Alumni Profile: Jane Mentzinger ’82, forging connections for schools

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Jane Mentzinger ’82 brings services into Chicago’s schools.

Résumé: Since 2001, executive director of Communities In Schools of Chicago (CISC), a nonprofit that connects ­public schools with programs and ­services at no charge. Previously spent 17 years at the Washington, D.C.-based ­nonprofit Common Cause. Majored in political science.

Getting Help Where It’s Needed Faced with a school system saddled with public-health problems, street gangs, and a high school graduation rate around 50 percent, Jane Mentzinger and CISC forge connections between needy schools and a broad stable of organizations, promoting — among other things — violence prevention, asthma screening, vaccination, and arts enrichment. Schools tell CISC staffers what assistance they require, and CISC tells partner organizations which schools can use what they have to offer. The weak economy has exacerbated schools’ problems. Budget cutting often hits arts programs hard, and CISC connected arts-poor schools with a theater in Chicago’s suburbs that assembled a one-woman show and curriculum about the history of civil rights in Chicago. “You could hear a pin drop,” Mentzinger says. “[The performer] tells a story that’s their story.”

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