Jackson/PPM America volunteers have partnered with WITS since 2017, originally partnering with Jenner Academy and bridging the transition for the Jenner/Ogden merger in 2018. Volunteers meet with third graders on a weekly basis, helping them make the connection from learning to read to reading to learn. Third grade is a crucial year for young learners, as they begin to integrate their reading skills with comprehension and discussion about elements of a book, summarizing, making connections, and determining the main idea.
Whether reading on the stage or convening in the Ogden Global Citizen’s Center, Jackson/PPM America volunteers have been meeting Ogden students where they are in order to build relationships centered around a love of reading and exploration. WITS volunteer Parker Olson got involved in the Mid-Day Mentoring program at Ogden shortly after joining PPM in the Fall of 2018.
“My first interaction with the organization was attending the WITS Gala with PPM Colleagues in 2018 and instantly knew I wanted to get involved. I remember what joy reading gave, and still gives, me and believed WITS was helping kids discover that joy too. Since it was mid-year I started as a substitute mentor and took over full time in the Spring.” He took advantage of the opportunity to be a substitute mentor, where he was able to meet and work with several students in the program, before becoming a full-time mentor when a spot opened up.
Ongoing training for volunteers by WITS includes quarterly WITS Talks, one-hour workshops and community-building opportunities featuring experts on literacy and social-emotional subjects who present tools for volunteers to best support their students. Parker mentions, “Not having much experience with kids around this age, I didn’t know what to expect, but the training and guidance from the WITS staff gave me the tools and resources I needed to feel comfortable. I was most surprised by how much the kids are just little adults, each with their very own and distinct personalities and how easy it was to talk with them about the books.”
Parker chose to volunteer again during the 2019-2020 program year, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, his takeaways demonstrate some of the many great experiences that corporate volunteers experience through participating in the program, “My favorite part of volunteering was seeing how the students gravitated to different kinds of books that they could relate to or to ones that fascinated them about things they did not know about. Many times they brought insights or jokes that I would not have thought of.”
Jackson/PPM America volunteer David Felden began volunteering in Fall of 2018. He says of his experience in the program, “Jackson does a great job of promoting WITS within the company, and everyone who participates has nothing but good things to say. I knew I enjoyed working with kids and figured this was a perfect opportunity. WITS provides a great way to share & help grow an enthusiasm for reading with the kids at Ogden. I know I appreciate those who helped me enjoy reading when I was growing up, so I figured I’d do my best to return the favor!”
Reading with his student Teonn over the course of two program years brought him a sense of pride and satisfaction in their relationship. He says, “Some of my favorite memories are the times I could see him realizing that he really did have the ability to read on his own. Whether it was a page or a full book, there was a lightbulb moment when he finished reading where he genuinely was proud of what he accomplished. Always a very cool thing to see in real time.”
This year, as part of the UnGala series of events, WITS honors Jackson/PPM America as our Corporate Partner of the Year. Their ongoing service, dedication, and care for students through their support and participation in programming is an asset to the organization.