Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2008 Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council

2008 Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council

This week we’d like to congratulate 6 individuals rather than just one for our Student Spotlight. These 6 students will be making up the 2008-2009 Youth Leadership Council! Three students from each tutoring night, Wednesday and Thursday, were elected to the council last week by tutors and students. These students not only got up in front of tutors and their peers to give an election speech two weeks ago, but sat down in front of everyone and fielded questions last week as part of a “New England Town-Hall” style debate. Last week, democracy reigned at Cabrini Connections as everyone lined up at 3 designated polling places to cast their votes for the 3 students who they thought would best represent them on the Youth Leadership Council. Now we are proud to announce that the following individuals will comprise our 2008 YLC:

From Wednesday night:

Eboni Rivera

LaFaye Garth

DeSean Hale

From Thursday Night:

Cierria Tharpe

Sean Mayfield

Savon Clark

We are putting these youth in the spotlight because they are the future of Cabrini Connections. The ideas they bring to the Youth Leadership Council and the decisions that they make will fundamentally affect the way Cabrini Connections operates. These youth will be assisting Cabrini Connections Staff in making decisions pertaining to everything from field trip destinations and the tutoring schedule to coming up with strategies to increase youth involvement and attendance in the Winter months.

One of these 6 students will also be representing Cabrini Connections on a Regional leadership council. This council is comprised of a youth representative from each of the numerous tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections around the Chicagoland area. This representative will not only earn the opportunity to make decisions that affect youth all around Chicago, but he/she will also receive $200/month to reward their leadership.

Congratulations Eboni, LaFaye, DeSean, Cierria, Sean and Savon on your election victories, we’re excited to see the change you bring to Cabrini Connections in the year to come!

On a personal level, I'm super excited to be working with these 6 kids in the coming months, developing their leadership and communication skills and helping them successfully implement their ideas. This is my first big step towards enhancing youth participation at Cabrini Connections, as I discussed in a post last month http://chrispip.blogspot.com/2008/10/increasing-youth-participation.html.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we work to establish a Youth Leadership Council charter that will determine the nature of the council: i.e. will there be a president, vice president...etc or will everyone's voice have equal sway. Also, must decisions be made by consensus or will a simple or 2/3 majority be enough. We will also be determining recall procedures, should council members fail to follow through with their campaign promises and the exact purview of the council...all very important in getting the kids to really understand both their individual roles in the council as well as the council's role at Cabrini Connections. This is truly an exciting time.

Volunteer Spotlight: Joe Alverson

This week, we’d like to bring some attention to 2nd year tutor/mentor and Senior Electrical Engineer Joe Alverson. He started mentoring at Cabrini Connections last year on the recommendation of a number of friends and immediately threw himself into it. He was matched up with Lincoln Park High School 9th grader and Cabrini Green resident William Gallion right away and has been “really really enjoying it” ever since. William came to the program last year struggling with his math homework and now, one quarter into his freshman year, finds that math is his strongest subject. In speaking with Joe, he expresses how hard a worker William is and is quick to give the credit to William for his dramatic improvement. However, it is obvious that Joe provides William with a great role model, someone who is not afraid to work hard towards a goal and achieve it, inspiring others in the process.

In the past year working with William, Joe has really pushed William to realize his potential. For example, in preparation for the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which is very important in Chicago since it’s used to weed out low-performing applicants from the best magnet schools, Joe came to William’s house every day for a week to help him study. In doing this, Joe not only helped William gain enough confidence and skills to ace the ISAT, but he also developed a valuable relationship with William’s family, with whom he ate dinner each night in exchange for his tutoring expertise. Joe has developed a great relationship with William’s family, even going so far as to attend a family reunion, where the rest of William’s family, seeing what a great influence he is on William, strongly encouraged that he stay with William through high school graduation and beyond!

Perhaps the secret to Joe’s strong mentor/mentee relationship with William is that he encourages William to meet with him outside of tutoring to augment the tutoring/mentoring he gets each week at Cabrini Connections. Joe and William frequently go out and grow their mentoring relationship together, going to the movies, talking about politics and even building furniture!

Joe makes it clear that mentoring means a lot to him when he says “it’s nice to give your time back to the community and see that you are having a direct impact on someone else’s life.” We are so glad that we here at Cabrini Connections can facilitate strong and mutually beneficial mentoring relationships like Joe and William's and we’re looking forward to seeing them both grow in the coming years! Congratulations Joe!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Organizational Silos and Effective Collaboration

Hey everyone! So I recently read this article about the dangers about what the author terms, "organizational silos" and how they impede innovation. He approaches it from a very corporate perspective, but I think that this concept of "organizational silos" is very important to understand in order to facilitate the collaboration we're aiming for with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. We here at the Tutor/Mentor Connection agree with this article in stating that "As a system, innovation is collaborative, multidisciplinary and requires diverging viewpoints and experiences. It is also inclusive, and it is about bridging and extending linkages and interactions to build something that is greater than its parts. Organizational silos are barriers to innovation. They impede collaboration and communication outside of an organization and come in a variety of flavors, including:

Geographical Silos- which stem from difficulty in adequately sharing information and collaborating when different parts of an organization are in different geographical locations

Project Silos- which occur when best practice information isn't shared between groups working in similar ways towards similar goals

Functional Silos-
which arise when there is uncertainty about peoples' roles within an organization and lead to redundancy and feelings of underappreciation among members

Technology Silos- which occur when technology isn't or cannot be shared among members of an organization

As you can see from the above graphic (which you should click to view in full), the Tutor/Mentor Connection aims to be a pipeline for ensuring that at-risk youth receive the extra support they need to stay on-track throughout their formative years and enter careers by the age of 25.

We believe that volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are the bridges that connect volunteers, donors and business leaders with the children, families and schools on the other side of the socioeconomic divide. We hope to connect these stakeholders through an ongoing, dynamic exchange of ideas, and ultimately to improve the availability and quality of tutor/mentor programs throughout the world.

However as you can see, these different groups of people, each of whom plays a role in ensuring these children succeed, are from a diverse set of sectors and organizations, many of whom have very minimal contact with each other. Therefore, one of our largest challenges is to break down the barriers, or organizational silos, that separate these different groups and bring them together under the common umbrella of ensuring these kids' success. Since the tutor/mentor connection is the sum of its constituent members, in discussing how to break-down or avoid the types of silos I just mentioned, it is helpful to conceive of all of these distinct groups and concepts as comprising the Tutor/Mentor Connection itself and not to consider the Tutor/Mentor
Connection a standalone program like Cabrini Connections, our tutor/mentor program, because it is not.

In order to tear down these silos and create an environment where innovation and collaboration can flourish, the author suggests a multi-pronged approach, which I believe we have already been implementing to various degrees. The prongs include:
--Rallying around a shared purpose
--Actively building a culture of collaboration
--Making it easy to connect and share

--Emphasizing values of trust, honesty and communication

--Measuring your impact on important goals

So, let's make this more concrete. This past Friday, we held our annual November Tutor/Mentor Networking and Leadership Conference. It is a very important day for the Tutor/Mentor Connection because it is one of 2 major opportunities each year to get all of our constituent organizations together under one roof for a day of learning, sharing information/resources/best practices, collaboration and networking. Due to the nature of our organization, which is in effect a loose network of hundreds of different programs offering various forms of youth tutoring and/or mentoring, we are constantly struggling with the aforementioned organizational silos and use these conferences as a means to dismantle these silos and encourage more effective communication and collaboration between the various programs. I will now take on each type of organizational silo in turn and explain how last Friday's conference is helping us to tear down these barriers to collaboration and innovation.

Geographical Silos
By bringing over 100 leaders in tutoring/mentoring from all over Chicagoland and the midwest, together under one roof, we're encouraging geographically distant members of our organization to interact and collaboration face to face We believe the internet has the potential to make geographical silos irrelevant because it has such a wealth of resources for collaboration: email, online forums like http://tutormentorconnection.ning.com/, SVHATS, google documents,
www.tutormentorconnection.org, and the list goes on. Relationships between programs that begin at our Tutor/Mentor Conferences can be developed via the internet, which makes it so easy for people to connect and share through interactive online learning communities, such as those being developed by our eLearning and Technology Coordinator Vjekoslave Hlede.

Project Silos
Because one of the explicit goals of the tutor/mentor connection is to foster collaboration between tutor/mentor programs, there were countless discussions at our conference, both during panels and workshops as well as between sessions about the best ways to implement various programs and improve outcomes for our youth. The links library on www.tutormentorconnection.org has thousands of relevant links and forums addressing every possible aspect of a tutor/mentor program and effective strategies. Additionally, our tutor/mentor institute discusses strategies and concepts we use to try to expand our reach and effectiveness, to help more kids in more neighborhoods stay in school and succeed. Because everyone at the conference was there because they believe in the importance and effectiveness in tutoring/mentoring at-risk youth, we were able to delve deeply into specific aspects of tutoring/mentoring right off the bat and share strategies and best practices.

Functional Silos
A main goal of the Tutor/Mentor Conference is to get people to understand the unique role they can play as a change agent and leader in youth tutoring/mentoring. We make it clear that any person or organization can help connect their networks with other tutor/mentor programs in other parts of Chicago, helping to increase resources for all programs. We want individuals and programs alike to realize that there is no hierarchy in the tutor/mentor connection, that it is a network of professional and volunteer leaders who work together to bring more and better resources to tutor/mentor programs aiming to help disadvantaged youth succeed. We think anyone can fill in the red oval below, and that they don't have to sit around and wait for a leader to delegate responsibility to them, that they can take their own initiative, supported by the resources of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to help give disadvantaged youth a chance to realize their dreams.
Technology Silos
Finally, we aim to use technology to bring people together, bridging gaps that are not only geographical, but educational. We host the Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Program Locator
, which is an online directory of every known program in Chicagoland that offers some form of youth tutoring/mentoring. We give leaders at each program the resources to update or otherwise edit their profiles, which are used to recruit youth and adult volunteers alike. Our eLearning and Technology Coordinator Vjeko is also working to share his Student and Volunteer web portal/history and tracking system SVHATS with other programs around Chicago such as Good News Partners, which do great work in the Howard Area Community of North Rogers Park. This recent conference was a great opportunity for him to share some of our technology ideas, which can be found on our wiki and how they can be implemented to improve youth outcomes and strengthen grant proposals by allowing organizations to both qualitatively and quantitatively measure their impact on youth.

In sum, we are doing quite a bit to prevent organizational silos from inhibiting the innovation and collaboration that are so necessary in a decentralized organization like the Tutor/Mentor Connection to succeed (for more info about decentralized organizations see this post). However, obviously we still have room to improve. Any suggestions?

Student Spotlight: Joshua Vera

Joshua Vera, 7th grader at Oscar Mayer Magnet, is in his first year here at Cabrini Connections. However, he’s been benefiting from a mentoring relationship with George Matyas since he was in 4th grade. They were matched up as mentor/mentee at our sister program, Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, where they worked together for 3 years until graduating into our program here at Cabrini Connections. Joshua is a good fit with our program, as he strives to make himself well-rounded and achieve his goals with the help of his mentor, George.

One of Joshua’s favorite things to do is play basketball, which he has been doing since as early as he can remember. In fact, he plays center and power forward on the 7th grade team at his school and is planning to play basketball in high school and hopefully college. Speaking of high school, because Joshua lives on the south side and doesn’t want to attend his low-achieving neighborhood high school, he is driven to gain acceptance into one of Chicago’s elite public schools, Whitney Young or Lincoln Park High School, so that he can develop skills and knowledge in an engaging environment that will adequately prepare him for the challenges ahead.

Besides basketball, Joshua also plays the drums and enjoys art. He enjoys making collages, painting pictures and writing poems in his various classes and clubs. He also has a passion for technology, spurred by the fact that every child in his school has access to their own laptop computer, which they can take home to work on projects and assignments. Joshua appreciates the impact that technology has had on our lives and often thinks that he might want to pursue something in a technology related field as an eventual career. Though he’s only in the 7th grade, he’s already thinking that he might want to open up his own business some day, perhaps his own line of athletic apparel uniquely tailored to the needs of certain types of athletes. Luckily he’s got plenty of time to get his business plan together!

It’s inspiring to hear Joshua talk about how he is happy to be involved with Cabrini Connections. For him Cabrini Connections is “a way to help me with my schoolwork and to get good grades,” while it also “helps me develop skills.” Congratulations Joshua! We’re glad you’re with us and excited to help you on your path to success!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Volunteer Spotlight: Jen King

Three years ago Jen King, along with her friends Megan and Shannon, came to Cabrini Connections with open hearts and a great idea—to start a writing club where our youth could come and learn techniques for personal expression in a comfortable, supportive environment. Now, with Megan and Shannon having taken jobs outside of the city, Jen leads the Cabrini Connections Writing Club solo, but with enough passion and dedication to fill 3 pairs of heels. Week after week her students come together before Wednesday tutoring to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with Jen and each other. Gradually realizing that it’s ok to talk about their feelings and that personal growth comes often from connecting with those around you. Jen put it best when she said: “Here, they’re connecting with me, each other, and themselves.”

However it wasn’t always this easy for Jen to connect with her students, in fact, she ran into huge challenges right off the bat. One of the first big challenges was to convince the students that she and her other friends weren’t there for “extra credit” but actually were choosing to be there because they wanted to be there. This has been accomplished slowly but surely, as the kids start to identify her not by what makes her different: her race, her age, but by what they share: friendship, trust and a deep sense of understanding as she helps her kids plumb the depths of their own feelings, beliefs and experiences.

Since Writing Club has primarily attracted our female students, Jen has really worked to explore issues of femininity with her students. Our students are lucky to have such a strong, successful and positive female role-model engaging and challenging them each week to assert their rights as young women and not conform to negative stereotypes! Jen is so happy to see her girls consistently referring to themselves as strong and sexy females in their writing, asserting their competence in a world that doesn’t always encourage women to hold such views.

Jen seems most proud of the way her students have really come to love the weekly “purging” exercises that comprise the first 15 minutes of each session. Here, students write about whatever is on their mind in a private journal that is shared only with Jen. This serves as a warm-up, getting the kids to feel more comfortable using writing as a means of personal expression while also serving as a much-needed catharsis in the middle of a stressful week. She has found that her students come to treat this exercise as a diary entry, trusting Jen with some of their most personal thoughts.

Asking Jen what keeps her coming back to Cabrini Connections’ Writing Club, her face lights up as she tells me, “At this point, I’ve gotten to know each of them so well and for an hour or so each week, they’re mine!
I’ve learned so much and can really pick their brains. I’m not going anywhere!”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicago State University and Illinois Institute of Technology Visits

Last Friday, a handful of Cabrini Connections youth joined me for a day of college visits across the city of Chicago. Rather than relaxing at home during a Chicago Public School holiday, the students met me at Cabrini Connections at 8:45am and we made our way down to the end of the Red Line at 95th, where we hopped a bus to Chicago State University, a historically African-American State College. We spent the morning learning about their various programs, exploring the campus and meeting students so that the kids could get a better idea of what it would be like to be a student at Chicago State. We visited everything from the dorms, to the dining halls and workout facilities so that it was easy for the students to look into the not-so-distant future, and imagine themselves going to class, studying in the library, and relaxing in the dorm cafeteria with their friends and classmates. Tashara and Tiffany, both of whom are High School Freshman, were particularly interested in learning more about their pre-med programs, as they both want to go into the medical profession, either as nurses or physician’s assistants or as full-fledged M.Ds. It was especially beneficial for them to be visiting schools so early in their High School Career, since for them, High School is a blank slate, and if they have something to work for, like admission to a particular college, they can work with their mentors to develop short and medium-term goals that will help them achieve that end goal.

After checking out everything Chicago State has to offer, we again jumped on the Red Line and made our way down to 35th, where we found themselves in the midst of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Bronzeville Campus. We enjoyed lunch and an in-depth explanation of IIT’s many programs and how technology permeates all of their course offerings. Manley Career Academy Junior, Melissa Hale was very interested by their “Business and Technology” offerings, as she is in a special business track in her high school that emphasizes information technology.

We were then taken on a tour of campus, where the students noticed many differences from Chicago State. Since it is a private school, parts of the campus are very opulent, such as some of the newer dormitories that we visited and their new student center, complete with a Rem Koolhaas designed elevated train tunnel that muffles the sound of the green line as it whizzes mere yards above. The kids also picked up on the diversity of the student body, which is much more international than Chicago State’s predominantly African-American student body. This was immediately apparent since as soon as the students walked into the student union, they were inundated with the sights and smells from the nearly 100 countries represented on campus; It was the day of one of IIT’s multicultural festivals.

One thing that impressed the students at IIT was that, though tuition and fees are more expensive at IIT, being that it is a private school, they have a special scholarship for CPS students that pays for full tuition, books and fees! This caught the students’ interest in a big way. Hopefully this will encourage the kids to keep their grades up and study hard for the ACT, as the average student at IIT had a high school GPA of 3.89 and scored between a 25 and 30 on their ACT.

As the students returned to Cabrini Connections, cold and exhausted from the rapidly declining temperatures and a full day of college tours, one couldn’t help but detect a spark of possibility being lit in the students’ minds, one we at Cabrini Connections help fuel and guide, until they can light their own way.

Volunteer Spotlight: Frances Kwee

Frances Kwee, this week’s volunteer spotlight, is truly an asset to Cabrini Connections. A recent graduate from McMaster Universiy, Frances is now working for Motorola as a Senior Electrical Engineer in their cell phones division. She found out about our program through a pair of coworkers who were each 3 year veteran volunteers of our program. This is her second year with the program and working with her second student as well. Last year she was paired up with Imani Hawkins, with whom she developed a great mentoring relationship. She felt like she, as a successful female engineer with a positive attitude, was really serving as an inspiration for Imani, who was also interested in science and math. Unfortunately, Imani lives a very long way from Cabrini Connections and found herself less and less able to make the trip, so she was not able to stay with us this year. However, Frances has continued to reach out to her, trying to still support her and be that role model, despite the fact that she is no longer affiliated with the program.

This year, Frances has floated around, assisting various students as needed, lending her math and science expertise. A few weeks ago, Frances was finally paired up with Ashanti Anderson, one of our 7th graders who is pretty disenchanted with her school and classwork. Since then, Frances has really tried to connect with her, working slowly but surely on small, achievable goals such as trying to get Ashanti to be more engaged in a couple of her classes and even enjoy them a bit, knowing that the knowledge will be useful to her down the road as she starts thinking about entering a career.

Though being a tutor can sometimes feel like a thankless task, Frances says assuredly, “I like being her tutor and would never want to dump her.” She knows that this year, as with all first year matches, is about building a solid foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship that will grow in the coming years. For now, Frances just takes it one week at a time, knowing that she’s not only helping her student, but serving as a role model for other young female students who need to see young ambitious females like herself achieving success in traditionally male-dominated disciplines like electrical engineering. Thanks so much Frances for all your hard work! We’re so happy to put you in our Volunteer Spotlight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Student Spotlight: Vontesha Stanfield

Lakeview High School Junior, Vontesha Stanfield, has been with Cabrini Connections since she was in 7th grade. For the past 3 years, she has been paired up with her current mentor, Jen Jozwick, who Vontesha describes as her best friend. Vontesha is currently looking at colleges where she can study nursing upon graduation. Right now, she has pretty much settled on Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women that is located in Atlanta. In fact, her favorite movie is ATL, a 2006 coming-of-age tale about four friends preparing for life after high school and how different challenges bring about turning points in each of their lives. At this juncture in her life, Vontesha says she is ready to leave her hometown of Chicago and spend some time in the south, where she is excited to have the opportunity to do something different while at the same time escaping the brutal Chicago winters.

She’s excited to go to Atlanta for a number of reasons. In deciding on a career in nursing, she has been inspired by a number of women in her life including her mother, who is currently in nursing school, her cousin—a nurse, and LaFaye Garth, a senior at Cabrini Connections who will be licensed as a registered nurse by January 2009. In her spare time, Vontesha works with two of our other students, Angelene and Whitney Hemphill at the Moody Church Kids Club, helping hundreds of kids who, like herself, are growing up in Cabrini Green. Working with kids is definitely something she wants to continue doing as she transitions into professional life.

By her own admission, Vontesha is quiet and fairly shy, and despite her interest in the college party scene at Spelman, claims that she would rather curl up with a good book than stay out dancing all night. Though you would never know it by her appearance, another one of Vontesha’s preferred activities is eating—especially hamburgers and pizza. In fact, her friends endearingly call her “Big Hungry.”

We here at Cabrini Connections are really glad that Vontesha is so dedicated to both our program and her future and we will be helping her every step of the way with the college application and admissions process until she’s accepted to and has negotiated her financial aid package with Spelman college. Keep up the good work Vontesha!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Volunteer Spotlight: Zak Kustok

Former Big Ten Quarterback Zak Kustok graduated from Northwestern University as the second most prolific passer in school history. A star both on and off the field, Kustok’s talent and leadership led his team to a share of the 2000 Big Ten title while acing his economics coursework at the same time. After spending brief stints with the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins and our very own Chicago Bears from 2002 to 2004, Zak eventually decided to put his economics degree to use, landing a job at the Chicago Board of Trade as a Sales Trader in 2003. He quickly made a name for himself and was asked only 2 years later to start a Chicago chapter of the Bavaro group, which he helped lead until they were bought out last year. He is currently working as an account manager with Stryker Medical.

Zak is a brand new volunteer here at Cabrini Connections; he started the last week of October on a recommendation from his friend and former teammate at NU, Cabrini Connections Administrative Coordinator, EL Da’Sheon. He was paired up with fellow football player, Lincoln Park High School Junior Raheem Muhammad. Raheem was in the program in the past but left after his tutor took a job in another city. He’s back now and looking to Zak for guidance and support as he looks to stay on track during his Junior and Senior years. Zak is glad to be paired up with a student who is so driven to learn and succeed! Zak, learning from his collegiate experience working with youth through the D.A.R.E. outreach program, is excited to “keep Raheem on the right path,” sharing his experience as a Big Ten football player and offering advice to another promising young football player. However, Zak is not one to push his past onto his student, he’s made it clear that Raheem is in the driver’s seat and will offer his unconditional support whether Raheem chooses to pursue football, construction or the culinary arts upon graduation.

We’re so glad to have young, talented mentors like Zak here at Cabrini Connections, mentors who can bond with their students through shared life experience and also a genuine desire to connect and build a solid foundation for a long-term relationship of mutual support. Thanks Zak!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Student Spotlight: Angelene Hemphill

Angelene Hemphill is a Senior at Wells Community Academy with a promising future. She is the Wells Senior Class President and a model student for her peers. As Class President, Angelene is in charge of, among other things, coordinating fundraising efforts and production, marketing and sales of class t-shirts and jackets…no small feat for a class of nearly 300 students! Angelene has been with Cabrini Connections since she was a 7th grader and in that time has developed an interest in broadcast journalism. In fact, she’s planning on attending one of the Chicago City Colleges and studying broadcast journalism so that she can eventually work at a television station in Chicago, ideally NBC-5.

In her spare time, she works at an after-school program at Moody Church where she’s the assistant leader of the Kids Club. There, she has an opportunity to help hundreds of kids who like herself, are growing up in Cabrini-Green, assisting them with their academics as well as keeping them out of trouble. Since Angelene has benefited from involvement with after-school and tutor/mentor programs from a young age, she is happy to have found an outlet for her time that allows her to help others the way her own tutors and mentors have helped her become the promising young woman that she is today.

Angelene also enjoys art. In fact she's been a regular participant in our Art Club here, and has even seen her work shown in a local gallery! Below are a couple projects she's worked on at Cabrini Connections.

Angelene admits that “Cabrini Connections has given and continues to give me all the support and tutoring help that I need to keep at my goals." We are so glad to have accompanied Angelene for the last 6 years and are excited at her prospects for the future! Congratulations Angelene! We’re expecting great things!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bridging Social Capital

Last week my boss Dan Bassill, Founder and CEO of Cabrini Connections, blogged about "bridging social capital" and how providing a means by which kids growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods can gain access to new social networks is perhaps the most important resource we can provide to our youth. You can find his post here. Indeed, at Cabrini Connections, what we do is to bring together successful working professionals with kids in economically disadvantaged communities and offer a structure for them to develop deep and lasting relationships, opening up the mentors networks, (personal, workplace, faith-based, community...etc) to their mentee (student) so that the youth can benefit from these contacts when seeking employment, internship experience, college admission and a career.

Harvard Political Scientist Robert Putnam has defined social capital as: "the collective value of all 'social networks' and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other". Considering the dearth of economic resources in isolated, high-poverty neighborhoods such as Cabrini Green, it can be argued that kids in our target population have less developed and supportive social networks than their counterparts in more affluent areas of Lincoln Park or the Gold Coast and that this contributes to their increased risk for negative outcomes such as: dropping out of high school, entering the prison system and teen pregnancy. In fact, a landmark study looking at over 24,000 public, Catholic and other private school students found that social capital in students' families and communities attributed to the much lower dropout rates in Catholic schools compared with the higher dropout rates found in public schools (Coleman and Hoffer 1987).

In a recent book, Bowling Alone (2000) Putnam posits that "Child development is powerfully shaped by social capital" and continued "presence of social capital has been linked to various positive outcomes, particularly in education". He argues that positive youth outcomes are primarily a result of a parent's social capital in their community. This crucially includes the relationships that they have with their childs' teachers and educators and more generally the strength of their relations with other individuals who determine their childs development both at school and in the community. However, in high-poverty communities where single mother-led households are the norm and numerous factors converge to requre these lone parents to work multiple jobs, leading to less time spent with children and their educators, it is difficult to accrue the high levels of social capital, that help catalyze a child's success.

This is where tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections step in and help "bridge" this social capital. For instance, in our program mentors like last weeks' volunteer spotlight Carolyn Grunst work with both their students and their educators, meeting with school counselors, teachers and administrators to ensure that the child is receiving the resources they need at school while also developing trusting relationships with the child's primary caregivers. Mentors thus serve as bridges between often disparate communities, between school and home life, between student life and the professional world and between Cabrini-Green and the mahogany trimmed offices of elite law firms around the city. In this way, mentors help to develop networks of support (i.e. social capital) around the youth that increase their opportunities for success, ensuring they stay on the right track through junior high and high schools, continue with higher education and enter a career by the age of 25.