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.
Each Tuesday, a group of eager 4th and 5th grade students from De Diego Elementary in the Wicker Park neighborhood travel downtown to read one-on-one with the 26 volunteers from DBR, many of whom, like Ed Getz, have volunteered every year since the program’s inception. “My participation as a mentor now going on three years has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” says Ed.
“The highlight of my week is meeting with my student and sharing an hour to explore the joy of reading together.”
Partnering with the school through a variety of programs since 2004 has solidified WITS as part of the De Diego community. Miriam, the school coordinator for the Workplace Mentoring program at DBR who attends program each week, provides a great example of how WITS has truly become, for many, part of the De Diego experience. She currently has a daughter participating in the WITS on the Weekend program, and has another who formerly participated in Workplace Mentoring.
“My daughter really enjoyed being a part of the WITS program several years ago,” she said. “I am very thankful that she participated because it helped her in so many ways. This program does so much more than most realize.”
The enthusiasm of our committed DBR volunteers creates a positive and enjoyable learning experience for the students, which is apparent in the number who elect to return to program year after year. “This is my third year of WITS!” one of the students exclaimed proudly during a recent Workplace Mentoring session. Her volunteer partner is participating in program for the first time this year, and while it’s only their second time meeting, the two could easily pass as third-year partners.
Matt Smrekar, Evaluation Coordinator