Wood Family Foundation Opens Second Pitch In Site

Lisa Fielding
September 12, 2018 - 5:25 pm

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) – There was a celebration and ribbon-cutting Wednesday at Richard Yates Elementary School in Humboldt Park, the site of the Wood Family Foundation's second Pitch In program.

"This has been our vision from the beginning. It's humbling to be at this second site," said Kerry Wood, a former Chicago Cubs pitcher who co-founded Pitch In.

Pitch In was launched in 2014 with its inaugural school, Lawndale Elementary Community Academy in North Lawndale. Now those initial fourth-graders are in their final year of the program.

"We have our eighth-graders, who were 4th graders when we started, who are graduating this year. We are now looking at high school placements, deciding if they want to do CPS elective enrollment or if they are looking at private schools and helping their parents navigate that process," said Sarah Wood, Co-Founder, Pitch In.

She added: "It's not a no-brainer that you're going to high school. You have to have parents that can navigate that system. For us, helping them get from eighth grade to high school is a big deal. There's a large percentage of eighth-grade dropouts in this city, and for us to be able to help tackle that … we need to pop in five years prior and start with them in 4th grade.”

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Pitch In is a five-year mentoring program offered through the Wood Family Foundation. It's for at-risk fourth graders who are paired with mentors who work with them one to two times a week.

"This is our time to come into Yates and see what they need from us and fill those gaps. We know we have a great model, we know it's tested, we have the data that shows it’s working. What neighborhoods are we going to next? We plan on being in two more next year, and in 10 in five years," Sarah Wood said.

The Wood Family Foundation is always looking for mentors. It's a two-year commitment, and each grade is a different day of the week. 

Students participating in the Yates Elementary School Pitch In program. (WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding)

"We have a lot of pride. It's pretty amazing to see how this has grown and what our staff has done. We've gone through some bumps along the way, but seeing it working in one school and now we're in a second school is amazing and we're beaming with pride," she said. 

"I never thought this would happen after my baseball career," Kerry Wood said, laughing. "I knew we were going to do something. Maybe I underestimated my wife's vision and drive. She's just amazing. I'm just following her lead.”

Twenty-five new students are entering the Pitch In program at Yates.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The Wood Family Foundation also renovated an outside courtyard and added a mural -- a space, Wood says, that can be enjoyed by all Yates students.

"That space was completely overrun with weeds and it wasn't being utilized. It looks awesome now,” he said.