Providing Consistent, Positive Support for WITS Students

Elizabeth KristoffPrograms, Volunteers

Last month, WITS began its virtual program, a space for students and mentors to engage in shared reading and community building. This program has been months in the making, involving collaboration with principals, teachers, corporate partners, and mentors.

“I was…elated that the 2020-2021 program was launching undeterred by the ongoing pandemic,” shares Owen Meacham, a mentor from Chapman & Cutler. “The students seem so happy for the opportunity to take a break from online learning to spend time with their WITS mentors to read, work on fun projects, and talk about their experiences in and out of school.” 

While figuring out how to deliver engaging virtual mentorship programs, we also had to rethink how to train and support mentors so they can handle technical logistics while also mentoring students during a particularly vulnerable time.

“Despite the challenges associated with managing online meetings, the WITS staff has worked tirelessly to adapt to the stay-at-home environment and each time we meet with the students, the process becomes more refined.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a rewarding experience.”

Owen and his coworkers meet on Thursday mornings with second graders from Penn Elementary. In reading teams of 3-4, mentors and students read aloud books from the digital library, EPIC! and participate in team-building activities.  

“Virtual programs present both opportunities and challenges,” says Delaney Earley, a WITS Program Coordinator who leads four virtual programs. “The patience and persistence that WITS mentors demonstrate is an essential first step in supporting students from a distance.”

Though reading will always be at the heart of what WITS does, this year we realize the importance of providing consistent, positive support for our students. During this unsettling time of our students’ childhood, it is especially important for WITS to provide a sense of belonging, structure, and fun.

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

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