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The Five Basics Every Child Needs and Deserves

“I want you to think back to when you were in elementary school, and I want you think about whether you had one of these five things:

  • Did you have a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult?
  • Did you have a safe place to learn and grow?
  • Did you have a healthy start in life?
  • Did you get the chance to think about something that you wanted to be when you grew up?
  • And did you have the chance to give back to your peers and your community?”

“Our job at Communities In Schools of Chicago is to help fill in the gaps,” said Dr. Judith Allen, CIS’ Chief Operations Officer and Clinical Director.

To fill in the gaps and help students stay on the path to graduation, Communities In Schools of Chicago’s work is grounded in the Five Basics. Developed by Communities In Schools founder Bill Milliken, the Five Basics are a set of essentials that every child needs and deserves to become healthy adults. They serve as the foundation for CIS’ work.

That’s why our Programs Team ensures that before connecting students with academic enrichment programs, they are first responding to students’ essential needs and removing any barriers to their progress and growth. Then — and only then — can they begin to provide the layers of tailored support that empowers young people to succeed.

So, how does CIS of Chicago live out the “Five Basics”? Well, it starts with building trusting relationships with Chicago’s young people.

The First Basic: A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult.

Each and every day, at 38 public schools across the city, our Intensive Team provides one-on-one support to students. CIS Student Supports Managers meet with young people individually when they need extra help with their attendance, behavior, or grades. They facilitate groups that support students’ social and emotional development. And they support teachers and school staff by serving as another trusted adult in the building for students to turn to. Our Partnership Team provides direct and indirect services to 200 public schools, shoring up resources and building meaningful relationships with school staff, who work as our liaisons to living out the CIS model in the school building.

The Second Basic: A safe place to learn and grow.

For some Chicago students, walking to school safely is a challenge. For others, experiencing bullying in the hallways is their reality. Every child deserves to have a safe place to learn. CIS of Chicago partners with organizations that we know foster students’ safety.

CIS of Chicago provides Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training, for example, to equip adults with the tools to recognize and respond to youth experiencing mental health crises. By offering the course to a wide array of caring adults — parents, teachers, community members — CIS helps create a safety net around children and helps combat the growing mental health crisis in our country.

CIS also co-sponsors Do the Write Thing, a national writing program where middle-school students examine the impact of youth violence, they share what they think should be done to reduce youth violence, and they become catalysts for change. Do the Write Thing empowers students to join their communities in creating safer places, not only for themselves but for future generations.

The Third Basic: A healthy start and a healthy future.

When students are going to school hungry, when they need medical care, when they don’t have a jacket in the winter months, they are lacking basic services that support their learning. CIS of Chicago’s Partnership Team links resources and services from our network of more than 215 community organizations to meet students’ needs.

All programming is provided to schools at no cost, and they have major impact. The resources that CIS connects with schools address a range of student needs, from behavioral and mental health needs, like access to counseling, to physical health needs, like vision exams, dental resources, and supply drives. Research has shown that connecting students with these resources has a positive effect on their reading and math, which are leading indicators of graduation.

The Fourth Basic: A marketable skill to use upon graduation.

Our mission at CIS of Chicago is to surround students with a community of support so they can achieve in school and in life. We know that when students explore college and career options early on with hands-on experiences — with someone they can trust — they are not only more motivated to succeed in school. They have a plan of action for life after graduation.

That’s why we’ve prioritized college and career readiness as one of six focus areas and why we’ve embedded tailored support to high school freshmen that helps them develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and social and emotional skills that prepares them for adulthood. We also host field trips to organizations like NBC Chicago, United’s hub at O’Hare Airport, and Adams Street Partners, a private equity firm in downtown Chicago, for students to tour office spaces, learn more about various career pathways, and meet with employees.

The Fifth Basic: A chance to give back to peers and community.

“The children I have seen succeed are the children we allowed to succeed. We allowed them to give something to us,” said CIS founder Bill Milliken. “We need to listen to them, and then get them involved in feeding people, tutoring other children — that’s how they feel part of a community.”

Our CIS of Chicago team believes that when our young people succeed, our whole city succeeds. By giving them opportunities to lead, to mentor, and to teach us something in the process, we empower them to own their success — and in turn, support the success of the next generation.

Communities In Schools Five Basics graphic

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