WITS Talks: Engaging Young Readers with Graphic Novels with Amy Duffy

Interview by: Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

Amy Duffy is the Content Curator of Youth Materials for Chicago Public Libraries. She recently led a WITS Talk for a group of volunteers, staff, and community members on the value of graphic novels and how we can support students in getting as much as possible out of them. 

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Outcomes Focused for Student Advancement

By: Tena Kunik, Chief Strategy Officer

A WITS Kindergarten Mentor reads aloud to her student in a school library.

Since 1991, Working in the Schools (WITS) has connected students with literacy mentors in public elementary schools across Chicago.  What began as a caring volunteer opportunity for the founders of WITS, Marion Stone and Joanne Alter, has evolved into the most influential literacy service provider to elementary aged students in Chicago.  Now in 2018, WITS plays an integral role in building positive self-identity and critical literacy skills for more than 3,000 students in WITS programs each school year.

“We always knew our programs created positive attitudes toward reading in our students. But in 2012, it became apparent that our programs were affecting reading level growth,” said Brenda Langstraat, Chief Executive Officer of WITS since 2012.  “It was then that we identified the two outcomes of WITS programs to be students’ reading level growth and attitudes towards reading.”

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Program Spotlight: Fairfield Elementary Academy & the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

By Annie Kennedy, Community Manager

A student and her mentor read together in the Workplace Mentoring program at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

At the corner of Jackson and LaSalle stands the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Surrounded by heavy bollards and an unobtrusive black and gold sign indicating what is inside, you might never think that, for one hour every Thursday, the bank changes. Fifteen employees close their computers and head to the fifth-floor cafeteria while a school bus filled with fifth through seventh grade students from Fairfield Elementary Academy pulls up outside. Suddenly, a normally quiet lobby fills with chatter as the students are greeted by officers overseeing the space and are led through security before going upstairs. Even though they do not work at the bank, they are as much a part of the community as those who spend their days there.

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Program Spotlight: Workplace Mentoring with Drake Elementary School and CBOE Global Markets

By: Laura Tilsner, Program Manager

Drake student poses for a picture with her mentor at the Workplace Mentoring program at CBOE.

The WITS community of volunteers inspires students as they develop as readers and learners. Leadership is regularly seen through the actions and examples of the mentors that show up for their students, and the students who make a small investment in their academic success every time they read at WITS. This empowerment is seen in the Workplace Mentoring program with CBOE Global Markets, Inc. (CBOE).

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WITS Talks: Understanding Humane Literature with Mickey Kudia

Interview By: Tra’Lisha Renteria, WITS Program Coordinator

Mickey Kudia leads a WITS Talk on understanding humane literature at BP.

Mickey Kudia, Chicago Program Manager at HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), led a WITS Talks on understanding humane books. Mickey holds a Master of Education in Humane Education from Valparaiso University and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Communication and Education from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a humane educator, Mickey travels to schools throughout Chicago educating young people about animal protection, human rights, and environmental ethics. He has presented workshops on humane education and service learning at conferences across the United States. Below, Mickey explains the concept of humane literature and shares some best practices on how to have these impactful conversations with students.

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Student & Mentor Spotlight: Giovanni and Mark

February is an entire month dedicated to love and hearts galore. At WITS, there’s no one we love more than our students and their mentors. In the Student/Mentor Spotlight, we feature the people who make our programs great, like Giovanni and Mark from our Mid-Day Mentoring program at Perez Elementary. Giovanni is in the 3rd grade, and Mark works at Northern Trust, a WITS corporate partner. Read on to learn more about the things they love, like books and pizza toppings.

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WITS Talks: On Being Trauma-Informed with Jacob Dancer III

Jacob Dancer III delivers a WITS Talks training at Exelon

Jacob Dancer III is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Manager at UCAN. Jacob led a WITS Talks on being trauma- informed for WITS volunteers and community members on November 14, 2017. A full video of the training, hosted by Exelon, is included below. Please read on for a complementary interview with Jacob on identifying trauma and its effects on young people.

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