Youth Apprentice Program

Youth Apprentice Program
Youth Apprentice Strategy


Creating a Youth Apprentice Mentoring Strategy at a non-school tutor/mentor program
This plan was created between 1995 and 2000 at the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in Chicago while Dan Bassill was President, CEO. It's a concept that could be applied in hundreds of places if funds and leadership were made available. As it is, the program has never had consistent leadership and funding to even mature at the Cabrini Connections program (as of June 2011).

Connecting at-risk youth, ideas and adults through innovative interactive video.
A Business Plan for 2005 through 2008

Contact: Daniel F. Bassill, Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC

NOTE: this plan was created while I was CEO of the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in Chicago. It has not been updated in a few years, yet it still reflects a goal of strengthening existing programs by adding a workforce development component, that not only support our 6th to 12th grade students, but supports any student (and volunteer) who has ever been part of Cabrini Connections and still can benefit from the adult-range support that we might offer. This PDF essay illustrates the goals that should be outlined in the following strategy.

Touched By A Mentor - TV Show

Mission Statement
Our mission is to provide an environment in which at-risk students are able to succeed creatively through innovative communications technologies such as video, multimedia, the Internet, animation, AutoCAD and traditional desktop publishing. By creating visual works, the students not only learn the skills necessary to produce and communicate stories, documentaries and performances which they have created, but they learn how to problem solve and work together as a team. Our goal is to help students gain knowledge that they can take out into the world.

Executive Summary
The growth of IYP and other youth apprentice programs has stalled after ten years of video production due to a reduction of staff and volunteer leadership for the video program, and the growth of an arts component of Cabrini Connections.

This Business Plan is intended to restart the youth arts, video, technology and writing programs at Cabrini Connections, and build a stage two component that incorporates service learning and education to careers concepts. Through a team of adult volunteers from within the advertising, marketing, film, technology and communications communities, Cabrini Connections creates experiential learning activities which encourage and teach Cabrini Connections students to produce short videos, web sites, arts, and blogs that tell the tutor/mentor story — from the student point of view — in a manner which entertains, educates and motivates the viewers to become active supporters of tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region.

These projects allow the students to express their creativity and to deal with issues in their own lives through various communications and creative formats. The media that students create are also used by the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) component of Cabrini Connections in its outreach, communications and fund raising campaign to build a citywide network of comprehensive Total Quality Mentoring programs reaching a growing percent of Chicago’s 200,000 at-risk children from year to year.

The 2007-2008 growth of these activities will be based on a) recruiting alumni who have finished high school and/or college, and were former CC students; and b) recruiting a team of leadership volunteers who will take responsibility for raising funds to staff the project with a minimum of 10 hours per week of staff leadership, while providing year-to-year leadership for the vision of IYP.

A) Introduction
This proposal describes the steps needed to solidify the leadership infrastructure of the arts/technology programs, develop a youth apprentice program for CC students and establish a state-of-the-industry capacity to house and support the yearly activities of students and volunteers engaged in these activities.

B) Project Goals

  • To recruit a leadership and volunteer team composed of CC alumni, current and new volunteers, and 7th through 10th grade CC student
  • Begin Summer 2007 and 2007-2008 cycle of projects that will lead to a combined Cabrini Connections Arts/Video/Technology Festival in fall of 2008
  • To create continuity in the leadership structure for CC arts/technology projects
  • To teach youth to create short PSA type videos, blogs and web sites, that are used to recruit students, volunteers and donors to participate in these programs, using equipment at CC or that can be donated
  • To put in a place a comprehensive Mentoring to Careers youth apprentice program that recruits students who earn high school community service hours for their participation; and who earn stipends and part time jobs because of the expertise they develop over several years of practice
  • To find a revenue stream that will firmly establish Cabrini Connections as an innovator and leader in engaging youth in efforts which change their own futures, and those of millions of other at-risk youth.

C. Description of Cabrini Connections/ History of IYP video group
Cabrini Connections is a grassroots non-profit organization concerned about the large number of American children who fail to obtain the basic skills and experience that will be necessary to compete for employment in the global economy of the 21st Century. For many years, this organization has helped create school-to-work opportunities for inner-city children by recruiting volunteers to contribute time and energy to provide quality after-school tutoring and mentoring to teenagers living in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. Cabrini Connections believes that after-school tutoring, mentoring and school-to-work programs like its own can make a significant difference in whether a young person finishes high school and enters the work force or drops out and becomes part of the next generation on welfare.

Cabrini Connections serves 70-80 teenagers each year along with a growing number of alumni in its own program. However, the organization’s research shows that nearly 200,000 children in Chicago alone could benefit from such programs. Its research also shows that the areas of Chicago that most desperately need school reform and after-school programs tend to be the same areas plagued by poverty, violence, segregation and neglect. While many organizations and efforts have recognized these problems, Cabrini Connections believes it is the only organization with a working action plan that can increase the overall availability and quality of after-school tutor/mentor programs throughout an entire city or geographic area. (visit

Cabrini Connections created IYP in 1996 to help empower children to say “how to, what to, when to” using videos and written materials they produce. The difference between being leaders and being followers is learning to identify a problem, research the causes and propose solutions. By using communication skills and tools to bring those solutions to people who can help create and implement action plans that turn ideas into results, young people (and adult volunteers) develop personal power that can be applied in business, social and personal life applications.

In a May 1998 NEWSWEEK article talking about the America’s Promise mobilization of volunteers, Jonathan Alter, Sr. Editor of NEWSWEEK, wrote, “One key unknown: will the local press consistently cover how the public and private institutions are meeting their pledges?” Videos produced by IYP students and distributed to the public via annual Film/Video festivals, web sites, and Public Access TV, have the power to compete with network TV for viewers, to keep this message in front of the public on a consistent basis. The result will hopefully motivate those viewers into making a change in the lives of at-risk children. With this annually renewable flow of stories and creativity, along with the Internet and free public TV, IYP and Cabrini Connections can sustain this movement for years. As a result of IYP, we hope to influence and support the creation of more than a dozen similar film/video groups in other tutor/mentor programs throughout the city of Chicago.

Between 1995 and 2003 the group has ranged in size from two volunteers and nine students to more than a dozen volunteers and 26 students. Attempts have been made to develop an informal leadership structure, but this has been hampered by the organization’s inability to secure consistent funding to maintain consistent IYP leadership from year to year, as well as the sudden death in August 2000 of long-time IYP student-leader Jimmy Biggs.

There were 4 volunteers and 7 youth in the 2003-2004 IYP class. At the beginning of 2004-05 there were no dollars for staff support and two volunteers, without video experience, attempted to start and lead IYP. While they made some progress, both volunteers moved from Chicago between December and May 2005, leaving IYP without leaders. At the same time, new staff and volunteers changed the emphasis to an arts curriculum, which has grown to engage several volunteers and students between January and December of 2005. In October an arts festival was held at Arround the Coyote, with nearly 100 people in attendance. Art was sold and more than $3,000 was raised.

While our goal is to continue the arts program, our goal is also to restart the IYP program in the summer of 2007.

Over the next five years we expect to engage all of our 70-80 teens and many of our alumni in some form of this collaborative creative and marketing process. As we expose our youth to the various communications technologies needed to create and market their videos we are also teaching them to use these tools to build a support network for themselves and each other. Using the Internet as the medium and the web site as HOME BASE, we can continue to help our youth and volunteers connect when they are no longer active students at Cabrini Connections. With these skills they will learn to help each other for the rest of their lives! A Student-Volunteer History and Tracking System (SVHATS) and Bulletin Board have been established at for youth and volunteers to document participation and growth in programs like IYP. EGroups have been established to enable an extended network of volunteers to participate in the leadership of IYP.

D. Project Elements
During each year’s cycle of video-production, volunteers and staff meet regularly to review the results and opportunities from the past year, and develop “curriculum” and a “video creation” plan and timeline for the following year. This is a continuous process of review and improvement. Each year’s video development cycle begins in late August with the recruitment of “veteran” student video makers from the previous year’s project and “novice” video makers from among the 70 Cabrini Connections students not yet enrolled in the project. A parallel volunteer recruitment process will launch at the same time.

Students and volunteers begin preparing for the annual video festival each September when they are divided into groups and assigned volunteers. The teams meet weekly throughout the fall and winter and present newly developed video projects at an annual film festival that is held in late February or early March.

Each group works on one video, learning all aspects of video production. In addition, the volunteers are split into groups based on their area of expertise, and together they present one workshop to the rest of the group. Every year, IYP offers a writing workshop, an equipment workshop and a production workshop. The students apply what they learn in each of these workshops to their on-going video project. Volunteer editors edit the pieces with input from the students, giving the students a chance to see the whole process from start to finish. The final versions of the videos are shown at the festival, which the volunteers help organize. The addition of on-site editing equipment and support staff will enable to video creation process to be on going throughout each school year, creating more frequent opportunities for the most motivated students to build their skills.

In the summer of 2004 the organization was able to purchase 4 eMac computers using a grant from the Illinois Film Office. This enabled an editing class to be taught for six weeks and now enables students to work independently at Cabrini Connections to edit projects they are working on in IYP. If funds and/or volunteers are available this type of editing class will repeat every summer.

Several students who joined IYP as 7th and 8th graders are now veterans headed into their 3rd and 4th year with Cabrini Connections. One long term IYP member graduated from high school in 2001 and attended college on a Golden Apple Scholarship. She had participated with IYP since it was launched in 1996! Two other alumni, who participated in IYP for four years, graduated from college in 2003 and 2004. It is this repetition of learning, mentoring and hands-on application that caused Elaine Mosley, a 30-year educator, to comment, “this is the finest example of engaged learning” she’s seen.

E) Location
Cabrini Connections operates IYP from rented space at 800 W. Huron, Chicago, Il. 60622. The phone number is 312-492-9614. The web site is The Email is ten.knilhtrae|2rotnemrotut#ten.knilhtrae|2rotnemrotut.

F) Operating Hours:
Monday—Friday 8:AM – 5:PM; Saturday 8AM – Noon.
The Cabrini Connections center is open to students during the non-school hours, up till 8pm each evening. Students meet with volunteers from 6-7:45pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening, but are able to use the center as a study hall, technology center and video center at other times and during the summer. With the addition of new eMacs, students are now able to edit and create their own videos any time they want between 9am and 8pm, Monday through Sunday, just like learning to operate a computer by starting out playing computer games. The creation and staffing of such a Center in the neighborhood where students live enables this opportunity, and is critical to the long-term development of youth who participate in the entire Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program process.

G) Audience & Market
Since the first purpose of the IYP group is to motivate and educate our students, our audience is the 70-80 teens enrolled in the Cabrini Connections program each year. However, since our second purpose is to lead a public awareness campaign that motivates adults to become more involved in the life of at-risk children, we have a Chicago regional audience of nearly 6 million potential viewers (and a far larger Internet audience). While our annual video festival will grow from 150 to 500 attendants over the next few years, our Internet web sites (through our various volunteers we host a variety of linked web sites) already attract more than 1500 visitors a month. We feel that we can attract millions of visitors as we increase the quality of our videos and build links to other programs and to celebrities such as actor Joe Mantegna ( who has a link on his web site to our site. Part of our marketing effort to build this viewer loyalty will be use of public TV, which in Chicago has more than 300,000 subscribers, and an active public awareness campaign that is part of the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy.

H. Establishment of an IYP Video Center
1. Cabrini Connections operates its Tutor/Mentor Program and Innervisions Youth Productions (IYP) at its 800 W. Huron tutor/mentor learning center. This is four blocks from the Southwest corner of the Cabrini-Green public housing development (on Halsted, two blocks South of Chicago Avenue. The organization has three DVD cameras, 4 eMacs, plus 15 other PC and Mac workstations where students can write, edit, collaborate and create video projects.

Ultimately it is the goal of Cabrini Connections to turn its 800 W. Huron site into a Youth Technology Center and operate a variety of on-going youth apprentice programs, such as the Innervision Youth Productions program, in one facility. As it develops programs that help youth from Cabrini Connections move to careers, it will also be developing programs where youth are using communications technologies to build resources for such programs and to help build a distribution of such programs into multiple neighborhoods of Chicago and other urban areas. While each video is a potential advertisement for an adult’s involvement, the Internet is a tool that can draw millions of visitors to view each video. Our goal is not only to teach youth to create the message and package it in videos, newsletters, etc., but to teach them to draw an audience to the video and to act on the messages in the videos. A model of this is HopeWorks, located in Camden, New Jersey. ( In this organization teens learn web technology and Hopeworks is hired by the city to do projects. In 2003 the earned income of this organization was over $130,000.

I. Establishment of an Cabrini Connections Youth Apprentice Program (note. this uses IYP as an example, but the idea applies to arts, technology, writing, and other forms of problem solving and communications activities). RE WRITE TO REFLECT THIS

The IYP program has built a foundation for introducing video careers and video-production opportunities to teens participating in Cabrini Connections. Some teens have participated in IYP for 3 and 4 years and have become quite proficient. However, the organization has not had constant staff or volunteer leadership to build continuity into IYP, or to build the youth apprentice concept into its structure. the equipment studio/access, or the staffing to go beyond this level of activity.

With the help of a variety of volunteer leadership, IYP will continue to draw new youth every year into its program. We will call this Level 1 (until we give it a better name). With funding for paid staff, and the development of a more consistent core group of leaders, we will develop a second level, aimed at Mentoring youth to careers in the video industry.

Level 1 (name TBD). will be an introductory level, just as the program is now structured. Each year new students will mix with volunteers and experienced students to create video projects that will be screened at the annual Video Festival.

Level 2 – Mentoring Youth to Careers in the Video Industry Program (MYTC-VIP) . This will become the formal youth apprentice project, modeled after groups like Hopeworks, and the Mentoring-to- Career Program at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. Students will be selected to participate in level 2 IYP based on having at least 2 years in level 1, plus having demonstrated the motivation and dedication to be a level 2 participant (attendance, attitude, responsibility, and maintaining at minimum a C average in all core school courses)

Level two students will work on longer-term, year-round projects, such as a documentary of the demolition of Cabrini Green, or a history of tutoring/mentoring at Cabrini Connections, and will be exposed to more in-depth learning opportunities. They will also have more consistent access to the cameras and editing equipment at the Cabrini Connections center, and will participate in an innovative “Mentoring Youth to Careers in the Video Industry Program”.

The MYTC-VIP will be modeled after the Johns Hopkins Mentoring to Career program where youth rotate through a variety of job shadowing/apprentice programs from 7th grade through high school. By 11th grade some of these youth are in part time jobs. Many of the youth continue in part-time employment while attending college. Some go to full time work at the hospital.

While most video production companies don’t have 5000 employees and literally every career aspiration possible, as does Johns Hopkins Medical Center, the industry in Chicago and other major markets does have this breadth of job shadowing opportunities. The goal of MYTC-VIP will be to build a coalition of industry partners who will work as a unit to create the job rotation, and to recruit mentors from the industry to mentor youth through these years.

Since IYP was formed in 1995 staff and volunteers have been trying to develop curriculum to teach work-skills, with speakers volunteering their time to attend IYP sessions and do workshops. MYTC-VIP reverses that. The goal will be to place IYP students, along with those from other youth video programs, in a rotation of job shadowing and apprentice positions at various video and film industry companies around Chicago. Youth will be exposed to all professions within the industry, not just acting/editing. While all youth in IYP will be able to participate in the job shadowing expected for 7th to 9th grade youth, only those in level two, who have demonstrated a commitment, will be placed in the rotation of internships throughout the industry. While application of this concept to a coalition of industry work place partners is new, the model is borrowed from the Hospital Mentoring to Career Programs and can call upon this network for mentoring in the on-going development of this program. (In fact, many of Chicago’s major hospitals have in-house video departments that could be partners with this program.)

The value added of MYTC-VIP will be the continuity of activity offered via the stage 1 and stage two on-going video creation projects that cumulate with a video festival each year. This will not only provide glue; it will provide a forum for public awareness and fund raising.

In addition, Level 2 students who participate in the MYTC-VIP program will have the following opportunities within Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection:

  • Video projects – such as creating PSA’s for Cabrini Connections and other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago
  • Internet learning projects, such as creating digital version of videos to place on the T/MC web site
  • Serve as mentors for level 1 IYP video group
  • Serve as PR representatives/ambassadors for IYP and Cabrini Connections
  • Mentor/training for video-groups in other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago

As a result of Level 2 participation, IYP students will become professional video production artists by their 11th or 12th grade in school. With these skills they will be able to help other programs in Chicago tell their story better to the community, using PSAs and Internet services that have been created through IYP and the MYTC-VIP program. At the same time, the visibility of the tutor/mentor movement in Chicago and the integration of arts into these programs, will be enhanced because of the on-going creation of more professional student projects and the dissemination of these via the Tutor/Mentor Connection’s marketing campaign.

J. Competition
There are nearly 200,000 at-risk youth in Chicago. Fewer than 30,000 are participating in existing non-school programs which include a one-on-one mentoring component. Fewer still are engaged in programs that integrate video youth apprentice components as part of an integrated strategy. And fewer still position themselves and their students as advocates and leaders in building the capacity and quality of every tutor/mentor program in the city.

Cabrini Connections has created a research process (the Tutor/Mentor Connection) to locate and document the availability of broad-based tutor/mentor programs that operate within Chicago during the non school hours. The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) publishes and distributes this information as part of the T/MC Chicago Programs Directory. It seems that there is no such effort to produce a similar directory of youth video efforts, which makes it nearly impossible to quantify the availability of such programs at this time.)

One of the best-known student film groups in Chicago is Street Level Youth Media. This is a multi-media after-school program, serving teenagers on the West Side of Chicago. They focus on computer skills as well as video (i.e. their students come to the program to learn design programs such as Quark Express and Adobe Premiere). IYP might collaborate with Street Level for their annual Fall Block party, where they broadcast all of the videos their students have made over the past year on to screens placed on the street. This organization is not in direct competition with IYP for a variety of reasons, including the fact that their students come from a different neighborhood and their focus is more on multi-media.

Other film groups which Cabrini Connections is aware of include:
• Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalist • Casa Alztan
• Disabled Youth Peer Development Initiative • Street Films

Without an organization searching and publishing a Directory of such programs, which Cabrini Connections has being doing since 1994 for Tutor/Mentor Programs, there is no certain way of knowing how many programs exist, where they are, when they operate (school-based or after school) and what they do. One of the outcomes of developing the IYP Project will be the creation of such a list.

Cabrini Connections offers an innovative way for industry professionals to join with nonprofit organizations and school to mentor youth to careers. Our vision is to create a Mentoring to Video Industry Careers Program model that mirrors the Hopeworks program in Camden and the successful Hospital Youth Mentoring Partnership, headquartered at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. As Cabrini Connections pilots this project in Chicago, we believe we can extend its benefits to other tutor/mentor and youth video programs in this region, and promote the model, as part of the project itself, so it is adopted in other cities and sustained in Chicago. The challenge is finding venture philanthropy funds to sustain and grow our efforts.

We hope that your organization will contribute to the funding of Innervision Youth Productions and to the arts, technology and education programs of Cabrini Connections. We hope that you will become a partner in achieving this vision for all youth in Chicago, and in every other urban neighborhood.

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