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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 and stay tuned for our Ready for Civic Life report coming soon. 

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


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 Director of Social Science & Civic Engagement
Janeen Lee Social Science Manager
Tamara Acoba 6-8 Social Science Specialist
Mayra Almaraz HS Social Science Specialist
Yamali Rodriguez-Gruger HS Social Science Specialist
Alayna Washington HS Social Science Specialist
Emma Kornfeld Civic Engagement Manager
Chris Olsen Middle School Civic Learning Specialist
Alejandra Frausto Project-Based Learning Manager
Cristina Salgado Senior Student Voice Specialist
Camille Powell Student Voice and Activism Fellows (SVAF) Program Coordinator
Samantha Ozik Project Coordinator, Environmental Programs
Melissa Hernandez Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Stewardship Coordinator
Maryam Salem Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Stewardship Coordinator
Isil Cinar SSCE Operations Coordinator
Elle Cumberbatch Youth Engagement and Communications Specialist