Friday, June 10th at 9:45AM
It is a Friday morning unlike any other.
Nearly 150 third, fourth, and fifth grade students file into the auditorium at Cook Elementary, the hallway buzzing with excited energy. Students greet WITS staff and GCM Grosvenor volunteers with bright smiles, high fives, and even hugs as they pass through the halls. Some ogle the tables stacked high with hundreds of orange tote bags, exclaiming in eager awe, “It’s WITS!”
Today is the second annual Cook’s Books, an event sponsored by GCM Grosvenor, a devoted WITS partner since 2010. Through their collaboration with the Englewoood Gresham neighborhood school, GCM Grosvenor provides every single Cook Elementary student with five new books to add to their home libraries. Over the course of three assemblies this morning, GCM Grosvenor will distribute 2,200 books to 416 students.
“Today is the best day. It just is. There’s nothing better,” beams Sarah Copeland, GCM Grosvenor’s Community Relations Associate. In addition to facilitating Cook’s Books, Sarah serves as the Corporate Coordinator for WITS Workplace Mentoring, an after-school program for third-fifth graders. Throughout the last year, Sarah led a team of energetic, joyful, and close-knit volunteers who swiftly became advocates for their students’ academic success and personal well-being. Volunteers regularly followed up on quiz results, asked about upcoming recitals and sports matches, and even offered guidance in conflict resolution.
Although the WITS Workplace Mentoring program finished in late May, the impact the volunteers had on their students is clear and strong – especially today, when many Cook students are reunited with their GCM Grosvenor mentors.
“I can’t believe I’m seeing you at my school!” says one student, reaching to hug her partner.
When the moment arrives for book bags to be handed out, the gym erupts with applause, cheers, and thanks. The students reach into their bags, marveling over their treasures, and sharing their excitement with one another.
In between assemblies, I notice two third graders sitting in the hallway, cracking open Comics Squad: Recess! – a graphic novel by Jennifer L. Holm. They turn through the crisp pages, laughing at the drawings and discussing what they think will happen in the book.
“What do you think of the books?” I ask.
The student smirks up at me and says, “They’re books – the best gift!”
Thank you, GCM Grosvenor, for the best gift.
By: Elizabeth Kristoff, Program Coordinator