During the 2017-2018 academic year, WITS staff and volunteers had the privilege of working with 380 Mid-Day Mentoring students and 373 students in our after-school programs. During the last few weeks of programming, coordinators asked students to reflect on their experiences as WITS participants. Here’s what they thought about their mentors, reading abilities, and overall WITS experience.
WITS on the Weekend students from McCutcheon Elementary build polygons with their mentor.The WITS on the Weekend (WoW) program equips students to apply literacy skills through scientific inquiry and explorative learning. This past year, WITS hosted programs at Lozano Elementary, Walsh Elementary, and McCutcheon Elementary. In addition to individualized reading time with book choice, each WoW session includes a check-in activity, group activities, and the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) project for the day. Since the program takes place on Saturdays, WoW affords more time for volunteers and students to expand their knowledge and work together on problem solving techniques.
This month’s Student & Mentor Spotlight highlights the trio of Zoria, a 6th grader from Fairfield Academy, and Eric Akiwumi and Stephanie Sahota, mentors in the Workplace Mentoring program at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Their pairing in 2016 was a brilliant move that would lead to many heartwarming and hilarious WITS sessions. Continue reading Student & Mentor Spotlight: Zoria, Eric, and Stephanie→
Since 1991, Working in the Schools (WITS) has connected students with literacy mentors in public elementary schools across Chicago. What began as a caring volunteer opportunity for the founders of WITS, Marion Stone and Joanne Alter, has evolved into the most influential literacy service provider to elementary aged students in Chicago. Now in 2018, WITS plays an integral role in building positive self-identity and critical literacy skills for more than 3,000 students in WITS programs each school year.
“We always knew our programs created positive attitudes toward reading in our students. But in 2012, it became apparent that our programs were affecting reading level growth,” said Brenda Langstraat, Chief Executive Officer of WITS since 2012. “It was then that we identified the two outcomes of WITS programs to be students’ reading level growth and attitudes towards reading.”
At the corner of Jackson and LaSalle stands the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Surrounded by heavy bollards and an unobtrusive black and gold sign indicating what is inside, you might never think that, for one hour every Thursday, the bank changes. Fifteen employees close their computers and head to the fifth-floor cafeteria while a school bus filled with fifth through seventh grade students from Fairfield Elementary Academy pulls up outside. Suddenly, a normally quiet lobby fills with chatter as the students are greeted by officers overseeing the space and are led through security before going upstairs. Even though they do not work at the bank, they are as much a part of the community as those who spend their days there.
The WITS community of volunteers inspires students as they develop as readers and learners. Leadership is regularly seen through the actions and examples of the mentors that show up for their students, and the students who make a small investment in their academic success every time they read at WITS. This empowerment is seen in the Workplace Mentoring program with CBOE Global Markets, Inc. (CBOE).
February is an entire month dedicated to love and hearts galore. At WITS, there’s no one we love more than our students and their mentors. In the Student/Mentor Spotlight, we feature the people who make our programs great, like Giovanni and Mark from our Mid-Day Mentoring program at Perez Elementary. Giovanni is in the 3rd grade, and Mark works at Northern Trust, a WITS corporate partner. Read on to learn more about the things they love, like books and pizza toppings.
Libraries are inspiring places. I’ve always felt this way, but never felt so compelled as when I observe how engaged our students are while at the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library. Located on the 2nd floor of the Harold Washington Library, this newly-renovated, extraordinary space is where WITS has held Workplace Mentoring sessions this fall, in our partnership with Exelon Corporation and Lozano Bilingual & International Center. It is where you will see students and volunteers marveling over x-rays of toys at a special exploration table, challenging their engineering skills while building a Rube Goldberg machine, or simply cozying into oversized beanbag chairs to read about prehistoric mammals.
Listening to the voices of educators and our partners in schools is critically important for WITS’ delivery of high-quality programs that drive students to the love of reading. Dr. Olimpia Bahena, Principal of Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, and Sydney Golliday, Principal of John B. Drake Elementary School, are long-time partners of WITS. They recently expanded their support of WITS by contributing their educational expertise and role as advocates for students as new members of WITS’ Board of Directors. Below, Dr. Bahena and Principal Golliday share their paths and philosophies as educators, as well as how they maximize WITS support for their students. Continue reading An Interview with WITS Board of Directors Educators: Dr. Olimpia Bahena and Principal Sydney Golliday→
WITS’ Eric Coleman sat down with Rosalba Granados to give us the inside scoop about her experience being a Early Childhood Summer Program Lead Teacher and Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee. Ms. Granados has been the WITS lead teacher for the summer program for the last 3 years and teaches the Dual-Language Kindergarten program at Talcott Elementary. The WITS Early Childhood Summer Program occurs 4 days a week during July and August and includes fairy tale read-alouds, practicing phonological awareness, and participating in robust reading, writing, sound, and play centers.