The City of Big Shoulders is filled with organizations of big hearts. We know this for sure because many of them 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.

2019 Winners

Respiratory Health Association (RHA)

By providing comprehensive asthma education for students with asthma – or those with asthma symptoms – the Respiratory Health Association (RHA) meets schools’ and students’ needs. The organization has been a CIS of Chicago partner for more than 18 years and aims to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change.

They provide medication. They train teachers and parents how to best manage asthma. They also do research and advocacy. One reason this is so important is because asthma is the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness. As a result, RHA is intentional about identifying which schools need their services and utilizes its partnership with CIS of Chicago to help serve those students most in need of asthma management education.

The RHA team has annually served an average of 530 students, 220 parents and 150 staff through the CIS of Chicago partnership. That’s more than 500 students who are at risk of missing school because of their asthma, that are instead prepared to manage their symptoms and attend school. Just recently, the organization responded to a request about vaping concerns with a training for school site coordinators.

Mary Terhune, Counselor at Turner-Drew Elementary

Ms. Mary Terhune redefines what it means to go “above and beyond.” In the 11 years that Ms. Terhune has served as a CIS of Chicago site coordinator, she has been instrumental in helping her principal and administrative team achieve Turner-Drew’s educational vision through her tireless work as the school guidance counselor and her dedication to connecting the school with quality community partnerships.

She has incrementally increased the number of services she has connected to her school every year, and she focuses her energy on meeting priority goals like health services, art performances and civic awareness. Over the just the past five years, she has accessed an average of 20 support programs a year – more than double the network average – and served 100 percent of students.

Ms. Terhune is known by school and community partnership specialists alike. Her willingness to provide feedback and to try new programs and ideas to help meet her students’ needs is such a valuable attribute for a positive partnership. Ms. Terhune is also strategic and intentional in how she builds the network of community partners.



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.

2019 Winners

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 1,400 students at 31 schools during the 2019-2020 school year. At least 95 percent of the seniors who are receiving these targeted and sustained services are expected to graduate on time.