By: Sara Martinez, Program Coordinator
WITS was founded on two core principles – building communities and empowering readers – which have continually sparked our leaders and mentors to strive for literacy equity across Chicago for the past 27 years. Since 2012, Revolution Brewing has contributed to WITS by providing their space in Avondale and in-kind donations for events, which has helped cultivate a stronger and more tight-knit WITS community. Now, Revolution employees have joined our literacy mentors in empowering students by participating in our volunteer programs. During the 2018 WITS Early Childhood Summer Program (ESCP), 18 volunteers from Revolution’s Sales and Marketing Department served kindergarten and first-grade students at seven elementary school sites.
Holden Elementary School, located in the Bridgeport neighborhood, was supported by four Revolution volunteers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the WITS ESCP program. Amanda Kappele, a summer mentor at Holden, decided to volunteer because Revolution strongly supports WITS programming and urged employees to contribute in other meaningful ways in addition to donating money or beer.
Reflecting on the past five weeks at program, Kappele says “I haven’t worked with kids in a really long time–the last time I did a program like this was probably four or five years ago–so this experience was really different, but [the program was] awesome and it brought me back down to Earth.”
ECSP is unique to the six year-long literacy programs WITS offers because it spans for five weeks during the summer and is led by a kindergarten teacher. The weekly curriculum is anchored to a fairy tale, and lead teachers and mentors use this as a framework for developing students’ literacy and fluency skills. Community volunteers mentor five and six-year-olds by practicing letter sounds and print awareness in the library center. It is also common for volunteers to assist in the dramatic play center enhancing students’ vivid imaginations by reenacting the week’s fairy tale.
“I love the unpredictability of all the kids, and it’s something new every day,” laughs Brian Elslager, an Area Sales Manager at Revolution and a father to two kids. Brian also shared that one unexpected takeaway from mentoring this summer has been practicing patience with his students in the program and taking what he’s learned back to his own family.
Jillian Maher, a Sales and Marketing Intern, has had a unique experience as a summer mentor. “Being able to volunteer with kids once a week is something you don’t usually get at other internships,” she reflects. When asked why she decided to spend her Tuesday mornings mentoring fifteen five-year olds, she cheerfully says, “I’m the youngest sibling so I never got to teach anyone reading or other literacy skills.”
Her favorite memory this summer has been watching the students learn the letters throughout the weeks. After five weeks, she can tell they are not just repeating the letters – they are making connections to words.
Revolution will continue empowering students by participating in our Mid-Day Mentoring program at Brentano Elementary School during the 2018-2019 school year. Volunteers will each read one-on-one with a third-grade student, encouraging a love for reading and building positive self-identity through their mentorship.
Revolution Brewing’s commitment to strengthening WITS’ mission in supporting a better public education environment for students has led WITS to commemorate them at this year’s Blackboard Affair on November 3rd. Revolution will be presented with the 2018 Community Builder Award in recognition of their generous donations over the past six years, as well as being recognized as WITS’ exclusive beer provider. Revolution is committed to mentorship and literacy advocacy that positively impacts students across the city, and WITS is excited about what this partnership’s future holds.