Friday, January 30, 2009

Cabrini Connections Students show their appreciation

Just in case you are too lazy to check out please check out these videos that the Youth Leadership Council put together to show their appreciation for everything our mentors do. The top video features our Wednesday Night students and the bottom one features our Thursday Night Students.

Thanks again mentors and volunteers!

Woo hoo! I had no idea how easy it is to embed video in my blog. Be on the lookout for more great clips as the year progresses.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

National Mentoring Month winds to a close

Hey everyone! As National Mentoring Month winds to a close, I hope you've all taken this opportunity to thank the mentors in your lives, those who have encouraged you to pursue your dreams and have inspired you to live your life to its fullest possible potential. If you haven't already, you're in luck, there are still 3 days left. So dial up that mentor and let them know how much you appreciate them.

In a similar vein, I'd like to share a video that the Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council and I put together to show our appreciation for the mentors in our lives. You can stream it from our website at I'd highly recommend checking it out, if for no other reason than to see the impact a mentor can have on a child's life. If you're inspired, get involved and help us make every month National Mentoring Month!

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Stephanie Rogers

Cabrini Connections volunteer Stephanie Rogers is at a turning point in her life. In 2 months she will be receiving a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Westwood College and will be entering the workforce. Though she doesn’t have a particular job lined up, she knows she wants to work in youth advocacy. She wants to use her talents and knowledge of the criminal justice system to help defend kids from injustice, whether it’s at school, home or in a public setting.

Stephanie has known that her calling was youth work since she was very young. Growing up on the Northwest side of Chicago, Stephanie saw a lot of friends suffer injustices growing up and came to realize that rather than give up and accept these things as inevitable, she wanted to stay positive, study hard, and work to make a difference. For Stephanie, helping others is in her nature… “obviously,” she says “I’m a Leo like Obama and we’re generous people.”

We couldn’t agree more. Since starting with us as a volunteer mentor in the Fall, Stephanie has been nothing less than generous in sharing her time and talents with us. Rather than giving up after her original mentee left the program, she has stuck around, helping us with a wide variety of things, including taking our students on a personally guided tour and information session of her school, Westwood College. She enjoyed this so much that she is now one of 2 coordinators of our new Cabrini Connections college zone. In this role she will work with our students and their mentors to ensure they’re on the right track with college admissions, assisting them with everything from searching for schools, the application process, financial aid, advice about budgeting at college…etc. She has generously decided to come in each week on both Wednesdays and Thursdays so that she can dedicate enough time to each student who needs it.

When not studying or volunteering Stephanie really enjoys writing poetry and listening to music. One of her favorite things to do is just walking around outside when the weather’s nice. However, her true passions lie with kids and her relentless desire to make other people happy. She’s completely committed to working with kids and she is confident that “If you stay motivated and working towards something you really believe in, you can’t be stopped.” Now those are words to live by. Thanks Stephanie!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Student Spotlight: Ashanti Anderson

Jenner Academy 7th grader Ashanti Anderson is in her second year here at Cabrini Connections. Starting last year as a 6th grader, she joined in order to improve her math skills and benefit from a mentoring relationship. This year she has been paired up with Motorola Senior Electrical Engineer Frances Kwee, who is well qualified to help her with her math. Their relationship has progressed well in the past couple of months and they even met up on their own over Ashanti’s winter break to grab some Chinese food and get to know each other better. Though Ashanti learned that she’s not the biggest fan of Chinese food, they had a great time and will continue to work hard to build their relationship.

In school Ashanti’s favorite subjects are math, reading and social studies. She recently watched the classic PBS series Roots, and found it fascinating to learn more about the history of slavery both here in the U.S and in Africa. She says that learning about slavery helps to “tell us about why we are free now.” Though she likes the majority of her classes, she despises science—finding it dull and boring. Luckily, Frances is actually a scientist herself, and a very interesting and engaging one at that, so perhaps with a little encouragement she will eventually grow to enjoy the subject. She might want to in order to accomplish her dream of becoming a trial lawyer like the ones seen on CSI.

We at Cabrini Connections are so glad to have Ashanti with us and are proud to put her in the Student Spotlight. Congratulations Ashanti and keep up the good work!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Has Obama inspired you?

If you're not already aware, our wonderful eLearning and Technology Coordinator recently created a website to replace our aging "Tutor/Mentor Institute". It's called the Tutor/Mentor Exchange and it has information about a wide variety of tutoring/mentoring related topics, particularly those aimed towards helping potential advocates to more effectively support tutoring/mentoring initiatives of all kinds. There are articles here for anyone wants to help us in our goal to give every child growing up in poverty, access to a high quality tutoring/mentoring program...for those who agree with President Obama that our nation's success depends "on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

If you have been inspired by Obama's call to service like so many others and are in the health care field: check out the Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection to see how you can make a difference.

If you or anyone you know is a student, professor, employee or is otherwise affiliated with a College or University, check our our model for a University Tutor/Mentor Connection

K-12 students should check out this article here to see how they can play their part in creating a more just world

How about faith communities? We have hashed out a plan to help concerned individuals mobilize their church, mosque or temple to help at-risk youth succeed!

Are you a lawyer or know a lawyer? Check out our Lawyers Lend a Hand campaign and see how you can join other members of the legal community who are connecting with at-risk kids all over the city and broadening their horizons.

Or perhaps you find yourself among the ranks of the unemployed, retired or otherwise have some extra time on your hands... perhaps you might be interested in starting a tutor/mentor program? If so, check out this collection of essays and how-to guides about what it takes to start AND SUSTAIN a volunteer tutor/mentor program. The information in these essays draws from decades of tutoring/mentoring experience culled from the members of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as well as Cabrini Connections Founder and CEO Dan Bassill's personal experience. In either case, it's worth checking out.

Hopefully you'll find one of these links worthwhile and find a way to get involved and use your particular talents to make a difference!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Lange

Recent Notre Dame graduate Brian Lange knows a leader when he sees one. As a research analyst at Egon Zehnder International, he assesses and recruits top-level executives for leadership roles at organizations across the globe. Therefore we are particularly glad that when he was searching last year for a meaningful place to volunteer in his spare time, he ended up here at Cabrini Connections. Last year Brian was paired up with a student, Anthony Allen, in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. Anthony did not return this year, so Brian decided that this year he would be well suited for the volunteer coordinator role, which he is currently filling on Thursday nights. Brian has slipped into the role with ease, given his easy-going demeanor and leadership skills, which he will be further honing beginning next year at the University of Chicago.

Brian was recently accepted into the U of C Booth School of Business where he will be studying marketing, strategic management and behavioral finance beginning in fall. 2009 is shaping up to be an important year for Brian as he will be getting married to his fiancĂ© Elizabeth this summer, who is a 3rd year medical student at Northwestern University. They met during Brian’s time at Notre Dame where he studied modern European history and business. Though he was busy in college, he found time to share his time with worthwhile organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. His most memorable experience with them was when he decided to join a group of concerned individuals in 2005 and travel to Sri Lanka for 3 weeks to help rebuild after the devastating tsunami that killed nearly a quarter million people in late December 2004.

About Cabrini Connections, Brian says: “it’s a good group, doing a good service to the city… I’m proud to be a part of it.” We’re glad you agree Brian!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Student Spotlight: Savon Clark

Skinner School 8th grader Savon Clark has consistently proven himself to be one of our most dedicated students. Besides having more points than any other 8th grader (earned through involvement in activities at Cabrini Connections), he had perfect attendance this fall and was elected to the 2008-2009 Youth Leadership Council. Additionally, he and his mentor Mike Kolberg were the only participants to continue meeting weekly in our center during the summer months this year. Savon requested that they meet in order to improve his math skills for his 8th grade year. Though Savon has found his classes to be a greater challenge this year, he says “I feel better about getting the A’s now ‘cause I have to work for them.” It’s telling that his 2 biggest challenges this year are in reading and math, his two favorite subjects. About his mentor, Mike, he says: “Mike has really helped me out with all my subjects, when my grades were falling he helped me to pick them back up. I’m glad that he’s been sticking it through with me, helping me strive for A’s all the time, I really appreciate Mike.”

Savon is taking the winter off after playing fullback and linebacker for the Windy City Dolphins. He is already training for track, which starts in the spring. He’s been lifting and doing lots of push-ups so he can excel in his events, the 4X2 relay, the 400 meter dash and shotput.

He’s also excited to be a part of the Youth Leadership Council and is eager to work with the other students to improve Cabrini Connections. He’s been taking notes of potential improvements and doing research to try to address them with the council. Hopefully all of his hard work will pay off soon when he finds out what high school he will be attending next year. He applied to some of the best and most competitive schools in the entire city: Whitney Young, Lane Tech, Walter Payton and Lindblom. Wherever he ends up, we are certain that he will make the most of his opportunities and strive for the very best. Congratulations Savon!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Welcome Back!

So yesterday was our first tutoring session of the winter quarter! Despite the sub-zero temperatures, a number of new students joined us as we entered a new year of one-on-one tutoring/mentoring. I was excited to see both of our college zone counselors, Carla Reyes and Stephanie Rogers making the rounds, introducing themselves to our upperclassmen in order to determine their college needs. Carla and Stephanie will be running our new College Zone, which was built over the winter break to serve as a resource center for our college-bound students. The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) met before tutoring to discuss a number of pressing issues here at Cabrini Connections. The kids were excited to get underway on a mentoring month activity that will be unveiled later this month (shhhhhh it's a secret).

Since with our Development Coordinator Cassina out of the picture, I am now going to be playing a greater role in ensuring the financial health of Cabrini Connections we also discussed how the YLC could potentially play a role in fundraising for Cabrini Connections, which the kids were enthusiastic about, explaining how easy it would be to raise money via candy sales at school. This is something that we are likely to persue, since it has since come to my attention that selling 12 fundraising boxes of king sized candy at a buck a pop can easily earn us over a thousand bucks. This form of fundraising nets us additional benefits as well. First and foremost by fundraising independently for our program the kids would be taking some ownership and responsibility for the economic health of Cabrini Connections, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Secondly, by selling candy, the kids would be telling their peers and fellow community members about the value of our program. This is particularly key right now as we have space for at least 10 more students that we are looking to fill as soon as possible. Hopefully we will make a final decision on this at our next YLC meeting and get this fundraiser underway before the end of National Mentoring Month.

What are you going to do to help before National Mentoring Month ends?