Monday, April 27, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Allen Tyson

This week’s volunteer in the spotlight is long overdue for the honor, in fact, he’s been mentoring youth since the early 1970’s, before most of our mentors were born! Allen (AJ) Tyson first started mentoring youth, when Cabrini Connections was just a gleam in Montgomery Wards’ young advertising director, Dan Bassill’s eye. At the time Dan was a volunteer at the Montgomery Ward Tutor/Mentor Program which served 2nd through 6th grade youth in the Cabrini-Green neighbourhood, which he took over as a full-time coordinator in 1975. They hit it off instantly and Mr. Tyson knew that this was somewhere where he could make a real difference without volunteering full-time and sacrificing his promising business career. Since that day, 29 years ago, he has mentored 13 youth, including his current mentee, Sean Mayfield, whom he describes as one of the most promising students he’s mentored.

During these past 29 years, Allen has done much to sustain and grow our organization beyond his role as a mentor, he continue to support the program financially as can be seen by his current 1st place status in our Fundraising for Quarters volunteer fundraising campaign. If he is able to retain his position on top, he will receive 2 free round-trip airline tickets to anywhere in the United States! In that case, perhaps he’ll decide to fly to one of the coasts with his wife to pursue their shared love of sailing or maybe back to Philadelphia to visit his alma mater, Philadelphia University, where through his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, he cultivated the “volunteer gene” that he got from his mother early in life by, volunteering at orphanages, baseball games, and coordinating reading seminars to promote literacy among underprivileged youth.

Through his extensive mentoring experience he’s picked up a few simple but effective mentoring techniques, one important one being that: “you always have to put demands on your student, they gotta bring their homework, if not, I buy books for the kids I tutor, so when they don’t have homework, we can build vocabulary by reading together.” It’s obvious that Mr. Tyson takes great joy in building relationships with each and every one of his students and helping them achieve to their highest potential. In fact, he’s contemplating becoming a substitute teacher, in addition to the 2 jobs he has already, his import-export button business and his job as a realtor for Caldwell Banker (his fun job). Regardless, it’s certain that Allen is a true asset to both the students he mentors, and Cabrini Connections. Thanks and congratulations!

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