WITS Program Launch 2016

WITS 2016, Brett Bulthuis

The first day of WITS volunteer programs are not unlike the first day of school – for both mentors and students. There’s palpable excitement and wide eyes, but also a few nervous glances and quiet “hellos.” I’ve had the privilege of visiting a lot of these “first days”  over the past four years and it always renews my sense of purpose in our organization. When we say we are in the midst of launching 60 programs, we also mean we are in the midst of launching thousands of new relationships between students and their mentors. It’s amazing – and a bit overwhelming – to stop and consider for a moment.


I only pause briefly though as I’m confident I have the best program team in the business.  For instance, today a WITS Program Director ordered large print books for two WITS students who are visually impaired. Last week, a WITS Program Coordinator welcomed a student with cognitive disabilities into the WITS on the Weekend program and found  a mentor who had previous experience working with students with disabilities. Last month, a WITS Program Manager sought out and spoke to every single student she had in her workplace mentoring program last year so they would return to program this year. Just this morning I saw every program staff member in the WITS libraries searching for new books for their book bins. And over the past three weeks I’ve seen every program staff member master the art of facilitating human bingo for crowds as large as 50 (not an easy feat).


I mention all of this because the program year is when WITS shines. At the heart of what we do is caring for our people – our students, our mentors, our teachers. Trust that the WITS community is a real one. Your student is really shy and you don’t know how to break the ice? We got you. You’re not sure if reading out loud to your student the whole time is okay? We got you. (Hint – it is!) You want to know about other opportunities to volunteer with the school? We got you. You want to bring pizza and pencils for every student and volunteer on the last day of program? We got you.


To all of the WITS mentors reading this – thank you for committing a school year to your student and good luck.


Kristen Strobbe, Chief Program Officer