Inside WITS: Student Program Start-Up

Student walks to meet his mentor on the first day of Workplace Mentoring
Student walks to meet his mentor on the first day of Workplace Mentoring

Every October, WITS programs begin as mentors and students meet each other to read together for the first time.  Through our WITS Kindergarten, Mid-Day Mentoring, Workplace Mentoring, and WITS on the Weekend programs, we get to witness K-8th grade students from schools across Chicago build relationships with their mentor(s), sparking that curiosity for learning and developing lifelong literacy skills through positive reading experiences. Our program staff have the privilege of working directly with our committed volunteers and incredible students, so we asked them:

What are you most looking forward to regarding student programs in the 2017-2018 school year? 

Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

“I’ve spent my entire nonprofit career working in after-school programming, so it’s no surprise that returning to Workplace Mentoring makes me the happiest. With strong student and mentor retention, there is a lot of joy in seeing everyone reunite after a summer apart. What excites me the most, though, is our student’s commitment to the program. After a long day at school, when all anyone wants to do is relax, WPM students are nothing but jazzed to hang out with their mentors and read some cool books.”

WITS Mid-Day Mentoring student chooses a book from the bookbin.
WITS Mid-Day Mentoring student chooses a book from the bookbin.

Elizabeth Kristoff, Program Manager

“I am most excited to meet the students who don’t think they like to read. It’s a fun challenge to get to know what makes the student tick, what he finds interesting – and to connect those curiosities with the right book. It can take a few sessions, but I enjoy helping those reluctant readers discover that reading is power!”

Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

“I’m looking forward to spending more of my time in Chicago Public Schools and supporting teachers that are working hard to provide their students with the best education possible, despite limitations in funding and other resources. I’m a graduate of Chicago Public Schools, so these elementary schools feel so familiar and comfortable to me, and I’m excited to get to know the students and staff in them. I also know of the challenges public school teachers face, as my mom is a CPS teacher, and I’m happy to get to work at an organization that supports amazing staff at these schools.”

Laura Tilsner, Program Manager

“I am looking forward to seeing the excitement on all the volunteers’ and students’ faces. Whether returning or new students, everyone is so excited to get started and it just shows how much our program makes a difference in the lives of the students that we serve.”

WITS Workplace Mentoring student and volunteer meet for the first time.
WITS Workplace Mentoring student and volunteer meet for the first time.

 Kristen Strobbe, Chief Program Officer

“I am most looking forward to students and mentors reading the new books we received over the summer like Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers, Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, and Dyamonde Daniel: Almost Zero by Nikki Grimes. We hope everyone enjoys the new additions to the WITS book bins!”

Tra’Lisha Renteria, Program Coordinator

What I am looking forward to the excitement on students’ faces when I bring them a book that they wanted to read. I look forward to searching through our WITS library, writing little notes, and hand delivering the books to students during program. It makes my day how excited they get!