Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Helping others help themselves

So for the past few weeks I've been contacting every tutor/mentor program in Chicagoland to make sure that we have the most up to date information in our Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, a website that we host that has information about every organization offering youth tutoring and/or mentoring in Chicagoland. This website serves as a resource for parents and students looking for particular programs in their neighborhood, as it maps the locations of all the programs using an easy-to-use interface. Each organization has their own profile that we have encouraged them to update themselves. One section of each profile consists of a series of survey questions about the specifics of their organization, the difficulties they face and the strategies they use to surmount these challenges. However, as the interface is not very intuitive from an organizational standpoint, the grand majority of these profiles haven't been completely updated in a while. As you can imagine, it has been a bit of a struggle to get in touch with the right people at each organization, given the peculiarities of the non-profit world and how nobody ever seems to answer the phone when you need them to. Anyway, the most important aspect of this recent round of phone calls that I've been making is that I've been forming or rekindling relationships between the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the program coordinators at the various organizations and informing them as to the mutual benefit of keeping their profile updated to reflect their current offerings. Fortunately, one of our volunteers, Ganeesh, has been working on a way to make the program locator interface much more robust and easy to use, which will encourage more organizations to keep their profiles updated.

If more organizations keep their profiles updated, not only will they receive more inquiries about programming, because our site already receives hundreds of visits each month, but they will also encourage more people to use the site, raising the overall profile of tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicagoland and contributing, via the organizational surveys, to an increased shared knowledge base of successful strategies from which all programs can benefit.

This strategy, to provide a resource and then empower others to take advantage of that resource, make it their own, and use it to accomplish shared goals, is one that we utilize a lot here at Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection and is a necessary one in the non-profit world where we simply lack the resources to do everything ourselves. For example, with our various clubs, such as art club, tech club or the upcoming African Drum and Dance Club, we (Cabrini Connections) provide the space and other resources, (supplies, computers, snacks...etc) , while we empower volunteers to run and organize the clubs with relatively minimal oversight.

Same with our two annual conferences, we offer a space to meet and schedule speakers and workshop facilitators, but it is the participants of the conference that really create the content and the positive results of the conference. It is through their networking and exchange of ideas, that tutor/mentor programs are founded, improved or supported to a greater degree both financially and in terms of volunteers, all outcomes that lead to our goal of making effective tutor/mentor programs available to all youth who could potentially benefit.

Since our program is entirely voluntary for the youth who participate, this model, of providing opportunities for people to help themselves, is at the core of our mission as a tutor/mentor organization. Youth are attracted to our program because they see it as something that will help them succeed, yet it is through their willingness to enter into a one on one mentoring relationship and their active engagement with their tutor/mentor that they achieve the best possible outcomes. When these youth do end up succeeding, staying out of trouble, going to college, and entering the workforce, our organization stands to benefit as well because their success attests to our effectiveness, which we can use to secure more funding, greater volunteer involvement...etc to continue this cycle of increasingly positive outcomes. Seems to me like a win-win situation- helping at-risk youth help themselves, while helping our organization further its own goals at the same time. Not a bad model, eh?


Knowing the Research: Challenges in Educational Research

Building off of my last post, which discussed some possible ideas for new tutoring/mentoring research, I just wanted to discuss one important aspect of this mentoring research that I have yet to address. It is a methodological issue common to all disciplines utilizing experimental studies, but it is particularly important in education research. It is the issue of random assignment.

For those who aren't so scientifically inclined, one basic tenet of an experimental study is the inclusion of a control group, or a group of people who don't receive whatever the independent variable being tested is (in this case, enrollment in a tutor/mentor program), but are measured nonetheless to ensure that whatever gains observed in the other group (the experimental group) are the result of the particular intervention (or independent variable) and not some other factor. For example, if a group of students' math abilities are measured immediately before enrolling here at Cabrini Connections and then again after spending one year with the program, it is likely that they will show improvement. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that they improved BECAUSE they enrolled in our program, just that they improved WHILE they were enrolled in our program. The improvement might well have been caused by the students math curriculum in the schools, playing a computer game or even playing dice. We simply don't know if we only measure one group. However, in a controlled experiment we would have 2 groups of kids, one group that enrolls in Cabrini Connections for a year and another who remains uninvolved in any tutor/mentor program. Then, both groups are tested before and after spending a year in the program. Now, we can reliably compare the 2 groups, provided that they come from the same population of kids growing up in Cabrini Green and are more or less matched on variables like socioeconomic status, age, sex...etc, and see if the kids enrolled in the tutor/mentor program showed SIGNIFICANTLY MORE improvement in their math scores than others BECAUSE they were enrolled in Cabrini Connections.

This issue is a constant problem in educational research and studies like the aforementioned ones becuase of the difficulty in what is known as random assignment of participants. This is to say that, because most of the time the researchers running the studies cannot get a group of participants from one population and randomly select half of them to enroll in a given tutor/mentor program and the other half to continue living their lives exactly the same way as before. When researchers can actually do this, their experiments are called "Randomized Field Trials" or RFTs. Use of RFTs is increasing in educational research and is a hotly debated topic, as they often require more time and money to carry out. However, as I mentioned earlier, they do allow the researchers to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of a particular intervention in terms of causal relationships (i.e. enrolling at cabrini connections caused my math scores to improve). This is very important because it is not of much value to tutor/mentor program adminstrators, educators or concerned parents to draw the conclusion that children who participated in one particular type of program improved in certain areas, but that improvement could very well be due to other factors having nothing to do with their involvement with a tutor/mentor program. Using RFTs allow us to make concrete and useful conclusions, backed by scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, much of the research addressing the effectiveness of tutor/mentor programs does not utilize Randomized Field Trials, and thus fails to really tell us much of anything that can be of significant benefit in determining the best practices that should be used for our program. Therefore, I am of the opinion that to maximize the applicability of future research, RFTs should be used wherever feasible. Educators? What do you think? I'd be interested to hear some perspectives from veteran teachers that are actually in the schools where the majority of these RFTs are taking place and not just sitting in a desk all day at Tutor/Mentor Connection like myself.

hasta la proxima

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Knowing the Research: What next?

So, now that I've given a brief review of a few mentoring studies in my last two posts and you are now familiar with a handful of the most relevant papers, it is clear that mentoring works. I also addressed some best practices, strategies that maximize the effectiveness of tutor/mentor programs in delivering positive outcomes to youth. However, even if we know the best ways to engage youth with a tutor/mentor and that this mentor/mentee relationship is overwhelmingly beneficial for the youth involved, this still does not ensure that these types of programs will receive ample resources, in terms of both $$$ and volunteers. So, why isn't there more research trying to determine the best ways to mobilize dedicated volunteers and, equally importantly, the most effective ways to retain these volunteers over the long-term, so that the youth can achieve maximum benefits from a relationship with a supportive mentor as they mature and face the struggles of coming of age in a high-poverty neighborhood?

As tutor/mentor programs all over the world find themselves operating on very limited resources, being able to effectively recruit, engage and retain the volunteers who run the programs day-to-day, is absolutely crucial. Therefore, research aiming to determine the most effective ways to keep volunteers engaged in tutor/mentor programs has the potential to make an enormous impact in the lives of countless youth. Additionally, most of the mentoring research focuses on mentoring programs using a Big Brothers/Big Sisters model. However, there are many programs, including ours here at Cabrini Connections, that vary significantly from that model. For instance, the Big Brothers/Big Sisters model emphasizes one on one relationships between mentor and mentee through both in-school, site based mentoring, as well as through one-on-one community-based mentoring where the mentors and mentees meet in the community doing activities of their choosing. How effective is our model compared to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters model or compared to various school-based mentoring programs? Though youth may not stay with the same mentor year after year at our program due to volunteers dropping-out, does the stability of the program staff and coordinators and the overarching structure of a program like Cabrini Connections, with our numerous clubs and other activities, lead to more positive outcomes than programs that do not offer a safe space for youth to come without directly interacting with their mentors? Also, what is the effect of bringing dozens of youth together on a weekly basis to meet with their mentors? Does it lead to better outcomes than simply having youth meet alone with their mentor off-site? Does it lead to the creation of networks of solidarity among the youth who can identify with each other on the basis of shared life experience and work together to improve their situation? Obviously there are a lot of interesting research topics here that are yet to be explored and have the potential to make a great impact in the way tutor/mentor programs are run.

Under the auspices of The Tutor/Mentor Connection, we have a number of online surveys that we use to glean data from the 200+ programs that comprise our network. This will eventually result in a wealth of information that can be used to determine common struggles and problems among various tutor/mentor programs and the most effective strategies for addressing these challenges. However, we are only a small staff and though we can potentially use this data to help identify potential areas of collaboration between programs and possible solutions to common problems, like volunteer retainment, we lack the necessary resources to be able to conduct controlled experiments to quantitatively compare and contrast our methods with those employed by other programs and publish this information in relevant publications. However, there are thousands of researchers in the fields of education and social policy who can and should take an interest in this area and these research questions in order to help hundreds of tutor/mentor organizations like ours in offering the best possible programs to the youth that they serve. Don't we owe it to the kids?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Knowing the Research: The Mentoring Relationship

Hello again! I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend and that those in Chicago were able to take to the lakefront and soak in both the rays and the incredible display of American air superiority that was the Chicago Air and Water Show. Though I can think of a few better ways our government could have spent the 62 billion in American taxdollars it took to develop the F22 Raptor (supporting tutor/mentor programming for instance), it certainly made for an entertaining afternoon. Anyway, due to the veritable torrent of comments I've received about my last post, I'm going to keep this crazy train rolling and offer my 2nd "Knowing the Research" post, this time dedicated to the theme of "The Mentoring Relationship".

So, I realize that I've been throwing around the term tutoring/mentoring without ever explicitly defining what they mean to us. For a thorough discussion of these terms please see

For this post, I will be focusing on the importance of mentors as adults who, along with parents, provides young people with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example. To youth, they serve as a guide, a friend, a listener, a coach and a responsive adult. Tutors, on the other hand, play a primarily academic role, helping youth to learn and excel in their coursework. Obviously, in order to succeed, youth need people in their lives that fill both of these roles. Luckily most of us lucky enough to have grown up in the absence of poverty have benefited from engaged parents and teachers who have fulfilled both of these roles for us and allowed us to reach our full potential. However, youth growing up in high-poverty areas of the inner city not only often lack the opportunities and resources to attend high-performing schools that will engage them academically, but also overwhelmingly lack the types of father figures, or other adult role models that can help them surmount the obstacles they face in their neighborhoods, stay in school and enter a career by their mid twenties. Even when kids are bussed into high performing schools like Lincoln Park High School, which many of our students attend, without the support of engaged adult role models, these children are at a disadvantage and unlikely to reach their maximum potential. This is why it is so important to get this kids involved with a dedicated mentor through organizations such as Cabrini Connections, not just someone who can help them with their homework once a week.

For instance, a recent study demonstrated that youth who had been matched with a dedicated mentor for 12 months or longer showed significant improvements in feelings of self-worth and social acceptance, feelings of scholastic competence, improved parent relations, with decreases in drug and alcohol use. However, youth whose matches terminated before three months showed significant regressions in self-worth and feelings of scholastic competence compared even to a control group who received no mentoring at all. (1) This underlines the importance of the first few months of the mentoring relationship and argues for the importance of good volunteer screening and training so that they're ready to effectively engage these youth right off the bat with tried and true techniques. Unsurprisingly, the strongest predictor of relationship length, was the youth's reported quality of the mentoring relationship. Therefore, besides employing techniques that improve relationship quality between mentors and youth, we need to do all we can to keep mentors and mentees together over the long term so that youth can maximally benefit from this long-term involvment and investment in thier future. This underscores the importance of long term planning for volunteer retainment and relationship building with other tutor/mentor programs for younger youth that feed into our program, such as Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program Inc, which serves elementary youth in the neighborhood. These types of partnerships between programs allow mentors to potentially stay with kids from elementary school through HS graduation and develop networks of support that maximize the child's potential for future success.

In facilitating these successful mentoring relationships, we can benefit from taking note of the findings of a recent study that evaluated 10 different mentoring programs. Like the aforementioned studies, they found that mentoring led to fewer absences, better school attitudes and behavior, and increased college attendance as well as decreased decrease drug and alcohol use, especially among minority participants (2). Interestingly, students involved in mentoring benefited from improved parent-peer relations and improved attitudes about adults in general as well as an increased desire to help others. The researchers hypothesized that these improvements in relationships with parents, peers, and the community as a whole in turn lead to improvements in the youth’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Additionally, they found that the more interaction mentors and mentees had, the more effective the relationship was judged to be by the youth involved and the better their long-term outcomes were. They also found it beneficial for programs to use shared interests between mentor and mentee as a primary factor for matching up youth.
As I said in my last post, it is important for tutor/mentor programs to be aware of this research and use it to help guide their programs and make them as effective as possible using their limited resources. I hope that these research summaries can help show how beneficial this work is in helping program coordinators determine what works and what doesn't and, more importantly, helps show how well designed studies and research papers, when aimed at the right audience, can help to improve the lives of countless youth.

Chau pescado!

(1) Grossman, J.B. and Rhodes, J.E. (2002). The Test of Time: Predictors and Effects of Duration in Youth Mentoring. American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 2.
(2) Moore, K.A., Kekielek, S. and Hair, E.C. (2002). Mentoring Programs and Youth Development: A Synthesis, Child Trends

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Knowing the research

Welcome back faithful readers (all 131 of you according to google analytics)! Since the first research project I conducted at Northwestern University, a meta-analysis entitled: "Training Spatial Skills: What Works, for Whom and for How Long?" was just recently submitted to Psychological Bulletin for publication (woo hoo!), I thought this would be a good time to share findings from some recent tutoring/mentoring research and discuss how they can help us in our quest to promote effective tutoring/mentoring here at Cabrini Connections and elsewhere.

As tutoring/mentoring programs such as ours and Big Brothers/Big Sisters become more and more widespread, there has been an increasing amount of research both evaluating individual programs, as well as synthesizing previous work, such as by using the same meta-analytic methods we employed in the aforementioned paper.

By the way, for the uninitiated, a meta-analysis essentially involves collecting data from a number of previous studies that all were investigating a related hypothesis and then analyzing that data to draw further inferences. For example, in our study, we wanted to know what types of trainings could improve children and adults' spatial abilities and for how long. So we collected hundreds of studies that looked at the effectiveness of particular types of training and then analyzed them all together in order to determine if they indeed can be improved with training and, if so, what the best ways to improve them are.

One of the most significant studies pertaining to tutoring/mentoring was published in 2000 and looked at just under 1000 youth who participated in Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BB/BS) programs around the country (1). Like any good experiment, it had a control group, roughly 500 kids who applied for a mentor at BB/BS but were not placed with one, that was compared with an experimental group, the other 500 kids who WERE placed with a mentor. This study found that kids who were paired up with a mentor at BB/BS:

-- were 46% less likely to initiate drug use

-- were 26% less likely to initiate alcohol use (that number reaches 50 percent for the girls in the programs)

-- were 33% less likely to hit someone

--Skipped half as many days of school

--Reported improved parent and peer relationships (this was especially true among boys)

Above all else, these results demonstrated conclusively that MENTORING WORKS and are cited by organizations such as ours to argue for the effectiveness of our programming and why it is necessary for the kids we serve. By showing the effectiveness of mentoring in a well-thought out, controlled and published experiment, this study laid the groundwork for future investigations into the effectiveness of particular types of tutoring/mentoring and specific programmatic content.

One of these such studies that analyzed different mentoring methods with the intent to determine the most effective practices, was a meta-analysis published in 2002. This study looked at 55 different studies with 575 effect sizes (quantifiable changes in the youth served). The general finding was that, when taken as a whole, mentoring programs do provide a positive impact on youth, but not as large as might have been expected. As might be expected, this news was a bit unsettling for many people in the mentoring community, since this wasn't an analysis of one particular mentoring program, but rather 55 programs, utilizing many different techniques, and it didn't report the huge positive impacts found in the aforementioned study and others.

However, the real benefit of this study is in the so-called "moderators of impact". These are the personal traits of the mentors and mentees, structures of the particular programs and the characteristics of the mentor-mentee relationships. When these "moderators" are examined, a much sunnier picture of youth mentoring is revealed. For example:

--The programs in the study that provided ongoing training for mentors, offered matches structured activities, set firm requirements around frequency of mentor-mentee contact,
offered mentor support services, or found ways to increase parent involvement showed
a greater impact. All these factors were strong predictors of higher outcomes for youth.

--The programs where youth felt most positive about their relationships also had the best outcomes.

--The impact of mentoring seemed to be greatest for youth who were most at-risk. Here is evidence that mentoring helps those who need it most. (i.e. youth living in extreme poverty such as that found in Cabrini Green and other housing projects all around Chicago).

Thus, this study really is a strong argument for the value of program quality. Simply signing a child up for a tutor/mentor program and sticking them in a room with an adult without careful consideration of the program structure is not going to lead to the most ideal outcomes for the youth (or the volunteer). Exhibit A: Ricky Hendon's $20,000 tutor grant scandal that broke last month.,0,6218298.story and

Therefore, to ensure the best outcomes, programs such as ours need to take advantage of this research and offer useful training for our volunteers, create an environment and program structure that fosters the formation of strong mentor-mentee relationships and increase parent involvement, all things we are working hard to address here at Cabrini Connections. For example, I just finished creating the student and volunteer orientation packets that were carefully designed to help volunteers not only maximize their impact at the beginning of the school year, as they meet with their mentee, but also to help give them ideas and tools to strengthen the mentor-mentee bond. Additionally, this year we are organizing our first ever Welcome Back Brunch, which will give mentors an additional opportunity to meet their youth mentee's parents before the school-year starts and engage with them in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere so they can begin to work together to maximize their child's potential!

As you can see just from this brief post about a pair of mentoring studies, being familiar with the relevant research can greatly assist an organization such as ours to offer the best possible mentoring programming for our youth. Therefore I think it is especially important as someone who has gained a familiarity with the way this work is done and reported, to summarize and share this knowledge with people and organizations who can benefit.

Anyway, with this in mind, I'm thinking about doing a regular feature in my blog about the importance of "Knowing the Research". Any thoughts? I'd love some feedback on whether people would find this sort of thing interesting. Also, I can try to make the writing even less technical if I'm losing people with jargon. I've never done this before, so any constructive criticism would be much appreciated!


(1)Tierney, J.P., Grossman, J.B., and Resch, N.L. (2000). Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Public/Private Ventures

2)DuBois, D.L., Holloway, B.E., Valentine, J.C., and Cooper, H. (2002). Effectiveness of Mentoring Programs for Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review. American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 2.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Da Bears!

Hey everyone! So yesterday I didn't get back to my apt after work until about midnight. I had to work overtime... AT THE BEARS GAME! As luck would have it, some friends of Cabrini Connections donated 4 tickets to the first Bears preseason game against the Chiefs and I was given the laborious task of accompanying Savon, his father and Savon's friend Charles to Soldier Field for the evening. I was particularly excited since I had already gotten to know Savon quite well, as he was in the group I chaperoned on the Six Flags trip. Savon is one of our most intelligent and promising youth, in fact, he and his tutor have been meeting all summer and learning algebra at Savon's request, just so he can be ahead of the curve when math classes start this fall. He is also fighting for the starting running back spot on his Jr High football team, something he's working very hard towards. His dad is an ex-college football player and obviously an extremely dedicated father, something that so many of the kids we serve could benefit from. He spent the majority of the game pointing out important, but oft-overlooked things for Savon to take note of, particularly those having to do with the Bears 2 backs, Matt Forte and Garrett Wolfe, who played particularly well in his preseason debut. At times from the look on Savon's face it looked more like he was studying for a math test than enjoying the game, but his jubilant reactions to Rod Wilson's pick and Wolfe and Forte's skillful rushing made it clear that Savon is interested in more than flashy moves and touchdowns, but rather he seeks a deeper understanding of the game.

One of the main purposes of taking Savon and his father was to get Charles back in the program. He was enrolled here for a couple months a few years back, but his mother made him stop coming because she didn't want him walking back to Cabrini Green by himself in the evening, a reasonable demand. However, after discussing the situation with Savon's father, he has offered to pick Charles up and take him home each evening, allowing him to get involved in the program once again, which he is very excited about. He's also pumped to join the African Drum and Dance Club, as he's a drummer.

Talking to Charles about his previous experience with Cabrini Connections, it was clear that he really enjoyed it and was benefitting, particularly since he has a very clear career goal of being involved in music production that we could help him work towards. However, he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity due to the violence of his neighborhood, another unfortunate consequence of urban poverty that we are trying to combat here at Cabrini Connections.
hasta la victoria siempre!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Volunteer recruitment and other things

The month of August is upon us, and that means that our Fall Volunteer Recruitment Campaign is now officially in full swing. From now until the start of school we will not only be recruiting volunteers to be paired up with Cabrini-Green youth in tutoring/mentoring relationships throughout the year vis a vis Cabrini Connections, but we will also be promoting Tutoring/Mentoring programs across Chicagoland through our Tutor/Mentor Connection Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. So last week I sent PSA releases to every single Chicagoland radio station promoting tutoring/mentoring. Below is the 30 second spot I created that will be airing from now until the end of September all over the Chicagoland airwaves.

"As thousands of children prepare to go back to school in the Chicagoland area, we need to remind ourselves of different ways we can make a positive impact on their lives. Nearly three dozen Chicago Public School children were killed last year as a result of violent crime. Thousands more will drop out of school this year or turn to a life of crime. Let's create change. Become a tutor/mentor and make a difference in a child's life. Tutor/Mentors not only improve a student's academic performance but contribute to their overall well-being by simply being a friend, a parent and a mentor all in a just a few hours each week. Visit WWW DOT TUTOR MENTOR PROGRAM LOCATOR DOT NET to find a program near you and make a difference today. "

A shout out is due to my friend and WNUR General Station Manager Adam Clark for recording this and a number of other spots that we'll be playing in the future. Thanks dude!

So as I was writing this PSA for Adam to record, I figured that I might as well save him some time and have him record some spots that we could benefit from in the future, pertaining to our year end/holiday giving campaign, Fall Tutor/Mentor Conference and National Mentoring Month (January). This made me think about the importance of planning far ahead and having a regular set of events that systematically move towards our organizational goals of both improving and expanding our own tutoring/mentoring program for Cabrini-Green youth as well as expanding and facilitating access to tutor/mentor programming to all high poverty regions of Chicago and youth who could benefit from it. This is done through a carefully planned series of yearly events that build off each other, increasing the profile of tutoring/mentoring through a consistent flow of programming.

For example, I came on board here a month ago, in the middle of the summer. Summertime around here means that, besides a few scattered events like the Six Flags trip and the Edgewood College Visit, and a couple after school clubs, there aren't a lot of kids running around. To the uninitiated it may appear that a tutor/mentor program without kids around isn't doing a whole lot, but yet, we staff still manage to fill our days to the brim with things intrinsically related to our organizational goals. For instance, we planned and held a year end banquet and golf benefit, one of our largest fundraisers of the year and are currently organizing another fundraiser, a bar crawl known as Martini Madness.

I have been updating our tutor/mentor program locator, which has information for more than 400 tutor/mentor related programs in Chicagoland. As one might expect, this is an enormous undertaking for one person to do on their own. However, the goal is to empower each organization with the tools to constantly update their own profiles as their programming changes by making the program intuitive and user friendly enough for both programs and potential clients to come together to their mutual benefit. Also, we are hard at work planning not only our November tutor/mentor conference, but also our May Conference as well as lots and lots of volunteer recruitment events. These events include the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse that Nicole is organizing at the ING Cafe on August 21st to foster collaboration between various programs and numerous recruitment fairs and events that begin this week. So as you can see, there is always more work that can be done to improve both our own program and myriad others, even when the kids we serve are conspicuously absent.

On a related note, I'm beginning to realize that my life is no longer organized in neat 3 month increments like it has been for the past 4 years, and that I need to start thinking over the much longer term in order to really understand the impact I'm having here. Rather than do crazy amounts of work in short bursts and having it be more or less irrelevant 3 weeks later, is much more important to work consistently, building on prior work and cultivating relationships over the long term, so that they are sustainable if/when you leave or change positions. For this reason it's important to have very clear goals, an effective plan for reaching them over the long-term and a system for documentation as you progress towards said goals. I'm fortunate that Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection seem to be so well planned and organized, perhaps that's what allows them to continually play a leadership role in the Tutor/Mentor community both here in Chicago and internationally. I'm hoping that during my time here, these modes of long-term, strategic thinking will begin to come more naturally to me, and I can play a significant role in the creation of new plans, ideas and programs to better serve our youth and grow our organization in the long run. More to come...