Inside WITS: Education Support Professionals Appreciation!

By Ana Porta, Program Coordinator

November 14th is Education Support Professionals Day, which is observed each year during American Education Week. Within the Chicago Public Schools, Education Support Professionals’ roles include office workers, student services employees, food service workers, custodians, bus drivers, security guards, maintenance workers, paraprofessionals, and more. The WITS Program Team has tremendous gratitude for the support professionals’ expertise and accommodation at our partner schools. Without these individuals who invest their time and energy into their schools, the students would not receive the level of support and care that they do. WITS would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation for the Education Support Professionals who advocate for our programs, provide us with valuable information, and most importantly, support the students in the Chicago Public Schools.

WITS would like to give a shout-out to these individuals for their the hard work and dedication below:

Ms. Mary Miller serves as a security guard at Drake Elementary. She has been a consistent figure within the school for years and each Monday attends the Workplace Mentoring program at CBOE as one of the school coordinators. She knows every student and is on top of everything that is happening at Drake.

Acknowledged by Nick Colbert, Program Coordinator

Ms. Lydia Williams, Instructional Assistant at Brownell Elementary, with WITS students and volunteers.
Ms. Lydia Williams (bottom right), Instructional Assistant at Brownell Elementary, with WITS students and volunteers.

Ms. Lydia Williams is an Instructional Assistant at Brownell Elementary who supports the WITS on Campus partnership between Brownell and Roosevelt University. Ms. Williams knows the students we work with so well, including some she has known since they were in Kindergarten.  She keeps us up to date with what’s going on at Brownell and how best to support the students we serve. Her sense of humor and positivity make for a very enjoyable program on Tuesdays!

Acknowledged by Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

Mr. Zayas, security guard at McAuliffe Elementary.

Mr. Zayas  is the security guard at McAuliffe Elementary. He’s great! During the Early Childhood Summer Program, the kids would ask to go give him a hug during break time. It was so sweet. Also, during the summer, I got a new lock for my bike that was tricky, and Mr. Zayas taught me how to use it. He is always so helpful with logistics for our programs at McAuliffe, going above and beyond by doing things like helping volunteers figure out where to park.

Acknowledged by Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

Ms. Soledad Calderon and Mrs. Elisa Melecio, the school clerks at Fairfield Elementary Academy, are amazing. They are kind, funny, and the perfect people to welcome visitors to the school. My Thursdays are always significantly brighter because of them.

Acknowledged by Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

Ms. Dowden, security guard at Melody Elementary.

Ms. Dowden is the front desk security guard at Melody Elementary. Visitors at the school cannot go anywhere without her knowing about it, as she is very protective over “her babies” as she calls the students at Melody. It is her overprotection that helps keep the school safe.

Acknowledged by Tra’Lisha Renteria, Program Specialist

Sherwin Hernandez

Mr. Sherwin Hernandez is a dependable, hard-working, and kind person. Having ran many programs at Walsh Elementary, I could always rely on Sherwin to help make sure the Walsh space is conducive for WITS programs. From moving furniture, to clearing space for school year programs, to cleaning up our WITS early childhood summer program classroom – Sherwin puts in so much effort to make sure students can maximize their learning in that building. He is also very personable, and I appreciate that he always makes a point to chat when I visit. I am glad to have gotten to know and work with Sherwin, he is invaluable to the everyday operations of Walsh school.

Acknowledged by Shawn Bush, Program Manager

Ms. Patricia Lopez

Ms. Patricia Lopez makes sure WITS has all the information from the school we need. She has a great rapport with the students and is integral to WITS’ success at Walsh. Ms. Lopez helps greet mentors when they arrive off the WITS bus, shares student attendance, and often helps find information or individuals that I couldn’t find otherwise. If I was ever unsure about something or needed something, Ms. Lopez was always someone I would go to as a resource. Her contributions to the Walsh community in the office and to WITS is appreciated very much.

Acknowledged by Shawn Bush, Program Manager

Mr. Oscar Molina, Security Officer at Talcott Elementary

Mr. Oscar Molina, Security Officer and Ms. Teresa Morales, School Clerk, are Talcott Elementary celebrities. They greet everyone that sets foot into Talcott with unwavering kindness! I look forward to seeing them every Thursday morning. I appreciate their weekly support and their optimistic approach to life. Mr. Molina and Ms. Morales, you are both exceptional!

Ms. Teresa Morales, School Clerk at Talcott Elementary

Acknowledged by Kevin Hujar, Program Specialist

Mr. Quinones, better known as Mr. Q, (not pictured) is such an asset to the WITS team! The WITS Workplace Mentoring program with Otis Elementary students simply wouldn’t run without the continuous support Mr. Q has provided over the years. In fact, Mr. Q has been with WITS since his days at Peabody Elementary, which closed in 2013. Mr. Q moved on to Otis Elementary, and was an integral part in making sure WITS programs followed from Peabody to Otis. If you visit the school, Mr. Q’s smile and warm welcome is likely the first thing you’ll encounter. He believes in the mission of WITS and understands what a great opportunity it is for students. This makes him an excellent ambassador for WITS as he does all the student recruitment for program. He’s also quick to share about his love for his family, Puerto Rico and the Cubs. Thanks for being a WITS champion, Mr. Q!

Acknowledged by Kristen Strobbe, Chief Program Officer