YOU can be the difference


Each day children of the city are faced with obstacles unknown or unrecognized by adults and educators alike. Whether it is walking home from school trying to avoid of violence, or wishing they had a quiet place to study in their home, tutor/mentor programs are capable of aiding these students on the road to success.

In comparing several neighborhoods of Chicago’s south shore there are many conclusions and solutions that can be drawn.

When comparing the neighborhoods of Woodlawn and Grand Crossing, there are a few similarities. First, both these neighborhoods have few to no tutor/mentor programs. In Woodlawn there is only one available, while in Grand Crossing there are none. Whether or not there is accurate information to back the reasons to why this is the case in this area it is evident that children do need help in school because among other influences, gang violence is abundant in this area. The circumstances that these children endure each day are quite unimaginable to the average suburban student. Having more tutor/mentor programs created and availiable to these children of Grand Crossing and Woodlawn would help get these children off the streets and away from violence that could be holding them back from succeeding in school and life.

When focusing on the tutor/mentor programs in Bronzeville, it appears similar Woodlawn and Grand Crossing, there are not enough to adequately serve the student population. Throughout research, only two specific programs in the Bronzeville area were found. Firstly, a reading program called ‘Open Books Reading Buddies’ on Tuesdays for an hour at Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School. Volunteers help in this program through the organization ‘Open Books.’ Children are read to and get to improve and develop their reading skills. Secondly, there is a larger program called the Elliot Donnelley Youth Center.  They aim to reach out to at-risk, low income children from 3 to 18 years of age. The youths are provided with one-on-one support, encouragement and guidance from well-trained adults in the form of tutoring and mentoring.

Woodlawn’s program differs from area programs because its program is run from a hospital. Many of the area programs are selective in race, age or gender. In Kenwood, only African-American students are served by their tutor/mentor program. Grand Crossing is different in that it only serves girls. The tutor/mentor program in Hyde Park is similar to Bronzeville’s Elliot Deonnelley Youth Center becuase it serves both genders and serves the same age group (3 years – college/prep students.)

The children of Kenwood, similar to those in Bronzeville, Kenwood and Woodlawn, live in an area that does not supply them with the proper number of tutor/mentor programs.  These students only have three tutor mentor programs that they can go to for assistance when it comes to their academics.  There is a very high demand for tutor/mentor programs in the Kenwood area because of all of the students that are left behind.

Unlike the above, various racially and religiously segregated tutor-mentor programs serve the students in Hyde Park. These programs are unmatched in quantity and quality by any of the surrounding neighborhoods. As a result of their numerous quantities, Hyde Park tutor mentor programs should extend their reach to students in areas such as Bronzeville, Grand Crossing and Kenwood. Many of these tutor mentor programs are faced with issues such as lack of parental involvement and student interest.

There is a prominent and ongoing demand for more tutor/mentor programs in all of these neighborhoods for both elementary and high school students alike. It would be ideal for such programs to either take advantage of community centers and churches or even more convenient for students, schools could make after school programs available. These centers must also try to open their doors to a broad range of students. In many neighborhoods, programs discriminate against age, sex or race. What about the boys and girls of every age group who need somewhere to safe to go after school? What if they need help with their academics? Schools, community centers and businesses must be educated about the need for these programs and the benefits they offer students.

Another of many possible solutions to these problems is similar to an approach seen by the Metro Center for Girls. The Metro Center has a small tuition requirement to attract the attention of adults as well as students. This tuition helps attendance rates as well as parental involvement by invoking a sense of investment in the parents as well as students. Also, increased advertising and expanding many of the larger centers to accommodate students of other areas as well as possibly branching to nearby neighborhoods by donations from area corporations.

Once new programs decide to open, it will then be important to advertise and network to recruit volunteers.  Letters can be sent to successful companies and large businesses to seek financial funding and other necessary resources. These businesses can take advantage of free publicity and a reputation as a socially responsible company while reaping the benefits of a safer neighborhood as well as assisting in raising the next generation of potential CEO’s and entrepreneurs. Simply taking interest in the actions of many children’s lives is all they need to be inspired on the route to success. These businesses and corporations are as essential to students educational success and become model of socially responsibly leadership.

Concerning advice for the next group who continues this project, we suggest they introduce new ideas and questions about the problem from a whole new “hands on” point of view. There is much to be learned from experiences as compared to research. We have provided the research base and they can now use it to expand. I would also recommend remaining persistent with blog writing for exposure, encouragement and updates to anyone who will listen. It would be very compelling to meet with and publish some of these programs success stories. Attempt to help form a funding and volunteer base to assist the existing disadvantaged neighborhoods as well as exposing this issue and recruiting volunteers.

If there is one piece of advice we would pass on it is to never underestimate the power of these programs. These programs provide so much more than academic assistance. Tutor/mentor programs are some students’ only hope to being able to learn the necessary skills to graduate from high school as well as overcome the emotional obstacles they are faced with starting at such a young age due to violence at home as well as in their neighborhoods. Good luck!


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