Tuesday, March 17, 2009

College Program: Our Mission

I am proud to announce that the College Program now has a mission statement. The mission statement will guide us in planning future programming and a serve as the starting point for program evaluation.

The mission statement reads, “to transform youth from economically and educationally disadvantaged neighborhoods into college bound students through providing structured support, resources, and training.”

Although mission statements are only a sentence long, they pack a punch. Mission statements attempt to encapsulate an organization’s broad goals and briefly state how an organization will get there. They are not an operating or strategic plan, which lay out in detail an organization’s specific goals, performance metrics, procedures, and strategies. In that sense, mission statements tell you everything that an organization does while telling you almost nothing about how the organization operates.

Allow me to explain some of the details behind our mission, so that if you are a tutor/mentor with our program or another program, you can see what the mission statement means on the ground. The first that I did in developing this statement was refer to Cabrini Connection’s mission statement, which is to, “Engage workplace adults in structured activities that make a life-changing difference for youth living in economically and educationally disadvantaged neighborhoods.” I borrowed language from the larger organization’s mission because the College Program is one of the “structured activities” offered by Cabrini Connections. I also incorporated the adjective “structured” into our mission so that we create programming in line with the broader organization’s procedures and values. A part of our structure includes weekly meetings, appointment scheduling, regular team meetings, and planned intake sessions and assignment sheets. Additionally, I borrowed the phrase “youth… from economically and educationally disadvantaged neighborhoods” from their mission statement to ensure that we ultimately serve the same population. The College Program serves all students at Cabrini Connections, so I equated our population with that of the organization.

Finally, I want to note my use of the word “transform” and the phrase “college bound students.” Transforming another human being is a challenge. It is a stronger than saying something like “to assist youth from economically and educationally disadvantaged neighborhoods in becoming college bound students.” As tutors/mentors we are literally assisting students, but more importantly we are a layer of support in the process of transforming a child who might have frame of reference about higher education into a student who is curious and excited about going to college. College bound students are the end goal for of providing "support, resources, and training." We do not define “college bound” students solely as students who have received college acceptance letters or students who have enrolled at a community college. College bound students are students of any grade who ask questions, go on college trips, study for the ACT, research colleges, and get excited about March Madness.

In our pilot year as a separate curriculum, we hope to develop a strategic plan that will turn our goals into measurable outcomes, create strategies and procedures to attain those outcomes, and lay out a criteria for evaluating our work. We will report back on these plans as developments arise and incorporate the mission statement into our planning.

For now, our new mission statement will allow the College Program to move purposefully throughout the remainder of the school year.

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