Back in 1972, when Dan Bassill of Chicago was in advertising at Montgomery Ward, he volunteered to tutor one fourth-grader living in a housing project. His life hasnâ€™t been the same since. Soon heâ€™d volunteered to head a tutoring program at work, managing hundreds of volunteers and students. Bassill says that companies concerned about diversity training can do nothing better than get their employees tutoring kids from different backgrounds. â€œWe need working people out in the community, seeing what kidsâ€™ lives are really like, working on solutions.â€ By 1990 the program was so big it needed a fulltime director; Bassill left his good paying job to take it on.
When he broadened his vision to helping kids all over the city, his own board shot him down. A few volunteers who agreed with him signed on with Cabrini Connections, a new nonprofit that Bassill started with no money and a lot of hope. CC not only connects kids with mentors, it also runs motivation programs, organizes field trips to colleges and businesses, enlists corporations, hosts conferences at which tutor/mentor programs can share information, publishes newsletters and directories, stages mentor recruiting fairs, and runs a library of information on tutoring.
Today kids all across Chicago benefit from Cabrini Connections. Bassillâ€™s new vision?: Tutor/mentor programs in every neighborhood in every city in the country. Observers of Dan Bassillâ€™s drive and dedication wonâ€™t be a bit surprised when he pulls it off.