Unsung heroes are those who work hard, achieve results, and make brave decisions without notice or praise.
They are folks who go above and beyond, not because they will be rewarded but simply because it’s the right thing to do. Through their dedication, unsung heroes impact their community, all in service of a common goal.
For nearly 20 years, Communities In Schools (CIS) of Chicago has recognized unsung heroes who work tirelessly to support the city’s public-school students through its Spirit of Giving Awards.
CIS’ Spirit of Giving Awards spotlight one school partner and one community partner who have exceeded expectations and made a difference in the lives of Chicago’s young people.
The Spirit of Giving Awards are presented at CIS’ End-of-Year Appreciation Event. The award winners are invited up to the stage, presented with a plaque, and surrounded with applause and acclaim for the impact they have made on students and families. Here’s a look at CIS’ 2023 Spirit of Giving Award winners:
Spirit of Giving Award Winner, School Partner Category
Yvette Farmer, guidance counselor at Ruggles Elementary School
Ms. Yvette Farmer has served as CIS’ point-of-contact at Ruggles Elementary School for the entirety of the school’s 14-year partnership with CIS. She is a trusted leader and a collaborator. Through her support and CIS’ partnership, Ruggles Elementary students have gained access to a variety of programs.
This school year, for example, Ms. Farmer worked with CIS to provide career education programs across grade levels, and she arranged for the Shedd Aquarium, a CIS partner, to visit Ruggles. The Shedd Aquarium visit created an unforgettable experience for Ruggles students. “It’s never too early to bring opportunities and inspiration to our children,” Ms. Farmer reflected.
Thanks to Ms. Farmer serving as CIS’ main liaison, thousands of Ruggles students have had their lives enriched by a variety of learning experiences and resources. When CIS of Chicago needed student participation at key organizational events or sought a trusted school partner willing to pilot a new program, Ms. Farmer was a key collaborator.
Spirit of Giving Award Winner, Community Partner Category
The Peace Exchange, an organization focused on violence prevention
Since 2015, The Peace Exchange has partnered with CIS of Chicago to promote conflict resolution in Chicago Public Schools. Their programs help students build skills around peacekeeping, tolerance, and nonviolence, and with CIS’ support, The Peace Exchange now serves 11 schools and more than 4,500 students across the CIS network.
CIS provided the Peace Exchange with support to expand their program from one to four sessions, and this created space for their team to build relationships with more students and more school communities. One CIS school partner reflected on the impact of The Peace Exchange: “The program does a great job teaching students how to communicate and handle conflict. They target the conversations based on the grade level and (the program staff) knows how to keep them engaged.”
The Peace Exchange team is creative, collaborative, and responsive. Whether it is providing video testimonials about CIS’ partnership, writing letters of support to help CIS secure needed resources, or sharing best practices or being part of panel discussions, The Peace Exchange is a great resource — and partner — to schools, students, and CIS of Chicago.
We congratulate this year’s Spirit of Giving Award winners — Ms. Yvette Farmer and The Peace Exchange — and we thank them for their continued partnership with CIS and for their service to Chicago’s young people!