The Early Childhood Summer Program (ECSP) provides free literacy programming designed to help students develop the early literacy skills needed to be ready for kindergarten. This year, WITS partnered with the University of Chicago to offer full-day pre-kindergarten summer programming at De Diego Elementary School, McAuliffe Elementary School, and Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy. The Ready, Set, STEM program, made possible by a grant from Boeing, engages students through inquiry-based learning focused on math and science concepts.
WITS was founded on two core principles – building communities and empowering readers – which have continually sparked our leaders and mentors to strive for literacy equity across Chicago for the past 27 years. Since 2012, Revolution Brewing has contributed to WITS by providing their space in Avondale and in-kind donations for events, which has helped cultivate a stronger and more tight-knit WITS community. Now, Revolution employees have joined our literacy mentors in empowering students by participating in our volunteer programs. During the 2018 WITS Early Childhood Summer Program (ESCP), 18 volunteers from Revolution’s Sales and Marketing Department served kindergarten and first-grade students at seven elementary school sites.
Throughout the school year and summer, over 1,500 volunteers serve as WITS literacy mentors, including over 100 community members who empower Chicago Public School students as readers. This is achieved through four programs: WITS on the Weekend, WITS Kindergarten, Early Childhood Summer Program, and Classroom Reading Tutors. With the new school year approaching, WITS mentors shared why they continue to volunteer.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, WITS staff and volunteers had the privilege of working with 380 Mid-Day Mentoring students and 373 students in our after-school programs. During the last few weeks of programming, coordinators asked students to reflect on their experiences as WITS participants. Here’s what they thought about their mentors, reading abilities, and overall WITS experience.
WITS on the Weekend students from McCutcheon Elementary build polygons with their mentor.The WITS on the Weekend (WoW) program equips students to apply literacy skills through scientific inquiry and explorative learning. This past year, WITS hosted programs at Lozano Elementary, Walsh Elementary, and McCutcheon Elementary. In addition to individualized reading time with book choice, each WoW session includes a check-in activity, group activities, and the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) project for the day. Since the program takes place on Saturdays, WoW affords more time for volunteers and students to expand their knowledge and work together on problem solving techniques.
This month’s Student & Mentor Spotlight highlights the trio of Zoria, a 6th grader from Fairfield Academy, and Eric Akiwumi and Stephanie Sahota, mentors in the Workplace Mentoring program at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Their pairing in 2016 was a brilliant move that would lead to many heartwarming and hilarious WITS sessions. Continue reading Student & Mentor Spotlight: Zoria, Eric, and Stephanie→
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.”
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.
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).
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.