Janis Fitzsimmons, North Central College executive director of Urban Education Laboratory and founder of Junior/Senior Scholars, was awarded the 2016 Trailblazer in Education Award by the DuPage County NAACP and Education Committee.
The award was presented June 11 to Fitzsimmons for her “passionate and visionary leadership in the field of education and training; for establishing the highly successful Junior/Senior Scholars program that exposes young children and their families to higher education and offers experiences, including tutoring and mentoring, to encourage their completion of high school and college.”
Fitzsimmons is founder and director of North Central’s Junior/Seniors Scholars Program, a partnership with public schools in Aurora and Chicago. The program introduces children and their families to the college experience and helps them finish high school, enter college and complete college degrees.
Established in 1988, Junior/Senior Scholars directly supports hundreds of students each year with tutoring and mentoring services, small group and school-wide programs, and a summer academic camp on North Central’s campus. The goal of the Scholars program is to consistently provide K-12 students in historically under-represented communities with the support they need to graduate from high school and then college. The program is staffed by 200 North Central College students, who serve as mentors and tutors and become part of the solution to closing the achievement gap. As a result, many are inspired to teach at high-need schools.
In her role as executive director of the College’s urban education laboratory, Fitzsimmons develops partnerships with high-need schools and connects North Central education students with early, ongoing clinical experiences and rigorous internships in high-need schools.
Fitzsimmons also is one of the original architects of the Associated Colleges of Illinois’ (ACI) Center for Success in High-Need Schools. A collaborative enterprise established in 2002 by ACI member institutions, the Center prepares talented and diverse teachers and leaders for Pre-K-12 schools and classrooms, especially those serving low-income and minority students. She oversees all Center for Success activities and is publisher of Success in High-Need Schools Journal. Fitzsimmons earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Sponsors of the Junior/Seniors Scholars program include The Travelers Companies, Chartwells, Dart Foundation, Target, Fifth Third Bank and Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise.