Research and experience tell us that young people, especially those living in impoverished urban environments, need a broad range of supports to succeed. An academic program alone may not be enough. Recognizing this need, we developed our first proactive grantmaking initiative in 1996 to fund partnerships now known as full-service community schools.
Then a germinating idea across the country and now a well-known educational model for reducing barriers to learning and increasing parent and community engagement in schools, full-service community schools holistically address the educational, social, and health needs of students and families. Through partnerships with a variety of nonprofits, community schools offer programs and services at the school before and after the school day, creating a hub that benefits the entire community. Typical offerings include health services, sports, arts, and academic skill-building programs for children and youth, and adult computer, GED and ESL classes.
Our 1996 Full-Service Schools Initiative supported the transformation of three Chicago public schools into community schools by supporting the expansion of school-based services that promoted children’s well-being and school readiness. In addition to funding planning and implementation, the initiative provided professional development and technical assistance and engaged an independent evaluator to gauge outcomes. Results, including academic performance and reduced student mobility, were encouraging.
As our three-year Full-Service Schools Initiative drew to a conclusion, we worked to make the community school model sustainable and helped to launch the Campaign to Expand Community Schools in Chicago. Thanks to the commitment of several foundations and the Chicago Public Schools, today more than 100 community schools operate in partnership with nonprofit organizations throughout Chicago, supported by the efforts of the Federation for Community Schools.