Announcing WITS Ambassadors!

Ana PortaInside WITS, Support, Volunteers

This year, WITS is announcing a new group of members of our community who have shown excitement, dedication, and a valuable perspective: the WITS Ambassadors. Led by co-chairs Roseann Saldana (Executive Administrative Coordinator at Exelon) and Laura Ross (Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee and kindergarten teacher at McClellan Elementary), this group will work together to spread WITS messaging, educate volunteers, and take on diverse projects to further the WITS mission and broaden our impact.

The WITS Ambassadors will participate for at least one year, providing a valuable volunteer perspective to the organization and acting as a liaison between our staff and community. They believe strongly in the impact of WITS programs on the students, teachers, and schools we serve.

WITS Ambassadors will represent the organization at events, provide a reliable feedback loop of ideas and conversation, and help strengthen and expand ties to our volunteers through collaboration and outreach. We look forward to encouraging new connections and fostering relationships through this group in order to continue driving student outcomes and growing as an organization.

Jenna with WITS on the Weekend students at Walsh Elementary.

One of our WITS Ambassadors, Jenna Marsalli, has been a part of the WITS community for nearly five years. Originally from Naperville, Marsalli attended the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she played softball. She is currently a Vendor Manager for MJ Holding Company, a distributor for trading cards and trend collectibles. Outside of volunteering with WITS, Marsalli loves to play sports, explore the city, and travel. She also coaches and helps run a softball program for youth in the summers.

How did you first get involved with WITS?

I have been volunteering with WITS on the Weekend since the fall of 2014. I originally heard about WITS through a friend who volunteered at Walsh Elementary School in Pilsen. At the time, I was finishing up my last semester of college at UIC and was looking to get involved with some sort of volunteer work. My friend recommended I join her at Walsh. It was a no-brainer for me, considering its proximity to UIC and my background of working with kids. I did, and I loved it!

Jenna and students from Walsh on a field trip during the program.
What keeps you coming back to WITS year after year?

I really love that I have been able to stay at Walsh Elementary every year that I’ve done WITS on the Weekend. It has given me the opportunity to see the kids grow and improve in their reading skills year over year.

One moment that particularly sticks out was our last day of WITS this year. A student that has been attending WITS since the beginning was going off into seventh grade. We were congratulating him for “graduating” WITS. I had met him in my first year volunteering, when he was in first grade. Back then, he was a hesitant first grader that had trouble focusing on reading and the activities we did during program. Over the years, I’ve watched him mature into a sharp, confident, critical-thinking sixth grader. Program definitely wouldn’t have been the same without his leadership and creativity. The best part was, he still wanted to come back to WITS next year!

How does WITS help you remain engaged in the community, and what interested you about becoming a WITS Ambassador?

WITS has allowed me the opportunity to give back to a community I love so much. It has also allowed me to make meaningful connections with students, parents, WITS staff, and other volunteers in the community.

I’m excited for the opportunity to further my involvement with WITS. I have loved WITS since I started volunteering and it has been a very positive part of my life. I want to be able to share that with my family and friends and show them what it’s all about!

Jenna and students at WITS on the Weekend learning about chemical reactions.
As one of the inaugural members in the first year of this committee, what do you hope to accomplish as a WITS Ambassador?

Overall, I would say my biggest goal is to spread WITS’ message to others in the community. I want to be able to spark interest from my friends, whether they be potential volunteers, donors, CPS teachers, or people that live in the communities WITS serves. I also want to be able to convince a few of my friends to join the team and volunteer with me!

How has WITS impacted your life?

WITS has impacted my life in every aspect. It has allowed me to meet new people, empower young readers, act as a mentor, experience new places in Chicago, and learn a thing or two through the reading and activities we do during program. I look forward to every Saturday morning I get to go to WITS. It sets the tone for a positive weekend ahead and makes me feel good knowing that we are empowering young readers and their communities.

WITS literacy mentors make up the largest volunteer corps serving Chicago Public Schools.

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