McCormick Fellows alumni

Civic leaders selected for inaugural McCormick Foundation Executive Fellowship

Erikson Institute is proud to announce the inaugural class of the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program. Twenty-two leaders in the judicial, political, and civic sectors were selected to participate in executive-level, multi-day sessions that provide a comprehensive understanding of the long-term benefits of supporting early child development, helping them identify opportunities to effectively lead, intervene, and advocate on behalf of children and families in Illinois.

Building a strong foundation for a child’s emotional, social, physical, and cognitive development begins in the home as well as in communities and schools, and it also requires a commitment from the social systems that affect their well-being. Through this new program, Erikson aims to engage leaders and decision-makers from many of those systems who influence policy, advocate for public resources, and shape the educational experience of children.

This systems approach to early childhood development launches on Aug. 9 and will address critical issues such as the connection between adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress; the science of brain development; the importance of secure attachment and relationships; early childhood systems; demographic shifts in the child population in Illinois; recruiting and retaining a qualified and diverse workforce; and early childhood development as a cost-effective investment for communities and society as a whole.

“Outstanding leadership from multiple disciplines is essential if we want to continue progress Illinois has made over decades toward building one of the strongest early learning systems in the nation,” says Cornelia Grumman, education director of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “The McCormick Foundation is happy to support Erikson’s effort to inform and fuel continued progress over the next decade.”

The program is one of three leadership programs offered through Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA), a signature initiative that provides knowledgeable leaders with dynamic and collective learning experiences to enhance their capacity to influence early childhood policy leading to positive outcomes for young children and their families.

ECLA’s three leadership programs reach a broad range of leaders within the field of early childhood as well as those working outside the field, which include elected officials, judges, heads of state agencies, law enforcement, board members, and community leaders. As Erikson enters its 51st year in 2017, 51 individuals will have successfully completed ECLA leadership programs that are designed to provide content knowledge and to establish and grow a network of early childhood advocates who can identify opportunities to leverage resources, improve services and programs, and influence real change in their communities.

“Erikson is committed to providing thought leadership and resources to influential leaders who can help create evolutionary advancements in early childhood through policy and programs,” says Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD, president and chief executive officer of Erikson Institute. “Our goal is to empower our leaders through knowledge and evidence so that they are much more intentional in serving the needs of our children.”

Meet our 2017 McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows

Omar Aquino, Illinois State Senate, 2nd District

Omar Aquino was born and raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Of Puerto Rican descent, both of his parents were public workers, his mother working for the Chicago Public Schools and his father for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

His parents have always been involved in their community and have made it a priority. They assisted in block party coordination, served as church board members, and consistently looked for ways to make a difference. Aquino was inspired by their work and involvement, which led him to dedicate his career to public service.

Aquino attended Chicago Public Schools from preschool through high school. He attended Lincoln Park High School and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in criminal justice and sociology. He was president of the Latin American Student Organization, a member of the Diversity Council, and co-founder of the Empowerment Pipeline, an after-school mentorship program designed to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. Aquino was also a research assistant for two studies, one in sociology on race and ethnic relations and the other in criminal justice on probation officers’ discretionary decision-making. At Loyola, he also worked multiple part-time jobs including in the Departments of Resident’s Life and Athletics and as part of research projects. He was also a MAP grant recipient.

His first job after graduation was as a bilingual case manager at Central West Case Management Unit at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams School of Social Work. He visited the homes of elderly clients and assessed their needs for services under the Community Care Program. The program assists low-income, elderly residents with homemaker services, Meals on Wheels, and adult day service. This is done to help seniors maintain their independence, remain in their homes and communities, and prevent them for ending up in nursing homes.

Seeing the needs of the elderly population inspired Aquino to get into policy work. “I became frustrated by the weekly memos coming from the higher-ups in the Illinois Department of Aging insisting there would soon be changes made to the problem. These changes, they believed, would save the program money, but as a worker on the ground, I saw firsthand how these ‘changes’ were negatively affecting seniors, their families, and their communities.”

Aquino knew these policymakers and administrators had little understanding of the impact of their proposed changes. He decided to look for work in policy in order to help provide the perspective of those that worked in the field and on the ground.

He found the opportunity to work as a legislative assistant in the Illinois House of Representatives. He fulfilled a number of tasks, such as organizing outreach efforts and creating issues-based committees to ensure constituent participation in the policymaking process. He eventually moved on to work for U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth as her outreach coordinator.

In December 2015, state Sen. William Delgado announced that he was retiring. With his long-held desire to make a difference and understanding of the community’s needs, Aquino decided to run with the support of Delgado. He won the 2016 election and took the seat on July 1, 2016. As state senator, Aquino is committed to working hard each day to pursue policies that he knows will have a positive impact on the people of the 2nd District and the state of Illinois.

 

Robert Balanoff, Circuit Judge, Child Protection Division, Cook County

Robert Balanoff has been a trial judge in Juvenile Protection for 12 years and hears cases involving the abuse, neglect, and dependency of children. The court is a problem-solving court — one of the first in the world — not one of punishment. Services are offered to families with the goal of reunification. If that is not successful, the court works to find permanent homes for the children.

Every day, Balanoff hears cases concerning children who are involved with our court system through no action of their own. These children are innocents and the ones who are most harmed by their involvement. He makes decisions that are often life-changing, such as determining who a child will live with, which services they will receive, and whether they will be reunited with their parents — or ever know their biological parents. He decides whether parents will be a part of their children’s lives, whether children will ever know or meet their siblings or other relatives, and often how their lives may turn out. “The parents are often low-income and in pain, and they sometimes have mental illnesses or addictions. I recognize that my decisions dramatically impact their lives,” Balanoff says. “I give all my cases great consideration and thought, because I know the potential implications of a bad decision. None of my cases involve money or property. Not only do my decisions affect a child, their parents, and their community, but they also affect the next generation and who we will become as a society.”

Balanoff also monitors elections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as part of the International Election Observation Mission, working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. Department of State. The elections are monitored to assess whether they meet the standards for democratic elections.

Balanoff has monitored the following elections:

  • Uzbekistan Presidential Election – December 2016
  • Belarus Presidential election – October 2015
  • Moldova Parliamentary election – December 2014
  • Republic of Georgia Parliamentary election – October 2012
  • Azerbaijan Parliamentary Election – November 2010
  • Republic of Macedonia Presidential Election – March 2009
  • Ukraine Parliamentary Election – September 2007

Balanoff also has assisted his wife, Dr. Felice Batlan, associate dean and professor at Chicago Kent College of Law, in the primary research for her book, “Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2015. The book rewrote the history of legal aid, showing how women, as lay lawyers, provided legal representation to poor people before the organizations were usurped by male lawyers. It also explains how the pivotal role of women was intentionally hidden by the male lawyers.

 

Candance Chow, School Board President, Evanston/Skokie School District 65

Candance Chow has served on the District 65 school board since 2013. During her tenure, she has served as liaison for the district’s five-year strategic planning process and most recently as chair of the Finance Committee.

Her other board-related positions include liaison to the district’s early childhood program, which serves more than 400 children from birth to age 5; member of the City/School Liaison Committee; member of the Evanston Community Schools Initiative Advisory Committee; member of the Joint 202/65 Board Committee; and member of the Board Policy Committee.

Beyond board service, Chow serves as co-chair of the Health, Safety and Well Being Action Team of the Evanston Cradle to Career Initiative, a member of the COPE (Caring Outreach by Parents in Evanston) Advisory Board, and a member of the Evanston Advisory Board of Community Partners for Affordable Housing. She also is active in her church. Professionally, she has 25 years of experience leading improvements in both business and nonprofits in the areas of strategy development, innovation, and operational performance as a management consultant and leader in several technology companies and nonprofits. She holds an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and has lived in Evanston for 20 years.

 

Arthur Culver, Superintendent, East St. Louis, School District 189

Arthur Culver’s entire career has been focused on improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged students. “A student’s ZIP code, family income status, or race should not dictate their educational attainment,” he says. “I am committed to creating positive changes for the students and staff in District 189. Many of our children come from economically disadvantaged homes, but they are rich in intelligence, ability, and the will to succeed. This is all that we need to become a premier district in Illinois.”

Culver came to District 189 in August 2011 as a liaison from the Illinois State Board of Education. Less than two months later, he was named district superintendent, and he has been working collaboratively ever since with the local board of education, Illinois State Board of Education, Financial Oversight Panel, school staff, and the community to make sustained improvements in student achievement and financial stability.

An experienced school turnaround leader, Culver has established the structures and systems necessary to support teacher and student success in District 189. This includes implementing rigorous curriculum standards, increased teacher and principal accountability that includes responsibility for student academic growth, and increased social-emotional supports for students. In the area of finance, the district has gone from having concerns about sufficient funds to make payroll in 2012 to now having a contingency fund that ensures stability for the immediate future. With these systems and supports in place, District 189’s recent accomplishments include:

  • Increasing the percentage of district students meeting or exceeding national norms on NWEA MAP assessments for math from 7.5 percent in 2015 to 18.3 percent in 2017 and for reading from 12.9 percent in 2015 to 24.1 percent in 2017.
  • Increasing overall test scores on Partnerships for Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers (PARCC) scores. Three elementary schools and one middle school increased their state school rankings considerably due to PARCC testing scores in 2016.
  • Advancing 22 places in overall state rankings (academically) in 2015-16, according to SchoolDigger.com.
  • Increasing the four-year graduation rate at East St. Louis Senior High from 62.8 percent to 73 percent from 2012 to 2016.
  • Supporting high school seniors in identifying postsecondary plans. In 2017, 100 percent of seniors applied to at least five colleges, the military, or trade schools; 97 percent of the Class of 2016 was accepted to a four-year or two-year college, the military, or a trade school.
  • Supporting the annual senior class to increase overall scholarship earnings. The Class of 2017 earned over $14 million. Last year, the Class of 2016 earned $5.8 million in scholarships. In both cases, these are primarily academic scholarships. (Class of 2014 earnings were $389,000.)
  • Increasing Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment from 30 to 300 students from 2012 to 2016.
  • Decreasing the dropout rate from 8 percent in 2014 to 5 percent in 2016.
  • Eliminating excess personnel and vendor contracts; seeking grants, supplemental funds, and appropriations; and using working cash bonds to attain financial stability.
  • Supporting students’ social emotional needs by adding social workers, counselors, and behavior specialists.

Prior to coming to District 189, Culver spent more than 30 years in public education as a teacher and administrator, including nine years as superintendent for the Champaign Community Unit School District 4 in Champaign, Illinois. Under Culver’s leadership there, African-American elementary math and reading scores improved by 30 percent and 26 percent respectively while the district worked to meet the mandates of a federal consent decree. African-American middle school scores improved by almost 51 percent and 26 percent in math and reading respectively, and enrollment of African-American students in honors and AP courses tripled during this same time period. These and other improved outcomes for African-American students led to the successful settlement of the 10-year-old federal consent decree in July 2009. He demonstrated the same commitment and success to closing the achievement gap for low-income and minority students in every position he has ever held.

In 2009, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called upon Culver to be a part of a “Blue Sky” turnaround team to provide innovative ideas regarding school reform. Culver has also served on the Illinois Education Funding Advisory Board, a group that advocates for foundation funding for all districts and equitable funding for districts with high enrollments of low-income students. He continues to advocate for change to the funding formula in Illinois to ensure the long-term financial stability of District 189 and other low-property wealth districts in the state.

Culver holds a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Michigan and a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of Houston in Texas. He has completed all courses required for a doctorate in educational leadership and cultural studies at the University of Houston, and he is certified as a superintendent in both Texas and Illinois. He and his wife, Annetta, are the parents of three sons and four grandchildren.

 

Jesus Garcia, Board of Commissioners, Cook County

Jesús “Chuy” García is a progressive leader who has fought to improve the lives of all people throughout his career in public service and community organizing. He currently serves as Commissioner for the 7th District on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Garcia was born in a village at the edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Durango, México. His father worked as a bracero in the fields of California, Kansas, and Texas. At the age of 10, Garcia and his family moved to Chicago, settling in Pilsen and then the Little Village neighborhood. He developed his first interest in politics at St. Rita High School, inspired by the speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and United Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chávez. He got his first taste of political organizing when he and fellow students threw a picket line around their neighborhood movie theater, The Atlantic, to protest the conditions and lack of attention by its owner. The theater closed but then was cleaned up and reopened. The newly minted activists took pride in their work.

Garcia graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in urban planning. While at the university, he held a job as a paralegal helping immigrants and low-income families with the problems they faced.

In 1983, newly elected Mayor Harold Washington tapped Garcia to become Chicago’s deputy water commissioner. By 1986, Garcia was elected alderman of the 22nd Ward and tipped the balance of support on the City Council to Washington’s favor, ending the furious clash known in Chicago history as Council Wars.

As alderman, Garcia secured funds to construct the giant Little Village arch that sweeps across 26th Street. He also pushed through an ordinance providing help for immigrants with filling out forms, writing letters, and applying for green cards issued by the federal government.

Garcia left the City Council to run for the Illinois Senate in 1992 and became the first Mexican-American elected to that post. He succeeded in passing legislation that set limits on fees charged by notary publics to immigrants for assistance with legal matters. Garcia also won passage of a bill requiring interpreters be made available to hospital patients who could not speak sufficient English to understand their treatment options.

Garcia lost his bid for re-election in 1998 and turned back to his roots in community organizing. He founded and became executive director of the Little Village Community Development Corporation. The group, now known as Enlace Chicago, began with a single employee and has grown to include 27 full-time employees, 120 part-time workers, and an annual budget of $2.9 million. Enlace has successfully lobbied for money to upgrade housing in the community and organized a hunger strike to force city bureaucrats to build the Little Village-Lawndale High School, which was the first high school built in the community in nearly 100 years.

In 2010, Garcia returned to elected office, joining the Cook County Board of Commissioners, a legislative body that allocates the county’s $3.5 billion budget. He was named floor leader by board President Toni Preckwinkle and helped enact a reform agenda. Garcia helped pass legislation banning the practice of some suburban landlords refusing to rent homes to low-income families, veterans, disabled individuals, and others who rely on housing choice vouchers.

Garcia also passed a measure to put an end to Cook County’s cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The ordinance prevented county officials from detaining a person based on the suspicion of being undocumented. The measure became the first of its kind in the nation, and more than 250 localities followed nationwide. Garcia was re-elected to a second term on the county board in 2014.

In 2014, Garcia launched a campaign for mayor of Chicago, building a coalition of support across the city. Support for Garcia led to Chicago’s first run-off election, and although he fell short of winning the seat in the run-off, he continues to be vocal on local and national issues.

Garcia has received many distinctions for his tireless advocacy of social justice and has served on the boards of several organizations. He and his wife, Evelyn, reside in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. They have three adult children— Jesús, Samuel, and Rosa — and several grandchildren.

 

Diego Giraldo, Chief Early Childhood Education Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Diego Ferney Giraldo, EdD, currently serves as the chief officer in the Office of Early Childhood Education at Chicago Public Schools. He is a committed public school educator with 25 years of professional experience.

His experience includes serving students from preschool through high school as a teacher, principal, and central office administrator leading academic programs.

In 2004, he received the Golden Apple for excellence in teaching. He has been an adjunct professor at National Louis and DePaul universities, teaching graduate-level courses in assessment and curriculum.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Northeastern Illinois University, a master’s degree in international business from Roosevelt University, and a doctorate in education specializing in educational leadership from National Louis University. He also has completed graduate course work in the Urban Education Leadership program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

 

Andrew Gleeson, Chief Judge, 20th Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County

Andrew Gleeson is the chief judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit in St. Clair County, Illinois. He presently serves in a Major Civil Jury assignment. In addition, his duties include major civil bench trials, asbestos litigation, and class action litigation. Gleeson is currently starting his sixth year in the civil jury assignment and his first as the chief judge of the circuit.

Gleeson has served as the public defender in St. Clair County and was engaged in the general practice of law for 18 years. He was appointed an associate judge in 2003, elected resident circuit judge in 2012, and chosen as chief judge in 2016.

He is a past president of both the St. Clair County Bar Association and the East St. Louis Bar Association.

He is currently in his 12th year as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Illinois College, teaching litigation support for paralegals.

In 2010 and 2016, he was a faculty member of the Education Conferences of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and he serves on the Article V Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Gleeson is also active in the community, furthering the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Urban Programs, and the Holy Angels Shelter.

 

Scott Goselin, Superintendent, Bradley School District 161

Dr. Scott Goselin is in his 13th year as superintendent of Bradley School District 61. He has been an administrator in the district for the past 22 years. Before coming to Bradley, he taught for five years in the Reed-Custer School District.

He is a graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais High School, Olivet Nazarene University, Governor’s State University, and Lewis University, and he received his doctorate from National Louis University in 2008. He has served in leadership roles for numerous community organizations, including Kankakee-Iroquois United Way, Kankakee Chamber of Commerce, Bradley-Bourbonnais Rotary Club, Bradley-Bourbonnais High School Academic Foundation, Educators of Illinois League, Knights of Columbus, Kankakee NAACP, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Maternity BVM Church Council. He was most recently named the 2017 Three Rivers Region “Superintendent of Distinction” by the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

Dr. Goselin and his wife, Sue, have two daughters, Claire and Lily. He enjoys all types of sports and spending time with his family.

 

Christina Hachikian, Executive Director, Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, University of Chicago

Christina Hachikian is the executive director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She leads the center’s global work as the hub for people solving complex social and environmental problems. In particular, she is responsible for strategy and direction, as well as resource development and partnerships. She is also an adjunct associate professor at Booth and teaches courses on scaling social innovation and on social enterprise strategy, as well as serving as a coach for the school’s Social New Venture Challenge.

Prior to joining Booth, she was vice president and head of investor relations and corporate development for Cole Taylor Bank. In this role, Hachikian was responsible for building relationships within the investment community and crafting financial communications, as well as managing projects such as corporate capital actions and strategic planning. Prior to Cole Taylor, Hachikian was an assistant vice president at ShoreBank (now Urban Partnership Bank), a triple-bottom line community development bank. There, she was responsible for managing projects including growth strategy, capital raising initiatives, and operational efficiencies. She held several other related positions at ShoreBank during her seven-year tenure. Hachikian also has served as a research and planning analyst for Raytheon Company, directing research projects.

Hachikian holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, with a focus on strategic management and managerial and organizational behavior. She also earned an AB in public policy from the University of Chicago. In her spare time, she works with a West Side early education center, VOCEL, and is passionate about early childhood education access. She is inspired to support this issue every day by her two children.

 

Jason Helfer, Deputy Superintendent, Teaching and Learning, Illinois State Board of Education

Dr. Jason Helfer is deputy superintendent for teaching and learning at the Illinois State Board of Education. Prior to this role, he was an associate professor and department chair at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Dr. Helfer has taught at Millikin University and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He was also an elementary school teacher in Evanston, Illinois, and Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas.

 

Carol Kelley, Superintendent, Oak Park School District 97

Prior to joining District 97, Dr. Carol L. Kelley spent three years as the superintendent of schools for the Branchburg Township School District in New Jersey. Before that, she served as the director for curriculum and instruction for Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey for three years. She was also an elementary teacher and building administrator in New Jersey for a number of years.

Dr. Kelley’s career as an educator has been defined by her passionate belief in the importance of providing every child with the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve. It is this belief that led her to collaborate with key stakeholders on the creation of a shared vision for her current district in Oak Park, Illinois. It is also this belief that has guided the critical work she has undertaken as the superintendent of Oak Park Elementary School District 97 to improve the systems, structures, and processes that are in place to foster and support staff development and student success. This work has included the establishment and implementation of professional programs, as well as the introduction of enhanced research-based resources that have had a positive and profound impact on the overall culture in the district and the quality of the instructional practices being utilized across its 10 buildings.

Dr. Kelley received her bachelor’s degree and doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds an MBA from the University of Virginia. She is married to Gary D. Kelley and is the proud mother of two sons, Jordan P. Kelley and Austin C. Kelley.

 

Michael D. Kramer, Chief Judge, 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County

Michael D. Kramer, chief judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit, began serving as an associate judge in 2002 after 17 years as an attorney in private practice in Kankakee, Illinois. As an attorney, he represented clients in state and federal courts and was very involved in community affairs. Among many other volunteer activities, he served as board president of the Kankakee Valley Park District, Kankakee River Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Community Foundation of Kankakee River Valley. He presently serves as co-chairman of the Truancy Review Board and treasurer of the Kiwanis Club of Kankakee.

Kramer became a circuit judge in 2016 and began a two year term as chief judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit in 2017. In his 15 years on the bench, Kramer has heard all types of criminal and civil cases. For more than 10 years, he has been assigned to the family law call in Kankakee County, where he hears cases involving divorce, child custody, and domestic violence. Kramer teaches a family law course in the Paralegal/Legal Assistants Studies Program at Kankakee Community College. He is a member of the Illinois Judicial College Committee on Judicial Education and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Judge’s Association.

Kramer is a graduate of the University of Illinois, where he received his BA, MBA, and JD. He met his wife, Sheila, who is also an attorney, in the Kankakee County Courthouse. Together they have four children and reside in Kankakee.

 

Kimberly Lightford, Illinois State Senator, 4th District

Since the beginning of her political career, Illinois Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford has been a vocal champion for her strongest passions: Promoting quality education, advocating for quality health care, and providing support for working families.

After becoming Senate assistant majority leader in 2009, Lightford enhanced her role as an advocate for education reform. Her expertise positioned her as the top negotiator on the legislation developed as a part of former President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, leading to the establishment of stronger methods of evaluating teachers and tracking student progress. Her leadership resulted in laws that put the best teachers in classrooms, provide universal preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds, and made sure children start school by the age of 6. Lightford also increased the safety of schoolchildren by providing specialized bullying prevention curricula and no bullying school zones. Concerned with the dropout rate, Lightford helped to re-enroll high school dropouts by establishing the Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways Through Education Program. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed as a national model the senator’s education reform legislation aimed at boosting student performance through accountability for schools, administrators, and teachers. Lightford negotiated SB7 with the hope to ensure every child in Illinois public schools has a quality teacher. She has actively served on the Senate Education Committee for 16 years as a sitting member, vice chair, and chair.

Lightford has also made it a priority to help working families, especially through tough economic times. Lightford is a firm believer that the minimum wage should be a living wage and has worked to increase it in Illinois. She is responsible for 2003 and 2006 laws that gradually increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $8.25 per hour, helping over 1 million low-income citizens throughout Illinois provide for their families. She also helped approve legislation in the Senate chamber during veto session in 2014 that would gradually increase the wage from $8.25 to $11.00 per hour.

In 2005, and again in 2010, Lightford passed laws to protect working families from predatory lending practices, including reforms to Illinois’ payday loan industry. She has also sponsored a measure to establish a Council on Responsible Fatherhood and laws allowing for expungement of criminal records, making it easier for men and women who have paid their debts to society to turn their lives around.

As the youngest African-American woman ever elected to the Illinois Senate in 1998, Lightford has been vocal and active in regard to women’s issues. In 2003, she Sponsored the Equal Pay Act, which bans employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of gender when it comes to salaries. In 2010, she sponsored legislation strengthening the Equal Pay Act by allowing women who have been discriminated against more time to file an action against an employer. Lightford has also sponsored numerous bills focusing on women’s health care.

In addition, Lightford has fought for 15 years to rebuild an inner-city, not-for-profit hospital in one of the lowest income communities in Chicago. She understands the importance of providing quality health care to the residents of the Austin neighborhood and keeping over 500 jobs in the community, recognizing that the hospital is the community’s largest employer. Her work on the issue has helped secure over $20 million to replace outdated boilers, build a state-of-the-art emergency department, add a pharmacy, and completely remodel all bed space.

Recognizing the need to address holistic development of our youth, Lightford initiated the Uplift Our Future free programs, which sponsor a Saturday University that provides supplemental educational services for middle school students, an annual college fair, annual back-to-school event, and a mentoring component for 8th-grade students. She also hosts a yearly Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Rainbow Tea and organizes annual awareness events for breast cancer and prostate cancer. She serves on the board of directors for the Proviso-Leyden Council for Community Action Inc., Loretto Hospital, National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement Education Commission of the States, and the Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Lightford holds a bachelor’s degree in public communications from Western Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Since 1998, she has represented the 4th Senate District, which includes more than a dozen suburban communities in western Cook County and the Austin community area on Chicago’s West Side. In addition to serving as the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee during the 100th General Assembly, Lightford serves as an active member of the following committees and subcommittees: Assignments, Executive, Education (vice-chair), Committee of the Whole, Executive Appointments, Energy and Public Utilities, Labor, Civil Rights, Special Issues (EX), Charter Schools (sub-chair), and Oversight Medicaid Managed Care. Lightford also serves as chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. She resides with her family in Maywood.

 

Jennifer Maddox, Chicago Police Department, CNN Community Hero

Jennifer O. Maddox was born in Chicago and raised on the South Side. Maddox graduated from Corliss High School, receiving her diploma in general education. She attended the University of Illinois and received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. She later received an M.B.A. from St. Xavier University, and she is currently enrolled at Lewis University, pursuing an EdD in education focused on community programming. Maddox is a 20-year veteran and instructor in community engagement in the Office of Community Affairs at the Chicago Police Department. During her off hours, Maddox (a CNN hero) operates a nonprofit after-school/summer camp program inside Parkway Gardens Apartments in the Woodlawn community. Maddox also works as a community life specialist at the new Oakwood Shores Community Center, bringing fun-filled, structured events and activities to the Oakwood Shores community. Maddox is currently a fellow with the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy.

 

Patricia Martin, Presiding Judge, Child Protection Division, Cook County

Judge Patricia M. Martin is the presiding judge of the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Martin was appointed in January 2000, and since then she has worked to improve the Child Protection Division. She has introduced innovative new programs that have received media attention that jurisdictions across the country have duplicated. During her tenure as judge, the Child Protection Division’s caseload has declined from over 27,000 cases to fewer than 7,000 cases, a reduction of over 56 percent. In addition to performing her administrative duties, Martin continues to hear complex, high-profile cases in the Child Protection Division.

Martin’s expertise in child welfare matters has received national and international attention. She has presented at local, national, and international conferences on child abuse/neglect topics, and she has received numerous awards for her work with the Child Protection Division. She is a past president of the board of trustees of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She is a past chair of the Supreme Court of Illinois Judicial Conference Study Committee on Juvenile Justice and a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Special Committee on Child Custody Issues. As a presidential appointee to the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, she co-chaired the subcommittees on overrepresentation of minorities and Native American children.

Prior to her appointment as judge, Martin was assigned to the trial section of the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Martin was elected to the bench in 1996. From 1986 to 1996, Martin was an assistant Cook County public defender, where, prior to rising to Deputy Chief, Fifth District, she tried misdemeanor and felony cases. Judge Martin has a Juris Doctor degree from Northern Illinois University College of Law in DeKalb, Illinois, and a Bachelors of Arts from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. She also studied at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, East Africa. Martin garnered academic honors at each of these institutions.

 

Ralph Martire, Executive Director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; School Board President, River Forest School District 90

Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA), a bipartisan 501(c)(3) think tank committed to ensuring that state, federal, and local workforce, education, fiscal, economic, and budget policies are fair, just, and promote opportunity for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income class. During his time at CTBA, Martire has helped obtain numerous legislative successes (including passage of a state Earned Income Tax Credit, creation of a bipartisan legislative task force to integrate workforce and economic development policies, passage of the 2011 Temporary Tax Increases, corporate accountability legislation that, among other things, requires public reporting of economic development benefits created through receipt of tax breaks and other subsidies, decoupling Illinois tax policy from the federal bonus depreciation rules, and federal repeal of the estate tax).

In 2011, Martire was appointed as a full voting commissioner to the Congressionally established Equity and Excellence in Education Commission under the Federal Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division. The commission was charged by Congress to review public education systems and systems of education finance at the national and state level in the U.S. to identify whether those systems contributed to either inequities in access to educational opportunities or creation of achievement gaps. The commission completed its work with the issuance of the “For Each and Every Child” report in February 2013. Martire co-authored the first section of the report, which made recommendations regarding the fiscal and education funding policies required at the state and federal levels to provide an excellent education for every child.

Martire has received numerous awards for his work on education and public policy reform, including the Champion of Freedom Award, presented by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to individuals whose professional work embodies Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to equal educational opportunities, and the Ben C. Hubbard Leadership Award given by Illinois State University to individuals who have greatly benefited education in Illinois. He also received the Adlai Stevenson Award for Public Service presented by the American Society for Public Administration to honor one individual with a connection to the Chicago area that has made outstanding contributions to government and public administration over an extended period of time.

Martire was elected to serve on the School Board of River Forest District 90, where he still serves as board president. He also serves on the West Cook Division Governing Board of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

A frequent lecturer on fiscal policy, Martire teaches a master-level class on fiscal policy at Roosevelt University, and he has led tax policy seminars for the International Fulbright Scholar Program, the National Labor College, and the national Women in Government lecture series. Martire also has designed and taught master’s programs on education finance for the University of Illinois, and a doctoral program on the politics of public education for Illinois State University. Martire has been featured as a tax policy expert on numerous television and radio news programs such as WTTW, the Chicago PBS affiliate, and WPWR, the Chicago NPR affiliate. He serves as a regular columnist for the State Journal-Register and the Daily Herald on issues involving government accountability, and tax, fiscal, and budget policies. Before joining CTBA, Martire was a partner in a law firm with a sophisticated transactional practice focused on intellectual property, structured finance, and mergers and acquisitions.

Martire served as the deputy issues director for Dawn Clark Netsch in her gubernatorial campaign and issues director for David Wilhelm in his run for the U.S. Senate. He also is a former candidate for the Cook County Board. His prior appointments include serving as a member of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Council on Hate Crimes Prosecution and the Cook County Special Task Force on Domestic Violence. He also was chair of the state revenue committee on the budget advisory board of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s transition team.

Martire graduated from Indiana University Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s in history and received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan. He is married to Mary Kay Martire, and they have two children, a son Nicholas, and a daughter Valerie.

 

Ricardo Muñoz, 22nd Ward Alderman, Chicago

Ricardo “Rick” Muñoz has become a dominant voice for reform in Chicago, earning his leadership role through innovation and determination. Muñoz put forward a proposal to generate millions in education spending without raising taxes while overseeing the construction of more new schools in his neighborhood. He worked to make one of the schools in his community into the first-ever “dual language” academy in the city of Chicago. Muñoz also is a progressive leader within the national Democratic Party and assisted then-Sen. Obama during the 2008 presidential election. Muñoz, one of the original City Council sponsors of the Chicago Living Wage legislation, helped lead a citywide, multi-racial coalition of labor, community, and religious organizations to victory on July 29, 1998. He also is notable for following through with major ethics legislations, including making it illegal for high-ranking administration officials to receive favorable city contracts while still on the city payroll. In his neighborhood, Little Village, Muñoz is known as a committed public servant who twice declined his City Council pay increases and instead gave more than $90,000 to charitable organizations throughout the community. Muñoz is equally generous with his time, organizing block clubs and weekly clean-ups of streets, alleys, and vacant lots. He also teaches classes on leadership at local schools, including serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Muñoz was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and is currently the ranking Mexican-American member of the City Council and a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

 

Hilary Scott, Regional Board and Executive Committee Member, UNICEF

Hilary Bishop Scott has been active in the non-profit sector since 2000. During her early career as a development officer at the Shedd Aquarium and then at the University of Chicago, Scott focused on the cultivation and stewardship of major gifts. Since 2004, Scott has been working to improve postsecondary access and success for low-income and first-generation college students. In 2006, Scott completed her master’s degree at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration (SSA), with a concentration on administration and policy. At SSA, her specific research interests included urban adolescents and the transition to college.

In this area of focus, Scott has worked with SGA Youth & Family Services, the University of Chicago Office of Community Affairs, and Scholarship Chicago (now Chicago Scholars). For eight years, she was a member of the board of directors of Chicago Youth Centers, Chicago’s largest independent and locally based youth services organization. Scott also is a director of the Glen View Club Scholarship Foundation.

Most recently, Scott has worked extensively with the Midwest Regional Board of UNICEF USA, where she is a member of the executive committee. Scott has traveled with UNICEF to Washington, D.C., to advocate for funding, and she also went on a 2017 field visit to Tanzania, touring hospitals and schools supported by UNICEF.

Hilary holds a bachelor’s in religious studies from Connecticut College. She and her husband, Sean, live in Glencoe with their children and dogs. The Scotts are active members of Kenilworth Union Church, where Scott enjoys teaching Sunday school to kindergarteners. She rows competitively with the New Trier Masters rowing program.

 

Bob Spatz, School Board Member, Oak Park School District 97

Bob Spatz has been an advocate for education since the early 1990s. His wife, Lisa Ginet, ran a home daycare for three years, and, along with her, he attended numerous Chicago Metro Association for the Education of Young Children conferences and a National Association for the Education of Young Children conference. In the early 2000s, they, along with several other education advocates, helped conceive and found the Oak Park-based Collaboration for Early Childhood. Spatz served on the Collaboration board for several years and chaired its data committee. He continued to periodically attend NAEYC conferences with his wife, and he recently was part of a panel about delivery systems at the World Forum on Early Care and Education in New Zealand.

Spatz also has been very involved in Oak Park Elementary District 97, and served on numerous district committees dating back to the mid-1990s. He was first elected to the school board in 2007 and is now in the middle of his third term. During his time on the board, he served as both vice president and president of the board. He was instrumental in the district’s adoption of full-day kindergarten in 2008-2010, its three successful referenda (2011, and two in 2017), and the creation of an intergovernmental agreement with Oak Park River Forest High School and the Village of Oak Park to expand public funding for the Collaboration for Early Childhood to more than $1.2 million per year. Spatz has also been involved in regional and state education issues and is an active member of the Illinois Early Learning Council’s Data Research and Evaluation Committee, is on the executive board of the West Cook Division of the Illinois Association of School Boards, and was an eight-year member (including one year each as vice-chair and chair) of the executive board of ED-RED (www.ed-red.org), a suburban school advocacy organization. Spatz, initially through his role on ED-RED, has been very involved in the conversations and debates around the K-12 funding reform in the state, and he helped design the allocation model incorporated into Senate Bill 1 that recently passed the legislature.

Professionally, Spatz has worked for more than 30 years in various IT and data analysis positions for the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 

Juliana Stratton, State House of Representatives, 5th District

Juliana Stratton is the director of the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago and serves as State Representative of Illinois’ 5th Representative District. She has more than 20 years of experience as a mediator, arbitrator, and administrative judge. Stratton previously served as senior policy advisor to the Cook County Board president on matters relating to criminal and juvenile justice reform, and as executive director of Cook County Justice for Children. She is a founding board member of the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and serves on the boards of the Juvenile Protective Association and Public Allies-Chicago. Stratton is a restorative justice practitioner and trained peace circle keeper. She lives in the Bronzeville community and is a marathoner, triathlete, and mother of three daughters.

 

Kurt Summers, City Treasurer, Chicago

Kurt Summers is a son of Chicago and a pragmatic problem solver who is passionate about serving the people of the city. As Chicago’s newest City Treasurer, Summers is the steward of the city’s $7 billion dollar investment portfolio and is responsible for maintaining records and accounts of the city’s finances while ensuring transparency and accountability for all transactions. Summers also serves as an advocate to empower young people, workers, and small-business owners, as well as programs that promote economic growth and financial education. The Treasurer sits on five local pension boards with nearly $25 billion under management.

Since taking the oath of office on Dec. 1, 2014, Summers has hit the ground running. His first act in office was the proposal of an ambitious and audacious 90-day plan called Invest in Our Chicago. The plan was intended to act as a roadmap, focused on leveraging Chicago’s economic power to increase investment in its residents, workers, businesses, and neighborhoods.

Summers began his career at McKinsey & Company, a preeminent global strategy consulting firm. Most recently, Summers served as a senior vice president at Grosvenor Capital Management and was a member of the office of the chairman. In that role, Summers was a leader of the Emerging and Diverse Manager business, which invested more than $2 billion with minority- and women-owned firms.

With nearly 15 years of experience in the financial services community, a background rooted in service to others has guided Summers throughout his professional career.

Prior to his time at Grosvenor, Summers was called to serve as chief of staff to the Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and as the appointed trustee for the $9 billion Cook County Pension Fund. In that capacity, Summers led county-wide reforms to provide performance management in every department.

In his role as chief of staff for President Preckwinkle, Summers also steered the closure of a $487 million budget deficit while keeping the administration’s promise to roll back the county sales tax, saving taxpayers more than $400 million a year. Additionally, Summers aided in reforming the county’s procurement rules and helped pave the way for a more sustainable health and hospital system.

In 2008, Summers answered the call to serve as chief of staff for Chicago 2016, the city’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The historic plan called for development in struggling neighborhoods and sealed Summers’ passion to help Chicago showcase all it has to offer.

Summers is a lifelong Chicago resident and a graduate of Whitney Young High School. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Management Distinction High Honors in Finance and International Business, with a minor in East Asian Studies, from Washington University in St. Louis. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

 

Genevra Walters, Superintendent, Kankakee School District 111

Dr. Genevra Walters’ vision is to “develop an educational system that creates opportunities for all children to be valued, contributing citizens in a fast-changing global society.” She is committed to the growth and development of lifelong learners. Dr. Walters attended the University of Illinois at Chicago for both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work. She completed an educational doctorate at Illinois State University. Dr. Walters’ emphasis during her doctoral program was teacher education and research.

Dr. Walters began her professional career as a school social worker in Kankakee School District 111. She was employed in Kankakee School District 111 as an assistant principal at Kankakee High School and principal at Mark Twain Elementary School. In 2001, Dr. Walters began working at SPEED SEJA District 802 as the human resources coordinator. She moved to the position of superintendent at SPEED in January 2007.

Dr. Walters has had opportunities to present at numerous local, state, national, and international conferences on numerous educational topics. During June 2004, she presented at the China-U.S. Conference on Educating Students with Special Needs in Beijing, China. Her topic was Building Collaborative Relationships with Families. The conference was a wonderful experience and increased her understanding of diversity, her compassion for people, and the desire to help promote and develop children regardless of their backgrounds and experiences.

Dr. Walters is the co-author of the book, “What Works for Special Education and At-Risk Learners: A Framework for General Education Teachers and Administrators.” The book provides a framework and initiatives that can be used to increase the quality of education for all students. The strategies in this book can be used in school environments regardless of abilities or disabilities.

Dr. Walters returned to Kankakee School District 111 as the new superintendent on May 30, 2014. She is honored to return home and serve the students, families, and community as the educational leader for the Kankakee community.