CIS Helps Schools Maximize Partnership Through New School Orientation

Communities In Schools of Chicago
3 min readAug 21, 2023

By Katie Rankin, Communications Specialist, Communities In Schools of Chicago

238 Chicago Public Schools.
63 Chicago communities.
Tens of thousands of students served.

The stats are staggering. Communities In Schools (CIS) of Chicago is starting off the 2023–24 school year with its largest presence in organizational history.

This school year, CIS’ Partnership Team will connect programs and services to 238 Chicago Public Schools — more than one third of the entire district. In 38 of the 238 school communities, CIS’ Intensive Team will provide direct, one-on-one supports to students who need extra help with their attendance, behavior, grades, or social-emotional learning skills.

Thirty-four of the 238 Chicago Public Schools in CIS’ network are new to their partnership with CIS of Chicago, and in order to help school staff maximize that partnership, CIS’ School Partnership Team hosted New School Orientation this month.

Nearly every new CIS school partner attended New School Orientation at the Lawndale Christian Conference Center, and to great effect. School staff had the opportunity to learn more about the programs and services provided by CIS’ network of community partners — offerings shared at no cost to CIS schools — and the role that CIS plays in creating those connections.

Programs can benefit the entire school or individual classrooms, said School Partnership Specialist Ausar Bradley at the orientation. They are tailored to the needs of each school and range from in-person field trips and whole-school assemblies to live-virtual workshops.

Relationships are at the heart of CIS’ work with partners, said Senior School Partnership Specialist Jill Hennessy. The team builds meaningful connections with school leaders and collaborates with them to understand students’ needs and then prioritize those needs.

Priorities fit into categories like academic enrichment, the arts, behavioral and mental health, career awareness, and physical health and wellness. Once priorities are set, CIS connects relevant programs and ensures the programs are creating the most impact. In addition to programs and resources, school staff can also take advantage of professional development opportunities and meetups hosted by CIS throughout the year, Jill shared.

To break up the sessions, the Partnership Team tested folks’ knowledge of CIS with a fun, jeopardy game, led by School Partnership Specialist Sahar Steiner, and they even got the chance to schedule programs on the spot with a practice activity led by Ausar.

“The overview was organized and helpful to help us set up our expectations for our first year!” one school attendee said. “This was super,” another attendee shared. “I loved how the CIS team modeled the teamwork and shared load for the program as always. CIS soars in excellence in service and positive engagement.”

New School Orientation attendees met CIS staff, they networked with colleagues from across the district, and they left with a better understanding of their partnership and some resources to take back to their school. All attendees received CIS mugs, stickers, T-shirts, and two boxes of feminine hygiene products — items that are highly requested throughout the school year.

The Partnership Team and the entire CIS of Chicago staff are excited to serve schools across the city this school year and continue connecting impactful resources so that students have everything they need to succeed in school and life.

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Communities In Schools of Chicago

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