Category Archives: Volunteer

2017 Alter & Stone Outstanding Volunteer: Jamie Garard, III

Jamie Garard, III with WITS student

WITS is proud to honor Jamie Garard, III with the Alter & Stone Outstanding Volunteer Award at this year’s Blackboard Affair. “Mr. Jamie,” as many students fondly referred to him, was a dedicated WITS literacy mentor at Peabody Elementary School and served in leadership roles on the WITS Board of Directors. Today, Jamie sits on WITS’ Emeritus Board. Below, Jamie shares about his involvement with WITS, favorite memories, and advice for WITS students.
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2016-17 School Year Recap and WITSummer Preview

The end of a program year is always a little bittersweet as mentors and students say goodbye. However, the summer is a great time for catching up on reading and we hope our students will do just that with the five new books they received from WITSummer Books campaign. Thank you to our mentors who put in the time and effort to support their students in literacy development, reading confidence, and reading for enjoyment. We are so thankful for the strong school partnerships that invite us into their world every week, and the students who welcome WITS volunteers into their lives for a school year.

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Read to Succeed: Chicago White Sox Impact at McClellan Elementary

By Julianne Bartosz, Senior Coordinator of Public Relations, Chicago White Sox

Learning takes place “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and
“Where the Wild Things Are” with friends like “The Cat in
the Hat,” “Junie B. Jones” and “Madeline.”

These children’s book titles bring different places and faces
to mind for readers both young and old. For 31 White Sox
front office staff members, these books are associated
with more than their own childhood experiences. They
are tools to create new memories with third grade
students at McClellan Elementary School through a
literacy program called Working in the Schools (WITS).

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Student and Mentor Spotlight: Exelon & Lozano Elementary

Lorilyn and Galilea are reading partners in the WITS Workplace Mentoring Program. Galilea is a sixth grader at Rodolfo Lozano Bilingual & International Center Elementary School in Wicker Park. Every Thursday afternoon she rides a school bus with 34 of her classmates to Exelon’s offices in the Chase Tower. Once there, she takes the elevator to the 48th floor, where she reads with Lorilyn, or Laura, her other reading mentor. Lorilyn and Galilea are both WITS veterans, having been in the program for several years. They sat down to share some of their thoughts on reading, WITS, and each other.

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Collaboration Between a Classroom Reading Tutor and Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee

WITS students read books in classroom library

“She is a real pick-me-up on hard days,” Etha Meeks says, speaking of her WITS Classroom Reading Tutor, Lynne. It’s a busy Wednesday afternoon at Manierre Elementary in Old Town, and we are able to steal a few minutes in the teachers’ lounge to catch up on their partnership.

Classroom Reading Tutoring (CRT) is WITS’ oldest program, stemming from the first partnerships forged by founders Joanne Alter and Marion Stone. Currently, there are 36 active CRT volunteers supporting teachers in 17 schools across the city. Some CRTs have been volunteering with their teacher since WITS was founded in 1991, while others are experiencing their first school year in the program.

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Corporate Focus: Segall Bryant & Hamill and Madison Capital

WITS Workplace Mentoring student reads with his mentor.

WITS offers a portfolio of literacy mentorship programs that serve students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Each WITS program partners a CPS student with a dedicated mentor who reads with them one-on-one on a weekly basis. Many volunteers go to schools to work with students, but in the Workplace Mentoring program it is reversed and students meet their mentors after school at their workplace. No matter where the program takes place, when WITS is happening there are four key components: committed volunteers, excited students, reading and lots of fun.

On Thursday afternoons, ten fourth grade students from McAuliffe Elementary School are bused to the offices of Segall Bryant & Hamill to read, complete homework, and engage in fun activities with their mentors.

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WITS Program Launch 2016

WITS 2016, Brett Bulthuis

The first day of WITS volunteer programs are not unlike the first day of school – for both mentors and students. There’s palpable excitement and wide eyes, but also a few nervous glances and quiet “hellos.” I’ve had the privilege of visiting a lot of these “first days”  over the past four years and it always renews my sense of purpose in our organization. When we say we are in the midst of launching 60 programs, we also mean we are in the midst of launching thousands of new relationships between students and their mentors. It’s amazing – and a bit overwhelming – to stop and consider for a moment.

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2015-16 Program Reports: Stronger Together

WITS student reads with his mentor, WITS teacher instructs classroom.

Dear WITS Community,

One year ago, Boundless Readers and its renowned Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) program was merged into WITS. The vision for the merge was to bring together teacher professional development and volunteer literacy mentorship to create a comprehensive program model that drives literacy advancement and a love of reading in students through whole school support. As separate organizations, WITS and RLTA programs supported students through advancing literacy skills and developing a positive mindset toward learning. Evaluation for the first year since the merge shows that the WITS and RLTA programs are stronger together. The integrated program model deepens our students’ attitudes toward reading and strengthens our communities of volunteers, teachers and principals.

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