Friday, December 14, 2007

Cabrini Connection's College Application Fund

Please consider giving to the Cabrini Connections College Application Fund.

While students from families of modest means know that it costs a lot to attend college, the expense involved in applying often comes as a surprise. And the cost will increase in March when the price of the SAT Reasoning Test (formerly the SAT I) rises from $29.50 to $41.50 because a writing component is being added. Families know that the senior year of high school is not only stressful, but expensive, and unless families have done a great job of saving and planning, it puts them in a real pinch.

The cost of applying to and choosing a college can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the decisions students and families make. There are fees for everything: applications, SAT or ACT exams; mailing extra copies of all those scores to schools; and even taking Advanced Placement tests. Students applying to highly selective colleges often take three to five AP tests in the hope they will score high enough to enhance their academic profile and earn college credits.

Application process can add up

Not counting the cost of campus visits, the tab for a hypothetical student:

Applications to 6 colleges Typical fees: $50 (as high as $75) 6 x $50 = $300
Take SAT Reasoning Test twiceTest fee: $41.50 (after the price risesin March)2 x $41.50 = $83
Take ACT once, with writing optionTest fee: $42 (Many students take both the SAT and ACT)1 x $42 = $42
Send scores to 6 collegesNo extra charge for up to four colleges, $7 for each additional school. 2 x $7 = $14
Take Subject TestsTest fee: $17 to register, $8 a test. (Many highly selective colleges require three SAT Subject Tests — formerly the SAT II)3 x $8 + $17 = $41
Take four Advanced Placement examsTest fee: $82 4 x $82 = $328
Source: USA TODAY research Total = $808

Monday, December 3, 2007

Workforce and Career Information

In my last post I discussed information I learned at our Tutor Mentor Leadership Conference. Although, all of the workshops and handouts were equally informative, I feel the most relevant to our goals was “Gateway to Quality Career & Workforce Information."

As I related in my previous post, here our students, as well as, their parents, our volunteers and their friends can sign on and discover invaluable information about the career types, availability, expectations, knowledge path as well as a dissection of other careers that fall within the same description and learning requirements. I would suggest that all of our mentors sign onto the site to help our kids see the steps the should take find the career path that suits them best.
However, I want to further emphasize the important tools that can be found on their site. The site is broken down into multiple levels but the most important and useful information can be found on the first page. It's broken down into 5 elements; Career Resources (ICRN), Labor Market Information Source (LMI Source), Workforce Info Center (WIC), Kids and Careers and ICOMPASS.

The first portal is the ICOMPASS link. This link is their online training tool that will help you better understand and use the workforce, labor market and career information. Or as they call it, "Your Guide to Illinois Workforce, Career and Labor Market Information. Upon entering the site you are invited to take their online course designed to help you use the the IDES trio of economy-related sites. You will be asked to register, once registered you will be given a list of training resources based on the available data bases related to the information you're training on. There are two types of registration; On Demand- for those who only need portions of the training for their personal knowldged and Competency Certificate- for those interested in completing the whole training. These includes tests and a certificate denoting successful completion of training. I recommend that if you and your student sign up you take the latter level training so that they have a certificate as reward for their efforts.

Once you've completed the training or if you opt to forego the training it's time to get into the nitty gritty of the site. At this time it would probably be helpful for the students to click into the Kids and Careers section of the site. Here you will find a PDF "IDES_kids_and_careers" which discuss various aspects of linking a kid to a career. They list "Best Bet" occupations and salaries as they relate to career choices, Career Planning steps, The educational requirement of various jobs and important targets and goals for students as they begin thinking of their career choices.

The next component of the site, Career Resources; offers a variety of career exploration products for elementary, middle and high school students as well as adults. Upon clicking you are given access to information on occupations education and financial aid, job search hints and a resume writer with links to employers nationwide, self-assessment tools and storage to keep the information gained here. It includes Career Click to see job titles along with educational requirements, skills needed for the job and predictions on whether these jobs will be available in the future. There are other training resources in the training publication section and CIS junior which is a must for any of our students planning for a possible career. Here they can match their intersest to occupations, find out about wages and what they'd do on a particular job and learn what to study to prepare for their future.

The other two components, LMI which is a database containing complete labor market reports, data and publications which can be viewed online or downloaded and WIC a portal that includes current and historical workforce and occupational information for job seekers, local workforce planning boards and economic development professionals. I strongly incourage our volunteers to link into the site and become familiar with its' offerings so we can be better armed to assist our students when they start asking about and looking for work. It's even a good way to answer the ever popular question, "why do I have to learn math when I really want to be a Fireman?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tutor Menor Leadership Conference

I’m at the last day of our Tutor Mentor Leadership Networking Conference. I’m currently attending a workshop entitled “How Business Leaders Can and Should Participate in Charitable Organizations, led by Steven Miller of Legacy Mortgage Corporation.

His approach to engaging new donors and volunteers is unique in that he goes through his checkbook and everybody he pays regularly he tells them it’s their responsibility as citizens to give back to the community, even if the community they’re giving to is not theirs. His discussion ranged from how he got involved with our
non-profit organization to how he cajoles his staff and friends to give or work with our organization.

Although two of our keynote speakers were ex-NFL players, one young man really stood out for me, Marcues Sullivan. During the course of his speech he explained how although he came from an adverse background, it was through the benefit of mentoring that he was able to expand horizons and that there was more to life than the small piece of real estate he called his neighborhood. One particular quote of his stood out to me, “no successful person that he knows of got there without a mentor!” Those words ring true and give meaning to all we do here at Cabrini Connections.

To me the most relevant workshop was presented by LaMarr Johnson of The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). He introduced us to the departments’ new “Gateway to Quality Career & Workforce Information” portal on their website. Here our students, as well as, their parents, our volunteers and their friends can sign on and discover invaluable information about the career types, availability, expectations, knowledge path as well as a dissection of other careers that fall within the same description and learning requirements. I would suggest that all of our mentors sign onto the site to help our kids see the steps the should take find the career path that suits them best.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tech Update

Recently while compiling SVHATS login data, I noticed an alarming trend. While the student login and feedback numbers where pretty steady at a low rate of 24-25 logins the Volunteer login rate has dropped drastically, it has gone from 28 at it’s peak to 12. It is important for both the student and the volunteer to use SVHATS as it helps us to understand the relationship and progress of the student, volunteer pair.

Some of our volunteers like Alexandria Hill and students like Vontesha Stanfield has signed onto SVHATS every week they’re here. If anyone has troubles with signing in or have forgotten their password or login please don’t hesitate to ask.

The Tech Club is still looking for new student leaders to join up. Our computers have been loaded with both Flash and Photoshop software applications. Already some of the students have learned to create animated GIFs and how to remove backgrounds from images. Once the club members have developed competency with graphic and picture manipulation we plan to start working on learning the Flash product. Our end goal is to have students capable of creating dynamic graphic design elements, flash movies and websights. We welcome all Volunteers and Students who want to join.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Remember September

Well, we just finished the orientation presentations here at Cabrini Connections. We put together two different PowerPoint presentations, one for the Volunteers and one for the Students that outlined the roles and responsibilities of both parties in the program. During the presentation we made informal introductions to the students and volunteers. We discussed the various programs offered at Cabrini Connections and provided information about Tutor/Mentor Connection, our knowledgebase of all things related to tutoring and mentoring.
In between the creating the power point slides and doing the actual orientation I worked on some of the projects that needed attention. We have a program called SVHATS (Student & Volunteer History And Tracking System) which we use for tracking the students day to day activities here at Cabrini Connections. It had some broken links and outdated email addresses that needed correcting. I also attempted to work on our Cmap program, to no avail. One of the pages has several broken links on it. I wasn’t able to fix it so, I did what every good techie does in times of trouble; I reached out to tech support.

During our presentations, I was afforded the opportunity to reflect on a story I read in the paper one year. It was about a young girl in 8th grade that had lost her 4 brothers and 2 sisters to street violence. When asked to write about her plans for the future, she wrote a paper that described her funeral arrangements. It was a very telling story of how youth, living in poverty see their future as hopeless. It is stories like this and others I’ve come across that have led me to this undertaking. I believe we can make a difference, if we but try.

We have some very interesting events coming up in the next few weeks. There’s a fundraiser coming up on October 19, 2007 called the Martini Madness, the other event is a Tutor Training Conference September 29, 2007, we’re looking forward to big turnouts at each event. This would be a great time for anyone interested in learning what we do or anyone interested in finding ways to help to get more information.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I need help for this operation to be successful

Well, they asked me to perform brain surgery the other day. I’m not a surgeon mind you; actually, I’m not even a doctor. However, I’m a pretty bright guy and I know where the brain is, I even know anecdotally the areas of the brain; frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital lobes and cerebellum. Still that wasn’t enough information to actually perform the surgery, so I decided to do some research and reading. I started with reading up on basic surgery procedures, turns out every surgery has its on modality and methodology.
Still undaunted, I went on; a cut, here a slice there I really felt like I could do this. After my general research I decided it was time to concentrate on the brain. Here to I found there were various manners in which to proceed depending on the reason for the procedure. So I thought it was time to ask, what the specific reason for the operation was. Turns out it was to change the behavior and expectations of the patient. This helped a lot because now I knew I was to operate on the frontal lobe. So, based on my reading, I would have to remove a large section of the front of the scull. Well, with my new found knowledge and vicarious experience I was ready to move forward. I assembled an expert team of other non-medical personal who just happened to be really, really bright and set about to perform the surgery.
Unfortunately, the operations weren’t a success and the outcomes not what I expected. Of the patients some seemed to have no change, some became vegetative and the others turned into monsters of a sort, acting out in ways I would never have imagined possible. It turns out, I didn’t have enough information about the nature of the patient or the problem, I wasn’t sufficiently trained to alleviate the suffering of the patient or the problem and none of the people I enlisted to help were really interested in the patient or the problem; they just wanted to be able to say they assisted in a major surgery.
It turns out you have to be a dedicated, trained surgeon in order to have any chance of performing a successful operation. You need to fully understand the patient and the problem and how to garner your expected outcomes. Your colleagues have to be an equally dedicated, well informed group of people whose goals are to accomplish the same outcome and not just bask in the limelight of being on the scene.
This same notion holds true for performing the necessary operation to change the outcomes of our underserved, economically distressed youth. It’s not enough to have an idea of the problem facing those of us living in poverty, attending our failing schools. We all have anecdotal evidence of the cause and potential cure for what ails them but without the fundamental research and understanding the real life person whose outcome we wish to change, we only set ourselves up for unintended consequences and little or no effect on change. Even more important, it’s not enough to just show up or just show up once. To affect a change in the life of a person one has to make a decision to be there for the long haul to be there when no one is watching with a hands on approach to working with the person whose life you’re trying to effect.
Currently at Cabrini Connections we are in our Volunteer Recruitment phase for the new school year. Anyone with the time and inclination is welcome to come to our location and become a volunteer tutor, mentor or leader. Or, you may want to consider volunteering at a location that is closer to you or back in your old neighborhood or anywhere that you know of a need. We have a Program Locator on our website that can direct you to entities in many of the areas throughout Chicago. We even ask for people who know of a program that’s not listed to reach out to us so we can add them to our database, there is no fee or charge associate with utilizing or being listed on our system. If time is a problem we, like any non-profit, are always in need of donations, whether it’s equipment, dollars or even advice we look forward to any and all participation.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Get in where you fit in

“There is no possibility to solve it before we are brave enough to face it.” That quote is from my colleague at Cabrini Connection, Paul Wei’s blog. He was talking about his experiences here in Chicago and comparing the things he’s seen and places he’s been to what goes on in his country, China. In one excerpt, he talked about visiting the Tribune Freedom Museum. He stated, “I was a bit confused when I came to the name of the museum. The concept of freedom is a very abstract idea in my country. Common people never talk about it, and when the right of freedom is violated, people don't even notice it. It just seems like the word "freedom" mostly appears in poems or fictions.”
He went further to discuss visits to the Art Museum and Navy Pier and talked about the benefits of having cultural experiences as a child to carry with one throughout their lives. He then discussed the issues of their education being “score” based and not experience based and how poverty further destroys the opportunities youth have in his county to become successful, culturally aware and free.
His words gave me pause, it seemed a lot of the same issues he was discussing about his country and his experiences could be summed up in the life experiences of many people in our own country. How race and poverty often determine where you live, and how where you live often determines your educational opportunities, and your education often determines your career, which then determines yet again where you live. All those lost or gained opportunities then determine the life we live and the lessons we pass down to future generations of ourselves.
It’s up to us, all of us, to make the changes necessary in our society to combat the root cause of these problems. There’s a saying, “get in where you fit in,” that provides insight into what needs to be done to make the positive changes necessary to change the outcomes of our lives. Showing up is never enough, in school, at work, in politics and in life; just showing up has little or no impact on our desired results. All you have to do is ask yourself, what can I do? Can I spend time mentoring an at risk youth, can I take the time to tutor a youth struggling through school or can I make a donation so that those that do have the time have the resources and opportunities to provide them.
We don’t have the luxury of time to point out the problem and discuss solutions, now is the time to commit to solutions. Get in where you fit in or face the fact that you are the problem.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dead Diamonds

We don’t have to ask ourselves why there are so many children being killed in Chicago, we know why. Poverty, poor education, lack of substantive opportunity, historically underserved communities. The only real question we have to ask is, what can I do about it? We have these untapped minds and bodies (throwaway children) going off with no direction, it’s no wonder why their life path often leads them to drugs, violence, imprisonment and sometimes premature death.
To me they, the neighborhoods, represent untapped diamond mines and our children are diamonds in the rough. The ones we read about in the paper I call Dead Diamonds. The is a lot of information currently online and in the paper about Blood Diamonds and the hardships faced in Africa over the mining and eventual theft of their natural resources. However the only time we talk about the hardships facing our children is when we read of another one dying senselessly and the other one who killed him.
Not too long ago, I came to the conclusion that something had to be done. I had already raised my children in quant Fairfax County, Virginia. I believe I made good choices in their rearing and it proved true as they transitioned into adulthood. My children are emotionally stable, mentally stable and successful in their careers. It is my estimation that what got them there were positive role models, real opportunities and access to technology. With that in mind, I set about trying to make a difference in other children’s lives. You all know the story, I came to Chicago, opened a technology center in an underserved community and engaged the youth and other disenfranchised citizens with information, training and technology that they would otherwise not have access to.
Although I was able to touch a few lives, as one man, I didn’t have the resources or time to make a big enough difference. I ran out of money and soon my store had to close. But during the time I was in business, I saw the results of my efforts flourish in the children who had an opportunity to see something different. My efforts pale in comparison to the years of work put in by one Dan Bassill. For over 30 years, Dan has championed the cause for tutors and mentors for “our” children. Dan is white and somewhat amazing. The programs he has put together, Cabrini Connections has impacted the lives of over 4000 children from Cabrini Greens and the surrounding area and Tutor/Mentor Connections has provided services and information to tens of thousands of children in poverty stricken communities. Cabrini Connections is were we run our tutoring and mentoring program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection has resources that support your own involvement in volunteer based tutoring/mentoring can provides valuable information for anyone interested in doing the same in Chicago, or in any other city in the world.
Please take the opportunity to consider what you can do in order to stop the flow of Dead Diamonds in our streets. Trust me, as one person, you can make a difference. We need your support, if you have time please consider volunteering some of it to Tutor and Mentor a child in your area or here. If you don’t have the time, consider giving a donation to one of the programs in your area or here. In lieu of either just give some consideration to the many children who are in trouble and need help. Talk to those you know who can help and ask them to give a hand up or even a handout.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Week 2 crashes in.

Well, this week has started with a bang, of sorts… When we walked in Monday morning the entire system had crashed. It is quite evident the great need that non-profits subsist under. Because I’m a technician I was able to troubleshoot the problem fairly quickly but due to my lack of knowledge of the infrastructure of our system I was hard pressed to identify what to do about it. I had to call in our local volunteer technician who was instrumental in the original setup. Poor guy spent his entire work day here trying to get us up and running. By the way if there are any good Windows NT-2000-2003 Server Technicians within eyeshot of this posting, we could always use a few more volunteers.
Which is a good segue into another topic… The amount and level of help we need. It seems we have a problem in 3 areas when it comes to our foundation. One is getting committed Tutor/Mentors that are willing to stick with the children for the long haul, our goal is to take them from 7th grade through college to a career. That’s about a 10 to 15 year commitment and everybody understands that life sometimes gets in the way. The problem is getting the right volunteer for either working directly with the children or working with the center to maintain our systems and services. Furthermore, there’s something to be said for having a role model from your own cultural background; information seems more relevant and cogent from that perspective. Finally, as with all non-profits, money is the wobbling 3rd leg of the stool. Anyone who has ever been to, through or around Cabrini Greens knows the reason we exist and the depth of our need.
However, our programs goes further Cabrini Connections is the program we run to tutor and mentor children in this area. We take the best practices and other useful information we’ve gathered along the way and put it in a knowledgebase to share with other service providers and tutoring programs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

End of Week 1

Well, I’m finishing up my first week here at Cabrini Connections; it has been very interesting to say the least. There is a wealth of information on our website to read through. I plan to encourage everyone I meet to take the time to go online and check it out.
Earlier in the week my boss Dan and I went to an Alderman meeting in Ward 7 and met with Alderwoman Sandi Jackson to discuss our program and our overarching goals of providing information to the public on how to broaden avenues of mentoring and tutoring throughout the city. I was surprised and happy to find the alderwoman so interested in what my boss had to say that she asked him to speak on the panel impromptu.
My boss ever the stalwart champion for his cause took the opportunity and ran with it. His goal of reaching, teaching and learning from as many non-profits, parents, teachers, mentors and kids as he can in this city has now become mine.
We have systems and applications in place that seem to try and cover all possibilities in regard to providing user information; SVATS, White Boards, Program Locators, Strategy Maps, and all sorts of other information resources. I’ve met all the staff; Ana, Nicole and Toni and some of the volunteers; Rebecca (video club) and Shannyn and Jen (writing club) and even some students. I believe I’m off to a good start.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My first few days

Hello all, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Keith Smith, recently hired at Cabrini Connection as the eLearning and Technology Coordinator. I've been a technology generalist for some years now and ever an advocate for bridging the digital divide and making technology access and availability a primary resource in the education of our youth. During the interview process my new boss Dan asked me to prepare a flash presentation outlining my first 30 days at CC, including ways I will help achieve our Technology and eLearning goals. That can be seen here. In following my plan I am currently learning all that I can about Cabrini Connection and the Tutor/Mentor Connection and will be soon sharing my knowledge here on my blog and in other forums across the net.

It is my goal to support the advancement of knowledge of technology from fundamental skills to advance application understanding and usage. Our center is a place where users attend workshops, schedule tutoring and make use of the vast array of tutorials, applications and other software to promote their learning in preparation for success in the Information Age.

I look forward to advancing ideas and opportunities not only for the youth who come to our center but also youth, mentors, tutors and peer groups who can take advantage of our successes and learn from our missteps to provide a better future all who need just a hand up in order to be succeessful in the career path of their chosing.

I want our youth to believe in themselves, believe in us and believe in their future.