In February 1995, residents of Aurora, IL were coping with two separate tragedies. Teens Moshe Rogers and Armando Mendez, both innocent bystanders, had been shot to death in crimes that occurred three months apart. In an effort to end the violence and honor the victims, the community banded together to form Project Unity—serving as a bridge between local schools, residents, and churches. The organization held the first Back to School Fair, which aimed to ready students from low-income families for the upcoming school year with free supplies, medical exams, and haircuts.
Communities In Schools of Aurora, IL (CIS) has since taken over responsibility for the school fair, one of its many projects to ensure equal footing for all students. Operating inside the former Fox Valley Park District building, the organization partners with more than 65 local social service and nonprofit agencies to help lower student drop-out rates. This it does by empowering students to succeed, whether through tutoring sessions, literacy training, or counseling services.