This year, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) has made on-going volunteerism their top priority. As a result, YLS has partnered with the In2Books program and a United Way partner agency AUSL to make a measurable impact this academic year. In2Books is a digital pen pal volunteer opportunity where each volunteer reads 5 books throughout an academic year with their pen pal and exchange discussion letters through a secure online inbox. Each book represents a different genre and is directly integrated into the class curriculum. YLS has brought this program into two Chicago Public Schools; one is National Teachers Elementary Academy where we have matched fifty-seven YLS volunteers in two fifth-grade classrooms. This particular school is on the Near South Side and serves a population that is over 83% low income. In total, YLS has mobilized 114 volunteers across Chicagoland to mentor 114 students in Chicago Public Schools.
My ePal, Arreon, wants to take after his grandma and work in a hospital someday or become an NBA star. Like any kid, he enjoys watching t.v. and playing games with his family. The first book all YLS volunteers read with their students is from the fiction genre. My student has chosen to read Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher. Donuthead is about a 5th-grade boy who struggles with everyday life for a number of reasons. For starters, his last name, Donuthead, makes him a target for bullies. He also suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and finds it very hard to make friends. This is a very real scenario for many students no matter their income. I am so glad I can help my student talk about bullying in our letters.
Studies have shown that the students who participate in the In2Books program perform higher on standardized tests than students who do no not participate in the program. YLS is doing their part to contribute to the LIVE UNITED 2020 community-impact plan through awareness, volunteerism, and fundraising. You can help us realize this vision by becoming a member, lending a hand to volunteer, or attending our annual Festivus event.
Submitted on behalf of Erin Kilburg, YLS Community Outreach Vice Chair