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Take Five with Cheryl Howard- Neal: Manager of School-Based Mentoring

26 January 2024

Cheryl loves educating community members on the best mentoring practices to help students succeed.

Cheryl Howard-Neal, Manager of School-Based Mentoring

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we are excited to feature Cheryl Howard-Neal, our District’s manager of School-based Mentoring within the Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising. In her role, Cheryl oversees a cohort of 64 Elementary and High School-based programs, as well as community-based programs through the Chicago Mentoring Collaborative (CMC), ensuring that the best mentoring practices are used to help students succeed.

“There are so many students and young adults who could benefit from having a caring adult in their lives,” said Cheryl. “As a District, it’s important we embrace that, because we have lots of caring adults. We just need to mobilize them.”

Before joining the District almost three years ago, Cheryl worked alongside CPS as an independent contractor in the non-profit sector, gaining years of experience working with organizations serving Chicago’s youth. It was through this work that Cheryl discovered her passion for mentorship. 

What do you enjoy the most about your work? 

I love that I’m able to educate people on what good mentoring looks like and what the impact of it can be. When people realize that, it opens up their minds and hearts to what they can be doing. You don’t need a master’s degree or a doctorate to have an impact on a student’s life, and helping people understand that is the best part of this work. 

What role do you believe mentorship plays in ensuring the academic success of Chicago’s youth? 

I think that mentoring can be a great equalizer in education. Once you have a young person’s ear and they get a sense that you’re there for them, you can show them what is possible. Once they know they have support, you can help them see the bigger picture, including what their strengths are and how to navigate challenges.

What is some advice you have for people interested in mentorship opportunities? 

A lot of times, people think they don’t have the expertise, knowledge, or time to be a mentor. But it’s easier than you think. Being a mentor doesn’t require a specialized skill set. Mentoring is about caring about what happens to a student, helping them learn to make good decisions and being there to support them when they don’t make the best decisions. Often, mentors benefit from the experience as much as the students do. 

If people are interested in more information about CPS mentoring programs, they can fill out our Mentor Inquiry and sign up to get our e-blasts at Chicago Mentoring Collaborative.

What is something people might not know about you? 

I’m Chicago, born and raised, and a proud Southsider through and through. But I did live in Houston for six years to escape the Chicago winters!

What is your favorite winter activity? 

I love Christmas because my family and I are together and we enjoy the holiday break by drinking hot chocolate and going to Navy Pier and Millenium Park to look at holiday lights!

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