Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping the PIPblog magic alive

Hello! So as you've hopefully realized from my past few posts, I'm officially finished with my PIP fellowship. Though I'll be continuing to contribute (albeit less frequently) both here on this blog and in other places, Bradley Troast, the new 2009-2010 PIP fellow at CC/TMC has already begun blogging about his experiences on the new PIP blog. So I would strongly recommend checking out Bradley's blog, since it will be updated a heck of a lot more often than mine, now that I'm no longer an official employee. In his first couple weeks on the job, Bradley has already blogged about our recent Golf Benefit and Edgewood College Visit as well as our brand-spankin' new and improved Video Club and his thoughts on his new work. It's clear he is getting off to a great start so be sure to add to your RSS feed reader of choice and stay tuned!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Concept Mapping my blog

Today marks my blog's 145th post! Who'd have thought that I'd have stuck with it, especially considering my only previous foray into the blogging ended after a mere 11 grueling posts. However, the blog continues to go strong. If you're interested, my most popular article has been the one I wrote summarizing some research about Racism in the Job Market. Anyway, since my year is up and I'm going to be leaving my full-time position at Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection, I thought it would be prudent to offer a new and exciting way to relive the magic...A CONCEPT MAP!

Anyway, you may have seen my map of Northwestern University's assets a couple days ago, well in a similar vein, I've mapped the various articles in my blog according to some general themes. Interestingly, since I've blogged about much of the work I've done here, the concept map can also read as a job description or summary of some of the projects I've embroiled myself in during my time here. Hopefully Bradley Troast, my NUPIP successor and others will not start from scratch, but rather build from some of the knowledge and expertise I've accumulated and shared in these articles and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the work we're doing and how to constantly expand and improve our social impact! So, without further ado, here's the official Chrispip concept map (be sure to click each node to find the relevant articles).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One year later, what have I learned?

As of yesterday I've officially been working at Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection for a full year. As you may or may not know, this is my last week here as an official staff member. Thinking back to where I was at this time last year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In fact, I was still wondering whether I had made the right choice in choosing not to pursue graduate work in neuroscience immediately after my graduation. Though I knew I needed to do something disorienting (in a good way) in order to put myself in a situation where I could grow as a person and develop my social and political consciousness outside of NU, I never could have predicted how profoundly a year of non-profit work would change my personal perspective on work, life and my own future.

One huge surprise was how easy, natural and engaging the work seemed after 4 years of grinding through research papers, oral presentations and other thesis related mumbo-jumbo with varying degrees of interest and enthusiasm. Knowing that the work I do is contributing to the well-being of 70+ kids in whom I'm now personally invested, makes me a lot more inclined to put in the necessary time and effort, than when I was at Northwestern writing papers for an audience of one and giving presentations to a dozen or so disinterested students.

Another is that the social reward of knowing that my work is helping disadvantaged youth succeed so far outweighs the relative lack of financial compensation that I'm taking a completely unpaid position at a radical Guatemalan non-profit school next year to further hone the skills and knowledge I've developed through my year here as a PIP fellow. Perhaps I'll reconsider down the road, but for the time being, living in relative poverty and loving my work is far preferable to any number of potentially more financially lucrative alternatives.

One other big one, and perhaps the most important is that connecting a youth with a caring adult volunteer through a tutoring/mentoring relationship is really one of the most powerful ways to help a disadvantaged youth succeed. Just spending a year here and coordinating our Cabrini Connections program exposed me to dozens of case studies that make a strong case for the value of programs like ours. Given the obvious benefit of our work in the areas of: academic achievement, employment gang-prevention, drug-prevention and violence-prevention, it is shameful that organizations like ours are constantly scrambling for the necessary operating dollars because government, business and other sectors with a stake in the future of youth growing up in poverty haven't taken a more active role in supporting programs like ours. Though much lip service continues to be paid to programs like ours, from our nation's capital all the way down to conversations at the nearest bus stop (I can't tell you how many times people have told me "oh that's so great" when I explain what we do), the fact is that programs like ours can't continue to do this necessary work without the necessary human and financial resources, which are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Therefore, now more than ever, we need to bring more leaders and other motivated folks into the fold to advocate for our youth, our programs and our future.

Personally, I'm becoming more and more convinced that I am and will continue to be one of these people. For this, I have to thank Dan and EL Da'sheon, who have gone to great lengths to get me to understand the ins and outs of running a successful non-profit, been incredible mentors and true sources of wisdom and inspiration to me throughout this past year. Thank you for your guidance, thank you for your willingness to collaborate and most of all thank you for the difference that you're so committed to making in the lives of youth all over the city.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


So, in case you haven't heard, Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection have hopped aboard the TWITTER bandwagon and are now tweeting updates and links with the best of them. We're hoping to use this resource to keep people abreast of our activities and potential supporters in the loop with constant updates. With the ability for people to follow our activities and subscribe to our feeds, TWITTER is another way to direct traffic to relevant content on our blogs and websites (such as this blog). So, stay connected to us wherever you are with TWITTER by following us at: tutormentorteam

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mapping Northwestern University for Tutoring/Mentoring Programs

So as I've mentioned in previous posts, Colleges and Universities are full of valuable assets for Tutor/Mentor Programs like ours. They are chock full of smart and engaged people who want to make a difference. However, for better or for worse, universities are multifaceted communities, with a wide variety of buildings, departments, offices...etc. They also have an unfortunate tendency to be composed of various organizational silos that inhibit communication between different parts of the university. In fact many a program coordinator has been frustrated by the seemingly endless amounts of emails and phone calls necessary to reach the right administrator who can actually begin to help forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

Therefore, after facilitating a workshop about ways to constructively engage Northwestern University at our May Conference, I decided it would be beneficial to put together a concept map of all of the different parts of NU that could help a tutor/mentor program like ours. From the various service learning, work-study, internship and practicum opportunities available for non-profits to secure skilled and committed volunteers to the various philanthropic wings of the university, consider this map a guide to the assets of Northwestern University. Don't forget to click through to the links embedded on each item to find out more. The JPEG above is just a static graphic, click here to access the map complete with all its links. Hope you like it and pass it on to people and organizations you think it could benefit.

According to our tutor/mentor program locator there are 8 programs currently operating in the 60201 area code and about 10 more close by in Rogers Park. Programs like these could greatly benefit from knowing what parts of the university to build relatoinships with, I know Cabrini Connections certainly can, and is benefiting from our connection to Northwestern. Anyway, stay tuned for more useful concept maps in the near future!

Find the map at:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A few of the many uses of the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to visit our interactive tutor/mentor program locator and take a look around. Whatever your aims, it's a powerful tool that allows you to visualize complex sets of information and draw new and exciting inferences about. Though we created it as a tool to help potential leaders in youth tutoring/mentoring build capacity and relationships with other non-profits and community assets, you can just as easily use it to look at your neighborhood and see who your neighbors are, or learn about neighborhoods that you've heard mentioned in the news but never actually bothered to look up. There are as many potential uses for the interactive maps as there are potential users, the key is taking the plunge and visiting and taking a look around. For inspiration, check out the following case studies, which provide some examples of potential uses of the interactive maps.