The Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In program (Pitch In) aims to ensure that 4th through 8th-grade students develop the academic and social-emotional skills and mindsets necessary to transition to high school successfully. Pitch In helps middle school students make a more seamless transition to high school through in- and after-school programming, a curriculum focused on social-emotional skills, high-quality mentoring relationships, access to unique experiences, and deep partnerships in schools.
Why We Invested
Pitch In is a unique program serving students at a critical time of development. Initial outcomes related to the program’s impact on high school matriculation and freshman on-track are promising, and A Better Chicago looks forward to seeing additional results as more Pitch In students transition to high school. This past year, 100% of Pitch In 8th grade students matriculated to their best-fit high schools. Under the leadership of new executive director Janene Ingram with deep middle school programmatic experience, Pitch In has continued its steady evolution of codifying its social-emotional learning curriculum, supporting alumni, and forming close school partnerships. The organization has also made critical investments in its operations, including data infrastructure and human resources, to support successful growth.
Over the next year, Pitch In will prioritize solidifying its executive leadership team, expanding its curriculum, revamping fundraising efforts, and consider new school expansion. The organization will onboard three new directors (programs, operations, and development) and begin establishing a strong organizational culture around this team. Pitch In will also implement additional social-emotional skill development units, a longtime goal of Ingram. Fundraising will include new campaigns and hopefully in-person events for the first time in two years. Pitch In is aiming to expand into the Englewood neighborhood, and the organization has already made significant progress in developing strong relationships with schools and community stakeholders there.
- Human resources and operations: Pitch In completed a project with HR ReDefined to build out their HR and operations capacity and expertise, including benefits packages and talent management, to support its continued growth and equity goals. A Better Chicago supported by helping vet consultants and covered 75 percent of costs.
- 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