WITS School Coordinator: Mary “Mighty M” Miller

Tra'Lisha RenteriaInside WITS, Mission & Outcomes, Programs

The WITS Workplace Mentoring program, is an afterschool literacy mentoring program for 4th-8th grade Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. After school students are bussed to a downtown corporate office to meet with the same one-on-one mentor for shared reading and homework help. Students are accompanied by a CPS employee. At WITS, we call them School Coordinators.

WITS School Coordinator Mary Miller at Drake Elementary.

School coordinators are the main point of contact for the Workplace Mentoring program at their school. School coordinators can be any CPS employee such as partner teachers or other school personnel. They work closely with their WITS program staff to ensure that program is successful from program start-up (student recruitment) to the end of the program year. School Coordinators are one of the most valuable components to the WITS community because without them, the Workplace Mentoring program would be almost impossible.

One School Coordinator has been in this role since 2006. After 18 years of service, we highlight WITS School program coordinator Mary Miller from Drake Elementary School. Ms. Miller has worked with Drake and the Workplace mentoring CBOE program her entire time as the school coordinator. 

CBOE has been a beacon of support for the WITS initiative since 1999. Their commitment to fostering literacy and providing mentorship to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students has left an indelible mark on the WITS community and the John B. Drake Elementary community. Among the remarkable individuals driving this initiative forward is Mary Miller, a dedicated school coordinator whose unwavering passion has helped shape the WITS program at CBOE.

As a school coordinator, Ms. Miller plays a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth operation of the Workplace Mentoring program at CBOE. From facilitating student recruitment, coordinating program logistics and attending mentoring sessions, Ms. Miller’s dedication and leadership are instrumental in creating a nurturing environment for the Drake students.

Ms. Miller currently serves as the head of security at Drake. Which entails “making sure that the school is running like a fine oil machine.” She became involved in WITS after the former Drake Principal Yvonne Jones thought that she would be a great fit for the program.  At the time CBOE worked with 50 3rd-8th graders.

What keeps you coming back each year?  

It’s the satisfaction of seeing the students achieving their goals and growth. Also, personally, I love the relationships they (students and mentors) build and the process with each other. And finally, when I sit back and look at the whole picture. How the mentors help the students look at their challenges in a new way with a smile and say “I got this”. Some are afraid, but they (mentors) help them to think outside the box. I just love it.

What is your favorite part of the program?

When everyone takes off their mask and show their creative side, working together on the fun activities. It’s just amazing to me. Everyone is talking. They have an opinion. They are running around with people they don’t know. It’s fascinating.

Do you have a favorite activity that you have seen the students and the mentors do together?

The one where they have their arms out and everyone holds them together. And everyone must unravel themselves. The human knot. That is fascinating to me how everyone tries to maneuver their bodies. And they can do it! And there was another I liked where you had the young people come up with different machines. How you had the student’s critical think.

Have you noticed an impact on the students?

Yes, I have. I say this because I am in the school with them and I pass by their classrooms. Students have more confidence and finding their voice. Especially when they are working on projects. They have more opinions. Taking on more leadership roles with group projects. They also now have the encouragement. They are encouraging themselves and others to try to do their best in whatever they set their goals to be.

All the years I have been in this program, the young people have had great passion, love, and respect for their mentors. The impact that this program leaves on these young people, the word empowerment is not enough. When a total stranger gives them the ambition and drive to help them believe in themselves they hold on to it and believe it themselves.

The importance of coordinators

As we continue to deliver our literacy mentorship programs, let’s continue to shine a spotlight on remarkable individuals like Mary Miller that help drive it’s success. Under Ms. Miller’s guidance, the WITS program at CBOE has flourished, providing hundreds of students with access to literacy-based mentorship and academic support. Her tireless efforts and unwavering commitment have helped transformed the lives of countless students.

Ms. Miller noted in my interview with her that students and parents are always coming up to her and asking how they can be part of the program. In order for us to have more students, we need more mentors.

“Joining this program was the best move I ever made. I love it!  And as long as I am part of Drake Elementary, I hope that I can always be a part of this program.”

– Mary Miller, WITS Drake School Coordinator

Ms. Miller, thank you for being a part of our community! As we reflect on the profound impact you’ve had on the WITS Workplace Mentoring program at Drake Elementary School, we are filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Your unwavering dedication, spanning over 18 years, has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Help send Drake Elementary students home with a set of brand-new, culturally diverse books at no cost to families or teachers by making a donation to WITS Summer Books.