Maureen McInerney volunteered with the WITSummer Early Childhood program at Jordan Elementary in Rogers Park. She read with young scholars entering kindergarten three days a week in the library center. Below, Maureen shares about her experience with WITS and highlights of the program. Thank you Maureen for being a truly outstanding volunteer!
WITS Summer Early Childhood is back! On Tuesday, July 5th the WITS staff and volunteer team kicked off programs at six Chicago Public School sites – McClellan Elementary, Walsh Elementary, McCutcheon Elementary, Jordan Elementary, and DeDiego Elementary. Together, we are supporting Kindergarten readiness through themed read-alouds, art projects, dramatic play, and writing activities.
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!
Snow in April couldn’t stop 60 CPS students and 30 WITS volunteers from visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo during a recent WITS on the Weekend field trip. Well-bundled and chatting excitedly, they explored Chicago’s free zoo for two hours, snapping photos, hunting for baby animals, and taking notes in their “field guides.” For these students, what could have been a morning spent playing video games on the couch was instead an opportunity to explore their city and learn about their world.
Since 2001, Morgan Stanley has been a committed partner with WITS. Powered by the volunteerism of over 70 new and veteran mentors, Morgan Stanley serves 30 students in fourth through sixth grade. To provide the most opportunity for their employees to spread the love of reading with students, Morgan Stanley maximizes their impact in Chicago by hosting the Workplace Mentoring program at two of their office branches. Each week, students from Otis and McClellan Elementary Schools are welcomed downtown to share stories, complete homework, and develop proficiency as readers.
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.
The auditorium at William Penn Elementary is a large space, with ceilings two stories high, and seating for hundreds. But scattered here and there, pairs of readers sit together, enjoying the close, personal experience of reading a book together. The WITS magic is happening!
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).
Since the 2013-2014 school year, WITS has partnered with Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (DBR) for weekly WITS Workplace Mentoring sessions. Whereas the majority of WITS programs send volunteers into schools, the Workplace Mentoring program brings students to corporate offices in the loop to read and complete homework with volunteers, and get a glimpse of what it might be like to work at a financial institution, marketing agency or, in this case, a law firm. The program provides some students with their first experience riding an elevator or viewing the city from thirty seven floors up.