Program Focus: Workplace Mentoring with Washington Irving and CME Group

Since its inception during the 2013-2014 school year, the Workplace Mentoring program at CME Group has been one of the largest in the WITS portfolio, in both volunteer and student participation. Each Wednesday, more than 30 students from Washington Irving Elementary travel from the Tri-Taylor neighborhood to CME Group’s offices to read and complete homework with the help of a volunteer mentor.

For students, the benefits of the Workplace Mentoring program extend beyond the noticeable academic progress resulting from weekly one-on-one tutoring sessions. One Washington Irving administrator summarized the significance of building a positive relationship with a mentor in a professional setting: “The children are able to meet their tutors at their workplace and experience a professional work environment firsthand. This helps them understand that education is essential to success and will enable them to set their goals for the future.”

Nancy Choi, Manager of Community Relations at CME Group, coordinates volunteer participation in the program, and spoke to the ways in which WITS has likewise been a positive experience for the 100+ mentors who have participated since the program’s inception, saying “our employee volunteers enjoy getting away from their desks for the unique opportunity to work with these kids. The WITS program provides a fun and meaningful way to mentor and positively impact this generation of youth.”

One such volunteer, Kristin Wood, spoke to why she decided to get involved in the program during the 2014-2015 school year and continue her participation this year: “As someone who loves to read, I want to help instill that passion in others. As a child, I was encouraged to read as much as I could, and this is my opportunity to have that positive influence on someone else.” 

When asked to recall a favorite memory from her volunteerism, Kristin recounted a powerful moment that perfectly encapsulates the magic happening at WITS programs throughout the city: “My student picked a book that was definitely more challenging for her than the others she had chosen up to that point.  Even though she struggled getting through it, she never gave up and worked with me to sound out some of the tougher words.  The smile on her face as she finished reading the last page was priceless.  I could instantly tell that she had a newfound confidence in herself.”


By Matt Smrekar, Program Coordinator