Saturday, February 28, 2009

UIC Flames WIN!

Last Saturday, I chaperoned a group of 25+ students and mentors from Cabrini Connections to a UIC Flames basketball game at the UIC Pavillion. The Flames took on the SIU Salukis, which was an ESPN bracketbuster game, which means these 2 teams were battling for a potential NCAA tournament berth. We were given the opportunity to go for free as part of the UIC Flames Community Assist Program, which provides opportunities for non-profits like ours to take our kids to see an NCAA basketball game for free! They organized buses and gave everyone free shirts as well.

Since I was the only Cabrini Connections staff member who went, I was the de facto coordinator, making sure everyone got there and back in one piece, despite the crowds at the game and the natural inclination for junior and senior high school kids to wander around and mingle with the other students attending the game. Luckily, with the help of Volunteer Coordinators Tami and Alexandria, we were able to keep everything organized enough for everyone to have a great time. I was able to meet some friends of current students and explain to them why it would be beneficial for them to join the program, while at the same time hanging out with our current students/volunteers and getting to know them a little better.

All in all, everyone had a great time. Where I was seated, I was lucky enough to be treated to some great play by play analysis from resident ballers Aarion Woods and Joshua Vera. Though we were pretty high up (some students were actually concerned for their safety!!) we were situated near half court, so we got a pretty good view of the Flames laying a whooping on the SIU Salukis, a frequent NCAA tournament attendee 74-67. Even waiting with the kids after the game for their seemingly nonexistent rides to arrive, getting hit by an errant snowball or two, was a good time. So, thatn

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Black Star Project Site Visit

So this morning I had the opportunity to visit The Black Star Project, a multifaceted organization led by Philip Jackson that aims to accomplish nothing less than eliminate the racial achievement gap. In their own words, their mission is "to provide educational services that help pre-school through college students succeed academically and become knowledgeable and productive citizens with the support of their parents, families, schools and communities. Additionally, we help students aspire to post-secondary educational opportunities and training while exploring careers that will be emotionally, intellectually and financially rewarding."

They try to accomplish this by offering the following services:
The Toyota/Black Star Parent University, which was created to address a long-standing challenge: "parents who need additional support to build stronger families and ensure the proper education of their children. Local parenting experts, who serve as “professors,” teach courses that range from educating parents about resolving their childrens' conflicts to developing their children's financial literacy."

The Student Motivation Program, "a classroom-based mentoring program, has been working in Chicago area schools since 1996 to inspire and motivate students to do well in school, expose students to various college and career options, encourage students towards healthy and positive lives, and help students to create viable life plans and make good decisions." While at the center I met with the program coordinator, Mr. Ivory Harris, who informed me that they are currently operating in 50 schools, with around 200 volunteers who offer to come in and speak at schools at least once a month. However, the number of children reached by this programming could easily be doubled if they were able to recruit more volunteer motivators.

The Silas B. Purnell Destination College Program, "created in 1997, provides earlier exposure to college options and creates the expectation in students that a college education is vital to their future success. Destination College Workshops and Destination College Campus Tours provide opportunities for 7th- through 12th-grade students to learn tips for college success from current college students." This is something I'm very interested in looking more into (along with our College Program Counselors Carla and Stephanie), since with the recent development of our own College Zone and College Assistance Program we are always interested in learning and sharing best practices.

The Fathers Club organizes monthly outings for children and their fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, big brothers and other significant male caregivers. Members of the Fathers Club are committed to being better fathers for their families, better role models for their children, better husbands for their wives, and making a difference in their communities. They also coordinate the Million Father March, which encourages Fathers to walk their kids to school on the first day. Last year over 600,000 fathers participated, marching in 475 cities. This year they are planning on expanding it to 550 cities!

The Barbara Ann Sizemore Forums for Educational Excellence are "a way to properly involve parents, families, citizens, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, businesses, elected officials, civic leaders, educators and bring them together to address timely and important educational issues that are facing educators, students, parents and communities today." These forums are designed to bridge the chasm between schools, homes and communities and often take place in local churches, trying to bring faith communities out in force to support youth development and play an active role in improving the community at large.

and finally... The Black Star Scholars Tutoring Program which includes free after-school tutoring at around 20 schools around the city, including Jenner Academy, where I met Black Star Founder Phillip Jackson at a community partner appreciation banquet. They also operate a private one-on-one tutoring option at their Bronzeville facility which is $25 for 2 hours with a reduced cost for students qualifying for free/reduced lunch.

However, I came to Black Star Project not during a tutoring session, but to witness Mr Jackson broker a partnership with the US Marine Corps wherein the military recruiters mobilize their ranks to come into the schools as tutors and the strong, disciplined male role models that the 70% of black children who grow up fatherless lack, allowing Black Star to expand their reach into more communities with greater effectiveness. Mr. Jackson views this as a potential model to be replicated with the other 3 branches of the armed forces across the US, connecting thousands of disciplined, respectful and knowledgable males with at-risk kids lacking such a figure in their lives.

It is important to note, however, that some of these marine recruiters who will be coming into the schools with Black Star as tutors will have been denied admission in the past due to concerned parents and students, worried about impressionable young people being cajoled into giving their life to the military, so to assume complete benevolance on behalf of the military is probably a bit naive, but in the ranking officer at the meeting's own words: "I see the Marine Corps as more than bodysnatchers for war, we are members of your communities, we want to get involved in schools to share our professionalism, character, strength and discipline." So, there are arguments on both sides, and faced with the slim options of a life on the streets or in poverty, sending in the Marines could prove to be beneficial.

Luckily it looks like we're going to have a chance to beginning discussing this idea in depth as Mr. Jackson has agreed to address the issue at our May Tutor/Mentor Conference, coming up this May 28th and 29th at The Northwestern School of Law. Until then, share your thoughts on the issue by commenting on this article or through the poll on the top right of the screen.

---quoted passages can be found in their entirity on

Monday, February 23, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Anne Davies

Veteran Tutor/Mentor Anne Davies has been working with her student, Imann Mitchell for 4 years! They were first matched up when Imann was a 7th grader. Now, Anne helps Imann navigate the complex dynamics, both social and academic, of being a sophomore at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center. Since their first year working together, Anne has helped Imann blossom into a talented and articulate writer, as well as a proficient Spanish-speaker. They have also worked a lot on Imann’s math skills. In addition to academic pursuits, Anne has helped Imann to put her best foot forward and gain the confidence to conquer her shyness and assert herself in social situations. Since Anne and Imann have worked to build a strong mentoring relationship, Anne is also able to counsel Imann and help her navigate the many non-academic challenges she has as a high school sophomore grappling with many new and exciting issues for the first time.

In mentoring Imann, Anne can draw from a wealth of experiences she has had working with youth throughout her life. For instance, Anne worked for three years at a teen helpline in Indianapolis where she helped counsel teens through whatever issues they were struggling with at the time. She also coached youth soccer teams throughout her college years at the University of Tennessee, where she graduated with a degree in journalism. Since then, Anne has continued on with her education, recently receiving her MBA from DePaul University with a focus on marketing and communications. She earned this MBA part-time while working for her current employer, General Growth Properties, which owns large shopping malls around the city, including nearby Water Tower Place.

Luckily for us, Anne’s commitment to our program extends beyond her work with Imann. She has helped in the planning of our annual “Year End Dinner,” which is a celebration of our kids and a chance to show off the successes of our program to prospective students and their families, potential donors and the community at-large. Anne has also recently expressed interest in putting her marketing and communications degree to use helping us figure out how to get more media coverage for our program and events so we can spread our message to more potential friends, students, volunteers, donors…etc. She also will be working with our staff to try to facilitate more effective workplace fundraising efforts from our volunteers. So, thanks Anne, for constantly going above and beyond! Both you and Imann are destined for great things!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Student Spotlight: Whitney Hemphill

This week we’d like to draw some attention to long-time student, Whitney Hemphill. Whitney, a Sophomore at Wells Community Academy, has been with the program since she was in 7th grade. Although she’s always been a committed student, she has shown particular dedication in recent months as she has fought to bring her grades up. She and her mentor, Anna Ashbaugh, have been working exceptionally hard to make sure all her assignments are turned in and that she really understands the material, particularly in U.S. History, where she is shooting for an A. She has also made it to school on time every single day this quarter, no easy feat in the middle of winter.

She has been working to improve her grades because she knows that if she proves herself to be a good student, it will be easier for her to gain admission to nursing programs so she can follow her dream of becoming a nurse. Ever since she was in the 8th grade, her own family doctor has inspired her to seek a career in nursing. She would particularly love to work in pediatrics as she already has lots of experience working with youth. Whitney has been active in the neighborhood “By The Hand” club which matches up older youth like herself with younger kids from the neighborhood to ensure their success in after-school programs that keep them off the streets. During the warmer months she also works at the nearby “City Farm” at Division and Clybourn where she works with After School Matters to plant, farm and sell fruits and vegetables in an urban community garden that is tended by local residents.

We are also proud to recognize Whitney as the winner of our recent “I have a dream…” essay contest with her presentation “I’m Dreaming of Change.” In it, Whitney, a 15 year resident of Cabrini Green soberly lays out its past and present, including the 2007 shooting of her cousin Kearra. She shows how the attitudes of her peers have changed as they’ve matured and how some get drawn into gangs, drugs and violence, while others, like Whitney, manage to stay on track. It’s a powerful presentation and I recommend that you check it out on the wall in our center or on the Cabrini Connections website!

Congratulations Whitney on a job well done! Keep up the great work!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who's in your network?

When it comes down to getting jobs and career opportunities, it's all about who you know. We've heard it a million times. Regardless of work experience, schooling and commitment, when the job market is tough and there are lots of qualified applicants searching for fewer and fewer jobs, the personal connections you cultivate can often make a world of difference in determining your career options. Recognizing this, and the fact that kids growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods like Cabrini-Green don't often have networks of successful professionals willing to lend a hand to write a letter of recommendation, vouch as a personal reference, or introduce them to successful professionals in their chosen career track who can share valuable advice and experiences.

All too often, kids in high-poverty areas are surrounded by folks who, rather than pulling them towards college and careers, serve to push them into lives of crime, delinquency and squandered potential. Therefore, in our mentoring program, we bring volunteers, most of whom are successful professionals working in sectors such as law, finance, education...etc, together with at-risk kids, so that the kids can not only benefit from their relation with their mentor, but from their mentors' networks as well. For instance, if a student such as DeSean Hale is interested in becoming an architect, but his mentor isn't in the field, his mentor can reach into his own network and introduce DeSean to civil engineers, architects and draftsmen that he knows, giving DeSean access to valuable contacts and information that he wouldn't otherwise have.
So take a moment and think about your networks and what they could do to help a kid growing up in Cabrini-Green without such an extensive network of support and resources. A facebook app called Touchgraph photos can help you visualize your network as a series of nodes and find connections you never knew you had. Many people are also using programs like LinkedIn to map their own social networks or to trace the connections between newsmaking figures and the people and organizations that are in their networks.

For example, I've been trying to organize college visits to some regional colleges and universities. Clicking on a given college on my TouchGraph map shows me who I know that is affiliated with a given College, such as the University of Illinois. Therefore, I can easily identify friends who I can reach out to by email/phone/facebook msg to see if they would help me put together a visit. Since you can set touchgraph to sort your network by any number of different criteria, it is a powerful tool for visualizing your relations to other people you know.
Since social networking sites such as myspace and facebook are so popular, both among young professionals and the kids we serve at Cabrini Connections, it has never been easier to connect, online and in person, and be the bridge that these kids so desparately need to networks of greater power and influence.

Cabrini Connections can help you be that bridge!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Student Spotlight: Victoria Rivera

Lincoln Park High School Sophomore, Victoria Rivera is a long time student here at Cabrini Connections who is destined for great things. Victoria has been here since the 7th grade and in the interim has developed a deep friendship with her mentor, Amy Proger. They often get together outside of tutoring to grab a bite to eat and chat; Amy is always encouraging Victoria to try new things, like tapas or regional Italian food, which is always a treat.

Victoria has a lot of different interests. Talk to Victoria for a minute and you’ll realize that she’s bubbling over with enthusiasm about things to come. It’s clear she spends a lot of time thinking about her future and as a 10th grader, she’s already figuring out what she needs to do to avoid the common pitfalls that have prevented people she knows from going to college and reaching her fullest potential. As a 2 sport athlete, softball and cheerleading, with a passion for helping others, Victoria is interested in sports medicine and becoming a physical therapist.

In addition to cheerleading at school, she pursues her passion for dance at her church, where she participates in a contemporary dance ensemble that she really enjoys. Victoria is quite active in her church, she has been taking speaking classes there since 7th grade, which prepare her to speak extemporaneously so when someone in the congregation falls ill or fails to show up, she can take over and deliver the message like a pro. She also participates in a youth program at her church called “Project Achieve.” Participation in this program each Saturday helps Victoria prepare for future success. For example, they organize a trip each year to historically black colleges such as Clark-Atlanta and Spelman so students like Victoria can experience these Southern colleges first-hand.

For Victoria, she keeps coming back to Cabrini Connections year after year because “It’s like home.” She attributes her recent success on her 1st semester grades (all A’s and B’s) to a combination of her own hard work and her mentor’s commitment to helping her succeed. We’re so proud of your accomplishments Victoria and are certain that these are but a taste of the greatness to come! Congratulations!

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Ashbaugh

This week Cabrini Connections would like to recognize first-year mentor, Anna Ashbaugh, who has been working with Whitney Hemphill this year. Since being paired up this past fall, they have made great progress together. Last week you read about the great work that Whitney Hemphill has been up to both academically and outside of school. In fact, since then, Whitney and Anna worked together on her “I have a dream…” powerpoint presentation, which won first prize and netted her $100. This week it’s time to find out more about the other side of the coin, her mentor Anna.

Like a handful of us on staff at Cabrini Connections, Anna is a recent graduate from
Northwestern University. She graduated in 2007 with a degree in cultural anthropology, doing her thesis on corporate social responsibility. She is now a Client Executive at Burson-Marsteller, a Public Relations firm, where she does corporate communications, community relations and corporate social responsibility. She helps companies such as Hormel Foods track their environmental and social impact. Much as she tries to work with her clients to help them become more responsible corporate citizens, she has been working with Whitney to develop her talents and potential.

Anna first became interested in Cabrini Green through another anthropology student at Northwestern who did their thesis on the language used in the media and around Chicago to refer to Cabrini Green and the dynamics of how that same language was also used by its residents. Looking for a way to get involved and use her talents to help others, she found out about our program and immediately found it to be “a really engaging, challenging experience.” Having mentored interns in the past, Anna particularly notices how “everyone here really cares about the students.”

Working with Whitney on her schoolwork and various other projects Anna finds that they both enjoy the freedom of the program, which encourages mentors and mentees to come together and decide for themselves at tutoring sessions what the most valuable use of their time would be. Tutoring Whitney also gives Anna an opportunity to brush up on her U.S. History and other subjects that she hasn’t read up on much since high school! Building a relationship with Whitney has also led them to meet outside of our center, to see movies like “The Secret Life of Bees” and to share stories and life experiences over dinner.

A harpist and singer since the age of 6, Anna originally took up the harp because she “wanted to be an angel.” It may have taken her 15 odd years of practice, but we’re glad she’s touching the lives of others in such a meaningful way here at Cabrini Connections. Thanks Anna and keep up the great work!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Working Bikes and Cabrini Connections

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Raul Gonzalez of Working Bikes Cooperative in their Western Ave warehouse. If you don't already know about Working Bikes, they are a Chicago-based non-profit that takes bikes that would otherwise be thrown away, fixes them up with the help of volunteers, and donates them en masse to charity organizations in developing countries such as Ghana, Angola, Cuba and Guatemala. Each year they give away over 5000 bikes! They can afford to do this because they sell some of the bikes they fix up out of their Western Ave store (1125 S Western) to fund their humanitarian mission.


Though I am a big fan of Working Bikes, I wasn't there just to hang out with Raul and check the place out, I went to discuss a project Raul and I have been discussing, a way for Working Bikes to help us provide incentives for our kids to get more involved in our various enrichment activities, including our Clubs, Essay Contests, eLearning curricula and other leadership activities. They have agreed to donate bikes to all students who earn more than 400 points this quarter. This special reward was designed to capitalize on kids' excitement for the coming spring and desire to have a set of wheels they can use to explore their neighborhood, go visit friends, come to Cabrini Connections...etc. All students who earn a bike will also receive a free helmet and lock.

The points I mentioned can be earned through a student's participation in all the above activities in addition to attendence and receiving good marks on their report cards. Besides making students eligible for a FREE BIKE this quarter, points are converted to cash upon each student's graduation from High School. In this way, students can earn their own scholarship, to be used however they wish, it's their money!

Therefore we just wanted to take the opportunity to recognize Working Bikes for all the great things they do for organizations both domestic and abroad! Thanks! and keep up the great work!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Jacqueline Shay

Art Club Coordinator Jacqueline Shay, a.k.a. Jackie, is one of our most enthusiastic volunteers. Since coming to Cabrini Connections in 2005 she has expanded our Art Club to encompass more than just painting, but to include drawing, printmaking, sculpture and a variety of other media and techniques. She has also sought to engage the kids with more collaborative projects to encourage community and a spirit of togetherness in the club. A great example of this is last year's "Hand Mural" which currently graces the wall near the Art Club space. She is currently working with the kids on a new collaborative mural in a similar vein. Jackie has also been the driving force behind the yearly Cabrini Connections Art Festival, which has brought art connoisseurs together from around the city to local galleries to peruse and buy Cabrini Connections student’s art work. In the past, these have taken place in Wicker Park’s prestigious “Around the Coyote” gallery and gold coast art mecca Pallete and Chisel, where it will be held this year on April 4th. These Art Festivals are a great way for students to show off their artwork alongside professional artists and always earn students accolades from the attendees who are consistently impressed by the quality of their work. This event also serves as a fundraiser that helps support our year-round tutoring/mentoring programming.

Here at Cabrini Connections, we are lucky to have such a talented artist in our midst. Jackie grew up in a home full of artists, instilling in her a profound appreciation and passion for art which she pursued first at the City College of San Francisco and then at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied studio art, focusing on printmaking and drawing. In addition to her passion for art, Jackie has always enjoyed youth work and has worked at numerous after school programs. Therefore, when she found out about this opportunity here at Cabrini Connections, she jumped on it.

Jackie is constantly amazed at the maturity and talent of our kids. She has particularly enjoyed helping students such as Senior Angelene Hemphill, work to develop their art skills through the years. Jackie feels that the impact of art club goes beyond improving students art skills and also gives them something new where they can develop mastery and feel good about their success, hopefully giving the kids confidence to take on other challenges head-on and come out on top.

Though Jackie is satisfied with the program, she would love to see more kids getting involved. Since she has no trouble finding tons of volunteers who are eager to engage with the youth, it’s unfortunate we can’t bring even more youth into the Art Club fold and take advantage of Jackie’s talents and great ideas. Either way, we’re excited to grow together and make this year’s Art Club and Festival better than ever!

Monday, February 9, 2009

College Program: Where we fit into the big picture.

Some of you may have read about the College Program and wondered if Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the school district that serves all of our students, offers college counseling and if so, how the College Program fits into their structure. The College Program operates independently of CPS, which provides college prep programming under its Department of College and Career Preparation (DCCP). The DCCP’s website ( provides details on college prep services available through CPS and links to other resources available to parents and students.

The College Program at Cabrini Connections offers its students another layer of support and guidance in addition to the DCCP or any college counseling services offered by individual schools, particularly charter schools. The College Program mentors are on-site reservoirs of college prep information ready to address any college prep needs students may not have addressed at school and above all, make college prep a priority for the students and their mentors. Our tutor/mentors have built trust with their mentees and we at the College Program believe that their relationships and the organization create an additional support system for our student’s college prep experience.

If you are a tutor or mentor, consider your place in the network of support your student has in their college prep journey. Your role in your student’s life may shift between tutor, friend, confidante, cheerleader and math guru. Build a college prep focus in to all your roles, so your student feels supported throughout the process. Become a tutor who edits their college and scholarship essays, a friend who shares their experiences with higher education, a confidante to who listens to their student’s academic and financial concerns about college, a cheerleader who encourages their student to finish their college applications and of course, a math guru who knows how algebra and geometry apply to the ACT or SAT.

Student Spotlight: Ashaunti Roby

Newberry Academy 8th grader Ashaunti Roby is a stellar student; just look at her most recent report card. On it you’ll find all A’s and just 2 B’s. Her school is a math and science academy, which is good for her because math and science are her two best subjects. For Ashaunti, academic excellence isn’t enough. She shows her leadership through involvement in her school’s student council where she represents the entire student body as Vice President. This means that she and the President run all the meetings and determine what activities and projects the council takes on. For instance, their most recent project was coordinating a food and supply drive for soldiers in the Middle-East.

Ashaunti is committed to speaking out and helping to be the change that Obama spoke so often about during the recent election. She recently wrote an essay as part of our I Have a Dream… contest about her hopes and dreams for her community in the coming years. In it, she lamented the number of young “wanna-be gangsters” growing up in her community without a place for them outside of gang life. She put forth the solution of greatly expanding after-school programs to keep these at-risk kids off the streets and in productive activities that will help give them the drive to succeed. She also discussed the rising unemployment and how the government doesn’t adequately provide for ex-cons after they do their time and want to re-enter society. She argues that most ex-offenders simply want the opportunity to pay off bills, put food on the table and clothe their children but are denied even this opportunity because of the extraordinary hurdles that society puts between them and decent jobs. Read the rest of her essay on the Cabrini Connections website.

When not studying, convening student council meetings or at Cabrini Connections, Ashaunti loves listening to music. Some of her favorites are Ne-Yo, Beyoncé and of course, her namesake Ashanti.

Ashaunti and her mentor, Sarah Randag, have been together for 2 years now and have developed a strong mentoring relationship. They often get together outside of tutoring to chat, go out for dinner or even see a play. They work together to ensure Ashaunti stays on the right track to accomplish her long term goal of becoming an English or Math Professor. Since Sarah and Ashaunti are so consistent in logging their progress with SVHATS, we’re confident that we’ll be able to track her progress each week as she continues her quest to become Professor Roby. Congratulations Ashaunti!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Contributor, The College Program hits the Internet

Greetings to Chris' loyal readers. My name is Carla Reyes and I would like to introduce myself as a new contributor to Chris' PIP blog. Like Chris, I am also a Northwestern grad and participating in the PIP fellowship. My PIP placement as a research associate at the Civic Federation has me focusing on public finance and policy by day. However, by night I am a volunteer with Cabrini Connections' College Program.

I plan to contribute posts about the College Program and its progress in addition to posts about mentoring with a college prep focus. I would like to share the program's story, challenges and triumphs and also discuss strategies for building a college prep component into a tutoring and mentoring organization.

Before I start contributing to the blog I would like to provide some background on the College Program:

* The College Program is the brainchild of Jen Nolan, a Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor, attorney and die-hard Illinois basketball fan. Jen worked with students applying to college in the 2007-2008 school year, but envisioned that the College Program could work with more students and provide more services.
* Jen, the Cabrini Connections staff and I created the College Program's current structure. The program currently works with students of all grade levels on a rotating basis. Any student can sign up to speak with a college mentor during tutoring time and college mentors alternate meeting with all students of a certain grade level every week to address their specific needs. For example, college mentors are currently meeting with all Juniors on a one-on-one basis every week during February to address their ACT prep needs and to answer any college related questions these students might have.
* The program has two college tutors: myself and Stephanie Rogers, a soon-to-be graduate of Westwood College and native Chicagoan.

I would like to thank Chris, for setting up this wonderful blog and for challenging me and Jen to build this new program. Thanks are also deserved for my colleagues at Cabrini Connections, EL Da'She On Nix and Nicole White, for all their help in building this program. My never ending gratitude also goes to Stephanie Rogers, my fellow college mentor, for jumping into the program and not missing a beat.

Finally, hats off to Jen Nolan, for creating this program and providing her support. Stephanie and I are working to execute your vision every week. I hope we can still be friends when Northwestern beats Illinois on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Media Outreach Internship

So, with the recent departure of our Media Outreach Coordinator, it has become necessary to look elsewhere in our constant quest for publicity and media attention. Since I obviously can't do everything that is necessary to get ample press coverage for our events, brand our many websites and publicize our big mentoring partnerships and initiatives, I'm trying to recruit someone who can. Therefore I've created a flexible internship position here at Cabrini Connections called the Media Outreach Internship that will assist me with all of the above things, plus any additional public relations that arise. I'm hoping that with the job market as bad as it is, people still reveling in Obama's victory and its concomitant spirit of community engagement, and the need for real-life P.R. experience among college students, we can attract one or more unpaid interns that will fulfill some of these roles and bring their networks into the fold here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

So, if you or someone you know is looking for an opportunity to gain real-life experience in Public Relations while at the same time helping at-risk kids succeed, please check out this internship. It's essentially an opportunity to work with us to create your own internship based on your particular strengths. Though we haven't worked out anything with particular universities to earn credit, this unpaid internship would be a great opportunity to fulfill an internship, community service or service learning requirement. So, if you or anyone you know would be interested in this internship, please have them call us at 312-492-9614 or email me at chris.warrens.mail (at)


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Coleman

Veteran Cabrini Connections volunteer, Heather Coleman, has been with our program for over 5 years! She found our program via a google search while she was looking for a meaningful way to tutor a youth. She hasn’t looked back since. She’s currently in her 4th year of tutoring/mentoring with Lincoln Park High School Junior Dijana Smith. Since they have known each other for so long and have worked to build their relationship, Heather can help Dijana navigate the complex web of academic, social and personal challenges that she faces as she begins to think about life after high school. Since stability is so important for youth, we’d like to point out that in the rare case that Heather can’t make it to tutoring, she always arranges for someone else to attend in her place so that Dijana is guaranteed a caring substitute mentor for the evening.

Heather herself is a University of Indiana alumna, but Dijana is thinking more about staying in Chicago and going to DePaul University, though a part of her wants to leave her hometown for a little change of scenery, perhaps in Atlanta. Either way, Heather is committed to helping her find her way and achieve the goals they both know Dijana can attain. For now they’re trying to figure out which of Dijana’s many interests she should pursue in college. Here, Dijana’s interests in education, psychology, cooking and fashion all compete for her time and future. However, over their frequent dinners of chicken wings and French fries at Buffalo Wild Wings, we’re sure that Heather won’t steer Dijana astray.

Being a manager at Morningstar Inc, a financial services company, Heather is hoping her leadership skills are rubbing off on Dijana, since she considers herself lucky to be keeping up with Dijana’s rapidly improving math abilities! For now, Heather is happy to be in such a strong mentoring relationship with Dijana and glad to be in a situation where she can make a positive difference in a child’s life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Student Spotlight: Jazmine Terrell

9th grader Jazmine Terrell is in her first year at Noble Street College Prep and she’s loving it. She’s been spending much of her free time practicing and performing with the cheerleading team at her school, where they root on the Noble St Golden Tigers basketball, football and soccer teams. As much as Jazmine has been challenging herself with her involvement in cheerleading, she and her tutor Jen Nolan have been working together to ensure she thrives in her challenging academic environment as well.

Jasmine and Jen, a lawyer working at the Civic Federation, a non-partisan government watchdog organization, have been working together this entire year to bring Jasmine’s grades up, and they’ve had great success! According to Jasmine, since working with Jen, she has been “working harder, asking more questions in class when I don’t get something and coming in early for help when I need it.” Jasmine has also been attending her school's “Homework Fiesta”, which is something akin to a University professor’s office hours. Here she can get one-on-one homework help with her teachers as well as connect with other students to master her coursework.

Jasmine started here after her tutoring program ended at the YMCA. She heard about our program through friends from the neighborhood and upon coming, realized she knew more kids from the neighborhood than she thought.
Throughout the year so far, Jasmine has developed a great relationship with her mentor, Jen. Jasmine says: “Everything’s been going great, we can talk about anything. I tell her everything ‘cause I know I can trust her. She encourages me and gets me to keep a positive attitude.” Jasmine continues: “Without Jen and this program, I’d still be getting straight C’s.”

Jasmine has benefited from her relationship with Jen in other ways as well. For instance, although Jasmine isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do when she grows up, she knows it will have something to do with law. Here, Jen has been able to share her own experiences with law school and the law with Jasmine so that she can have a better idea of what a career in law would be like, which has only further encouraged Jasmine to follow her dreams of becoming a lawyer. Go for it Jasmine! We’re rooting for you!