Thursday, April 16, 2009

Working in the Schools - Manierre School

Yesterday, Chris Warren and I visited the Working in the Schools Power Lunch program at Manierre School in Old Town. The Power Lunch program is one of the many literacy, tutoring, and mentoring programs that Working in the Schools, or WITS offers.

The Power Lunch program brings corporate employees from one workplace to a school during their lunch hour. During the lunch hour the students read with the volunteers and improve their language skills. Tutors come every two weeks, with two different work places alternating every other week. This gives students a chance to work with two tutors. It also gives the students a chance to interact with professional adults in a relaxed atmosphere. The goals of the program are to improve students' reading skills, but also to have the students want to pick up books on their own and to feel more confident reading by themselves and in a group setting. Books are donated to the schools by a variety of organizations, and WITS tries to have only new books for their students.

Another program that WITS does is their workplace mentoring program. While with the power lunch program has the professional employees come to the schools, the workplace mentoring program has the students come to the workplaces where the students get tutored and also where they can find out about future jobs and interact with an adult in a more mentor-like relationship. The workplace mentoring program is often a continuation for students who participated in the power lunch program.

There is also an early childhood program, where volunteers read to young children pre-k and kindergarten-age so the students are exposed to the joys of reading at an early age. There is also a Saturday tutoring program, where students and volunteers who wouldn't be able to come during the week can get homework help during the weekend.

I hope to visit all of the WITS programs in the future, but I'm so glad that I at least got to see the power lunch program. I talked to the students after their reading tutors left and all of the students talked about how much they love their tutors and how they are now excited to go the library and read new books. Trust me, the enthusiasm was very genuine from these students.

I always like to promote other programs fundraisers - especially in these tough economic times, we need to help each other out more than ever. So, if you're free tonight, Thursday April 16th, you should head over to Carnivale, 702 W. Fulton Market for the Young Professionals "Chalk it Up for WITS" event. It's $75 for all you can eat appetizers, drinks, a raffle, and Latin dancing. Unfortunately, I can't go, but you all should because it looks like a great time.

And thanks to Lindsey Giacherio for telling me all about all of the WITS programs. I was so impressed with your students and your program!

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