With Mission in Mind: The Growth and Success of the WITS-Deloitte Partnership

Shawn BushPartnerships, Programs

Partnerships between WITS mentors and students are the driving force of WITS volunteer programs. These relationships develop over the course of the school year through weekly reading sessions and provide a comfortable space for students to test concepts and grow. Over time, familiarity and commitment to shared goals result in a stronger, more effective program. Just as students benefit from consistent relationships with their mentors,  WITS benefits from its trusted partnership with Deloitte.

Deloitte WITS Program 2014

Deloitte volunteers and students from Chavez Elementary gather for a group picture to celebrate their 2014 program.

Since 2004, Deloitte has contributed over 8,000 volunteer hours to Chicago Public Schools students. Since the first time Chavez students arrived at Deloitte, the program structure has evolved from its original iteration, WITS at Work. The hour-long sessions focused on reading one-on-one, but the time was not organized. In the current Workplace Mentoring model, time is allotted to shared reading, homework, and group activities aimed to help foster community. Students and mentors both report that their favorite times at WITS are when they get to engage in group activities with their partners and peers. Students know they can read the latest graphic novel and have time to tackle their hardest math problems. They know the routines and find them effective. The consistent schedule makes WITS a place that students can rely on and feel safe.

Deloitte Program 2018

Johnathan, a 7th grade student from Cesar E. Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy, reading with his mentor Michael Schwarzhaupt from Deloitte.

The program continues to prosper thanks to the Deloitte mentors’ commitment to building strong relationships with their students.  This partnership gives all students the opportunity to have fun and achieve reading level growth. Even the shyest students become more confident in their voices as they grow more comfortable in the space. Every year, new Chavez students are welcomed to WITS, creating a positive culture that encourages students to remain in the program for multiple years.

Corporate coordinator Maria Seimenis shares, “WITS is positive in so many ways, but the fact that we have the ability to make a difference and make a direct impact in children’s lives is particularly rewarding. Seeing the smiles on the children’s’ faces alone is worth it.”

Seimenis recalled especially memorable events throughout Deloitte’s history with WITS, including a special Halloween party in 2014 when the whole group came in costumes – including the mentors. This past school year, Chavez students and Deloitte employees came to the WITS office in the Literacenter for their session. They were able to hear more about the Chicago Literacy Alliance, check out the WITS office and libraries, and read with their partner. Outside of program, Deloitte partnered with WITS for their “Inside Deloitte” event for potential new-hires. These potential new-hires learned about Deloitte’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability initiatives in Chicago, then assembled over 150 bags of school supplies, winter clothes, and books for the schools that WITS serves.

Twice yearly, Deloitte throws a party for the students and the mentors and gives books (in addition to the ones given by WITS) to the students to build their at-home libraries. For the 2018-2019 school year, Deloitte gifted two popular graphic novels to students, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol and Crush by Svetlana Chmakova.

Ron Sonenthal accepting the award on behalf of deloitte at the WITS Gala

Ron Sonenthal (center), Former WITS Board of Directors President and Partner at Deloitte Tax, accepted the 2018 Blackboard Affair Corporate Honoree Award on behalf of Deloitte.

Deloitte received the WITS 2018 Blackboard Affair Corporate Honoree Award in November. Their support of WITS students significantly advances WITS’ mission and goals.

What started as an idea to bring students to the Deloitte office after school evolved into a program that helps students reach new academic success and be part of a community that embraces their unique personalities.

WITS thanks Deloitte for their partnership, and is excited to build on these successes together to invest in Chicago Public Schools’ students and their communities.