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Chicago Philanthropic Community Expands Evidence-Based Youth Violence Intervention Program Supporting Students Facing Trauma



Contribution from Ken Griffin Helps Bring Choose to Change to North Lawndale High Schools, Doubling-down on Meaningful Interventions to Help Students Thrive

Thursday, May 5, 2022

CHICAGO – Last Fall, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez announced a bold and aggressive investment of public and private funds to support youth grappling with high-risk situations. Today, Children First Fund announced a $2 million donation from Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin to expand Choose to Change (C2C), a core component of Chicago Public Schools’ comprehensive violence prevention efforts, to five additional high schools. The funding will support an additional 200 students over the next two years in the North Lawndale neighborhood, helping to address trauma and prevent further violence in the city’s southwest side and beyond.

This significant contribution brings public and private funding of these efforts to a total of $12.6 million for the current school year and next, including a nearly $5 million investment from Mayor Lightfoot and CPS and more than $7.5 million in philanthropic support. 

“Too many children in our city live with violence as part of their everyday life,” said Ken Griffin. “Choose to Change provides students in the most challenging circumstances with the support needed to help combat this tragic reality. I hope our city and community leaders continue to support programs like Choose to Change so that every child in Chicago has the best possible chance to thrive.”

Mr. Griffin’s donation builds on previous support from Crown Family Philanthropies, CME Group Foundation, Salesforce Foundation and others who have provided significant resources to expand Choose to Change’s proven model. This new gift also complements broader violence reduction work underway in North Lawndale, focused on adults at elevated risk of violence involvement, with support from Crown Family Philanthropies and other local donors.

Now in its sixth year, C2C helps to reduce the impact of trauma on Chicago’s youth who have experienced high levels of violence through intensive youth and family support, and weekly behavioral health sessions. The program currently serves 1,000 students and is part of the District’s commitment to ensure all students have access to safe environments at school and in their communities. Participants are students who may struggle to consistently attend school, have had some involvement with the justice system, and have been exposed to violence and trauma.

“Addressing multiple childhood traumas requires professional skills, time, dedication – and resources,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “The effort is well worth the investment as every child deserves the support to overcome adversity and realign their life’s trajectory.”

“We are so grateful for this commitment to our community and to Chicago’s children, and inspired by what collective support can make possible for CPS students,” says Sadie Stockdale Jefferson, Executive Director of Children First Fund, the Chicago Public Schools Foundation.

Earlier this school year, CPS and the City of Chicago expanded their partnership with C2C program providers, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) and Children’s Home & Aid, training four additional community-based organizations to implement a new, hyperlocal version of the Choose to Change program.

Carmen, a CPS 2021 graduate, is among those who benefitted from Choose to Change.  As a junior in high school, Carmen was skipping school and failing most of her classes. Her guidance counselor referred her to C2C and she was paired with Nicole Alleyne, a Choose to Change YAP Advocate who met with both Carmen and her mom to start their journey.

“I remember my first day at Choose to Change.  There was a meeting during lunch with kids who were already in the program. It was a great vibe – different,” Carmen recalls. “It didn’t take long for me to know this was something for me.”

The weekly group sessions led by a Children’s Home & Aid clinical therapist help students understand their responses to situations, moderate their reactions, and improve their decision-making skills. The trauma-informed sessions, coupled with the support from her Advocate, gave Carmen the foundation she needed.

“Nicole (Alleyne) was there for me constantly, including for weekly Children’s Home & Aid sessions where I was able to understand that a lot of my issues came from my own trauma – I lost friends to violence and, as a little girl, was a victim of it,” Carmen said.

Alleyne checked in with Carmen regularly to make sure she was on track: “Nicole told me [that] not graduating was not an option,” Carmen said.

As a result, Carmen started going to class. She realized how much she loved subjects like science, math, and agriculture, and she began to see her own strengths. Through her year in the program, Carmen made it to graduation with her family and Alleyne cheering her on from the sidelines. Now Carmen is majoring in nursing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

“I’m extremely proud of Carmen’s accomplishments,” Alleyne said. “Not only is she in college, she’s working, volunteers with other youth, and has a very bright future.”

With this investment from Mr. Griffin, the program will help more students like Alleyne see and realize their potential.

About Children First Fund: The Chicago Public Schools Foundation

The Children First Fund is the philanthropic and partnership arm of Chicago Public School (CPS). It serves as a knowledge hub and liaison between CPS and its community of partners, securing and organizing resources that advance CPS’ mission to provide a high-quality public education that prepares every child in every neighborhood for success in college, career, and civic life. For more information, please visit or find us on social @ChiFirstFund.

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Chicago Public Schools and Children First Fund Partner with Chicago’s Philanthropic Community to Spread Holiday Joy



Generous Partners Support Students Across Chicago Neighborhoods 

CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools and Children First Fund (CFF) surprised students across the District this week with coats, gifts, and fun-filled events to celebrate the holiday season in school communities. Students shared their wish lists in letters to `CPS Santas,’ and Santa – with a little help from generous partners across Chicago – delivered.

From Pop-It fidget toys to LOL dolls, remote control cars to writing desks, thousands of hand-selected personalized gifts went home with students. Many students received gift cards, warm winter coats, hats, gloves, and other cold-weather essentials. At several schools, every family received turkeys or holiday meals. In all, the generosity of our partners impacted more than 10 CPS schools, bringing holiday cheer to nearly 3,000 students.

In his first holiday season at the helm of CPS, CEO Pedro Martinez joined in on the gift-giving Thursday at Benjamin E. Mays Elementary in Englewood.

“This is what the season is all about, and it’s overwhelming to see the tremendous response to our CPS families’ needs,” said CEO Martinez. “We are grateful to all the generous companies and partners who rallied to support our students and their families this holiday season. I know how much it means to them.”

More than 20 organizations and individuals contributed to make this holiday season our most generous ever. Amazon, Walmart, and the Foles Believe Foundation each made significant donations to CFF’s holiday Compassion Fund, which supports students and families when they need it most –– for things like winter essentials, holidays, and beyond. Partners for gifts, coats, food, and other contributions included Accelerated Growth, Aldi, Aramark, Cooney and Conway, IMC Foundation, the International We Love You Foundation, Latham & Watkins, Lorelei Partners, Mars, Morgan Stanley, Morningstar, Northwestern Medicine, Showpad, and the Social Conscience Project. In addition, many generous individuals supported the holiday efforts.

Partners supported CPS by working with Children First Fund, the Chicago Public Schools foundation, to give and deliver these gifts, holiday treats, and winter essentials. CFF’s Compassion Fund provided additional resources to further extend our partners’ generosity and reach more school communities.

The events, organized by teacher or classroom to comply with COVID-19 protocols, with spirited celebrations including Mays Elementary’s “Shimmer and Sparkle” day. For select images from these events and others, see here.

The holiday festivities started nearly a month ago, with coats, winter gear, and Thanksgiving turkeys going to students at Nash Elementary, then moved into high gear the week of December 13th, and will continue through early January, when the students of Spry Elementary will celebrate Three Kings’ Day with the help of more of our partners.

“After two tumultuous, challenging years, we wanted this holiday season to bring joyful memories and experiences to CPS students and school communities,” said Sadie Stockdale Jefferson, Executive Director of Children First Fund, “and, thanks to our partners’ generosity, we’ve gotten to see thousands of smiling eyes above carefully-masked faces.”

Read the original press release here

Big Ten Conference and College Football Playoff Foundation Continue Educational Initiatives in Chicago



ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference and the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation continued their educational initiatives in Chicago kicking off the 2021-22 academic year, contributing over $20,000 to the Children First Fund, the Chicago Public Schools Foundation. The grant awards teachers across 12 different Chicago schools with funds for their educational projects.
“Support like this generous grant from the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff Foundation provides vital resources that allow our incredible CPS educators to innovate, implement learning strategies, and meet key needs within their school communities,” said Children First Fund Executive Director Sadie Stockdale Jefferson.

Through assistance from the CFP Foundation, the Big Ten continues to support the Children First Fund (CFF), which has a mission to promote the growth and success of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through philanthropy and partnerships. The Children First Fund worked with principals to select teachers (kindergarten through eighth grade) who will be awarded a grant to assist them with educational projects.

The Big Ten and CFP Foundation plan to partner for upcoming activations in Indianapolis and New York City later in the academic year.

About the College Football Playoff Foundation and Extra Yard for Teachers  
The CFP Foundation is the community engagement arm of the College Football Playoff, supporting education across the country. The CFP Foundation’s primary cause platform, Extra Yard for Teachers, is dedicated to elevating the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering teachers in four focus areas: resources, recognition, recruitment and professional development. The CFP Foundation utilizes multiple partnerships to execute its initiatives and support positive educational outcomes. To learn more, visit and follow Extra Yard for Teachers (@CFPExtraYard) on social media. 

See full original release from the Big Ten Conference here.

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