In September the WITS Board of Directors welcomed new members to the Executive Committee and voted in a new President for the first time in six years. This committee drives the strategic and fiduciary responsibilities of the organization. More importantly they are champions and motivators of the WITS mission.
As WITS shifts its strategic focus to having 100% of students outperform their peers in yearly reading level growth, the WITS Board of Directors will be integral in setting the course.
New president, Lauren Rocklin, has been part of the organization since 2006. “I joined WITS as a mentor and a member of the Associates Board after finishing grad school in Evanston and moving to Chicago. I stumbled across the WITS website looking for an organization to volunteer at,” she said. “I thought, ‘this is a mission I can get behind’. My mom was a fifth-grade teacher, my step-dad was a teacher, and my sister is a teacher aide.”
Moving through the ranks from Associate Board member to now leading the organization, she has seen WITS grow and has been a part of the Board leadership that has fostered the organizations development.
“It has truly been an evolution,” she said. “When I joined the revenue was well under $1 million. Since 2006, we have tripled our revenue, merged with another organization that has added teacher professional development to our portfolio, the staff and board have grown, and the rigor of the program has evolved. It is super exciting.”
The mission also drew in newly elected Treasurer, Doug Buchler. “I always volunteered throughout high school and college. I believe very strongly, that regardless of your personal fact sheet, everyone in our country deserves a basic level of education – and reading is fundamental to that.”
He had been finding it difficult to carve out time to volunteer once he was in the workforce and was impressed when he was introduced to WITS by a business associate and fellow WITS Board Member, Carolyn Goldhaber. The timing of joining the Board of Directors was perfect for him and aligned with his desire to be more involved with the organization. “I love that our students and mentors feel inspired by their relationship with WITS and I’m excited to help lead the organization into its next phase.”
Olimpia Bahena, new Vice President, becomes the first Chicago Public Schools educator to have a seat on the WITS Executive Committee. “I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility and excitement as the first educator on the exco. I have a different perspective on things compared to my corporate peers on the Board.” This perspective is one of the reasons that Board leadership thought it was important to elevate her role to be on the Executive Committee. She said, “I’m in public education. To be in the room, at these meetings, and to hear everyone talking about how much they care about urban education, that means so much.”
“My responsibility as the leader of the Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) is to provide a platform for our team members to support our community,” said first-term Secretary, Patrick Hatton. The CAA and Patrick joined the WITS family in 2016. “Given the Hotel’s connection to literacy through the Pritzkers, joining WITS aligned with one of our core philosophies,” he said. He has grown their Mid-Day Mentoring program from eight to 22 mentors in three years.
“Now having a seat at the table with the people that are digging into the nitty gritty of the organization, it’s exciting. This is the perfect time to join the organization.”
The WITS Board of Directors is comprised of the 33 members of the Chicago corporate and civic community. Many are mentors in WITS programs, and all are leaders in guiding the organization through its next iteration.