Chicago Cares began an ongoing programs partnership with Brennemann Elementary in the spring of 2011. Since then, our programs have grown to engage more than 300 volunteers. Located in the diverse neighborhood of Uptown, Brennemann Elementary serves 496 students from a variety of backgrounds and cultural communities in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Like Mollison Elementary, Brennemann also functioned as a welcoming school this fall for students from Stewart Elementary, which was closed as part of the Chicago Public Schools school action plan. Because of Brennemann’s welcoming status, administrators are especially excited to continue to partner with Chicago Cares this year to provide programming for the increased student population.
“Welcoming” is, in fact, the perfect word to describe Brennemann’s building, which is full of large windows that let in plentiful sunshine. The hallways are decorated with student art projects and reading nooks, making the school feel like a comfortable place for learning. Chicago Cares programs occur on Saturday mornings, and students and volunteers gather together in the cafeteria before dividing into their three programs.
Students in kindergarten through second grade can take part in Read-with-Me, a signature Chicago Cares children’s program and one of the first programs we offered at Brennemann in 2011. In Read-with-Me, students and volunteers read one-on-one or in small groups and complete a craft that has to do with the book. Students in third through sixth grades can participate in a new program model, Read-with-Me: Geography Edition. Continuing to build on the reading and comprehension skills that are part of the original Read-with-Me program, this new program has students and volunteers read books specifically focused on states or regions of the United States. These texts align perfectly with the new Common Core curriculum, which emphasizes non-fiction reading for students. Following reading, students and volunteers in the program learn more about the featured geographic location by completing a related craft. Students in seventh through eighth grades may attend Tech Club, which began at Brennemann in 2011 along with Read-with-Me. Chicago Cares volunteers help tech-savvy students build upon their skills by facilitating animation and programming exercises as well as Internet scavenger hunts.
These programs at Brennemann could not be a success without the dedicated volunteers and volunteer leaders who make them happen. Be a part of the welcoming environment by signing up to volunteer at Brennemann!