It's a day to day responsibility which must be reinforced over and over and over. That's something mentors can do, as long as they stick with it."

The next steps involved on-going experience and enrichment activities to get kids motivated to learn and pursue their dreams, with mentors constantly reinforcing an "I did it. You can too" attitude. This was accomplished through continuous career counseling, field trips to businesses and universities, motivational speakers, and special programs that exposed students to new experiences, and taught them key skills. Most of the activities involved creative partnerships with businesses and other non-profit organizations. Pen Pal Mentoring, for example, was a letter-writing project between Cabrini Connections students and ChildrenŐs Memorial Hospital staff, which began in 1995. Through the letter-writing mentors, students became intimately familiar with careers they may have never otherwise considered, while learning important work ethics and professionalism. As the hospital team developed the letter-writing project, they later expanded it to an annual Career Day at the hospital.

"I liked hearing what a physical therapist said," says Kaealya Coleman, a 12th grader who now aspires to be one herself. "I heard lawyers and doctors, but the sight of blood makes me nauseous. Being a PT, I wouldn't have to cut people up. I'm gonna hang in there, because I have people here to help. I'm a B student, a peer tutor, academic decathlon, saxophone player... Very active."

As the program developed, a wide range of activities were added. In the summers of 1996 and 1997, four students had an opportunity to travel to Aspen, Colorado to participate in the Grassroots Aspen Experiences with city kids from around the country. Nine others took part in a video workshop, where they learned to produce their own projects.

The volunteers leading the video workshops were Gloria Hall-Brewster, a producer with the Jenny Jones show, and Carrie Clifford, now with MTV in Santa Monica. They met with students one evening a week, with dinners donated from Chicago-area restaurants.

"For the first video project, we gave students cameras and asked them to conduct a walking-talking tour of Cabrini Connections and describe their neighborhood," says Clifford. "A freelance editor cut it for us right away, so the kids were able to get immediate gratification, seeing their work and themselves on a television screen. They loved it. Their faces expressed their excitement. From there, the students broke into several small teams to put their own projects together."

The workshops were topped off with a March 1997 Cabrini Connections Film Festival where the final projects where showcased, and included an interview with radio personality Jimmy Jam, another with a young gang member, and a trip to a fire station.

"Jenny Jones donated a limo for the kids to arrive in," says Clifford, "so they came to the festival in style. Over 100 people showed up, including CLTV and WGN reporters. The students had an aura about them all night, they were so proud about the pieces they had produced."

Other students participated in writing workshops where they developed and published books of poetry and their own magazine, WUZ UP. In addition, dozens of men and women from professions such as medicine, sports, engineering and photo journalism came to weekly tutor/mentor sessions to share the secrets of their careers and to reinforce the message, "I did it, you can to".

As students graduated from 7th and 8th grade and moved into high school, they took a new step -- preparing for college and the workplace. The Success Steps field trips included visits to Illinois Wesleyan, Illinois State, Notre Dame and a variety of Chicago universities.

At the same time, program leaders recognized that by 10th grade, students were looking for jobs, so they worked with volunteers to prepare students with interviewing, job responsibilities, and team skills. Volunteers, like Cheryl Johnson of American Express, provided training and made direct links to their companies for hands-on work experience.

"I'm a trainer by trade," says Johnson, now a Cabrini Connections board member. "I've spoken to the students on career involvement and what it takes to get ahead. I also work closely with American Express" summer intern program and make sure some Cabrini students get to participate for some real life training on the job."

Career counselling became an on-going process in the Kids' Connection. Weekly interactions with volunteers demonstrated a range of careers and opportunities that students might never have been exposed to otherwise.

Furthermore, every Kids' Connection volunteer could help expand students' network base of adults who were committed to helping them, not just while they were going through high school or college, but throughout life.

The final two Success Steps involved mentoring and job support as students left high school and moved into their careers.

"The Kids' Connection is committed to providing unlimited years of support, mentoring, coaching and job-connections until a student is secure in a career," says Bassill. "The concluding step then, starts the cycle over for a 7th grade child, with the hope that our graduates will become life-long mentors and role models for the younger children."

This cycle has already started.

"Tutoring was that place to go and keep me off the street and have fun," says 20-year-old Jimmy Biggs, a Cabrini Connections graduate and current part-time employee. "But tutoring now is the place to give back. (As an employee) I now help kids from my community as a mentor, while still being mentored by some of the same people who were there for me when I was younger."

One of Jimmy's earlier mentors had been Schoen, now a co-worker. For Schoen, the close relationships she established with many of the students also had a price.

”The biggest challenge was not getting too involved with the kids," says Schoen, "but you can't help it with the ones who come around more often. I ended up devoting a lot of time to one student, driving a him to his probation officer and helping him deal with juvenile crime issues. It was a big emotional and physical drain. Another time we had a kid tell her volunteer that she was being abused. We were required by law to report it, and it came back substantiated. There are nights I go home and cry because even though you hear some horrible stories and want to yank those kids out of their homes, you have to step back."

An evaluation process was initiated early on to monitor success. As part of Cabrini Connections' quality improvement efforts, data on student and volunteer participation was charted weekly, with bar graphs prepared for year- to-year comparisons. While participation and student advancement were the first measures of success, student grades were also collected and used in goal setting with volunteers. Grades were entered into a bar graph tracking system intended to build a year-to-year trend line.

"We're looking to develop a computer tracking system, by grade and by grade average, that can tell us when a student's performance moves up, or down," says Bassill. "If we can catch a change early and reward the good or determine the cause of the bad, we can spur on good performance, and maybe prevent bad performance from becoming a habit. This technology doesn't exist so we're still keeping trend lines on paper-based charts until we can develop something ourselves."

In the last four years, the program has learned to combine mentoring, tutoring, school-to-work and a strong personal commitment in a long-term process. It has had to develop new terms to describe its process because the old terms, "tutoring, mentoring, school-to-work", were too narrow to define the broad range of support that Kids' Connection offered. Two years ago, the program coined the phrase 'tutor/mentor' to capture the combined impact of an adult volunteer who motivates on an ongoing basis before a student might become interested in the learning side.

They also created a name modeled after a business term to define the process - Total Quality Mentoring (TQM) -- signaling their commitment to provide a continuously improving range of supports designed to move a child from school to work.

Research developed since Cabrini Connections was formed supported the TQM concept. The Public/Private Ventures study of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs, proved that well-conducted mentoring programs, widely available and at relatively modest cost, could significantly delay the onset of drug and alcohol usage among youngsters, and boost school retention and performance. Quantum Opportunities Project reviews suggested that a program that sticks tenaciously with youngsters from welfare families through the high school years could have strong, positive effects on their graduation and college attendance rates.

As of June 1997, nearly 100 teens were enrolled in the Kids' Connection, with a growing number attending more than 80% of the year-round sessions. Today, six graduates are in college and two have jobs, one with American Express and one with Cabrini Connections.

For Giampietro, there' a simple explanation for the volunteer commitment that was necessary for this type of success.

"It's a beautiful thing to be involved with. I don't understand why more people don't do it."

The Tutor/Mentor Connection

Cabrini Connections' second key component was the Tutor Mentor Connection, or the T/MC, launched in January of 1994. Borrowing from the research of the Carnegie Council and the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, the T/MC was developed to provide the infrastructure any city needed to link tutor/mentor programs together, and to help neighborhoods in need have enough programs to serve every child.

Marc Freedman, author of  The Kindness of Strangers (considered the definitive book on mentoring) stated that mentoring programs needed sound infrastructures to be successful.

"In most cities, there's really a sort of vacuum in technical assistance and support for mentoring," wrote Freedman. "Especially if there's going to be a big push for new mentors after the Presidents' Summit, we need more people paying attention to how to run good mentoring programs, based on what we know from the research."

Freedman listed a number of ways mentoring programs were falling short of their potential:

  • Missing infrastructure, poor program models, missing follow-up
  • Emphasis on marketing and recruitment instead of program support
  • Poor or no coordination
  • Conducted in isolation
  • Few dollars for operational expenses; few programs with resources to serve
  • mentors as well as mentees
  • Missing knowledge regarding effective practices
  • Little appreciation of how hard it is to put mentoring into action

The T/MC hoped to provide this infrastructure by using knowledge smartly to gain an advantage. That meant researching where other city programs were and what they were already doing. This would allow T/MC to help others build quality programs, while providing best practices models to compare themselves and others with. They also looked toward business models as best practices, borrowing quality improvement principles and conducting their own research and development. T/MC leaders also had a keen understanding of the power of advertising, public relations, and technology. They knew that good ideas were only useful if they could be made easily available to leaders of tutor/mentor programs on an on- going basis.

In 1993, the T/MC developed research and communications components designed to help others build total quality programs in neighborhoods throughout the city. For this effort, Bassill recruited several volunteers, the public relations firm Public Communications, Inc. (PCI), an associate professor of economics at Illinois Wesleyan University, and the Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC.)

"We had to design the T/MC in a vacuum," says Bassill. "We couldn't find another non-profit to model that did what we were trying to do in the entire country, let alone Chicago."

The group met throughout 1993 and launched a survey in January of 1994. The survey was mailed to five-hundred non-profit organizations around Chicago, asking for help in identifying tutor/mentor programs and inquiring about interest in connecting through conferences or workshops. Nearly 120 surveys came back. Of those, 55% said they had little or no contact with peers; 75% said they would like to have more contact; And 90% said they would come to a conference if little or no money were required.

Using address information gathered about other programs, the T/MC group used MCIC's Geographic Information System technology to create maps that showed the location of the programs, with special overlays to illustrate neighborhood poverty, schools on probation, and even potential sources of volunteers and revenue.

"This was one of the most important developments of the T/MC," says Bassill. "While a directory like the United Way Blue Book lists lots of service organizations, it doesn't really show the distribution of these programs or how well an area is covered with service providers. It doesn't help draw partners to programs. A map is a visual directory. It immediately communicates a pattern of distribution, showing which areas have higher needs. It lets us focus on the needs of the entire city, not just the most visible neighborhoods."

While the first maps were produced by MCIC, the T/MC was able to bring the map building capacity to its own offices and now provides neighborhood map reports to fellow tutor/mentor programs to help them connect with each other and locate potential business partners.

Based on the initial survey results, the T/MC team worked with PCI to create a T/MC Directory of programs, plan the first T/MC conference, and generate media interest through local newspapers and networks, business and trade publications, church media, and Access TV.

Bob Aaron, Director of Public Relations Director at Wesleyan University, welcomed the opportunity to promote tutor/mentor activities since many alumni, including Dan Bassill, were involved. Yvonne Jones, Chicago Area Alumni Director, was a member of the Cabrini Connections Board of Directors and Carl Dixon, current President of the Chicago Area IWU Alumni, was a volunteer who had provided legal services for the organizing of Cabrini Connections,. In addition, Alan Leahigh, Vice President at PCI, had opened the link to his PR firm while James Sikora, a professor of sociology, had enlisted students to volunteer as part of his urban studies program. Furthermore, Pam Lowry, assistant professor of economics, had been involved with the geographic mapping research and Mike Seeborg, professor of economics, had included field trips to Cabrini Connections as part of his course on the economics of race, poverty, and gender, resulting in a number of new pen pal relationships between IWU and Cabrini students.

"As far as the publicity and all the public service awards, Dan frankly couldn't care less," says Aaron, "xcept for the way in which it helps promote the overall concept of tutoring and mentoring. The first time I saw Dan in action I was totally impressed, not just with his humanity but his management skills. Over the years I've seen people with good intentions who couldn't manage their way out a paper bag, and that certainly wasn't Dan. So I've tracked stories about him and the T/MC over the years. And as a result, we've promoted volunteerism in our President's annual report. We also modeled what the T/MC had done with their directory to do our own national study of volunteer programs at colleges and universities throughout the country. This was in large part spurred by Dan's work."

The first T/MC conference was held the Catholic Charities facility in Chicago. The T/MC had significant help from Science Linkages in the Community (SLIC) in organizing the event. Seventy people attended to hear presentations by leaders of various tutor/mentor programs, such as the Fourth Presbyterian Church, After school Action Programs, SLIC and Cabrini Connections. The guest speaker and funding for the conference came from the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), SLIC's originator.

Schoen was heavily involved in organizing the workshops for the conference:

"ŇThe workshops were designed to reach beginners and advanced tutors and mentors. It provided a real nuts and bolts for beginners, and for more experienced people, it addressed topical issues such as school segregation."

Jane Angelis, director and founder of the Inter-Generational Initiative, attended a number of the workshops.

"No matter how much you think you know, there's so much more you can learn," says Angelis. "What I like about the T/MC workshops is that there is such a diversity of people leading them, not just your stereotypical academics, but people on the front lines. I can't emphasize enough the value because Dan and the T/MC have captured the imagination of so many people and made them feel that anything is possible."

Angelis is also an advocate and frequent user of the T/MC Directory.

"The directory is especially valuable because it basically gives you a map and is at least a starting point toward building coalitions. It's also very valuable for my colleagues at Inter-Generational, because it helps them realize there are many other people doing tutoring and mentoring."

While the survey and conferences brought tutor/mentor program leaders together, the T/MC plan hoped to bring start-up and on-going support to other Chicago programs. They realized the long-term commitment would require support from businesses, universities, churches, and social and civic groups, which somehow had to be communicated to them. Using the conferences and other events the T/MC had developed, PCI was been able to generate substantial media interest, with dozens of stories appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Cranes, and most neighborhood papers. Many other reports appeared on local TV and radio stations, including WGN TV. In May of 1994 the Chicago Tribune featured a one-half page T/MC editorial by John McCarron which described the T/MC as "...a master plan for saving our children."

Board chairman Dowdle concurs with McCarron's perspective of the program:

"The Tutor/Mentor Connection has some real power. Dan has created a marketing plan that is helping thousands of kids in Chicago and his plan has the capacity to help thousands upon thousands more as it grows."

As other newspapers reported negative stories of kids killing kids or schools on probation, the T/MC developed maps showing tutor/mentor programs within a mile of the site of the shooting or the school profiled in the paper, and sent these to the papers for follow up stories that would show what programs were out there trying to prevent the violence, and list names and phone numbers so volunteers, donors, and potential partners could offer help. While mainstream papers have yet to print one of these maps, the T/MC has developed plans to use the internet to go directly to the public, with the addition of a directory and map technology on its web site. They are also utilizing public access TV, creating a direct link for potential volunteers.

Lend A Hand

One of the biggest challenges for any non-profit is raising the necessary cash to stay in business, despite evidence that high-risk youths who are kept out of trouble through intervention programs could save society as much as $2 million a youth per lifetime. Dollars for general operations are especially hard for non-profits to sustain. This funding is especially critical in youth programs where the glue that keeps volunteers and children attending regularly comes from the programs' staff. Since few foundations had funding programs that provided long-term support for general operations, Bassill looked for a way to change that.

An opportunity came when the Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF), which was already distributing grants to local programs, agreed to partner with the T/MC to share resources and expertise.

"What attracted me to the T/MC was that it was like us in attempting to provide support that wouldn't reinvent the wheel," says CBF's Executive Director, Betsy Densmore. "We had resisted supporting new programs because we felt there were lots out there and wanted to support existing ones instead. Dan seemed very oriented to providing management and technical support for organizations through his conferences and newsletter, and we were best equipped to recruit volunteers and raise money. So it was symbiotic for both of us."

Together, they established a Lend A Hand Fund, with an Advisory Council to raise and distribute funds. They also co-sponsored the November Tutor/Mentor Week to raise visibility and funds for local programs. By May of 1997, $150,000 had been raised and distributed in the form of small grants. In addition, the CBF used Chicago Bar Association media to promote tutoring and mentoring to its 22,000 members, using the T/MC Directory to refer potential volunteers to the various programs. They also formed the Law Bridges program, drawing advice from the T/MC to build the program in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation. In 1996, Law Bridges had twelve teams of lawyers and judges making monthly visits to twelve different tutor/mentor programs in Chicago to mentor kids in law-related subjects. In 1996 the CBF launched a new program, Tickets for Kids, which solicited tickets to sports and cultural events from lawyers and judges, and distributed them to programs in the T/MC Directory.

"I think that the model we've created is pretty good and one in which we encourage a lot of networking and sharing," says Densmore. "I1m proud to be part of what I think is a good balance. I also think there1s a lot of energy in low-budget grass-roots programs. It would be ideal if we had a much bigger pot of money for them because unfortunately we have not yet managed to find a steady income stream."

Through its own continuing media campaign, including a quarterly T/MC Report, the T/MC extolled the virtues of the Lend A Hand program and the different tutor/mentor programs they learned about, encouraging programs to borrow from each other to constantly improve, and to encourage the thousands of corporations on their mailing list to become strategically involved with programs in their neighborhoods.

Volunteer Fairs

While dollars were critical, so were the volunteers that made tutor/mentor programs succeed. The PCI media campaign highlighted the need for volunteers. In early 1995, the T/MC began to use the Chicago Access TV channel 42 to recruit volunteers for its own Kids' Connection and provide information about T/MC conferences. Reaching an audience of 300,000 households, it was a very affordable medium for a small non profit.

Bassill saw a potential of creating a special listing of tutor/mentor programs which could be published with each new school year, when programs were typically looking for volunteers. When he posed this idea at a June, 1995 networking meeting of inter-generational programs, Ken Bernat of the Department of Aging suggested that volunteer fairs could be held at different city sites in Chicago. With space provided, Bassill recruited tutor/mentor program leaders near those sites to serve as hosts and launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection's first Citywide Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. While the turnout for the fairs was low, the media coverage was great, with PCI generating nearly 3.4 million impressions through a variety of print and television interviews. Furthermore, the Access TV listing of over 30 programs generated over 1000 inquiries from prospective volunteers. Using what he learned from this pilot program, Bassill set out to improve the campaign in the following years.

In 1996 the number of volunteer fairs increased to seven, the quality of the sites improved, and Merri Dee, of WGN TV signed on as spokesperson, using radio and televised interviews on WGN and other stations to talk about tutoring and mentoring and to call volunteers out to the fairs.

Supporting their efforts, the Chicago Sun Times ran an articled called "Give a kid the greatest gift: ability to read". The article stated that " the speech accepting his renomination, President Clinton called for a nationwide program to mobilize reading tutors. Chicago's Tutor/Mentor Connection already has mapped out a comprehensive plan to do just that, but it can't succeed without your support."

This fall, the third year of the campaign, the number of sites has grown to twelve, with one in Evanston, one in Oak Park and one in Oak Brook. It also includes leaders of more than 56 organizations, including the Chicago Public Schools, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers, Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, and many tutor/mentor programs helping to organize the event. Even businesses joined in, with Coopers & Lybrand organizing and hosting the volunteer fair at the James Thompson Center, and Borders Books and Music hosting recruitment tables at four locations.

By April 1997, the T/MC had become so successful that Bassill was invited to serve on Chicago's delegation to the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, where a T/MC display served as a "teaching example" that could be duplicated in other cities. In June Bassill was a guest presenter at the Illinois Summit at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield and has met with mayors of several downstate cities to offer the T/MC as a model they might duplicate.

What's Next

The T/MC hopes to have its Directory on the internet by the end of 1998, with the potential for a user to point to a part of the city and get a map enlargement showing that neighborhood, its roads, and dots for tutor/mentor programs or schools in the area. By touching a tutor/mentor program 'dot', the user could pull contact and service information, or see a video interview with a student and program leader.

The internet and other new technologies have allowed a small group to reach out to millions of people, hoping that education, welfare reform, school-to- work and racial healing are important and interesting enough to draw nationwide responses.

The 1997 Presidents' Summit for America's Future, held in Philadelphia, added a louder voice to the T/MC, which has planned follow up stories throughout the coming year to showcase different cities' responses.

When Bassill 'opened shop' in 1993, it wasn't to run a nine to five store front. Cabrini Connections' products and services are 'in use' 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, fueled mostly by the adrenalin of a few staff and volunteers.

"All we need now," says Bassill, "is a few people with deep pockets who understand and support what we're doing. With that and our deep commitment to help every child have equal hope and opportunity, we can reach the middle of the 21st century with a better America for every one."

Awards and Recognition

• Dan Bassill, President and Founder, receives Good as Gold Award from Publisher's Clearing House during Dec. 31, 1999 segment of Montl Williams TV show.

• Dan Bassill a featured speaker at the Illinois Summit, June 12, 1997, held at Governor's Mansion

• Dan Bassill nominated as a "GIRAFFE" "for people who stand tall and take responsibility for making their world a better place", by The Giraffe Project, Langley, Washington

• Dan Bassil named one of 10 Chicago delegates to April 1997 Presidents' Summit for America's Future

• 100 Big Hearts for Young Heroes, from LaRabida Hospital, to be presented June 27, 1996

• Prime Mover Award - Garland C. Guice Grant Recipient, from The Target Group, June 13, 1996

• MidAmerica Leadership Foundation "Resourcing Leadership Award", presented in April 1996

• David Kellum Award, presented in February 1996 by the Baha'i House of Worship, to Cabrini Connections

• Acacia National Fraternity Award of Merit, to Dan Bassill, October 1994

• Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Community Service Award, to Dan Bassill, March 1989

• Chicago Volunteer Action Center Heart of Gold Award, presented in April of 1987, to Dan Bassill for volunteer service]