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Partnership Program

Our Partnership Program creates meaningful connections between Chicago schools and community organizations. Schools, sometimes unable to meet the full range of student needs, are paired with community organizations that can address those needs with a rich diversity of support resources.

In the 2021-22 school year, CIS of Chicago will link whole-school supports to 175 Chicago Public Schools through a network of community partners. These partners include nonprofits, corporations, individuals, and government agencies.

In 2020-21, CIS of Chicago positively impacted the lives of 47,369 students across the city.

Prioritizing Needs

At the beginning of the school year, our School Partnership Specialists work with school leaders, like principals and guidance counselors, to understand the types of supports their students need. They work together to set eight priorities to focus on addressing through community partnerships and establish goals for the academic year. Our School Partnership Specialists also consider the makeup of the school, as well as the school’s mission and initiatives, when setting priorities to guide program connections.

Connecting Programs and Services

Once priorities have been identified, CIS of Chicago School Partnership Specialists collaborate with our Community Partnership Specialists to link a range of support programs and services to the schools. The programming fits into four main categories:

  • Arts Enrichment
  • Behavioral and Mental Health
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Physical Health and Wellness

All programming is provided at no cost to the schools or students, and the programs address the social, emotional, and physical needs of students. Our community partners include everything from licensed therapists in private practice and dedicated health educators to museums and cultural institutions that make our city great. These organizations can rely on our Community Partner Specialists to connect them directly with students.

For example, Martha Ruggles Elementary School Counselor Yvette Farmer was seeking sexual health and puberty services for the school’s students. Farmer worked with our Partnership Program team to connect with Rape Victim Advocates, using their safe touch program for grades kindergarten through second grade. For the middle schoolers, Ruggles Elementary staff used resources from another partner, National Runaway Safe Line, to create curriculum for sexual education. Each connection we make between schools and community partners follow a similar story.

Supporting Our Partners

CIS of Chicago supports the development of key skills that enable both our school partners and our community partners to collaborate to best serve students.

School Partner Training and Resources: ACTIVATE

Throughout the year, our Partnership Team offers hands-on support to our school partner liaisons, called Site Coordinators, through meetings and trainings. Site Coordinators attend sessions based on services which interest them, including grant-writing, restorative justice, and mindfulness.

They also develop important skills, like identifying student priorities, communicating effectively with partners, and evaluating programs and services to gauge impact. In 2020-21, we provided training to 94 school partners.

Community Partner Training and Resources: NAVIGATE

Our Partnership Team also provides training to community partners in curriculum development, classroom management, program evaluation, and more. We know our community partners play an important role in keeping students excited about learning and on track for graduation, so investing in their professional development is key.

NAVIGATE workshops and working groups allows our partners to build skills, learn from each other, and teach us – while working collaboratively to positively affect students. In 2020-21, we provided training to 127 community partners.

If you’d like to learn more about our Partnership Program, contact Robin Koelsch, Senior Director of Partnerships, at or 312-829-2475 ext. 35.

Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Join our Inspiring Change Giving Circle today and become a changemaker.

Help us respond to the emerging needs of students and continue to surround them with a community of support. Giving Circle members receive exclusive benefits, such as event invites, curated newsletters, and more.

*Thanks to a generous group of donors, the first $40,000 donated will be matched from now through December 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.!