Category Archives: Newsletter

May 2016 Recap

WITS Kindergarten students from Melody STEM School celebrate the end of program year by receiving WITSummer Books.

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!

Check out the photo gallery below!

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Corporate Focus: CME Group

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.

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School Focus: Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary School

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.

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Corporate Focus: Aon

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.

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Board Member Spotlight: John Martin

I initially started on the Board of Directors for Boundless Readers (BR) eight years ago.  I joined BR because the mission was to help CPS teachers teach the love of reading to their students.  We did this by providing leading-edge professional development for the teachers who were awarded the Rochelle Lee Teacher Awards.  Then the students would receive an in-class library, from which they could take out books year-round.  There is probably no better day each year for me than the day that those books are delivered to the classroom!

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School Focus: McClellan Elementary School

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Since 2010, McClellan Elementary has partnered with WITS.  Located in the heart of Bridgeport, volunteers from the Chicago White Sox take a Wednesday walk to read with McClellan 3rd Graders. Over the 6 years of programming, WITS volunteers have read with over 250 students, providing over one thousand hours of literacy support. Built in 1881, McClellan serves 318 students in pre-kindergarten to 8th grade with one classroom per grade. Spread out over 4 floors, the McClellan building could be the prototype for older CPS schools: warn wood floors, wide black stairs, spacious rooms with built in cabinets, creaky doors and hallways, and banks of windows with sweeping views of the Chicago skyline.

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Corporate Focus: BP America

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WITS hosts two after-school programs with Holden Elementary with BP America. Thirty eager students board the bus and take a field trip downtown every Tuesday to work with passionate and committed BP employees who volunteer as literacy mentors. At BP, students are introduced to a corporate atmosphere and the notion that they too can one day work in a building overlooking the city.  Thirteen third and fourth graders work one on one in WITS Workplace Mentoring  Program (WPM) and 17 fifth and sixth  graders participate in Workplace Mentoring + STEM (WPM+STEM).

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