Prior to March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Partnership Team was on track to meeting its annual goals for connecting students with a range of programs and services via our network of community partners. Students learned healthy decision-making skills thanks to our behavioral and mental health partners; broadened their perspective on career opportunities through our college and career readiness partners; and benefitted from school-based music residencies and theater productions through our arts partners.
Once schools and students transitioned to remote learning in March, our Community Partnership Team completely adapted their work. They began hosting a series of meetups on Zoom to help community partners stay connected and supported – and navigate the altered educational landscape.
In response to the economic fallout from the pandemic, the Partnership Program also increased its focus on linking students and families with items addressing their essential needs. They worked with dedicated partners like A Better Chicago, Cradles to Crayons, Jackson Financial, and Ulta Beauty to provide almost 4,000 families with back-to-school supplies, beauty and hygiene products, and direct cash assistance. In 2019-20:
- 59,254 students received services
- 3,966 students and families received in-kind donations
- 996 programs were connected
- 175 schools were served
- 165 community partners were engaged
The Community Partnership Team accepted the challenges that COVID presented head on. We increased our communication with community partners, provided weekly virtual trainings and collaboration opportunities, and most significantly, we helped partners shift their in-person programs to virtual platforms. This past year, the team was flexible, creative, and responsive. We are continually inspired by our community partners, who regularly said to us, ‘What do schools need? We are ready to help.’