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Santa brings an Amazon Fire tablet to every student at West Side School, thanks to CPS partnership with Amazon


CBS News

Thursday, December 8, 2022

CHICAGO — Students at Roswell B. Mason Math & Science Academy in Lawndale got a visit from Santa Claus bearing gifts Thursday morning.

CBS 2’s Joe Donlon joined Old St. Nick at the school, at 4217 W. 18th St.

At Mason, it was a holiday party that turned into a dance party – or a “jingle ball.” Amazon partnered with the Chicago Public Schools to give each student something to call their own. And the smiles we saw said it all.

Of course, a jingle ball isn’t complete without the big guy himself. Santa made a grand entrance – to the delight of the Mason Elementary student body.

Some of the kids estimated some of Santa’s vital statistics. How much does he weigh? How old might he be? How many cookies does he consume on Christmas Eve night?

The answers to those questions are mysteries for which we can only make educated guesses.

Whatever the case, Santa’s stop Thursday was at Mason Elementary – and he had a heavy load. He arrived with more than 200 Amazon Fire tablets – one for every Mason student. They are not to share – each student gets to take home a tablet and keep it.

“I hope, and I think many of us know, that these are going to be the future leaders of Chicago,” said Amazon Chicago Head of Community Affairs Sarah Glavin. “So if we can give them the right tools early on, we know the thing they continue to create are going to be incredible for this city.”

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez said events where schools can offer all the students a gift are very important.

“We know that if you go around the neighborhood of North Lawndale – high poverty, families that are struggling – we don’t know that every one of these children will get gifts for Christmas,” Martinez said. “But to have this kind of event where everybody gets a gift, it’s priceless.”

Donlon asked Mason student Jontel Craig what he thought when he got the Amazon Fire tablet.

“I thought, I’m like, dang! They really care about me,” he said. “I must be that important.”

That was exactly the message everyone involved in an event like this loved to hear. It was enough to make everyone dance, which was what the kids did next.

“It’s things that we cannot provide as a school. We can’t give it to them,” said Mason principal Tonya Tolbert, “and so when someone else comes in and partners with us to give them something, it’s awesome.”

Ensuring the welfare of children and families is part of every school’s mission, Tolbert emphasized.

“Once they walk through the doors, we make sure that we wrap around anything they need – family, the child themselves – you know, however, we can help,” Tolbert said, “because that’s what schools are for.”

Children First Fund is the foundation for CPS. They organized the event Thursday at Mason.

The fund is always looking for partners to step in like Amazon did in this case. Contact the Children First Fund if you’d like to help.

Read full article on CBS News

Salesforce Awards $19M to public schools, education nonprofits



Published September 21, 2021

Salesforce has announced grants totaling $19 million in support of education access and advancement, with a focus on racial equity.

The funding includes grants totaling $17.25 million to five school districts across the United States: $7.5 million each to the San Francisco Unified School District and the Oakland Unified School District and $750,000 each to Chicago Public SchoolsIndianapolis Public Schools, and the New York City Department of Education. The grants will support efforts to provide computer science curricula, support math and science teachers, recruit teachers for hard-to-staff positions, redesign middle schools, and offer additional equity-driven learning opportunities; create social-emotional support programs for students, offer professional growth for teachers, provide computer science and math tutoring, and counsel students who are newcomers to the U.S.; and develop programs to address learning loss, the digital divide, and social-emotional wellness after COVID-19.

See full article here

Supporting Postsecondary Success for CPS Students

By Updates

Postsecondary Success Support for CPS Students 

In Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, Saray spent the 2020-21 school year navigating the everyday challenges of a first-year college student: balancing studies and social interactions, learning how to manage her time with greater independence, and tackling initial courses in her chosen discipline (for her: pursuing a Nursing degree). 

But she also had a whole slate of challenges that many college students experience but many others do not: figuring out the complexities of a university and parsing financial aid policies as the first in her family to attend college, and helping care for four younger siblings while her parents juggled work schedules and financial stressors. All this in a global pandemic, which made even “everyday” challenges much more daunting. Through it all, she persevered – and excelled.

Growth in postsecondary education for CPS graduates

Saray isn’t alone in her determination or success. In steadily increasing numbers, Chicago Public Schools students are planning for, pursuing, and succeeding in postsecondary education.

cps postsecondary success stats hs graduation rate 82.5% in 2020

At the same time, students face complicated and unfamiliar challenges to obtaining their desired postsecondary credentials and careers. Chief among them: rising educational and personal costs, multi-faceted family responsibilities, and the continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources for seniors graduating during the pandemic

In response, CFF developed the Compassion Fund’s postsecondary access program, partnering with CPS Office of College and Career Success (OCCS) to provide resources supporting graduating seniors (and those recently graduated) beginning in spring 2020 and throughout the 2020-21 school year. The power of timely, targeted emergency aid is well-documented, especially for students from backgrounds of limited financial means. Oftentimes, a few hundred dollars can mean the difference between a student matriculating directly to a postsecondary institution or stalling (and, more often than not, permanently discontinuing) their educational journey.   

Students and the school communities who support them have navigated an array of challenges, meeting COVID-era transitions to postsecondary education with resilience, flexibility, and determination. Educators and CPS leaders responded to student needs identifying and expanding the needed, targeted supports. Philanthropic partners including Crown Family Philanthropies, PepsiCo, and Fifth Third Bank Foundation contributed college success funding – emphasizing equity, empathy, and rapid-responsiveness in their generosity.

CPS Counselors, College & Career Specialists, and Network and Central Office staff worked nimbly, building a nomination system and aid application review process from scratch. CFF contributed fundraising, project management, and financial expertise to assemble necessary resources and get them to the students who needed them most. 

The results were remarkable – at a macro level, 338 students received an average of $432 in emergency financial relief. These funds provided laptops for students who suddenly had to learn remotely when they’d planned to utilize on-campus resources, bus tickets for student transportation to orientations and move-in days, and covered mandatory enrollment fees or other financial hurdles to students’ education. 

single student hs graduation with diploma outdoorsSaray was one of these students. Graduating in 2020 with a successful high school record, she’d been admitted to her first choice school – North Park University, located only a few short blocks from her family’s home. But then the pandemic hit, and money became even more scarce in her household. A relatively small balance (at least compared to the overall cost of attendance) of $1,008 remained after her financial aid package. Even with a monthly payment plan, this burden felt nearly insurmountable

Throughout her summer before college and into her freshman year, Saray maintained contact with staff at her CPS high school, and with “Ms. Jenny,” the College & Career Specialist supporting postsecondary efforts at her school. Hearing of the financial obstacles to Saray’s postsecondary plans, this team encouraged her to apply for CFF’s postsecondary success funds, and then connected her with the additional resources from the Continued Transition program. It’s hard to say who smiled widest – Saray, her mother, or Ms. Jenny – when they saw her bursar balance’s updated total: $0. A few weeks later, Saray even received a refund of the payment they’d already cobbled together for their original installment plan. With these funds, she covered the cost of a textbook and online fees for another class – yet another expense she had yet to figure out how to pay. 

OCCS devoted significant time and resources to these efforts, and simultaneously collaborated with CFF to get additional funds to students, creating an initiative directing additional advising and financial support to a cohort of schools, thanks to the generous donation of another longtime CFF partner. OCCS’ Continued Transition program also garnered positive results, especially in re-engaging students who’d indicated plans to attend college but hadn’t immediately matriculated in the fall of 2020.

Addressing the details for success at scale

Meeting diverse and specific needs is messy, complicated work. Making this large-scale postsecondary success a reality for students involved educators and administrators tracking packages across Chicagoland to help students locate their pre-loaded debit cards, problem-solving for families with unstable and shifting financial circumstances, and anticipating unique needs of transient populations such as Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS). In more than one instance, someone had to meet or reroute USPS deliveries. 

Impact on postsecondary options and experiences

All of this labor and dedication provided invaluable support, advising, and personal connection points — vital to encouraging students, caring for their social and emotional well-being, and helping them navigate a complicated life-transition in an unfamiliar landscape. But the impact went beyond advice and encouragement thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners. Meeting needs both social-emotional and practical/financial has the potential to dramatically improve students’ educational and professional trajectories. For hundreds of CPS ’20 graduates, our philanthropic partners recognized and supported that transformative potential firsthand. 

Thanks to our partners’ continued generosity, these enhanced supports are again available to CPS students graduating in 2021. Having seen the immense impact of these postsecondary success funds for our alumni, we hope to replicate and expand this initiative in years to come. 


Interested in supporting CPS students’ continued success? 

Contribute to the CFF Compassion Fund today