Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Anyone can make maps! (That means you!)

For those interested in learning more about the many applications of our free online, tutor/mentor program locator, check out Tutor/Mentor Connection's President/CEO Dan Bassill's blog, where he demonstrates how you can use it to create your own maps that help you better understand the news, the geography of Chicago's many unique neighborhoods and ways to get involved in improving opportunities for the youth of these neighborhoods. In his post, Dan explains how he used the interactive maps to create a map showing the location of failing schools and tutoring/mentoring programs in relation to census data about the amount of poverty in these neighborhoods. This helps him and others make sense of the recent ranking of Washington Park's intersection of State St and 55th as the 2nd most dangerous neighborhood in America. His map shows a clear relationship between increasing amounts of poverty and increasing numbers of underperforming and underresourced schools, while highlighting the few programs that are present in these areas where people like you and I can get involved.

Instead of encouraging people to avoid the neighborhood for fear of being victims of crime, an act that only serves to further isolate and deprive its residents of vital commercial activity and positive media attention, mapping the news in this way helps us to understand what positive steps we can take to help the neighborhood's residents change the violent face of their neighborhood through engaging its youth in constructive tutoring/mentoring activities. Though we may not live in these neighborhoods, we can play a role in helping foster their future success by informing our US and IL state representatives as well as aldermen of the positive benefit of tutor/mentor programs that youth tutoring/mentoring programs are already having in these communities. For example, using the interactive tutor/mentor program locator, you can easily look up your congressional district, see what high poverty neighborhoods fall within its borders and identify programs that are already making a difference there. As a constituent, you can contact your rep and encourage them to support these programs.

For example, residents of some of Chicago's most affluent communities, including: Lincoln Park, The Loop and Oak Park share the same 7th district representative, Danny Davis, as residents of some of Chicago's poorest communities: Austin, Washington Park, Garfield Park and North Lawndale (see map above). As Rep Davis' constituents, residents of these affluent neighborhoods have a uniquely powerful voice that can be used to encourage Rep Davis to support programs like ours. I encourage you to go to www.tutormentorprogramlocator.net and map your congressional district to see who your political neighbors are. You might be surprised!

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