Students benefit when their schools are connected to community programs and services. They are more proficient in math and reading,1 their attendance improves, and they gain access to a wealth of resources that support their social-emotional learning.
Communities In Schools of Chicago has a team dedicated to linking schools with no-cost programs, provided by a network of 175 community partners. Our Partnership Specialists work to understand the specific needs of school communities and pair those needs with tailored community partner programs.
Let’s face it, though. Students’ needs have only grown more complex since COVID-19, and school staff are stretched thin. CIS of Chicago’s Partnership Team had to find a way to continue connecting students with quality programming, through channels that accommodate school staff. Enter: CIS of Chicago Spirit Week.
Spirit Week is a celebration of curriculum connections, cultural observances, and emerging partnerships! This October, CIS Partnership Specialists hosted Spirit Week and communicated high-capacity programs – tied to a daily area of focus – to CIS of Chicago’s 175 school partners. Here is a recap of the programs shared, connections made, and students supported during CIS Spirit Week.
Mental Health Monday
Chicago students have faced many challenges over the last few school years, and they need support, more than ever, to reacclimate to in-person learning. CIS Specialists kicked off Spirit Week with Mental Health Monday and shared programming ranging from bullying prevention to processing grief and loss. This included an “Increasing Grief Visibility” workshop from Willow House on supporting grieving children and “Listen to Me,” a film from Project Increase that facilitates conversations on family, violence, education, and trauma.
Classroom to Career
Many educators are working this fall to make sure that students have the resources they need to succeed academically. By leveraging tutoring, mentoring, and career exploration programs, teachers can help students get back on track. CIS Specialists shared opportunities on Tuesday around college prep, mentorship, STEM, and financial literacy, and schools responded. They scheduled programs from Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Anti-Cruelty Society, and Chicktech, to name a few. Programs like these get students excited about being back in the school building and motivated to stay on the path to graduation.
Students were constricted to a computer screen in remote learning and making time for physical activity was hard to accomplish. Now that students are back in the classroom, teachers recognize how important it is for students to move. Physical activity gives them a chance to destress and refocus on their learning. CIS Specialists shared programming on Wednesday that addressed stress management, physical education, and sexual health. One program from Girls in the Game, for example, trains teens on how to lead workshops on leading healthy lifestyles.
Beyond the Bell: Parent and Family Engagement
COVID-19 expanded CIS supports beyond K-12 students. The pandemic placed a tremendous burden on families, and CIS of Chicago rose to this challenge. On Thursday, CIS Partnership Specialists connected programming specific to parents’ needs, including financial education workshops and mental health programs. Credit Abuse Resistance Education, Riveredge / Streamwood Hospitals, and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago are a few of the community partners who shared programs around parent and family engagement.
Chicago’s art and culture scene took a hit in the 2020-21 school year. Curtains were closed and in-person field trips were on pause, but CIS’s community partners adapted. This year, they are offering a mix of pre-recorded residencies, virtual field trips, and drama/music/arts education. CIS Partnership Specialists wrapped Spirit Week by shining a light on these program opportunities. Schools scheduled virtual field trips to the Adler Planetarium, for example, and music workshops from the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.
By the end of Spirit Week, schools had accessed 70 community partner programs! The spirit is alive and well for CIS of Chicago’s extensive partner network.