Our Strategic Partners

Afterschool for Children and Teens Now Coalition (ACT Now)

The Afterschool for Children and Teens Now (ACT Now) Coalition is a diverse statewide network of more than 2,100 members from across the state. We believe that an increased commitment to young people beyond the traditional school day is a crucial part of their growth into productive, healthy adults.

As part of a larger national afterschool network, ACT Now leverages best practices, resources, and partnerships in order to ensure that young people in Illinois have access to quality, affordable afterschool and youth development programs. For more information, please visit their website at www.actnowillinois.org

American Institutes for Research

AIR is committed to increasing the effectiveness of education at all levels through rigorous research and evaluation, training, and technical assistance. Our work spans the learning lifespan—from pre-K to postsecondary education, career readiness, and adult education—and focuses on a wide range of topics, including STEM, social and emotional learning, and state and federal education policies.

There rigorous, state-of-the-art research and evaluation work provides important evidence for education policymakers and practitioners to use when answering crucial questions about program implementation, challenges, and solutions. Through their technical assistance work, their experts help clients address educational issues and challenges at the local, state, national, and international levels by applying evidence-based practices in educational and community settings. For more information, please visit their website at www.air.org

Bright Promises Foundation 

Bright Promises Foundation has been innovating social services for children since 1869. They support programs that are results-driven, sustainable, and demonstrably improve the lives of children.  They work with individuals, foundations, agencies, community leaders, parents, caregivers, and experts to develop and deliver programs that provide children with the basis for positive lives and brighter futures.

Their mission is to create opportunities for all children, no matter their background, circumstance, or zip code, to have the opportunity to reach their full promise and potential. Chartered by the State of Illinois in 1869, Bright Promises Foundation is one of the oldest 501c3 public charities in Illinois dedicated to addressing the urgent, unmet needs of children and youth in Metropolitan Chicago.

Through research and discussion with leading children’s experts, Bright Promises Foundation determines the most critical needs of children that are currently under-recognized and underfunded in Illinois.  Through innovative grantmaking and capacity-building program support, we help to make immediate and long-lasting improvements to the lives of disadvantaged children and families.

2019 marked Bright Promises Foundation’s 150th year of creating opportunities for all children in Metropolitan Chicago to reach their full promise and potential.  For more information, please visit their website at  https://www.brightpromises.org/

Champions, a division of KinderCare Education

School Partnerships Champions®, formerly known as KLC School Partnerships®, is the nation’s leading provider of extended learning, enrichment and targeted academic intervention solutions that address specific school and community needs. For more information, please visit their website at www.discoverchampions.com

David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality

They empower youth development leaders to adapt, implement and scale research-validated quality improvement systems to advance child and youth development. Environment is everything! Young people need to feel safe and supported in order to learn and lead. As a crucial part of the Forum’s mission to change the odds that young people are ready for college, work and life, the Weikart Center helps out-of-school-time (OST) systems build the safe, supportive, interactive and engaging environments that are foundational to youth development. For more information, please visit their website at https://forumfyi.org/weikartcenter/


DrumFIT® is a cardio drumming program that combines the mental health benefits of drumming with the overall health benefits of physical fitness for a full body workout. DrumFIT®’s philosophy is that everyone needs a chance to get their bodies moving and their minds engaged with physical activity, before sitting down to focus or learn. DrumFIT® gets the entire body and mind working together in unison, allowing students to focus, become fully engaged and increase their performance in all subject areas. For more information, please visit their website at https://home.drum.fit/

First Book

First Book is a national, nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to ensuring educational equity as a path out of poverty. The organization addresses the barriers to education faced by children in low-income and historically excluded communities, providing brand-new books and resources to kids and youth in need.

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income communities in all 50 states and provinces in Canada. First Book currently reaches an average of 5 million children every year and supports more than a third of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children and youth in need. First Book is rooted in diversity, inclusion, and togetherness and we aim to apply our expertise to join the fight for racial equity. For more information, please visit their website at www.firstbook.org

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code, also known as GWC, is an international, nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science by equipping young women with the necessary computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities. Girls Who Code is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.


Clubs are free programs for 3rd-5th and 6th-12th grade students to join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models using computer science to change the world. Clubs are completely free and offer fun activities through a flexible curriculum that adapts to your unique needs. Clubs can take place after school, on weekends, or during the summer, and they can be held in-person or entirely online.

They partner with school districts, library networks and afterschool programs to launch Clubs in communities across the country.

To find out more information, visit their website at https://girlswhocode.com/about-us

Illinois Action for Children

Illinois Action for Children provides access to resources, community, advocacy – and represents an alliance of individuals and groups dedicated to empowering and supporting parents, child care providers and family service programs. Its mission is to create a common voice and vision for advancing high quality and accessible programs that foster the development, health and well-being of all Illinois children. To learn more, their website address is www.actforchildren.org

Illinois Children Mental Health Partnership

The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP) is committed to improving the scope, quality and access of mental health programs, services and supports for Illinois children. The Partnership believes that a comprehensive, coordinated approach to healthy social and emotional development, prevention, early intervention and treatment will help Illinois children and their families live healthier, happier lives with a better chance for a brighter future. For more information, please visit their website at www.icmhp.org

Illinois Collaboration on Youth

The Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) works to ensure the health and safety of Illinois youth and families by providing capacity-building services — training, technical assistance, and policy advocacy.  ICOY focuses on developing and strengthening the systemic, community and individual supports necessary for our youth to have safe childhoods, and eventually, prosperous and healthy adulthoods. We strive to reduce youth involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. For more information, please visit their website at www.icoyouth.org

The Illinois Department of Human Services

DHS was created in 1997 to provide Illinois residents with streamlined access to integrated services, especially those who are striving to move from welfare to work and economic independence, and others who face multiple challenges to self-sufficiency. DHS is proud of its diversity, efficiency, and the services that the agency and its community partners provide to Illinois citizens. Their Mission is to assist customers to achieve maximum self-sufficiency, independence and health through the provision of seamless, integrated services for individuals, families and communities. To learn more,  www.dhs.state.il.us

Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA)

The Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) is a statewide organization which — in partnership with its 16 partner Child Care Resources and Referral (CCR&R) agencies — is a recognized leader, catalyst and resource for making high quality, affordable early care and education options available for children and families in Illinois.  To learn more, visit www.inccrra.org

Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA)

The Illinois Park and Recreation Association is one of the largest and most respected park and recreation associations in the country. IPRA is a not-for-profit organization and a public interest group whose members share a common goal – providing quality park and recreation opportunities for the people of Illinois. IPRA provides special interest groups that offer seminars and networking opportunities among members who share common work settings, situations and interests. For more information, please visit their website at https://www.ilipra.org/

Illinois Principals Association

The mission of the Illinois Principals Association (IPA) is to advance learning through effective educational leadership.  With over 4200 Members including Principals, Assistant Principals, Deans and other educational leaders, the IPA lives out its mission by providing Members high quality service through professional development, networking, and advocacy.  For more information, please visit their website at www.ilprincipals.org

Illinois Teen Reach Programs

The Illinois Department of Human Services implemented the Teen REACH program (Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring and Hope) in an effort to provide positive youth activities during non-school hours. Through prevention-focused activities, Teen REACH programs seek to expand the range of choices and opportunities that enable, empower and encourage youth from ages 6 through 17 to achieve positive growth and development, improve expectations and capacities for future success and avoid and/or reduce risk-taking behavior. To learn more about Teen Reach programs, please visit their website at https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=30777

Maine Math and Science Alliance –
Afterschool Coaching and Reflective Educators in STEM (ACRES) Project

The Maine Math & Science Alliance (NMSA), has received a National Science Foundation (NSF), grant which provides innovative training for out-of-school educators, including librarians, as they bring more STEM into their programs. During this 4 year, nearly $3-million-dollar scale up grant, NMSA will offer free coaching to afterschool educators, who wish to hone in their STEM facilitation skills, as well as train others to become coaches.
To learn more about the ACRES (Afterschool Coaches and Reflective Educators in STEM), please visit their website at https://mmsa.org/projects/acres/

National Afterschool Association (NAA)

: The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to the development, education and care of children and youth during their out-of-school hours.

The National AfterSchool Association, formerly the National School-Age Care Alliance, was founded in 1987. The National School-Age Care Alliance grew out of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, as the special interest group and ultimate association for professionals working with school age children and youth.

The only professional association in the afterschool field, NAA represents over 20,000 members and 38 state affiliate organizations. For more information, please visit their website at www.naaweb.org

National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST)

For more than two decades, NIOST has been the national leader in providing highly interactive, research-based training for directors and staff, school administrators, community leaders, and others committed to providing high quality afterschool programs for children and youth.  To learn more, visit www.niost.org

Safe2Help Illinois

The State of Illinois is developing a school safety program called Safe2Help Illinois in an effort to raise awareness of 21st-century threats facing schoolchildren in Illinois.

 In the absence of a trusted adult, Safe2Help Illinois offers students a safe, confidential way in which to share information that might help prevent suicides, bullying, school violence or other threats to school safety. This program is not intended to suspend, expel, or punish students. Rather, the goal is to get students to “Seek Help Before Harm.” Safe2Help Illinois will also develop an educational curriculum aimed at changing the culture in Illinois schools while also providing the resources to help parents and educators reinforce the components of this program.

About Safe2Help:
 Safe2Help Illinois is a 24/7 program where students can use a free app, text/phone, website (Safe2HelpIllinois.com) and other social media platforms to report school safety issues in a confidential environment. Once vetted, the tips will immediately be shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement, depending on the nature of the tip. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate resources to intervene and help students before they harm themselves or others. For more information, please visit their website at https://www.safe2helpil.com/make-a-difference/