In the final days of the school year, students from Cook Elementary received a gift that will keep their learning going all summer.
Thanks to the generosity of Grosvenor Capital, a longtime partner of Cook, all 450 students started their summer break with five new books.
“We support our community in a number of ways, and the work we do with cook students is among our most powerful and impactful projects,” said Dana Rice, Director of Community Relations for Grosvenor. “It is vitally important for corporations like ours to be good civic citizens and support what CPS and the city are doing for Chicago’s students.”
Grosvenor partners with Cook through Working in the Schools (WITS) – a nonprofit that strives to bridge the achievement and opportunity gap for underserved students. Active in 31 CPS schools, WITS fosters strong mentor relationships between elementary school students and adult role models and works to give children the tools needed to excel in academics and in life.
“The partnership between Grosvenor and Cook has become something really special,” said Brenda Palm of WITS. “The employee mentors are very invested in the success of their students, and Cook has truly become their school.”
During the school year, Cook students in grades 4-6 traveled to Grosvenor Capital once a week for one-on-one sessions with employee mentors. The adults reviewed homework, read with the children, and took time just to get to know them, establishing a bond that experts say can lead to student growth.
“Obviously this is beneficial to the children, but it has been very good for our employees as well,” said Dana. “They look forward to spending time with their students and feel as though they are making a real connection.”
For WITS, the school year typically ends with each mentor giving their individual student a collection of new books for summer reading. In the case of Cook, this gift would have impacted approximately 30 students. But for the mentors at Grosvenor, that was not enough.
“They are the sort of partner who is always looking to do more,” said Brenda. “So that naturally led them to ask about how they could help the more than 400 Cook students not in the WITS program.”
So it was decided that during the last week of school, Grosvenor would provide all 450 students with 5 new books for summer reading. To make the giveaway more special, and to increase the likelihood that students would engage in reading over the summer, they also hosted a school assembly with special guests from the Mayor’s Office and the Chicago Public Library.
“Getting the new books was great, but we wanted the students to think of that as just the beginning,” said Brenda. “At the assembly, a representative from the Mayor’s Office talked them through the Rahm’s Readers program, and the librarian from their neighborhood library read a story and explained all the programs the library is offering this summer. It was a great assembly that really got the kids excited about summer reading.”
To continue that trend once school resumes, Grosvenor also donated hundreds of new books to the Cook Elementary library. Similarly, though on an even larger scale, the WITS Summer Books Program provided CPS students across the city with close to 20,000 new books for their home libraries – nearly 5,000 more books than were donated in 2013.