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Obama Foundation and Chicago Public Schools Launch Award to Recognize Impactful Leadership in Civic Engagement

06 December 2018

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
Twitter: @chipubschools
Facebook: chicagopublicschools

Thursday, December 6, 2018

CHICAGO - Today, the Obama Foundation and Chicago Public Schools announced a new initiative to celebrate and honor students, schools, educators, and community partners who have made a powerful impact in their communities through civic engagement and action. As part of our shared vision to elevate the next generation of young leaders, the initiative will build upon Chicago’s rich legacy of civic engagement by establishing a recognition that exemplifies the Obama Foundation’s mission to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their communities, and the world, for the better.

“Every day the Foundation is inspired by young people in Chicago who are making a difference in their communities,” said Foundation CEO David Simas. “We are excited to work with Chicago Public Schools to recognize the efforts of Chicago students, teachers, and schools who are making civic learning a priority and in so doing inspire and empower others to do the same.”

"There are no better role models for our next generation of leaders than Barack and Michelle Obama, and these awards will celebrate the Chicagoans who are following in their footsteps by giving back to our city," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "I am grateful to the Obama Foundation for partnering with Chicago's students, schools and communities to inspire and empower young leaders."

“Civically minded young people are the linchpin of democracy and this recognition will help build a lasting legacy of civics education in Chicago for generations to come,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “As an educator, nothing is more inspiring than seeing students organize and develop solutions to important issues affecting their schools and communities, and we are committed to continuing to strengthen civics education at Chicago Public Schools while expanding opportunities for students to have their voices heard in every neighborhood across the city.”

The Obama Foundation and CPS have developed four categories for recognition that exemplify leadership in civic engagement: students who lead impactful projects in their communities, schools that foster civic learning and empower student voice, educators who go above and beyond to support the next generation of young leaders, and community organizations that serve as vital partners. The Foundation and CPS will select two recipients for each category, who will receive a Foundation-sponsored grant to support civics projects that will empower young leaders and positively impact communities across the City of Chicago. A description of each award can be found below.

STUDENT AWARD: This award will recognize students who have made a significant impact by addressing an important issue in their classroom, school, or community. Students will have conducted research and thoughtfully engaged community members in better understanding the problem and crafting solutions.

SCHOOL AWARD: This award will recognize schools that have made a commitment to building opportunities for students to have authentic and meaningful civic learning both in the classroom and throughout the school. These schools value students in their decision-making and policy development processes and infuse best practice civic education throughout students’ coursework.

EDUCATOR AWARD: This award will honor educators who model civic leadership by creatively and powerfully providing opportunities for young people to engage actively in their community. These individuals stand out for their commitment to providing space, encouragement, and guidance for youth voice and leadership.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AWARD: This award will recognize organizations that exemplify collaborative and meaningful partnership between schools and community organizations to empower student voice and civic engagement. These organizations honor youth voice and use their expertise to collaborate with youth to support high quality civic learning in schools and classrooms.

Applications, criteria, and information on eligibility will be available beginning January 2019, and award recipients will be recognized at an event toward the end of the school year.

About Chicago Public Schools’ Commitment to Civics Education:
Chicago Public Schools has partnered with educators and the non-profit and philanthropic communities to expand opportunities for young people to re-imagine and change their schools and communities through civics. The district outlined ambitious goals through its Ready to Engage three-year action plan to strengthen civics education and expand engagement opportunities for students across Chicago. Since the 2015-2016 school year, the district has made significant strides toward its goals, including:

Student Voice Committees (SVCs): Student Voice Committees (SVCs) are designed to form student-adult partnerships to engage students to develop and implement solutions in their school communities. The district has more than doubled the number of SVCs from 52 in the 2015-16 school year to 124 this school year.

Expanding Quality Curriculum: The district has expanded its “Participate!” civics curriculum from 29 schools in 2015 to 89 schools in the 2018-19 school year. Participate! fosters culturally relevant instruction and conversations that engage students in issues that affect their lives. As part of Participate!, teachers are trained in media literacy integration, student-driven inquiry strategies, culturally sustainable instruction, race and equity, and more.

Recognizing Excellence: The formation of the civic engagement award represents a key milestone the district’s Ready to Engage action plan, and this award will advance our vision to elevate the next generation of young leaders and establish a lasting legacy of excellence in civics education.

Chicago Public Schools serves 361,000 students in 644 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.

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