I can’t believe another program year is in the books! I’ve spent this year visiting many WITS sessions from WITS Kindergarten at Lozano Elementary to field trips to the Harold Washington Library with DePaul WITS on Campus volunteers. I’ve even had the pleasure of working with my own student for the WITS Mid-Day Mentoring program at Otis Elementary. I’ve loved every minute of it. I love that I can walk into any WITS session, any day of the week, and see the sparks of new learning and conversation between students and their mentors. All of this work culminates in May with WITSummer Books – a set of five books we send home with every student in a WITS volunteer program.
We’ve been talking a lot about WITSummer Books lately. WITSummer Books is a campaign where we give five brand new books to each student in our programs. WITS staff creates these lists with WITS students’ interests, abilities, and backgrounds in mind. To ensure that students receive books that are close to their reading and interest level, we give different books to pre-kindergarten-first graders, second-third graders, fourth-fifth graders, and sixth-eighth graders. We included books with developmentally appropriate features, like repetition and rhyme for the younger students, and graphs and charts for the older students. For each list, we included a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Continue reading How WITS Selects SummerBooks→
My first exposure to WITS was over 10 years ago when I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. A good friend suggested I join the Associates Board (AB) as she knew that I loved reading and kids. After I joined the AB, I volunteered with the Saturday tutoring program at Walsh Elementary. Shortly after, a job change led me to LaSalle Bank which participated in all of the WITS school day programs. I quickly signed up to volunteer in all of them. It was the kids that completely drew me in… their enthusiasm and desire to learn was contagious and I haven’t looked back since.
By leveraging partnerships throughout the city, WITS provided many surprises and fun activities for our students this past month. Through the energy of our volunteers and the trust built by serving as mentors this school year, WITS was able to bring students out of their schools to explore libraries, gardens, and corporate offices. These celebrations culminate with each WITS student being given five brand new WITSummer Books to add to their at-home libraries. Read ahead to learn more about why we believe that summer reading is important, the partnerships that allow us to have programming, and what has been happening this past month at WITS!
Since its inception during the 2013-2014 school year, the Workplace Mentoring program at CME Group has been one of the largest in the WITS portfolio, in both volunteer and student participation. Each Wednesday, more than 30 students from Washington Irving Elementary travel from the Tri-Taylor neighborhood to CME Group’s offices to read and complete homework with the help of a volunteer mentor.
Community-Building. That has been the main focus at Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary this school year. Located in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, Melody aims to provide safe, stable, and supportive learning environments for students. To achieve this goal, Melody has made an effort to increase the breadth of its educational partnerships with local Chicago organizations. This, in turn, has led to alternative ways of teaching and learning. When walking the halls at Melody, one is greeted by rhythmic sounds of drum circles led by local college students, sing-alongs to popular music to identify parts of speech, and number-counting taught through hop-scotch. These are just a few of the alternative ways Melody is reinventing what it means to teach and learn as they continue to advance their community-building.
On Tuesday mornings, volunteers from Aon travel to Chicago’s South Side to read aloud with their students at Mays Academy. Since 2009, Aon has partnered with WITS through the Mid-Day Mentoring program. Often excited and eager to meet with their reading mentors, Aon volunteers are greeted each week by a group of 18 third grade students with a lot of personality. Whether sharing an adventure with Nate the Great, learning about volcanoes, writing poetry, or showing off a new choreographed dance, Aon mentors provide students with structured developmental experiences and the space to learn while being themselves.
Paul Callero, an Associate Director at Aon Benfield and WITS Associate’s Board member, has volunteered in the Mid-Day Mentoring program for the past four years. Paul shared some of his experiences about being involved with WITS and why volunteerism is important to him.
Since 2004, Talcott Fine Arts & Museum Academy has been a partner of WITS. Located in West Town, the school serves 528 students from Pre-K to eighth grade. For 12 years, WITS has entered Talcott’s doors providing early childhood summer programs, kindergarten programs, mid-day mentoring, and after-school programs. Every Thursday, four of our community volunteers head over to the school’s library on the third floor of the building to read with their individually-assigned kindergarten buddies. The library is a prime space for WITS students to work on their reading skills. It is a comfortable site composed of glossy-wooden flooring and royal yellow walls that extend along shelves of endless literature. It’s a radiant space with several tall windows that captivate the outskirts of the city while expelling subtle rays of sunlight into every corner of the room.