The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program (Pitch In) partners with middle schools to equip students in fourth through eighth grade with the academic and social-emotional skills and mindsets necessary to transition to high school successfully. Through in-school and after-school programming, high-quality mentoring relationships, access to unique experiences, and deep partnerships in schools, Pitch In helps to bridge the gap between middle and high school.
Why We Invested
The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program (Pitch In) works to ensure students are prepared for success in ninth grade and beyond. Often deemed the “make it or break it” year, ninth-grade performance is predictive of long-term academic outcomes. Yet, many Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students enter ninth grade unprepared, facing declines in performance. Through holistic programming focused on building skillsets and mindsets critical for long-term success, Pitch In is equipping students to excel in high school and beyond. The organization welcomed a new executive director, Laura Muriello, in February 2018. Muriello has an ambitious vision to establish Pitch In as an evidence-based blueprint for middle school success and traversing the middle-to-high school transition point. She strives to significantly increase students’ academic and social-emotional skillsets and empower all students to achieve their highest potential. With deep education and middle-school knowledge and a track record of building strong organizations from the ground up, Muriello is poised to take Pitch In through its next phase of development and growth.
The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program (Pitch In) developed a comprehensive strategic plan in 2019 to provide a roadmap for its next five years. Leaning into this plan, Pitch In has grown from serving 65 students in 2018 to 138 in 2020. In addition to scale, the organization has prioritized continuous improvement, including developing a rigorous, culturally relevant curriculum that incorporates trauma-informed practices and social and emotional learning and partnering with an educational software company to develop customized data management tools.
- Human resources and operations: The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program (Pitch In) is currently exploring a consulting project to build out their human resources and operations capacity and expertise to support their continued growth and equity goals. A Better Chicago is currently supporting as a thought-partner in this process.
- Social and emotional learning (SEL) capacity-building: In 2020, Pitch In staff participated in training and coaching to build the knowledge, skills, and mindsets of professional SEL practitioners. The development was led by Shifting Hearts & Minds, and A Better Chicago covered 75 percent of the fees.
- Strategic planning: The Pitch In team and board worked with Pearl Strategy Partners on a comprehensive strategic planning process in 2019. A Better Chicago participated in the steering committee and contributed 75 percent of project costs.