Meet Our Inaugural Class Fellows
GERALD ‘JERRY’ ALDER is the grandchild of immigrant grandparents from Monterrey and Guanajuato, Mexico who arrived to the West side of Chicago. Jerry now resides in the neighborhood of Wicker Park with his expecting wife, and two year old daughter. Jerry is currently the only Latino Vice President of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) that serves the administration of President Dorval Carter. Jerry is currently an active member of the Associate Board of Saint Anthony Hospital Foundation in the Southwest side of Chicago. He enjoys dedicating his time to help raise funds for the organization and awareness of the hospital. Prior to joining the CTA, Jerry worked for the City of Chicago for more than 9 years. He previously served Treasurer Stephanie Neely as her Chief of Staff (COS), where he advised the Treasurer regarding the optimal prioritization of time and resources, office policies, and civic initiatives. He also served under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s and Mayor Richard M Daley, as an Assistant to the Mayor, in Legislative Counsel and Government Affairs. Jerry consulted with representatives from various departments (e.g., Budget, Finance, Transportation, and Buildings, among others) to collaborate and ultimately advance their respective legislative goals within the Illinois State General Assembly.
OSVALDO CABALLERO is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who obtained his Bachelors of Arts in Social Work Degree from Northeastern Illinois University and his Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago-Jane Addams College of Social Work. Since 2007, he has worked for Metropolitan Family Services and is currently a Program Manager for the Adult Protective Services Program. He has developed programming and internship opportunities for both Bachelor and Master’s level students. He has been a part-time Instructor at Northeastern Illinois University’s Social Work Program for the last 10 years. Prior to his current work, he spent 10 years at the Social Service Department - Circuit Court of Cook County as a Supervisor for caseworkers assigned to cases of Domestic and Family Violence, Sexual Offenses, and Driving Under the Influence. Osvaldo started his social work career working to eradicate intrapersonal violence at the Women’s Counseling Center of Uptown Center Hull House, where he co-created and co-directed the Youth Project, a high school-based teen dating violence program. Osvaldo is passionate about exploring the intersections of intrapersonal violence, gender, trauma, substance use and mental illness. He has been an active member of several local and statewide committees, such as the Illinois Department on Aging Adult Protective Services Advisory Board, the Cook County Adult Protective Services Fatality Review Team, the Illinois Imagines Chicago Committee, and the Illinois Department of Human Services - Partner Abuse Services Committee. He is President of the Board of Directors for Taking Back Our Lives, a community-based organization that focuses its work on ending domestic and sexual violence through the empowerment of community members. He believes in promoting life-long learning, as well as, grassroots movements, and social justice models to support and create leaders in our communities. LinkedIn
IRIS CHAVIRA is an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division with the City of Chicago Department of Law, where she defends the City and City employees in state and federal court. Prior to joining the City, Iris served as an Associate General Counsel with the Office of the Illinois Governor. As an Associate General Counsel, Iris managed a portfolio of nine state agencies, focusing on public safety and education, and oversaw the Governor’s executive clemency process, which included making confidential recommendations to the Governor. Iris began her legal career as a prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she was assigned to the Civil Actions Bureau and the Juvenile Justice Bureau. Iris is a member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), and the DePaul University Alumni Engagement Board. In 2017, Iris was honored with the HNBA’s Top Lawyers Under 40 Award, HLAI’s Community Service Award, and HLAI’s Above and Beyond Award, for her professional achievements and commitment to service. Iris received her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. LinkedIn
DAVID DIAZ is an Aldermanic Aide who helps to serve the constituency of the 1st Ward of the City of Chicago. This entails acting as a liaison between constituents’ needs and the number of departments that make up Chicago’s city services apparatus. David recently obtained an MA in political science from Northeastern Illinois University, and is looking to further his academic pursuits with a focus in urban political economy and the role of governing institutions in community development. David has a forthcoming academic article to be published in the Journal of Human Security Studies and was able to present his findings at the 2018 Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference in Chicago. David enjoys reading, assisting individuals with quality of life issues and helping to find solutions to pressing social questions.
ISABEL FABRE is a manager for ComEd’s Large Customer Services division, Isabel leads a team of 35 regional account managers, responsible for all interactions with the large commercial and industrial customers. She previously served as Executive Assistant to the President of ComEd and as Senior Investor Relations Analyst in Exelon. Before moving to Chicago, Isabel worked in corporate finance at Xerox Corporation and Hewlett Packard. Isabel holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, where she graduated Cum Laude with a double major in Accounting and Finance. She also holds a Master, Business Administration (MBA) from Pennsylvania State University, with a double major in Finance and International Business. Isabel has participated in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge since 2012 and is fluent in Spanish.
STELLA GAYTAN held an integral role in the development and growth of a fast paced successful business. Her expertise in business development, account management and customer service has attributed to the growth of almost 50% to 150% growth consistently throughout its lifetime of less than 20 years. Having experience in managing executive-level relationships from initial contact through the client management process. Her success stems from her innate ability to develop strong relationships and establish rapport with clients by demonstrating knowledge of their business and discretely working with them on their issues of concern. Stella believes customer satisfaction is ensured through consistent follow-up regarding any key concerns and priorities. She has authored and delivered effective presentations in person as well as remotely to an executive audience regarding services, engagement results and recommendations. Under her direction, she was able to form strong partnerships with the Chicago Fire Police Training Academy, colleges and social service organizations to support youth and various charities. Stella currently serves on the Board of Advisors for Catholic Charities, including the Latino Advisors’ Subcommittee, and UNO community organization.
RODOLFO GUERRERO is an Information Technology Professional with Allstate. He has diverse experience in information technology implementing strategy, business process and technology projects in domestic and international settings in the insurance, education, utility, automotive and retail industries. At Allstate he manages data warehouse and big data initiatives, strategic technology projects and multiple global teams, in the USA, India, and Northern Ireland, to improve the gathering, accuracy, and privacy of customer data for business strategic initiatives. He is implementing innovative methodologies for improved team productivity and performance to deliver technology in shorter periods of time. Thereby allowing the company to remain a leader in the industry. At RJG Consultants, Inc., his own established firm, he provided services to the following clients. At Sender LLC, a digital brand consultancy and design studio, he consulted to strategically establish a web and internet presence for clients. At Bally Total Fitness he worked with the IT organization interfacing with Executives to implement web initiatives for the company's strategic web presence. He project managed supply chain technology integration and business analysis at Dell Computers together with IBM, Sony, Hitachi, Asustek, Celestica, and Sharp. At Accenture, a global technology consulting firm, he performed IT strategy, business process, and technology solutions including network, and software development for Nicor, Exelon and several startup companies. He has performed operations and business analysis for The Principal Financial Group and NCS-Pearson. He has international experience working abroad in Latin America and on global projects with teams from Europe and Asia and is bilingual in English and Spanish. Mr. Guerrero earned a Master of Business Administration, and a Master of Arts in Management of Information Systems from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Mr. Guerrero has served on the boards of the Prospanica (formerly National Society Hispanic MBAs), the Association of Latino Information Technology Professionals and the Mexican Passion Festival. He is a member of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement.
MARTHA-VICTORIA JIMENEZ is Senior Counsel for the City of Chicago's Law Department in the Legal Information, Investigations and Prosecutions Division where she defends Freedom of Information Act litigation brought into state court as well as defends City of Chicago Departments in FOIA appeals before the Illinois Attorney General. In that role, she also advises the City of Chicago and its departments on disclosure and record retention issues, furthering the City of Chicago's transparency initiatives and in the process, saving taxpayer monies. She also oversees complex discovery matters in litigation for City of Chicago Departments and defends the City in discovery disputes. From August of 2006 to October of 2012, Martha-Victoria was a senior associate at Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP where she practiced Civil and Commercial Litigation. She specialized in Municipal Litigation, Federal and State Civil Rights Litigation, Premises Liability, and Toxic Torts and won jury trials in high exposure Federal Civil Rights actions. Prior to her civil practice, from August of 2002 until August of 2006, Martha-Victoria was Assistant State's Attorney at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. She started in the Appeals Bureau, learning criminal law in depth and arguing before the Illinois Appellate Court. After the Appeals Bureau, Martha-Victoria advanced to the Juvenile Justice Division where she prosecuted over one hundred trials involving felony and misdemeanor offenses as well as charges of parental abuse, neglect, and unfitness pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act. Martha-Victoria attended the University Of Illinois College Of Law in Urbana-Champaign. While there she was awarded a fellowship by the Public Interest Law Initiative and devoted her service to the Midwest Immigrants’ Rights Center in Chicago, IL. She was awarded “Best Overall” in the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) Moot Court Competition and was also a part of the National Team that competed in the fall of 2002 at the HNBA Moot Court Competition. She was also awarded first place at the American Bar Association (ABA) Client Counseling Competition. During that that she also externed for the United States District Court in Urbana, IL and volunteered for the Appellate Defender Legal Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law. From 2015 to 2018, Martha-Victoria Jimenez served as the chairperson of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois ("HLAI") Judicial Evaluations Committee where she conducted and oversaw the evaluation for fitness of all candidates that aspire to the bench in Cook County. This invaluable service helped people make informed decisions in Illinois judicial races. In the past she has also served on the following boards: HLAI Charities, Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement ("HACE"), and Healthcare Alternative System ("HAS"). Finally, in 2018 she was awarded with HLAI's Government Attorney of the Year award as well as Negocios Now, "Who's Who in Hispanic Chicago" Legal Section. LinkedIn
JANICE LOPEZ is the Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Services at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). For over two decades, she has worked with both start-up and established business owners, with an emphasis on diverse entrepreneurs in underserved communities, to help them not only launch their businesses but also establish a solid foundation for growth and sustainability. Janice believes that in order for our communities to thrive, small businesses must be supported, which goes beyond shopping local. Access to tools and resources that fuel success is vital. Strong support not only benefits the business owners, but also their employees, families, and communities. In 2018, Janice received a Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Award for the work she has done in supporting women in the business of child care. Also, the U.S. Small Business Administration gave the 2018 WBC Excellence Award for Region V to the Women’s Business Center, Chicago, which was directed by Janice. Janice is a member of the advisory board for Women In Comedy and was recently invited to become a member of the advisory committee for the Northwest Side Housing Center Community Development Corporation. During her spare time, you can find Janice enjoying Cubs Baseball games or spending quality time with her husband and their rescued pit-bull, Ziggy. Janice is fluent in both English and Spanish and is originally from Chicago. She received a B.S. in Finance from Northeastern Illinois University. LinkedIn
MARTIN MONTES is a first generation Mexican-American born and raised in the Humboldt Park Community by his two amazing immigrant parents, Rigoberto y Guadalupe, who worked tirelessly as migrant farm workers and factory laborers their entire lives. He is a proud graduate of Roberto Clemente H.S., where he received scholarships to attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Martín later received a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois—Chicago and his J.D. from Indiana University School of Law—Bloomington. Martín is an active member of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (“HLAI”) since the mid-1990’s and served in different leadership and committee roles. He is a twenty-plus year member of the Hispanic National Bar Association (“HNBA”), where he served as an HNBA Regional President and on the HNBA’s Corporate Advisory Board. Through his work and volunteer efforts with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“MALDEF”), Martín actively promotes the protection of Latino civil rights and access to education. He served on the MALDEF National Board from 2009 to 2013. Martín also serves as a board member for the Legal Aid Society, Legal Prep Charter Academies, and the Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund. He is an active alum of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, serving as the President of the Latino Alumni Advisory Board and a designated member of the full Maurer School of Law Alumni Board. Martín is currently Director, Regulatory Affairs for Commonwealth Edison (“ComEd”). He oversees ComEd’s day-to-day strategic outreach and interactions with the Illinois Commerce Commission. Martín leads a team of specialists engaged in the formulation of regulatory strategies and solutions that advocate ComEd’s business interests before the Commission. Prior to his role at ComEd, Martín worked as Assistant General Counsel for Exelon Corporation’s Legal Department; Associate General Counsel for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; an associate at two major national law firms concentrating his practice in labor & employment; and served as a law clerk to the Honorable District Judge Joan B. Gottschall of the Northern District of Illinois. Martín speaks regularly on the topics of regulatory strategy, legal department management, anti-corruption, and diversity in the legal field. Martín has received several awards throughout his career for his work and dedication to the legal field and community at large. Martín currently lives in Logan Square and is a proud single full-time father of his “Three Kings”: Marcus (15), Michael (13) and Samuel (11). LinkedIn
DOLORES MUNOZ is a highly motivated professional with over 15 years of experience in the finance industry. Ms. Muñoz began her career at Cabrera Capital Markets in 2003 where she continually and successfully scaled the professional ladder. She has played a key role in developing the firm’s trading lines of business and investment product offerings. Beginning her career as an Equity Trading Operations Assistant, she developed an understanding of the front, middle & back-office functions. Within a year, she established the operations and clearance of international equites for developed, frontier, and emerging markets. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Muñoz began facilitating the trading, trade processing, clearance, and reporting of municipal & taxable-fixed income securities. She successfully expanded the firm’s trading operations by integrating automated products that increase efficiency, productivity, reduce risk, and costs. Ms. Muñoz now oversees the firm’s trading operations for global equities, municipal and corporate debt securities, U.S. Treasuries and agencies. Her responsibilities include monitoring operational risks, industry regulatory requirements, institutional client and broker onboarding, client services, performing research as well as various analyses in support of new business efforts. In addition, Ms. Muñoz serves as an Associate Client Services Representative, where she focuses on business development and public pension plan outreach. Her professional securities licenses include: Series 7 General Securities Representative and Series 63 Uniform Securities State Law Registered Agent. LinkedIn
CESAR OROZCO is the Director of Government and Community Affairs for the Office of the Illinois Comptroller. Currently, he oversees a diverse staff of 20 people that helps generate over 40 million dollars in debt repayment to over 440 local governments. He manages every aspect of the department, including employment and staff development, goal planning and monitoring, audit and compliance, and protest adjudication. He also provides advice on legal and public policy matters to the Comptroller. Immediately before, he was an Assistant Counsel to Speaker for the Illinois House of Representatives. In that role, he drafted, analyzed, negotiated, and tracked legislation for the Speaker and Democratic members of the House of Representatives. He also drafted memoranda on public policy and legal matters and provided counsel during floor debate of bills called for a vote. Prior to working in government, Cesar was employed in private law firms prosecuting state and federal civil cases. He has also served as an elected board member for the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and a community representative of a Local School Council. Cesar is a native of Detroit, earned his BA from the University of Michigan, and his JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law. In his spare time, he likes to read books about critical legal theory and current affairs, and play golf in city and county courses. He lives in the Uptown neighborhood with his wife Carina, their son Luis, and their dog Oso. In his office, you fill find JFK portraits, and the Michigan Football Stadium, the White House, and at least four Star Wars figurines built from Legos. LinkedIn
MANNY OZAETA most recently was the Director of the Hispanic Technology Incubator, a program established at 1871 in Chicago, in partnership with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In this role he served as facilitator and mentor to Latinx tech entrepreneurs, where he curated programming ensuring the entrepreneurs would receive access to capital, community, and technology tools vital to their growing businesses. Prior to leading the incubator, Ozaeta was the Director of Membership at 1871, where he was in charge of the recruiting efforts and onboarding process of new member companies; and handled the day-to-day needs of 500 plus active members. Inspired by the innovation created by 1871 entrepreneurs, he is currently pursuing his own small business endeavor in the consumer packaged goods space. Previously, Ozaeta was a Senior Communications Consultant at a boutique public affairs firm in Chicago, where his clients included, the Chicago Cubs, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and Navistar among others. He has also served as a legislative staffer in the United States House of Representatives. Ozaeta has worked within the press and communication departments of the Office of the Mayor in Chicago, the British Consulate General in Chicago, and the Office of Senator Richard Durbin- IL, in Washington, D.C. He received his undergraduate degree from DePaul University and a Master’s in Public Policy from Northwestern University. A native Spanish speaker, he hails from Texas but now resides in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. LinkedIn
JIHOVANNY CORREA-PANIAGUA Jihovanny was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and like many other families across the city, his family migrated to Chicago’s port of entry neighborhood Little Village when he was 5 years old. He is an alumnus of Chicago Public Schools and holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. During his time at ISU, Jihovanny worked tirelessly to improve student experiences by working in multiple roles in the Office of the Dean of Students, Student Government Association, Student Safety Advisory Panel, Emergency Services Club as President, and with university police. He held various roles in his fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta where as President he established a strong foundation for academic and professional success and grew board participation for effective programming. Jihovanny was recently admitted to the University of Chicago’s Masters in Threat and Response Management Program. Jihovanny also completed an internship at a local Sheriff’s Police department with low minority representation and quickly realized, he wanted to pursue a career in public service. Subsequently, he went on to serve on several political campaigns including Cook County’s District 7 primary election as Deputy Field Director where he managed voter data retention in 13 wards and 149 precincts. In his current role with CSI 3000 as Project Manager/Project Engineer, Jihovanny oversees completion of civil projects at the local, city and state levels. Jihovanny has been instrumental in the development of CSI 3000’s new business unit-forecasted to bring in over $200K in additional revenue. He looks forward to facilitating business and company growth in the coming years and expand his skillsets in both the private and public sectors.
J. MARCOS PETERSON, a Chicagoland native, has dedicated his career to empowering underserved communities. From working at the White House to fully owning, operating, and growing a successful small business assisting multi-generational immigrants to running the State of Illinois Business Enterprise Program (BEP), to currently serving as an advisor to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. His vast private and public sector experiences has led him to become a leader that positively impact underserved communities. Marcos currently focus’ on communities around Illinois such as the Latino community, LGBTQ+ community, Greek Community, religious communities, Veterans, Law Enforcement, etc. He serves as a voice to these communities in working with community organization, community and business leaders, policy advisors, and lawmakers to ensure the communities are not left behind. Starting his career, Marcos worked in The White House for President George W. Bush, where he supported the President’s logistics and operations, foreign and domestic. He has worked a G8 summit, North American Leader Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC), numerous bilats of world leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Vladimir Putin, and more. After his time in the White House, Marcos owned, operated, and cultivated a successful business, Marcos Central, assisting multi-generational immigrants to acculturate to American society. Through financial, educational, and professional consultation and support, Marcos Central empowered the community to navigate the American way of life. He also ran Illinois Business Enterprise Program (BEP). BEP certifies and supports Minorities (MBE), Women (WBE), Persons with Disability (PBE), and Veteran-owned (VBE) businesses. Within in time in BEP, Marcos led his team to allocate nearly one billion of qualified state procurement dollars to MBE, WBE, PBE, and VBE owned firms. Leading the program to its 2nd and 3rd highest spend to those businesses in the program’s 33 years of existence. He also led the implementation for the nation’s first state wide Sheltered Markets Program. A program which reserves certain state procurements only for MBE, WBE, PBE, and VBE owned firms. In his limited spare time, you can find Marcos attending Chicago sporting events (Chicago Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks, Bulls, and Fire), an active member of Clearbrook’s associate board (which raises funds for persons with disabilities), serving on the community advisory group of Equality Illinois, an active member of Park Community Church, and traveling to visit family and friends. Moving forward in his career, Marcos desires to continue to break down barriers for the minority, women, persons with disabilities, and veteran communities and all other underserved communities.
CHRISTINA RIVERO is a Legislative Coordinator in the Office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Prior to joining the County’s Government Affairs team, she spent over ten years as a grassroots community and labor organizer with a variety of organizations throughout Illinois. As the daughter of immigrants and family of refugees, she understands the importance of representation in leadership, amplifying community voices and engaging in collective action. Outside of the political landscape, Christina enjoys traveling to different countries, her most recent voyage being a solo trip throughout East Africa where she succeeded in summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. ¡Si se puede!
MILTON RODRIGUEZ is Vice President of Growth Strategy & Development for KIPP Chicago. He has over 20 years of social sector organizational and business development experience, leading the efforts of some of the premier nonprofit organizations serving the Chicago region. A proven expert in fundraising, resource development and nonprofit management, his leadership has impacted the lives of countless community members. Milton is responsible for developing and leading strategies for donor relations efforts and strategic growth, with an emphasis on maximizing private and public sector support. A native of Chicago and graduate of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Milton brings firsthand experience and knowledge of the challenges faced by many young people and their families and strives to increase the educational opportunities available for Chicago’s youth. Milton holds a BA and MSW from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MBA from Roosevelt University and is a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE). Milton currently serves on the Board of Directors the University of Michigan Latino Alumni Club, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter, and Enlace Chicago.
ARTURO ROMO was born and raised in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Arturo moved away from home at a young age to attend high school via a residential scholarship program. This opened Arturo’s eyes to a world outside of Chicago. Arturo went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Taking full advantage of college, he also exceled in class, studied abroad in China, worked as a career coach and more. After graduating Arturo worked as a Recruitment Coordinator for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago – the top physical rehabilitation hospital in the country. For the past two years, Arturo has been working on the southwest side as an Assistant to 12th Ward Alderman George A. Cardenas. Here Arturo has also helped connect countless Spanish, Mandarin and English-speaking residents/local businesses to city services. Arturo Romo continues to look for new opportunities to grow so he can continue serving Chicago’s diverse communities.
GERARDO TRISTAN is an Assistant State's Attorney serving Cook County, Illinois. He is currently assigned to the Felony Trial Division. Prior to being sworn-in as an Assistant State's Attorney, Mr. Tristan was an attorney at Tristan Ports, LLC, now Tristan and Cervantes, where he represented a wide client base with issues of labor law, real estate law, and corporate law. Gerardo Tristan also worked in the Chicago Public Schools, Law Department. He is a member of the Illinois Bar and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Mr. Tristan has been a member of several professional organizations, including the Chicago Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, Hispanic Lawyer’s Association of Illinois, National Prosecutor's Bar Association, and the National Hispanic Bar Association. He has held leadership positions in the Hispanic Lawyer’s Association of Illinois and National Hispanic Prosecutor's Bar Association. Before he became a lawyer, Mr. Tristan, worked for Motorola as a proposal manager in the Pan American Markets Division where he supervised a team of account executives, engineers, and price analysts in putting together bids for cellular system networks.
ERIC VAZQUEZ is a native Chicagoan and Design Thinking practitioner. Eric’s work has been covered in publications of "Government Technology", "Medium" and "Microsoft". Eric is a frequent speaker throughout Chicago on implementation of design thinking principles in the Public and Private sectors. Most recently, the creator of the modern design sprint, Google, Inc. asked Eric to present at their invite-only design thinking conference in San Francisco, California. Grateful for an opportunity to serve the people of Chicago as Chief Technology Officer for the Office of the City Clerk, Eric is responsible for bringing together human interaction and technology across departments, identifying and exploiting new technologies and driving overall office technology strategy. Eric currently serves on the Advisory Council of Northeastern Illinois University's College of Business and Management as well as its newly founded Business Innovation and Growth Center. In addition to being a design thinking practitioner, Eric volunteers his time and supports organizations addressing economic development, the environment and STEM. All this while completing his second Chicago Marathon in 2018 as a fundraiser for Mercy Home For Boys & Girls.
ANGELICA ALFARO is a proud Latina, daughter of Mexican immigrants, and a first-generation college graduate. She was born and raised in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community and has always believed in its potential, like similar communities, to offer a vibrant quality of life. She has made it her life's mission to improve access to quality education, resources, and opportunities for both the black and brown communities. For over 10 years, she dedicated her career to ensuring students from Chicago’s South and West sides realize their potential and receive the same opportunities as their counterparts in the City’s north side communities. She launched what is now a nationally recognized alumni program for Noble Network Charter Schools- the largest open-enrollment high school charter network in Chicago. She has lead policy and community organizing efforts to enable parental advocacy for access to quality education and equitable funding. Following her work in education and in Springfield, she wanted to be a voice for her community hoping to put policies in place that would ensure equitable access to necessary resources for the most vulnerable families. Angelica decided to run for the 2nd District Illinois State Senate garnering 47% of the district’s votes. A few months after, she moved across the country to work on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and as Deputy Surrogate Director and Latinx Outreach Director she helped elect the first ever Latina US Senator in Nevada at a crucial time for our nation. Currently, she is serving as Manager of Legislative Affairs at the Chicago Department of Public Health working on policy and government affairs, addressing the root causes of health and aiming to achieve health equity. She is a 2016 Edgar Fellow, loves to volunteer and mentor young women, enjoys horseback riding, running, and playing volleyball with her family.
ERNESTO MATIAS was raised in Humboldt Park, Chicago. He attended Chicago public schools until the end of 9th grade at Clemente High School. Because of gang issues, he was sent to a private school in Lustre, Montana to finish the rest of his high school years. Ernesto attended Moody Bible School and graduated in 1987 with a Diploma. Then attended Greenville College, in Greenville, Illinois, graduating in 1990 with a BS in Education. Later he received his Master’s Degree from Governor State University (2001) and completed his Doctorate (Ed.D) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (2015). Ernesto started his professional career in Montana (1990-1993). He moved to Evansville, Indiana, to teach at Bosse High School from 1994-1997. While teaching at Evansville Bosse High School, he was nominated for district teacher of the year in 1994-1995. He returned to Chicago and taught at Moos Elementary School from 1997-2002. While teaching at Moos Elementary school he received a nomination for the Golden Apple Teacher of the year award in 1999. Ernesto left Moos Elementary School to become an assistant principal at Kanoon Magnet Elementary School (2002-2008). While at Kanoon, Ernesto was awarded the Arne Duncan Leadership Award from The Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI). Mr. Matias became the principal of Wells Community Academy from 2008-2013. After thirteen straight years as a probationary school, he led Wells off probation. While at Wells, he mentored four residents. Dr. Matias was promoted to Chief of Schools for Network 4. He served as Chief of Schools for Network 4 for three years. Then was promoted to Academic Chief of the Office of Language and Cultural Education. He currently serves in that capacity for Chicago Public Schools. In this capacity, he is responsible for all of the English Language Learners, Refugees, Native Americans and World Languages taught in Chicago Public Schools. Ernesto was named to the 2018 cohort of the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program.
CECILIA SALINAS is a Staff Assistant for Joe Moore, alderman of Chicago’s 49th ward. In addition to the daily duties, Cecilia’s main responsibility is overseeing the ward’s Participatory Budgeting initiative, which seeks to further democratize how the ward’s budget is spent via direct community participation. Over the last seven years, Cecilia has managed the implementation of more than 45 projects including 600 hundred trees planted, 25 murals painted, park improvements, library’s carpet replacement, school garden, and other infrastructure improvements. Before her time at the alderman’s office Cecilia held many jobs and volunteered at several non-profits, advocating for rights in education, immigration, and fair housing policy. Cecilia has spent substantial time in Washington D.C., lobbying for financial literacy programs and immigration reform. Cecilia immigrated to Chicago from Caracas, Venezuela in 1999 and remains active as a founding board member of Illinois Venezuelan Alliance (IVA), an organization that seeks to serve Venezuelans in Illinois from the educational, civic, political, and humanitarian perspective. When she’s not busy volunteering or at the office, Cecilia loves to walk her Yorkie, Ziggy, by the lakefront.
VANESSA VALENTIN was born in Puerto Rico and has lived in Chicago for 27 years. She is the Director of Community Organizing at Northwest Side Housing Center. As a long-term resident of the Northwest Side she believes that every child deserves access to quality education and that all constituencies should have access to resources for affordable housing and foreclosure prevention. She has been a relentless community advocate leading staff of the Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan and has been instrumental for bringing in $4.5 million in funding to Steinmetz College Prep High School, $44 million for Belmont-Cragin Elementary School for a new school building. She continues to fight for a higher quality of life for her community. Vanessa is a CPS and City Colleges of Chicago alumni, she lives in the Dunning community with her husband, mother and 2 teenage sons.
CRISTINA VILLARREAL was raised in Wheeling, IL. She attended American University in Washington DC. After receiving a B.A. in International Relations, she worked for former Congresswoman and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, focusing on international, women, and Latino legislative and policy issues. She then returned to Chicago to attend DePaul College of Law. After graduating law school, Ms. Villarreal assisted the Obama Presidential campaign with Latino vote efforts and worked on various campaigns at the Federal, State, and local level. In 2014 Ms. Villarreal left positions as the Communication Director for the Cook County Assessor’s Office and President of the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women to work at the City of Chicago. She is currently the Director of Public Affairs at the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, the human services branch of City government. LinkedIn