The City of Big Shoulders is filled with organizations of big hearts. We know this for sure, because they are among the 200 community partners that work with CIS of Chicago to prevent dropout.  From small, community-based organizations to large civic institutions, these organizations take their programs into Chicago’s public schools, and invite students to their spaces, playing important roles in keeping students excited about learning, and on track for graduation.  To help deepen their impact, CIS of Chicago provides training in curriculum development, classroom management, program evaluation and more under our NAVIGATE initiative.

Launched in 2013, NAVIGATE holds workshops and working groups throughout the academic year to build skills among our partners, who learn from each other — and teach us — while also working collaboratively to positively affect students.  For the latest information on NAVIGATE, follow our blog


Each year, we present the Spirit of Giving (SOG) Award to a community or school partner that consistently goes above and beyond to positively impact the lives of Chicago Public School students.  The SOG Award honors Alfred G. Ward, one of our founding board directors, who spent 15 years of his life championing the cause of the city’s school children.


Chicago Women’s Health Center

General focus of services and programs for schools: Sexual health education, healthy dating relationships, LGBTQ advocacy and support.

Mission/vision: “Chicago Women’s Health Center facilitates the empowerment of women and trans people by providing access to health care and health education in a respectful environment where people pay what they can afford.”

Number of years of partnership with CIS of Chicago: 19 years

Average number of students served over the last three years: 674

About CWHC’s relationship to schools: Although CWHC is a small organization and cannot serve as many schools as they would like, their partnerships are highly coveted by our schools. Proof of that relationship is the fact that they return to schools year after year and work closely with the school to develop programming that fits the unique needs of their students.

Vaughn Occupational High School has students with developmental and intellectual challenges, and CHWC worked closely with school staff to customize the curriculum. CWHC staff also exhibit their values of respect and acceptance to students regularly, making challenging or controversial topics approachable and inclusive, and modeling understanding for both school staff and students.

About CWHC’s relationship to CIS of Chicago: As one of the longest-running partners in our community partnership network, CWHC exemplifies what it means to be a CIS partner. They attend community partnership trainings, and they work to improve their programming by seeking out additional assistance through CIS’s tailored support program. As a small nonprofit with a big mission, CWHC truly is an unsung hero doing their best to meet the needs of students with the highest quality programming possible.

Ylonda Ware, School Counselor and CIS of Chicago Site Coordinator

School: Charles R. Henderson Elementary School (West Englewood)

Number of years as the site coordinator for CIS of Chicago: 11 years

About the school: Henderson is a neighborhood elementary school on the South Side of Chicago and has been a CIS of Chicago partnership school for 20 years. 96 percent of Henderson’s students are low-income, and the school has recently lost students and graduates to gun violence. The West Englewood neighborhood experiences one third of all homicides in the city.

Ms. Ware and Community Partnerships: Ms. Ware sees CIS of Chicago community partnerships as integral to her work in the school. Because of the violence prevalent in the community, Ms. Ware has prioritized connecting violence prevention and relationship-building services for her students, like the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Many of the partnerships Ms. Ware connects are long-term programs that return year after year.

Over the last three years, Ms. Ware has connected an average of 15 programs to the school every year.

Ms. Ware and CIS: Ms. Ware has remained a rock-solid site coordinator for the decade that she has been a CIS partner. She builds buy-in for partnerships with her staff, and she creates innovative relationships with the community partners she brings in. She always sees programs from conception to completion and is in regular communication regarding the needs of her school community. Despite the difficulties that her students face, she is a positive and unwavering support for them.

Ylonda Ware, Henderson Elementary School, West Englewood, Chicago
Ylonda Ware


A spirit of tenacity is just what some of our students who receive intensive support from our team need to persevere when obstacles to school success appear on their paths.  Tenacity is a trait we respect and nurture in our students, and each year, it is our honor to recognize students who have embodied determination by presenting them with the CIS Tenacity Award.  The honorees are selected by our Student Supports Managers at the end of each academic year.  The award is funded by CIS of Chicago current and alumni staff, who donate funds to empower the winners with a cash gift that can be used however the winners like. Past winners have purchased a computer laptop, a bicycle to get to and from an after-school job, and new clothing for school.  As important as the cash award is the public recognition, hard-fought and well-earned by students who dug in, stayed hopeful, and progressed.

The 2019 Tenacity Awards were presented to 20 students:

Braulio, Cárdenas Elementary School

De’Avian, Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School

Alexis, Clay Elementary School

Salvador, Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center

Edward, James R Doolittle Jr Elementary School

Mercedes, Foreman College and Career Academy

Nayla, George Washington High School

Uriel, Hayt Elementary School

Valeria, Marsh Elementary School

Liberty, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy of Social Justice

Israa, Stephen Tyng Mather High School

Ranesha, Mireles Elementary Academy

Gilberto, Phoenix Military Career Academy

Fabiola, Rowe Elementary School

Angelina, Pilsen Community Academy

Jaden, Randolph Magnet School

Roselyn, Saucedo Scholastic Elementary Academy

Esequiel, Vaughn Occupational High School

Macail, Webster Elementary School

Montrell, Westcott Elementary School


CIS of Chicago staff members will provide intensive support and counseling to 900 students at 20 schools during the 2018-2019 school year.  At least 95 percent of the 12th-graders who are receiving these targeted and sustained services are expected to graduate on time.