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I want to share a story with you.

WITS Mentor Jessica Acevedo had a surprise in store for Program Coordinator Kandace Mack a few weeks into WITS-K at José de Diego Community Academy – when Jessica was a fourth grader at that very school, she participated in WITS programming. Mentors at our WITS programs range from corporate partner employees to retirees, but as far as we know this was the first time a former WITS student was volunteering as a mentor!

Jessica shared her experience as both a recipient and provider of WITS services at our annual Blackboard Affair earlier this year. She shared how vital WITS was in developing both her literacy skills and positive associations with reading, saying “Through WITS specifically, I had this opportunity to love reading again, and it inspired me to keep reading out of school.” She is now majoring in English at Harold Washington College and will be transferring to a university next year to pursue her goal of working as a book editor.

She is one of many WITS mentees who go on to excel.

She credits WITS as a huge factor for her love of reading and learning. She loved being given the autonomy to select books based on her interests (Diary of a Wimpy Kid was her favorite). She shared fond memories of how WITS provided access to books as well as the ability to discuss her thoughts after reading and other topics with her mentors. She tells us: “My WITS mentors were so kind, and I would always look forward to seeing them every week… the opportunity to give back the same thing that was given to me when I was little is very important to me.”

Will you help us make stories like Jessica’s possible?

As low literacy rates persist in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and across the nation, your support is urgently needed. According to a September 2023 Chalkbeat analysis of CPS test scores, only 26% of students met or exceeded reading standards, down slightly from 2019. The Annie E. Casey Foundation states: “By fourth grade, children are expected to use reading to learn other subjects… kids who reach fourth grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out of school. Low reading proficiency also can reduce earning potential and chances for career success as adults.”

We need your help to instill a love of reading and learning in Chicago’s young learners by creating more experiences like Jessica’s. We cannot do so without your support. Please donate today.

With the mission in mind,


Tena Latona, WITS CEO