Since 2010, McClellan Elementary has partnered with WITS. Located in the heart of Bridgeport, volunteers from the Chicago White Sox take a Wednesday walk to read with McClellan 3rd Graders. Over the 6 years of programming, WITS volunteers have read with over 250 students, providing over one thousand hours of literacy support. Built in 1881, McClellan serves 318 students in pre-kindergarten to 8th grade with one classroom per grade. Spread out over 4 floors, the McClellan building could be the prototype for older CPS schools: warn wood floors, wide black stairs, spacious rooms with built in cabinets, creaky doors and hallways, and banks of windows with sweeping views of the Chicago skyline.
Like the Bridgeport and Chinatown neighborhoods that it serves, McClellan students are diverse. WITS Kindergarten serves students who speak English as well as Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. At the beginning of the school years, Zin Lin and her older brother Jesse moved to Chicago from China. When they started the school the school year, they could neither read nor write in English. Jesse reads with his White Sox partners Jenny and Doug every week. In September, he mostly listened. Now, he happily reads his favorite book Danny and the Dinosaur, aloud to anyone who will listen before happily settling down to tackle new books. Jesse’s experience in Mid-day Mentoring acts as a chance to practice his reading skills in a safe, fun setting with his partners. For little sister Zi Lin, WITS Kindergarten is a place for her to talk about reading, having animated conversations with her partner, Elizabeth. Both students are actively developing a love of reading – WITS In action!
When asked about the WITS partnership, the principal Joseph Shoffner was all smiles. “When we first started working with WITS,” he said, “we only had one program, Mid-day Mentoring. We’ve slowly added programs and now we have all three; that’s cool.” When WITS began working at McClellan, it was rated a Level 3 school with very low reading proficiency rates across all grade levels. McClellan has been improving steadily since then. Today, McClellan is proudly a Level 1+ school currently, with reading growth measured in the 80th percentile nationwide; Mr. Shoffner attributes this, in part, to a fruitful, effective partnership with WITS.
“We love WITS. McClellan has improved and you can see the improvement in the kids’ reading! We love having the White Sox here and the after school program downtown. The students really benefit and it shows.”