Nearly 150 third, fourth, and fifth grade students file into the auditorium at Cook Elementary, the hallway buzzing with excited energy. Students greet WITS staff and GCM Grosvenor volunteers with bright smiles, high fives, and even hugs as they pass through the halls. Some ogle the tables stacked high with hundreds of orange tote bags, exclaiming in eager awe, “It’s WITS!”
“I have learned from my time as a WITS volunteer that the need [for WITS] is very essential. Reading is a very integral part of our lives and it must be stirred up and encouraged in children as early as possible.”
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.