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).
For the past four years, committed BP employees have been a part of the WITS Workplace Mentoring program. As soon as the students enter the building, the mood of the office changes. All work is put aside and volunteers’ full attention is on the students. The pairs work together to read and form a shared relationship over books. WITS encourages volunteers to support the students they work with by helping them become more comfortable reading and navigating books. The BP mentors go above and beyond with the students they work with. They work together to conquer books, accomplish literacy activities, and build the confidence the students need to see themselves as lifelong readers.
To provide a space for the older Holden students to continue learning with mentors from BP, WITS launched the WPM+STEM program last year. WITS uses a curriculum developed by the Museum of Science and Industry, to lead students and mentors through hands-on activities that explore STEM concepts. By working cooperatively on open-ended challenges with their peers and mentors, students are encouraged to practice their creativity and develop problem solving skills, while building content knowledge and vocabulary.
Students and volunteers alike look forward to WITS time. Corporate Coordinator Bea Farmer says:
”It is exciting to have BP volunteers from various functions and business units come together for this great cause. The BP volunteers look forward to the weekly visit with the students, always providing a different perspective to our work week.”
WITS programs allows volunteers to interact with people from different facets of the company and also take a break from their job to have fun with kids! Volunteer and Board Member Paul Lantero also agrees,
“The special relationship between student and mentor is mutually beneficial: Students get individualized adult attention. Mentors get an opportunity to put their work and other daily worries on the shelf for an hour while they focus on helping a child’s development. These relationships have immeasurable value and we enjoy them so much!”
Shana Birger, Program Coordinator