Cities Project – Family Information

A unique opportunity for middle school youth in Chicago Public Schools to learn strategies for improving mental health and school success through one-on-one support from a college student mentor

About Us

The Cities Project is a citywide collaboration that connects Chicago-area universities and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in a shared effort to strengthen the learning and development of middle school youth.

The collaborative team (Northwestern, DePaul, Loyola, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and CPS) conducts research to understand how stressful life experiences affect young people and how they can learn and grow from stress. Research results are used to create interventions that support healing while fighting the root causes of stress and trauma.

Northwestern is currently partnered with three north side CPS schools located in Uptown and Rogers Park.

Why Participate?

Cities Project participants learn skills to manage stress. They build healthy habits around things like eating, exercise, and sleep, which are critical to adolescent development. They practice skills in problem solving, communication, and conflict resolution, which can positively impact peer, adult, and family relationships. They set personal goals and plan for the future, and create and complete an advocacy project designed to make a difference in their community. 

Students who are chosen to participate in the mentorship portion of the program meet one afternoon weekly at their own school. They are assigned a one-on-one Northwestern student mentor, with whom they engage in fun relationship-building activities and practice the skills they learn in the program. Mentors are trained and supported by a leadership team of faculty, staff, and graduate student supervisors.

The Cities Project is part of a study on how mentorship impacts students. Both students and caregivers participate in this important research by completing three surveys. Students and caregivers are compensated with $300 in gift cards over the course of the school year for these surveys. 

Once enrolled in The Cities Project, families can also choose to be involved in other paid research opportunities through Northwestern.

The Lottery

Families who are interested and sign up to participate will enter a lottery. Students are randomly assigned to either a Mentor Group or a Toolkit Group. Because this is a study of how the program would work with and without mentor support, only one group is able to receive mentors.  

  • Mentor Group: Students come after school once a week throughout the school year, where they have their own mentor support them in learning important life skills. 
  • Toolkit Group: Students and families receive weekly health and wellness activities that you can do at home as a family to help develop the same skills.

Regardless of which group students are selected for, all families receive $300 in gift cards over the course of the school year for completing three surveys.

How to Sign Up


This opportunity would be a good match for students interested in learning ways to cope with stress and reach future goals.

Students must attend one of these three CPS schools: 

  • George B. Armstrong School of International Studies  
  • Jordan Community School 
  • John T. McCutcheon STEAM Elementary School 

Students must be in 6th, 7th or 8th grade during the program year. Priority is given to 8th grade students, and there may be limited spots available for 6th and 7th grade, depending on the school. 

Students must be available to attend the program consistently one afternoon each week throughout the school year. Day and time depends on the school schedule, but it is either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. 


Families must complete a consent and initial survey to sign up for the lottery. Families will receive notification about which group their student is assigned to at the start of the school year.

Sign up and our team will contact you with information on how to get started.