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Social Science and Civic Engagement

The Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement fosters learning experiences that build the skills, knowledge, and habits necessary for students to effectively contribute to and participate in the social, political, and economic life of their communities and world. Our mission is to build transformational schools that ignite curiosity, promote agency, and elevate active participation in civic life.

Social Science and Civic Engagement

501 W. 35th St.
Chicago, IL 60616

Social Science and Civic Engagement Logo


We partner with students, teachers, schools, community partners, and government institutions to promote authentic civic participation that models educating in and for democracy. See more about our Civic Life Lenses and Core Practices from our Ready for Civic Life Vision and Strategy for Civic Learning and Leadership in CPS.

The Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement oversees curriculum, training, resources, partnerships, and events that promote civic life across the district. Some examples highlighted here include:

  • K-12 Social Science Instruction
  • Service Learning & Civic Oriented Project-Based Learning
  • Student Leadership Groups: Student Voice Committees, Student Voice and Activism Fellows, Student Advisory Council
  • Student Voice 360
  • CIMBY: Environmental Advocacy
  • Financial Education
  • Districtwide Civic Life Initiatives

Coming soon: Informed Participants: Critical Media & Information Literacy; Ethical Participants: Engaging in difficult or controversial conversations

STORYCORPS and CPS! We are excited to announce a new partnership with StoryCorps that encourages all CPS students, educators, and families to engage in the powerful practice of examining who we are by uplifting varied voices and experiences, and fostering a deeper understanding of both your world and the world of those around you through storytelling interviews. Click here to get started!


CPS gratefully acknowledges the partnership of Robert R. McCormick Foundation, whose support, encouragement, and advocacy has ensured the quality and sustainability of civic life programming that has touched the lives of countless students and educators. Thank you.

Robert R McCormick Foundation Logo

CPS thanks our community-based partners who work tirelessly to ensure every Chicago Public School student received access to high-quality education and civic learning opportunities.

See a full list of our partners.

Contact Us

Name Role Email Address

Heather Van Benthuysen

Executive Director
Mayra Almaraz HS Social Science Specialist
Yamali Rodriguez-Gruger HS Social Science Specialist
Alayna Washington HS Social Science Specialist
Jennie Vazquez K-5 Social Science Specialist
Tamara Acoba 6-8 Social Science Specialist
Emma Kornfeld Civic Engagement Manager
Wayde Grinstead HS Civic Learning Specialist

Dora Charles

ES Social Science and Civic Learning Specialist
Margie Smagacz Project-Based Learning Manager
Mildred Garcia Gomez Student Voice Specialist
Agustin Flores Student Voice Specialist
Tere Regina Financial Education Manager
Dustin Voss Financial Education Specialist
Samantha Ozik Project Coordinator, Environmental Programs
Amber Neal Community Partnerships Specialist
Elle Cumberbatch Communications Specialist
Isil Cinar Operations Coordinator