Program Reflection: My First Year at WITS

Sara MartinezInside WITS, Programs

As the program year dwindles down–thousands of pages of words were read by students and volunteers and countless laughs and inside jokes were shared throughout all WITS programs. I want to share some of my favorite moments from program this year and provide glimpses into what a year in the WITS life as a student, volunteer, and staff member is like.

WITS Kindergarten

The growth seen among the WITS Kindergarten students in their reading abilities over the program year is rewarding to see. Students typically start in October with very few word recognition, but by April many are insisting on reading books to their mentors rather than us read to them. Santiago, a WITS Kindergarten student, began the year chatting about how his favorite vegetable is cheese rather than wanting to read a story. Now, he excitedly rushes into program so he can show me how many new sight words he has learned and read as many leveled readers as he can.

Mid-Day Mentoring

The Mid-Day Mentoring program typically starts with a check-in question. At the beginning of the year these questions are meant to help build a relationship between students and mentors. As the they year goes on they help partners make deeper connections to their lives, books they are reading, and the outside world.

I recently asked students in my Manierre Mid-Day Mentoring program: what was your favorite book you read this year and why? DeAsia, a 3rd grader, excitedly raised her hand. Once called on, she stood up and exclaimed that she loved reading Ride Fly Guy Ride with her mentor Martha. During reading, she eagerly showed me the report she did in her journal. She filled up these pages with drawings of her favorite books, so she could remember them when WITS ends.

Workplace Mentoring

One of my favorite memories from this year happened spontaneously at my Lozano and Exelon Workplace Mentoring program. I noticed Jocelyn, a 3rd grade student, reading a book I loved when I was younger, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart with her partner, Ro, a long-time Exelon volunteer. Ro exclaimed that Jocelyn is an avid reader, showing me the pile of three additional books she had stored in her folder. Jocelyn confided that she absolutely did not like reading before starting WITS. She declared that WITS made her realize how much she enjoys reading–and since then has finished The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy and is onto her next reading adventure with her partner.

WITS on the Weekend

Spending every other Saturday learning about energy, discrepant events, and other scientific ideas is a highlight from this year. A lot of little moments of awe happens when you get to do hands-on science experiments–like when students finally got their graphite circuits to light up a bulb or they added the final ingredient that made their elephant toothpaste explode.

By the end of May, all the student’s journals will be filled, the books lingering in their folders will be put back, and everyone will say goodbye as another chapter closes. All these little moments has made my first year a program coordinator rewarding.

WITS provides literacy programming at no cost to Chicago neighborhood elementary schools.

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