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Carnahan Family Tenacity Awards

Recognizing Students’ Tenacity

Each spring, Communities In Schools of Chicago recognizes hard-working students who don’t normally get attention for school success. These students may have struggled with their attendance, behavior, or grades, but with the help of a dedicated CIS of Chicago Student Supports Manager and other caring adults at their school, they persevered to meet their goals.

Since 2014, CIS of Chicago has presented 175 students with a Tenacity Award. Students receive a gift card, a certificate of achievement, and a personalized celebration at their school. Past winners have purchased a laptop, a bicycle to get to and from an after-school job, and new clothing for school.

As important as the cash award, the recognition for students who dug in, stayed hopeful, and progressed on their goals is equally valued.

This Year's Tenacity Award Winners

In 2023, the Carnahan Family Tenacity Awards were presented to:

  • Jade: Acero – Brighton Park Elementary School 
  • Adamaris: Acero – Rufino Tamayo Elementary School 
  • Ana: Distinctive Schools: Art In Motion 
  • Janney: Lázaro Cárdenas Elementary School 
  • Jamilla: Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School 
  • Andrea: Chávez Multicultural Academic Center 
  • Mya: CICS Prairie Elementary School 
  • Maya: CICS Ralph Ellison High School 
  • Daniela: CICS West Belden Elementary School 
  • Kalah: Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School 
  • Ronnell: Henry Clay Elementary School 
  • Lydia: Darwin Elementary School 
  • Micah: John F. Eberhart Elementary School 
  • Ivan: Frank W. Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy 
  • Melody: Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School 
  • Christopher: Helen M. Hefferan Elementary School 
  • Edwin: Benito Juarez Community Academy 
  • Steve: John L. Marsh Elementary School 
  • Shantell: Stephen T. Mather High School 
  • Joziah: James Monroe Elementary School 
  • Marlon: William P. Nixon Elementary School 
  • Mariana: Noble Schools – DRW College Prep 
  • Tahmyus: Phoenix STEM Military Academy 
  • Kamila: Pilsen Community Academy 
  • Gregory: A. Philip Randolph Elementary School 
  • Miley: Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy 
  • Michelle: Jacqueline B. Vaughn Occupational High School 
  • Gianna: George Washington High School 
  • Akyah: Daniel Webster Elementary School 
  • Michael: Oliver S. Westcott Elementary School 


Student holds up

Lydia, a third grader, is bright and determined. She enjoys art, soccer, and playing games. With the help of Student Supports Manager Sophia, Lydia has made tremendous growth this year in her social-emotional learning skills and in her self-esteem. Despite big changes in her life, Lydia continues to persevere and tries her best every single day, Sophia said.

Student holds up cake with graduation cap

Miley started her eighth-grade year as a new student at Saucedo and at times struggled with the adjustment. Miley joined Student Supports Manager Juanita’s Rising Suns group and cooking club. With Juanita’s support, Miley made progress on her goals.

Student holds Tenacity Award winner certificate

Ana is an amazing creative scholar who values community, art, and expressing yourself openly. With the help of Student Supports Manager Kenya, Ana has stepped more into her own light, she’s created and maintained positive and meaningful friendships, and she’s advocated for herself as needed. Ana and Kenya both enjoy creating art together.

Eberhart student with Tenacity Award box

Eighth grader Micah joined two groups led by the CIS Student Supports Manager at his school, Jeanette — a wellness group and a stress management squad. Through Jeanette’s support, Micah has grown in his confidence. “I feel very happy that I am being awarded for the hard work I put in bettering myself and my habits,” Micah said.

Mather student with

Shantell began her high school career experiencing some hardships at home. With extra support from Student Supports Manager Stephanie, Shantell gained coping skills and strategies for academic success. Now a junior, Shantell has raised her attendance and grades, and she’s a leader on the cross country, flag football, and softball teams.

Tenacity Award Winner 2023 Juarez

With the support of Freshmen Rising Coordinator Brian, Edwin gained skills to develop strong academic and attendance goals, he learned tools to manage stress and create positive relationships, and he developed leadership skills. He became a leader in his Freshmen Rising group.

Student and friend celebrate his Tenacity Award outdoors

Fourth grader Ivan began the year with little to no motivation. With help from Student Supports Manager Lali, Ivan learned to let adults know when he doesn’t understand something, advocate for his needs, and rely on others for emotional support.

Student and CIS Supports Manager smile for a selfie

Initially, Ronnell didn’t feel like he could trust adults to give him a chance to succeed. That all shifted when Ronnell started meeting with Student Supports Manager Chavara. She worked with him to understand his strong emotions and provided him with the tools to help regulate those emotions. Ronnell’s attendance and grades have improved.

Student and Supports Manager smile at Tenacity Award celebration

Akyah is graduating this year from her elementary school with big dreams for her future. She is a leader in her class and a role model for other students. But Akyah has had a challenging few years. Akyah connected with the Student Supports Manager at her school, and with their help, she gained strategies to keep her social and emotional wellness strong.

Student and Support Manager smile; student holds certificate and flowers

An eleventh grader, Mariana enjoys fashion, hanging out with friends, and watching a good TV show. She’s had a difficult few years, though. When she started meeting with Student Supports Manager Diamond, she wanted to make a change. Diamond provided consistent, one-on-one support for Mariana and is so proud of the progress she has made.

Student poses with family after receiving award

Joziah, a fourth grader, started meeting with Student Supports Manager Elvia because he wanted to improve his behavior. Elvia worked with Joziah to help him name his emotions and make different choices when he felt angry. Joziah has grown in his ability to communicate with his peers and in his ability to advocate for himself and others.

Student and Supports Manager stand in front of CIS sign

Janney started working with Student Supports Manager Liz last school year. She had a tough time transitioning back to in-person learning, and she needed extra supports. Liz used creative strategies, like board games and writing exercises, to help fourth-grader Janney process her emotions and problem-solve. Janney’s confidence has grown.

Student poses with

Adamaris, a seventh grader, enjoys doing hair and makeup, going to the park, and expressing herself through writing. At the beginning of the year, though, Adamaris was withdrawn. After developing a strong relationship with Student Supports Manager Bernadette, Adamaris has built her confidence and her connection to Tamayo’s school community.

In The News

We are inspired by the stories of our tenacious students, and so are our media partners. Check out some of the past coverage of the Tenacity Awards at the links below.

  • In 2022, Rob Elgas of ABC-7 interviewed Tenacity Award winner Jocelyn, along with her mother Rosa and her CIS Student Supports Manager Juanita. Jocelyn shared the progress she’s made with Juanita’s help, and Mrs. Ventura shared what Juanita’s support has meant for the entire family. Watch here.

  • In 2020, Bernie Tafoya of WBBM Newsradio interviewed Field Supervisor Paul Fagen and one of the honorees, Victorious, about what it means to win this award. “I think it was an amazing step in my life ’cause I wasn’t expecting it,” Victorious said. “I was surprised.” Listen here.

  • In 2019, Sarah Karp of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio reported on the Tenacity Awards and the story of Roselyn, our recipient at Saucedo Elementary. Read here.

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

Follow the latest CIS news and learn more about our impact on Chicago’s young people!

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