Wood Family Foundation Reaches Milestone, Hires New Director

Lisa Fielding
March 03, 2018 - 4:37 pm

Wood Family Foundation/Facebook


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Four years ago, 20 fourth graders from Chicago's North Lawndale Neighborhood were chosen for the Pitch In program, an after school mentoring program, offered through the Wood Family Foundation.

"It's been a gift for us," said Sarah Wood, Co Founder, Wood Family foundation.

Launched in 2011, the Woods' created the organization to help improve the lives of children in Chicago by building relationships with families, students and their mentors. The students are now in 7th grade as the head into their final year of Pitch In.

"Seeing them it's like your first born. Seeing them go from fourth graders that we have no relationship with to seeing them go on to bigger and better things. They are leaving us with more confidence, their grades are better, they're running for student government, they're participating in sports and they're more motivated because they know it's possible," Wood said.

The students are paired with mentors who work with them one to two times a week.

"We rely on our mentors. We rely on the proximity to downtown where many are coming from work. This program wouldn't work without mentors. That connection of mentor to the children at their table, that's the big part of the program," she said.

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It's a two year commitment and each grade is a different day of the week.

"If your a fourth grade mentor, you'd come let's say every Tuesday."

Wood said the first generation of Pitch In students have come an incredibility long way in the last three years.

"It's been a gift for them and it's been a gift for us to see that. It's funny when you're taking kids downtown for the first time when they only live a few miles away. One of our students introduced Michelle Obama at the Kennedy Center a few weeks ago. It's really opening up so many possibilities for them. It was his first time on a airplane, first time speaking in public. We're showing them what's possible and what's out there," she said.

"Next year will be their final year. We help them in the high school process and move them through the process. We'd love to be able to track them throughout high school too."

Wood said the the next step is to expand to other neighborhoods.

"If I had a wish list, it would be Humboldt Park. Because getting into the Hispanic community and trying to do what we can there," she said. "As we continue to grow, I don't think we'll be held back by a map. I think we're going to be everywhere."

The foundation has also hired a new Executive Director Laura Muriello, who will work with the mentoring program and expand the model to new schools.

"She is the best thing that ever happened to us. She comes with a wealth of experience and knowledge. She comes from One Goal, which is the high school equivalent to what we do," Wood said.

Wood Family Foundation
Wood Family Foundation

"It's really amazing to see although their growing into young men and women, they are still very connected to the Pitch In family."

Wood said they will have a big graduation next year for their first Pitch In students.

"This is a big moment for these kids. The drop out rate after 8th grade is so significant in these neighborhoods, to be able to move them on to high school, that's a huge achievement."