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Education Nonprofit Communities In Schools Of Chicago Elated By Multimillion-Dollar Gift From MacKenzie Scott

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Struggling kids in Chicago just got a big boost from one of the wealthiest women in America.

MacKenzie Scott, a billionaire philanthropist and ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, has donated $133.5 million to the national education nonprofit Communities In Schools. A total of $4 million went directly to the organization's local chapter, Communities In Schools of Chicago, or CIS of Chicago for short.

"In a time when the global COVID pandemic has created unparalleled challenges for Chicago students and families, including experiences of social isolation, economic crisis, stress, and trauma, Ms. Scott's investment will help CIS of Chicago continue breaking down the systemic barriers to opportunity and success for tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students each year," the organization said in a news release.

CIS of Chicago Chief Executive Officer Jane Mentzinger told CBS 2's Marie Saavedra she was shocked by the gift.

"This came totally by surprise for us, so we had no idea. Wonderful surprise," she said.

CIS of Chicago's mission is to unlock the potential of students in the Chicago Public Schools system at both the elementary and high school level. The organization partners with 175 CPS schools across the city.

The mission of CIS of Chicago is twofold. The organization links schools to community partners to provide academic support, health and wellness, counseling and supportive guidance, college and career readiness, and parenting and family engagement. It also places master's level student supports managers in 30 of the 175 partner schools to provide individual guidance and interventions to students in particular need.

"I think this gift, first of all, is a validation of the work that Communities In Schools of Chicago does across the city. I think it means that we can continue to do the work that we're doing connecting resources to students like counseling, and mentoring, and college and career planning, and arts and enrichment programming – all the kids of services that students need to succeed in school and in life," Mentzinger said, "and this gift means that we can do that."

Mentzinger specified in a news release that the gift ensures that CIS of Chicago can sustain several crucial programs for years to come – including the community-based partnerships and direct student guidance, as well as training of teachers, parents, and any adult in a Youth Mental Health First Aid program to help students in crisis, and response to student and family needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mentzinger said CIS of Chicago already has the money, and can put it to good use right away.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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