The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program is one of our newest grantees and the organization is already making a huge impact on the lives of middle-school students in Chicago as they prepare to transition to high school. Here are the five things you should know about this unique after-school program.
- Pitch In believes middle school is the magic moment. Findings from the Consortium on Chicago School Research show that students’ middle school attendance and academic performance have strong bearings on their future performance, and ultimately can be tied to their level of college degree attainment. Given the deep importance of these years in a child’s development, Pitch In has the chance to create a blueprint for ensuring students enter high school ready to succeed. Pitch In Executive Director Laura Muriello has spent the majority of her career teaching middle school, acting as an instructional coach to new middle school teachers, and as a middle school assistant principal. She has seen first-hand the impact a strong mentor or exposure to a unique experience can have on a students’ path and knows many are determining their future direction in these seemingly early years.
- Pitch In’s passion is to support all middle school students to be ready for high school. Where numerous, high-impact programs focus on early childhood education or the critical high school-to-college transition, the middle school years can often be overlooked and under-resourced. High school principals and teachers often wonder why so many ninth graders struggle when they first get to high school, not just with the academic content, but with the soft skills needed to be successful. Pitch In seeks to bridge this gap between middle and high school by combining a strong social-emotional curriculum with academic support and access to exceptional resources, delivered by trained, full-time team members and supportive adult mentors.
- Pitch In is truly a part of its partner schools’ communities. While most after-school programs operate solely as an extension of the school day, Pitch In embeds itself comprehensively into the full school community. The Pitch In team is on site at the school daily and works to enhance school culture alongside committed school leaders, influence the school experience by offering connections to top-of-the-line resources and add capacity as needed to both teachers and school counselors in grades that are typically challenging for Chicago’s K-8 schools. This also means Pitch In team members have multiple touch points with students daily and the ability and capacity to take the lead on planning empowering school activities and events, such as school-wide lock ins or talent shows.
- Pitch In is backed by some of Chicago’s most notable figures. Thanks to the deep commitment, reputation and generosity of their founders Sarah and Kerry Wood, as well as the strength and engagement of their board of directors in the Chicago community, Pitch In is uniquely positioned to accelerate its significant impact. The Chicago leaders who support Pitch In are helping to shed a powerful light on the gap that exists in the supports available to middle school students, and to allocate meaningful resources to this important space. This unique asset also opens up access for Pitch In students and school partners to an abundance of experiences and resources that could otherwise remain unattainable.
- Pitch In mentors are the organization’s special sauce. Pitch In recruits generous, energetic, (and patient!) adults from all walks of life to make a deep commitment to serve as a support system and advocate for the Pitch In students they mentor. Mentors are matched with one of the Pitch In classrooms and sign on to attend two-three Pitch In after-school sessions per month throughout the school year. While committing to the entire the five-year Pitch In experience isn’t required, many of their mentors have remained committed to the program and to the kids they’ve gotten to know and love. Mentors are recruited each spring to begin working with students the following fall. If you or someone you know might be interested in learning more about the Pitch In mentorship commitment, please contact their Program Manager, Alex Krafft, at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an exploratory conversation and an interview if you choose to move forward.
Learn more about why we invested in Pitch In here.