2015-16 Program Reports: Stronger Together

WITS student reads with his mentor, WITS teacher instructs classroom.

Dear WITS Community,

One year ago, Boundless Readers and its renowned Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) program was merged into WITS. The vision for the merge was to bring together teacher professional development and volunteer literacy mentorship to create a comprehensive program model that drives literacy advancement and a love of reading in students through whole school support. As separate organizations, WITS and RLTA programs supported students through advancing literacy skills and developing a positive mindset toward learning. Evaluation for the first year since the merge shows that the WITS and RLTA programs are stronger together. The integrated program model deepens our students’ attitudes toward reading and strengthens our communities of volunteers, teachers and principals.

Here are the WITS 2015-16 Evaluation Report and 25th Anniversary Report. In addition to this data, we constantly seek insight from our school and program partners in order to learn from their experiences with students and address their needs. What we are hearing is that the WITS program model gives principals the resources to advance student learning and build strong communities of teachers. Joseph Shoffner, Principal of McClellan Elementary said, “Our school was named #19 on the list of ‘Most Improved Schools in Illinois.’ When I found out, I immediately thought of WITS and the work you do here. WITS is a big part of this success; WITS is a part of something big.”

So let’s think big. Together, we will instill in every student that becoming a passionate reader is the foundation on which all success is built and is one of the greatest joys in life. We will empower volunteers as literacy mentors to shape students’ mindset for success. We will lift up our communities of teachers and develop them into literacy leaders in their schools. We will demonstrate that there is tremendous opportunity through organizational mergers to deepen impact, build efficiencies, and create innovative program models.

WITS was founded 25 years ago by two civic leaders, Joanne Alter and Marion Stone, who asked a teacher at Byrd Academy how they could help students in her classroom. The teacher responded that more than anything, she needed consistent, caring role models to read one on one with her students. Joanne and Marion said, “Yes, we’ll be there”. They were there and others were too. In this spirit, we are there today for our 8,000 students in 70 partner schools throughout the city. We are at the ready with 1,800 volunteers to work alongside 200 teachers and principals. WITS is there.

WITS is there because of YOU—every volunteer, teacher, principal and supporter in the WITS community. You drive this work and you are the future of WITS.

Brenda Palm