Touched By A Mentor

Touched By A Mentor TV Show Project.
One idea that we've had in place for more than 10 years is to write a book, or several books, telling the Cabrini Connections story, and educating others on strategies that would lead to duplication of this type of program in more places.

One version of that idea has been to do this as a TV show. Sara Caldwell, a founder, wrote a script titled "Touched by a Mentor" in 1997, and shopped it around for a while. A copy of that is in our office.

In Oct. 2009 I submitted this story idea for a Chronicle of Philanthropy/TV industry campaign, where they were looking for ideas of how to tell stories of volunteering. Here's my synopsis:

Touched by a Mentor

This show is based on the real-life stories of Chicago’s Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program. The ensemble cast includes every demographic category, of youth and adults, from all racial backgrounds.

The TV series follows real-life activities of youth and volunteers who meet each week from September, when the program starts each year, to June, when a year-end dinner celebrates the work they have done, and points everyone to being involved as the cycle repeats the following year.

Each week a story line shows an interaction between a youth and a volunteer, and ends with a message that anyone in the country can use to build their own program, or support an existing program as a volunteer or donor.

The stars are the African American program leader, a former football star at Northwestern, the White, 62 year-old executive director, a 35 year mentoring program leader, with idealism born in the 1960s, 7th to 12th grade teens from the Cabrini Green neighborhood, as well as volunteers who work at different companies throughout the Chicago region.

Romance, conflict, hope and perseverance are part of this story, as volunteers meet future spouses, and as kids deal with hardships like poverty and poor schools, all in their pursuit of college and a career. With each episode we point to the web site of Cabrini Connections, where we coach our own students and volunteers, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, where we support a network of peers from programs in Chicago and throughout the country.

While it would be great for a producer/sponsor to pick up this idea and develop it, we can self produce this show at Cabrini Connections, with the help of students, volunteers and a few donors. We can publish weekly episodes on YouTube. If we're good enough, we can build a following.

Below is an excerpt from the script. If we can find sponsors, producers, etc. we can put projects like this into production and distribute them via YouTube, Cable TV and ultimately, mass media.


Excerpts from “Touched by a Mentor”

Amphion Productions
(661) 260-1135


Isaiah Brooms
Former Resident
Cabrini Green Housing District, Chicago

Host for “Touched by a Mentor”


CUT TO ISAIAH WALKING THROUGH CABRINI 1:00:11 - Isaiah: I’ve been trying to think what is the thing that helped me get out of Cabrini Green and it’s actually really weird to be back here and to try to reminisce and figure it all out.

CUT TO ISAIAH SIDE ANGLE, POINTING TO APT I actually used to live four floors up in this building here, second window on the right. It’s definitely really painful to look up there. But just trying to think about what it was – I used to have a lot of feelings.

CUT ISAIAH BETWEEN CAMERA ANGLES I was sad, used to feel hopeless, but I was hopeful that things would change and I always knew that wasn’t my life. I didn’t belong here and there was more to it. But as a kid you don’t have a whole lot of options and you don’t have a lot of tools to help you try and get out of the situation. Even if you have the drive and desire, the opportunity just isn’t there.

OLD PHOTOS OF ISAIAH and SARA One of the main things, if I had to point at one particular thing that was key to my getting out and actually staying out and moving forward with my life, has been the lifelong mentor that I’ve had, that I got around the age of ten who actually is still a very good friend of mine and is with me every step of the way and is going to be there when I get married and everything.

BACK TO ISAIAH That relationship, it was so key to my understanding of what it took actually to get out. And it’s weird. There’s a world here that can’t be penetrated by people who just come in and say Hi and leave or give you little bits of information and then take off. You really need to form a relationship with the kids here. Otherwise you can’t touch them. They won’t trust you. And a mentor relationship, the trust that’s built between those two individuals, it breaks all the walls. And for someone to come from the other side and to help a kid build a bridge to get over to another world to see the possibilities and to own the possibilities, it’s incredible.

ISAIAH TALKING TO KIDS ON THE STREET (insert from 2nd take) It’s that kind of relationship, that kind of love and trust that’s necessary to help the individuals and kids here not only have hope but be able to harness that hope and believe and trust in themselves that they’ll be able to get out and that they’ll be able to do some good and they can get beyond these walls.

ISAIAH SPEAKING (close from 1st take) That would be what I’d say is the most important and more influential thing in my life up to this point.


Daniel F. Bassill
President & CEO
Cabrini Connections, Chicago

0:47:25 – Dan: I’ve seen these interactions over and over and I’ve seen the richness that has gone to the life of the adult and to the life of the young person.

When I talk to volunteers each year and tell them why they should get involved and why they should stay involved, I talk to my own experiences. I say my life has been enriched in ways that I never could have imagined because I do this.

BACK TO DAN And I promise to you, to whomever you might be, that your involvement in a tutor/mentor program, the more you give, the longer you give, the greater the reward will be to you and to the young person that you might be working with.