Nonprofit program works to improve CPS students' reading skills

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Nick Goodloe and Tom Knorring are paired together in the nonprofit Working In the Schools program. Supplied photo.

Nick Goodloe recently read aloud portions of “The Hunger Games,” but his voice wasn’t the only one heard in a downtown office.

After the 13-year-old boy finished a passage of Suzanne Collins’ science-fiction novel, his mentor Tom Knorring read another portion of the book.

The reading exercise is a regular activity between Knorring and Nick.

The pair came together five years ago through a workplace mentorship program coordinated by the nonprofit Working in the Schools, or WITS, based downtown. The program is one of several WITS initiatives that unite 1,900 adult volunteers with more than 2,600 Chicago Public Schools students to target reading ability.

Since 1993, the one-on-one mentoring program has provided tutoring to youth at locations throughout Chicago.

The program has helped Nick, a Drake Elementary eighth-grader, get A’s and B’s in the classroom.

Aside from working on Nick’s reading, the pair also have worked on Nick’s science projects, attended White Sox games and regularly meet at Knorring’s job at Chicago Board Options Exchange. Knorring is vice president of business development for the exchange.

“It’s made me feel good, because I feel that when I was reading with my tutor — from the first day I started reading with him to now — my reading skills have improved,” said Nick, of South Shore.

That growth as a reader has coincided with a boost in confidence, according to Nick’s mother, Sharon Thompson.

Thompson said the program has helped him “come out of his shell and he’s very willing to explore the unknown.”

“Nick was a little shy when I first got him but by now he’s a pretty confident individual,” said Knorring, 63, of Glen Ellyn.

But Nick is not the only one to have benefited from the partnership. Knorring said that he, too, has taken away a lot from the experience.

“It gives you an appreciation of what you have in life,” Knorring said. “He has a lot more challenges to get over in life, and he’s doing it.”

Demand for WITS’ programs now outpaces volunteer recruitment, and some students are wait-listed for participation.

For more information about WITS, call 312-269-4514.

This is one in a series of articles being produced through a partnership between the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership.

Bryce Gray, author of the story, is a Northwestern University student.

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