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Cabrini Connections

Chicago, IL
Capital: Personal, Human

Cabrini Connections serves students in Grades 7–12 who live in Chicago’ Cabrini-Green public housing project, an area where poverty is the root of most school and life problems. The program aims to recruit and retain students by supporting their growth and development as they progress through school with the help of a volunteer tutor or mentor. The program's ultimate goal is for each student to have a job by age 25.

Cabrini Connections offers activities that focus on increasing students’ self-image, confidence, and motivation to seek higher goals. Each student in the program meets weekly with an assigned personal volunteer tutor or mentor. Volunteers focus on helping the students build communication skills, work on problem solving, and develop thinking skills. The volunteers also try to open doors for the students through writing programs, technology programs, and arts programs.

Volunteers are an essential component of Cabrini Connections. The volunteers are recruited from a variety of different businesses and professional groups in the Chicago area as well as from local colleges. The aim is to model careers beyond what is usually offered in a poverty-stricken community and to find volunteers who will open future career doors for students. Typically, the volunteers are more affluent and are able to expose the participants to a broad range of experiences in arts, technology, travel, and cultural—life experiences they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to understand.

The program has seen success in numbers over time. In a typical school year, 80 percent of the students who started in September are still participating in May. Approximately 85 percent of those students return the following school year. Attendance data show that one third of the students have been in the program for three to six consecutive years. Cabrini Connections has successfully served 470 students.

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