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Civic Action Recognition Awards

The Obama Foundation joined Chicago Public Schools to launch our first-ever Civic Action Recognition Awards, honoring the students, educators, and community partners who are making a powerful impact in our community through civic engagement. Check out the highlights below.

A Closer Look at the First-Ever Civic Action Recognition Awards

Last week, we hosted the first-ever Civic Action Recognition Awards in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. We honored students, teachers, and organizations who are making a difference inside and outside the classroom.

Last week, we hosted the first-ever Civic Action Recognition Awards in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. We honored students, teachers, and organizations who are making a difference inside and outside the classroom.

Young girls and women ranging to light to deep medium skin tone, stands infront of a large blue sign with text while holding smaller signs that reads "Chicago" , "Hopeful", and "Community Leader" as someone take their picture

Together with Chicago Public Schools, we gathered over 300 attendees at the Harold Washington Library to recognize the finalists and winners of these first-ever awards.

Keke Palmer, a woman with a twist and deep skin tone stands over a podium giving a speech

Chicago's own Keke Palmer kicked off the awards ceremony with some inspiring words. "Don't be afraid of having dreams too big. God put them in your heart for a reason."

A large white screen reads "Chicago Public Schools x Obama Foundation" and the text below reads "Civic Action Recognition Awards"

There were four categories of awards—one that recognized students who led impactful school projects that boosted civic learning, one for schools that modeled civic leadership, one for teachers who go above and beyond to support young leaders, and one for community organizations that provide young people with opportunities to get involved. Let's meet the winners!

Keke Palmer, a woman with a deep skin tone with a twist, smiles as she hugs a man with a deep skin tone while young boys and girls ranging from light to deep skin tone watch

The Youth Impact Award went to students groups at one high school and one elementary school, both of which had to demonstrate evidence of completing research, engaging community members, and formulating and implementing solutions.

A woman with medium skin tone and black hair speaks at a podium next to a woman with a light skin tone, glasses, and brown hair

The Ogden-Jenner Student Voice Committee won the Youth Impact Award for its impact on important issues in the school community following the merger of Ogden and Jenner Elementary schools at the beginning of this school year. The group has been the representative voice of students on issues such as school climate, the local school council, school-wide planning, and helped shape the narrative about what the merger has meant to them. Go SVC!

A man with a deep medium skin tone with short black twists stands in front of a podium wearing a red and white shirt while other men ranging in medium to deep skin tones stands in the background

Team TACTICS from Phillips Academy High School was the high school Youth Impact Award winner. They were recognized for their work to foster stronger relationships between the community and law enforcement by developing workshops and a curriculum for their school.

Next up were the Civic Culture and Commitment Awards which went to Michele Clark High and Dever Elementary, recognizing their commitment to building opportunities for students to have authentic and meaningful civic learning coursework.

A young girl with a light skin tone with black hair stands in front of a podium that reads "Chicago Public Library" in front of a group of young girls and women ranging from deep medium to light skin tones

Dever Elementary was recognized for integrating civics education into all grade levels and prioritizing student voice by including students in administrative meetings and school decision-making. Their administration consulted with students on making a remodeled space more positive and student-centered and ensures students regularly contribute to local school council meetings.

Nine people with brown skin wearing black polo shirts holding signs infront of a man with deep neutral skin wearing a blue and white suit

Michele Clark High School was recognized for offering a wide variety of classes connecting course content and skills to current topics and issues impacting students’ lives today, and it uniquely empowers students to take action through a course specifically focused on student leadership.

A side-by-side image of a man and woman with glasses and light skin tones along with an image of an older woman with light skin tone with gray curly hair

Next up, it was the teachers time to shine. The Civic Education Leadership Award honored educators who model civic leadership by providing opportunities for young people to engage actively in their community. The Awards went to Shana Pearlmutter and Peter Barash from Bell Elementary and Elizabeth Robbins from Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy.

An older woman with glasses and grey hair and a light skin tone stands next to an older man with black hair, glasses, and a light skin tone over a podium that reads "Chicago Public Library"

Shana Pearlmutter and Peter Barash received the Award for their work as the founders of their school’s Legacy Project, which enables students to investigate issues relevant to them and communicate their ideas through murals at the school, leaving an impact on the school community for generations to come. By weaving project-based learning with real-world issues, both teachers have demonstrated a commitment to student inquiry, investigation and civic learning.

A woman with light neutral wearing formal clothing and curly hair standing at a desk mic stand

Elizabeth Robbins was recognized for her work prioritizing and advocating for the voices of young people throughout her 15-year career as an educator, Lead Civics Teacher, and leader of Brooks’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club and Student Voice Committee, where she supports student advocacy for a stronger school and community. Her work has been featured locally and nationally, from TedX to the Teaching Channel.

A diverse group of people sitting at a table interacting on a sunny day

Finally, it was time for our Community Partner Award, recognizing an organization that exemplified a meaningful partnership with Chicago Public Schools to empower student voices and encourage civic engagement.

Keke Palmer, a brown skin woman wearing a nude dress and others of diverse skin tones holding signs that says hopeful, etc for an Obama foundation event

The Award went to Voices of Youth in Chicago’s Education (VOYCE), recognizing its work in advancing civic learning for students of color in different communities across Chicago. VOYCE has empowered CPS students to organize advocacy campaigns focused on issues that matter to them, such as mental health, school discipline and youth relationships with law enforcement.

Two women with neutral light tone interacting with each other holding their hands up to each other in an audience of people

We were incredibly proud to partner with Chicago Public Schools to honor young people and those who support them here in our hometown. These award winners are demonstrating just how critical young voices are to making our schools, our education system, and our communities better.