Who We Are

Who We Are

Chicago Votes Action Fund does volunteer-driven democracy and builds power for our generation. We’re not left or right, but forward. We think democracy’s great, and believe it works best when when all of us–including young people–make our voices heard!

    But there are some real challenges:

  1. Ballots can be confusing, and the long list of candidates and issues can be intimidating for first time voters (and anyone, really).
  2. The voter registration process isn’t easy for young people, who move frequently.
  3. Politics excludes a lot of people and can be divisive. It can seem boring, unattractive and disconnected. Political discussion is had on TV by mostly older, privileged people from lands far, far away.

 

    OUR SOLUTIONS

  1. We mobilize more people. We are mobilizing thousands of young people throughout Chicago to have Millennial-to-Millennial conversations, in their own communities, about the issues that affect them the most.
  2. We work on issues that YOUNG PEOPLE choose. Politics is about getting what you want from government — when young people don’t get to choose what they vote on, something’s wrong. We put in work on issues that young people are excited about, and we win.
  3. We develop more leaders — on everything from how to organize other young people on the ground, to the importance of voting, and how issues and candidates affect our lives.
  4. We have more fun. Who said politics has to be so serious, dry and dark all the time? No one. Ever. We throw huge events that are as fun as they are informative. We bring together young people across race, ethnic and community lines. The more the merrier, we say.

WE KNOW YOU GET IT
Our generation cares about community and the way our government works, but it can be a real challenge to see how voting impacts both the issues we care about and our lives. We’re working hard to bridge the gaps between issues Millennials care about and the choices on our ballots. Chicago Votes creates opportunities to impact problematic policies directly through organizing our communities.

WE GET IT, TOO!
We believe our generation can build a greater, more inclusive city (but seriously — who else is going to do it?). We believe politics needs to be more accessible, more equitable, and more innovative. We’re pulling together young Chicagoans across the city to turn things around. And we’re having a ton of fun doing it.

 

Our Fellows

 

Antonio Bacon

Antonio is a Chicagoan born and raised on the South Side and lives in Englewood. For several months, Antonio has served as an events coordinator for Chicago Votes, putting together a number of unforgettable parties, forums and voter registration events. A political science student at Malcolm X College, Antonio enjoys intellectual debates with anyone who holds an opinion. When he isn’t studying or debating, he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.

Aleria Butler

Aleria has served 3 terms in AmeriCorps as a Summer VISTA with Illinois Campus Compact; a VISTA with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc Auburn Gresham as an outreach coordinator; and a Public Ally with Chicago Public Schools Early College Initiatives. She is a ISBE and NCLB approved paraprofessional and attended Chicago State University majoring in Elementary Education. Aleria plans to return to CSU (go Cougars!) in Spring 2015 to continue her undergraduate degree. A resident of Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, Aleria has a vision to revitalize both the Auburn Gresham and the Englewood/West Englewood communities. A future run for alderman is already in the plans!

Cindy Esparaza

Cindy is a product of the Little Village and Clearing communities of Chicago, currently studying Politics, Economics, and Anthropology at Middlebury College. Cindy is passionate about education, wellness and nutrition, and immigration reform. On campus, Cindy is on the board of multiple cultural organizations and serves the college as a tour guide. When Cindy is not facilitating a critical discussion or making event posters, she is cycling, running, or at Zumba class.

Iman Kort

Iman Kort, a Chicago native, is currently studying Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies at DePaul University. She is committed to a path of social change, one that involves organizing community members around issues most relevant to them. Iman’s passion lies in being an activist and fighting injustice in its many forms. When Iman has time to herself, she enjoys taking long walks, reading thought-provoking texts, and spending quality time with friends.

Connie Luo

Connie is a young human being with work experience revolving around immigration reform, youth organizing and mental health. Their scholarly interests include diaspora, multilingualism and interfaith activism. Their hobbies include biking, codeswitching, poetry and frugality. She is a fierce 2nd generation Chinese American and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Applied Psychology, Spanish, and Asian American Studies.

Morgan Malone

Morgan Malone, originally from Stafford, VA, is a rising senior at Old Dominion University double-degreeing in Public Health and Women’s Studies. She has always been involved on her campus, serving as Vice President of Community Service for her sorority Kappa Delta, Chair of the Future Alumni Council, President of the Public Health Organization, and in addition to positions (yep, she’s kind of an overachiever). A firm believer in altruistic service to others, Morgan has traveled to Honduras and Guatemala for extended mission trips focused on poverty and healthcare. This past fall, she gained earned some organizing stripes as an intern for the Terry McAuliffe campaign for Virginia Governor. Morgan is interested in urban development, reducing the achievement gap, fighting for a living wage, and affordable housing–oh, and don’t forget hiking, biking, and curling up with a good book and a great cup of coffee.

Holly McDonald

Holly recently graduated from Earlham College majoring in politics–but she hails all the way from Sydney, Australia. Holly moved to the U.S by herself when she was just 16 to attend United World College, a 2 year international boarding school, and made friends with people from around the world–that way, she always has a couch to sleep on when she travels. She is passionate about volunteering and human rights, and most of the time people don’t understand her because of her Aussie accent. She loves keeping busy and being involved with her local community–she was co-president of her college’s student government and a RA at the same time, a crazy/cool experience in her life!

Darshell Nixon

Native South Sider Darshell Nixon has been obsessed with politics, urban planning, and community health ever since she was a freshman in high school. But just as importantly, Darshell loves dancing, singing, watching Scandal (because, who doesn’t?), and just generally being a social butterfly.

Emily Rice

Emily is a recent and very proud graduate of Michigan State University where she studied Political Theory, Spanish, and Chinese. Passionate about education and foreign affairs, she worked with international students, young language-learners, and refugees while at school, and hopes to do more in the future. She loves the Blackhawks, everyone’s favorite diva Beyonce, and binge watching TV shows.

Alex Rodriguez

Born and raised on Chicago’s Northwest side near Logan Square, Alex is about to enter his final year at DePaul this fall as a Political Science major. He has already worked a couple of political campaigns, including a state senate race and a state rep race. Alex has big dreams–his main goal is to be able to run for political office in Chicago. In his free time, Alex plays on a softball team and attends a vast amount of Cubs games. He is a huge believer in small business entrepreneurship and growth–probably stemming from his own experience with working in small businesses.

Elena Sakopoulos

Elena is a senior at the University of Chicago studying political science, international relations, and human rights. Originally from California, she has become increasingly interested in the politics of our lovely Midwestern city over the last few years. This past winter, she worked as an organizer with Chicago Votes and interned in Democracy for America’s endorsements department. When not volunteering for her community and fighting for progressive issues, Elena can be found cooking, playing guitar, or in the library. Usually in the library.

Ashton Shelton

Ashton is a senior at Hope College in Holland, Michigan studying Political Science with a composite in Black Women’s politics. As a project assistant in the Office of Multicultural Education, she has facilitated multiple intergroup dialogues, organized student conferences, and helped launch a fellowship for students. She has assisted in managing multicultural student organizations, and improving diversity and inclusion on campus..

Anali Vargas

Anali Vargas is a first generation college graduate and proud Latina from Chicago’s East Side neighborhood. A devotee of the grassroots model, she has lobbied at both the state and national level for comprehensive sexual health education and is also passionate about other social justice issues. Anali has lived in southern Spain and has studied at the border of the U.S. and Mexico during her time at Lake Forest College. While at LFC, Anali was involved with the Office of Intercultural Relations as a student coordinator for a pre-orientation program which aimed to assist students from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds with adjusting to the academic and social environments at the college. Her hobbies include spending time with her sisters of Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Inc., singing karaoke, and collecting inspirational quotes.

 
 

Our Staff

 

Christian Diaz

Executive Director

Christian grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago in a Spanish-speaking home. He is a youth organizer with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, where he politicizes high school students to lobby for better schools. Christian graduated with a B.A. in Global Studies at Warren Wilson College in 2012. His first organizing campaign led him to recruit 300 volunteers to register more than 1200 Latino voters in Logan Square through the New Americans Democracy Project with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In his spare time, Christian writes creative non-fiction, calls out racism, looks super cute and whips his phantom-ponytail to filthy dance tracks. In 2013 Christian was elected “cutest pouty face of Logan Square” for the third consecutive year.

 

Jen Dean

Director of Operations

Jen is the Operations Director at Chicago Votes, a non profit devoted to organizing and developing young leaders who focus on expanding voting rights and accessibility. Her primary job at Chicago Votes is to get youth both excited and involved in politics. Jen’s passion for human rights and systemic social change began where she grew up in Utica NY, which is home to one of the largest refugee resettlement communities in the US. At 18, she moved to Tampa where she obtained a BA in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s in Sociology. She began organizing right away focusing on issues relevant to youth. During this time she became a founding member of STAND, an organization that aims to prevent genocide by getting students to organize, advocate, and educate folks on how to reach and hold elected officials accountable for legislative action. She is also a co-founder of Baby University in Tampa which is a program modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone. During graduate school she moved to Chicago to study the growing violence epidemic, which resulted in a published book on activism; which highlighted the value of social capital and collective efficacy in violence prevention efforts. After falling in love with Chicago she has since been a resident of the South Side and continues to mentor young people. When she is not organizing or keeping the office together, she is practicing yoga, chilling at “The Point”, cooking up something special or giving her dog Marley (named after Bob Marley) some lovin.

 

Rudy Garrett

Program Director

A Hoosier native, Rudy graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in political science and international studies. She moved to Chicago in August of 2013 to attend culinary school, but found her inner activist instead. She completed the Chicago Votes Winter internship program in late winter/ early spring of 2014. After working at a law firm in the loop, she took a job as a Chicago Votes Field Organizer during the summer/ fall voter registration project and has been working with the organization ever since. Rudy is excited to show young Chicagoans that they can make a difference in their city and encourage the millennial generation to take an active role in the political system.

 

Breanna Champion

Organizing Director

Breanna is a Chicago native who grew up on the south side of Chicago. After attending a year of school at the University of Missouri,Breanna moved back to Chicago in the summer of 2012 where she energetically began volunteering and attending rallies amid the historic mass Chicago public school closures. While a student at University of Illinois at Chicago, Breanna joined the IIRON Student network as a student organizer and the Black Youth Project 100. Hitting the ground running in the summer of 2014 as a newly trained organizer,Breanna registered over 1,000 young people to vote during that summer with Chicago Votes as an organizer, joined the We Charge Genocide youth delegation to present a report on police torture in Chicago at the United Nations that fall in November, and managed a victorious aldermanic campaign the following April of 2015. Breanna is now the organizing co-chair of the BYP 100 Chicago Chapter and Chicago Vote’s new Field Director. She looks forward to winning campaigns that lead to the structural liberation. She does not want to be apart of your revolution if she can’t dance.

 

Derek Elliot Bagley

Development Director

Derek Elliott Bagley is a lifelong Chicagoan who’s family has lived in and around the Chicagoland area for over 100 years. Due to his strong ties to the city, Derek has devoted his intellectual and professional career to bettering the civic process in his home town. He holds a BA in Government from Skidmore College in upstate New York, and is currently a candidate for his MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University. On top of his academic pursuits, Derek is a seasoned veteran of the local non-profit, government, and political worlds, and has been spreading his message of fairer, balanced, and more effective civic action for the last 7 years. Recently, Derek was a Lead Field Organizer at Chicago Votes. Over his 4 month employment at the organization, his team registered 15,000 voters in Chicagoland – 1,100 of which Derek registered personally. He is thrilled to be serving in this new role as a member of Chicago Votes’ Board of Directors, because it allows him to continue his lifelong work of creating a more diverse, robust, and youthful voice in the city’s democratic process. Derek lives in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood with his partner Hayley Allison Barber, and dedicates much of his personal time to furthering artistic and creative pursuits throughout the Midwest.

 

Board of Directors

Chicago Votes Action Funds

 

Alex Sims

Alexandra believes that your birthplace and economic status should not disproportionately determine your life’s journey. Empowering Chicago’s communities can be the “great leveler” and she is impatient with the widespread acceptance of one’s social status at birth determining one’s success in life. The belief in the power of democracy and the commitment to advocating for the marginalized and undeserved has led Alexandra to create a way where none previously existed. While in at Northwestern University Alexandra was a co-founder of Promote 360 and the President of the Coalition of Colors. After graduating she moved to St. Louis MO to participate in the CORO fellowship program. Interested in where she could have the greatest impact on education Alexandra stayed in St. Louis to work as a Vice Principle for new school called, Jamaa Learning Center. It was then she realized that she could make a larger impact by influencing educational policy. She then took a role as the Regional Field Director for Obama for America and worked for President Obama for the next 3 years, bringing her back to Chicago.

 
 
 
 

Brian E. Sleet

Brian was born and raised in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood and is committed to his community and public service. In the tradition of President Obama’s often cited “Joshua Generation,” Sleet believes that those who gained opportunity from the civil rights struggle should repay society through public service. A lifelong resident of the 6th Ward, Sleet is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois, College of Law. He currently serves as the Chief of Staff to the Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer or the 6th Ward. Balancing the issues of community development, economic growth and city governance Brian is guided by the idea that working in the best interests of the people leads to the best government. Prior to that, he worked as Deputy District Administrator for the Second Congressional District of Illinois. Before going into the public sector, Sleet worked as a litigator in his own law firm, specializing in criminal defense and family law.

 
 
 
 

Joanna Klonsky

Joanna is a media and public relations consultant. With a background in public relations and political journalism, Joanna brings strategic insight into forging successful media and messaging campaigns. A Chicago native, Joanna has served as Communications Director on several high-profile political campaigns, both on a municipal and federal level. She was a senior writer and account executive at MK Communications. Joanna’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Newsweek, among other outlets.

 
 
 
 

Matt Blizek

Matt managed his first campaign at the age of 19 while a student at the University of Iowa and has never stopped organizing. At 32, he is a nationally known progressive organizer with experience in field, fundraising, training and online organizing for numerous campaigns and organizations including the DNC, MoveOn.org, Russ Feingold, Jon Tester, Annette Taddeo, No on 1 Protect Maine Equality, Ilya Sheyman for Congress, Rebuild the Dream and Credo SuperPAC. From 2007 through 2011 he worked at Democracy for America, as the national training director & field director, organizing 87 trainings in 37 states and mobilizing DFA’s million-plus members to elect progressives at all levels of office. Matt is proudly serving his second term as a Board Member at Democratic GAIN, the premier organization for connecting talented people to campaigns and organizations in need of staff. He currently lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago and works as a Grassroots Campaign Director at MoveOn.org.

 
 
 
 

Erika Wozniak

Erika Wozniak has been a Chicago Public School teacher since her graduation from DePaul University in 2004. She received her Masters in Science Education from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She sits on the State Educator and Preparation Licensure Board for the Illinois State Board of Education. She has been a fierce advocate for fair funding and education equality for all students in Chicago and a dedicated public servant for the past twelve years. Wozniak first began her work in the political arena in college and in recent years has been focused on local campaigns. She is a firm believer in quality public education for public good. Wozniak currently resides in Uptown with her husband, Brian.

 
 
 
 

Alex Han

Alex is a union organizer based in Chicago. He got his start in community organizing with New York ACORN in Brooklyn, New York, and since 2001 has helped tens of thousands of workers win a voice on the job with SEIU, both in Illinois and across the country. He is currently Director of Strategic Campaigns and Partnerships for SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana – the largest local union in the Midwest, representing over 90,000 healthcare and child care workers – where he works with allied unions and community organizations to build a stronger movement for social and economic justice.

 
 
 
 

Ryan Garza

A native Chicagoan, Ryan was born and raised on the far Southeast side of the city. After high school, he attended University of Wisconsin Madison where he majored in Political Science. He currently works for Google on their Gtech Ads team. Previously, Ryan was as a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher in Chicago Public Schools. Ryan has worked with various community organizations around education, labor rights and youth engagement.

 
 
 
 

Former Board Members

(No longer serving on our board, but still super duper important)

 
 

Charlene Carruthers

Charlene is a Chicago based writer, political organizer and foodie. She has worked extensively to promote social justice and build political leadership on local and national levels.Charlene’s passion for developing young leaders to build capacity and leadership has led her to work with youth and women of color across the country. She has served as a trainer with the Center for Progressive Leadership, Young People For and Wellstone Action. Charlene holds expertise in Black and youth political participation, civic engagement and digital engagement strategies. Charlene is a Co-Chair of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and serves as the Director of Online Engagement at National People’s Action. She has also worked for national progressive organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center and ColorOfChange.org. Charlene earned a B.A. in History & International Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.

 
 
 

Lawrence Anton Seals Jr.

Anton has worked in a myriad of organizations advocating for better education, food, housing access and equity issues and previously worked in the office of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), where he was responsible for the oversight and development of programming and policy in the 1st Congressional District. A graduate of the film department at Columbia College and the School for New Learning at DePaul University, Anton studied social enterprises and public policy models that impact maligned communities of color. Anton is Project Coordinator for Eat2Live, which is developing an urban garden and farm in Englewood, helping neighbors of all ages, learn, grow and lead healthier lifestyles. Anton also is part of the creative team that is producing the trans-media project InterruptViolence.com, using story, in particular new media, as a way to connect and give voice and resources to those impacted by violence. Anton is a founder of the Revival Arts Collective, a group of Chicago artists committed to using arts and culture as a catalyst for community redevelopment.

 
 
 

Harishi Patel

Harishi is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), studying Urban Planning and Policy. Harish is a co-founder of ishi | vests with benefits, a socially conscious, sustainable, naturally-dyeing clothing line. One of the most transformative experiences for him was leading and participating in community organizing and international advocacy work while traveling and living in India, Mexico, New Zealand and Uganda. Co-founding Project FOCUS, a youth-led initiative of artists, writers, activists and students committed to educate, inspire, and empower Ugandan and American youth through art and creative projects further influenced his passion for international engagement. He has worked as Program Coordinator at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, as a Coalition-Organizer on Chicago’s Southwest side, taught a class on ‘Youth Engagement in a Globalized World’ and coordinated the social justice initiative at UIC. He has been a fellow of Green For All, New Leaders Council and most recently, Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education.

 
 
 

Cathy Cohen

Prof. Cohen, Deputy Provost for Graduate Education at the University of Chicago, specializes in American politics. Her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements. She is the author of the book The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University Of Chicago Press, 1999), the co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (New York University Press, 1997) and Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press, 2010). Cohen also is editor with Frederick Harris of a new book series from Oxford Press entitled Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities. She is principal investigator for The Black Youth Project.

 
 
 

Luis Klein

Born and raised in Chicago, Luis Klein has been working as a campaign staffer and consultant for progressive candidates and organizations for almost a decade. Having grown up in a union household and the son of Chilean exiles, progressive politics and a commitment to action has always been present. He last worked for Yes for Independent Maps, a campaign aimed at bringing redistricting reform to Illinois state government where he served as Finance Director. He previously worked for Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, State Sen. Daniel Biss, Toni Preckwinkle, and Comm. Larry Suffredin, as well as many others. He attended Loyola University Chicago, studying Political Science and Philosophy.

 
 
 

TJ Crawford

TJ is a Hip Hop Generation community advocate and social entrepreneur who specializes in civic engagement, youth development and media literacy. A South Side Chicago native, TJ has more than two decades of experience working on campaigns aimed at engaging young people and underrepresented communities. TJ has played a leadership role in political and community development organizations including the Georgia Alliance for Children, Rolling Out Urbanstyle Weekly, the National Hip Hop Political Convention (chair), Africa International House, WVON radio, and Positive Influence Social Marketing Group.

 
 
 

Jason Horwitz

Jason is a public policy consultant and political organizer living in Chicago, Illinois. As a consultant at Anderson Economic Group since 2010, he has provided research, analysis, and advice on state and local policy regarding tax reform, public pensions, economic development, energy, health care, criminal justice, and education. Jason cut his teeth in local Chicago politics at 1st Ward First, a community-based political organization that serves the neighborhoods of Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square. He currently serves as an area captain and a member of the board at 1st Ward First, spearheading an initiative to increase their membership and leading their endorsement committee. Jason earned a B.A. with honors in Physics and Philosophy from Swarthmore College and a Master in Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

 
 
 

Karla Estela Rivera

As a skilled filmmaker, writer, performer and activist, Karla has always used her storytelling talents with a mind for community. As early as 1996, Karla was featured in The Nation magazine as “the paper’s most prolific North Side writers” for her work with New Expression newspaper. As a teaching artist, she has worked with over 2,500 youth ages 8-21 in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York City and Chicago, focusing on high-need and urban communities of color. Karla now works at Instituto del Progreso Latino, formerly as an Administrative Coordinator for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative’s Youth Mentoring Plus Jobs program and currently as Development & Communications Manager. Karla continues to write, work with local arts organizations in various capacities and is producing her first feature film. Karla is a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago’s Department of Film & Video with graduate studies at New York University.

 
 
 

Ilya Sheyman

Ilya is the Executive Director at MoveOn.org Political Action. At 25, Ilya became one of the youngest candidates for U.S. Congress in the nation, running in the Democratic Primary in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District where he garnered nearly 40 percent of the vote in a four way race—earning national attention. Prior to his campaign, Ilya served as the National Mobilization Director at MoveOn.org, where he mobilized the organization’s 5 million members for health care reform. A community organizer at heart, Ilya has worked extensively with local organizations working to improve their communities. He coordinates and leads Job Training Workshops for individuals exiting the criminal justice system in Lake County. Ilya got his start working as an organizer for the education advocacy group A+ Illinois, building coalitions to improve the quality and funding of public schools in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

 
 
 

Eric Zoberman

As Rock the Vote’s Field Director during the 2010 election cycle, Eric oversaw the nationally-known organization’s voter registration and nationwide Get Out The Vote efforts, which yielded more than 16,000 new voter registrations on college campuses alone. The Chicago-area native was an early member of Senator Obama’s field staff. After President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Eric served as Project Director for the White House’s United We Serve national service initiative, where he led the team responsible for developing and implementing the President’s community service agenda on a grassroots level. Most recently, Eric joined the President Obama’s re-election campaign and helped design its Youth Vote strategy.

 
 
 

Carlos Claudio

Carlos was born and raised on Chicago’s Northwest side, in the Bucktown, Hermosa neighborhoods. Carlos was elected president of DePaul’s Alliance for Latin American Enrichment, a student organization that highlighted the importance of diversity in higher education and worked to provide assistance to underserved communities at Depaul. He was also instrumental in the formation of DePaul’s Latino Cultural Center. Carlos received Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Hispanic Leadership Award in 2009 for his role as an active leader in his community. Carlos is also a member of the Local School Council for Drummond Montessori, where his daughter is a second grader, and is a member of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Carlos lives in Logan Square with his wife Marina and their 7-year-old daughter Isabella.

 
 
 
 
 

Our Advisory Board

These folks rock. They are the braintrust, advisors and best besties an organization could ever hope for.

Amisha Patel Grassroots Collaborative
Bakari Kitwana Journalist and Political Analyst
Biko Baker The League of Young Voters
Billy Wimsatt All Hands On Deck
Brian Miller General Counsel to Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin
Brian Gladstein Common Cause Illinois
Brian Brady Mikva Challenge
Brittney Gault Black Excellence
Dan Johnson Weinberger Progressive Public Affairs
Diane Latiker Kids off the Block
Dwight Mckee Southside Community Advisor
FM Supreme International Youth Peace Movement
Henry English Black United Fund of Illinois
JR Fleming Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign
Keith Lewis Southside Community Advisor
Kevin Coval Young Chicago Authors
Kevin OConnor Illinois Public Interest Research Groups
Lauren Pacheco Chicago Urban Art Society
Matt Singer The Bus Civic Federation
Riana Lynn Peeled Chicago
Ryan Blitstein Change! Illinois
Scott Kan Stuckle Center for Economic Progress
Shakti Hawkins Argo Strategies
Viviana Martinez General Counsel to Jesus Garcia
Will Guzzardi University of Chicago Admissions
Yasser Tabbara Project Mobilize
Anton Seals Illinois Network of Charter Schools

 
 
 

Our Alums

2015 Democracy Corps Fellows!

2014 Democracy Corps Fellows and Interns!

 

Antonio Bacon

Antonio is a Chicagoan born and raised on the South Side and lives in Englewood. For several months, Antonio has served as an events coordinator for Chicago Votes, putting together a number of unforgettable parties, forums and voter registration events. A political science student at Malcolm X College, Antonio enjoys intellectual debates with anyone who holds an opinion. When he isn’t studying or debating, he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.

Aleria Butler

Aleria has served 3 terms in AmeriCorps as a Summer VISTA with Illinois Campus Compact; a VISTA with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc Auburn Gresham as an outreach coordinator; and a Public Ally with Chicago Public Schools Early College Initiatives. She is a ISBE and NCLB approved paraprofessional and attended Chicago State University majoring in Elementary Education. Aleria plans to return to CSU (go Cougars!) in Spring 2015 to continue her undergraduate degree. A resident of Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, Aleria has a vision to revitalize both the Auburn Gresham and the Englewood/West Englewood communities. A future run for alderman is already in the plans!

Cindy Esparaza

Cindy is a product of the Little Village and Clearing communities of Chicago, currently studying Politics, Economics, and Anthropology at Middlebury College. Cindy is passionate about education, wellness and nutrition, and immigration reform. On campus, Cindy is on the board of multiple cultural organizations and serves the college as a tour guide. When Cindy is not facilitating a critical discussion or making event posters, she is cycling, running, or at Zumba class.

Iman Kort

Iman Kort, a Chicago native, is currently studying Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies at DePaul University. She is committed to a path of social change, one that involves organizing community members around issues most relevant to them. Iman’s passion lies in being an activist and fighting injustice in its many forms. When Iman has time to herself, she enjoys taking long walks, reading thought-provoking texts, and spending quality time with friends.

Connie Luo

Connie is a young human being with work experience revolving around immigration reform, youth organizing and mental health. Their scholarly interests include diaspora, multilingualism and interfaith activism. Their hobbies include biking, codeswitching, poetry and frugality. She is a fierce 2nd generation Chinese American and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Applied Psychology, Spanish, and Asian American Studies.

Morgan Malone

Morgan Malone, originally from Stafford, VA, is a rising senior at Old Dominion University double-degreeing in Public Health and Women’s Studies. She has always been involved on her campus, serving as Vice President of Community Service for her sorority Kappa Delta, Chair of the Future Alumni Council, President of the Public Health Organization, and in addition to positions (yep, she’s kind of an overachiever). A firm believer in altruistic service to others, Morgan has traveled to Honduras and Guatemala for extended mission trips focused on poverty and healthcare. This past fall, she gained earned some organizing stripes as an intern for the Terry McAuliffe campaign for Virginia Governor. Morgan is interested in urban development, reducing the achievement gap, fighting for a living wage, and affordable housing–oh, and don’t forget hiking, biking, and curling up with a good book and a great cup of coffee.

Holly McDonald

Holly recently graduated from Earlham College majoring in politics–but she hails all the way from Sydney, Australia. Holly moved to the U.S by herself when she was just 16 to attend United World College, a 2 year international boarding school, and made friends with people from around the world–that way, she always has a couch to sleep on when she travels. She is passionate about volunteering and human rights, and most of the time people don’t understand her because of her Aussie accent. She loves keeping busy and being involved with her local community–she was co-president of her college’s student government and a RA at the same time, a crazy/cool experience in her life!

Darshell Nixon

Native South Sider Darshell Nixon has been obsessed with politics, urban planning, and community health ever since she was a freshman in high school. But just as importantly, Darshell loves dancing, singing, watching Scandal (because, who doesn’t?), and just generally being a social butterfly.

Emily Rice

Emily is a recent and very proud graduate of Michigan State University where she studied Political Theory, Spanish, and Chinese. Passionate about education and foreign affairs, she worked with international students, young language-learners, and refugees while at school, and hopes to do more in the future. She loves the Blackhawks, everyone’s favorite diva Beyonce, and binge watching TV shows.

Alex Rodriguez

Born and raised on Chicago’s Northwest side near Logan Square, Alex is about to enter his final year at DePaul this fall as a Political Science major. He has already worked a couple of political campaigns, including a state senate race and a state rep race. Alex has big dreams–his main goal is to be able to run for political office in Chicago. In his free time, Alex plays on a softball team and attends a vast amount of Cubs games. He is a huge believer in small business entrepreneurship and growth–probably stemming from his own experience with working in small businesses.

Elena Sakopoulos

Elena is a senior at the University of Chicago studying political science, international relations, and human rights. Originally from California, she has become increasingly interested in the politics of our lovely Midwestern city over the last few years. This past winter, she worked as an organizer with Chicago Votes and interned in Democracy for America’s endorsements department. When not volunteering for her community and fighting for progressive issues, Elena can be found cooking, playing guitar, or in the library. Usually in the library.

Ashton Shelton

Ashton is a senior at Hope College in Holland, Michigan studying Political Science with a composite in Black Women’s politics. As a project assistant in the Office of Multicultural Education, she has facilitated multiple intergroup dialogues, organized student conferences, and helped launch a fellowship for students. She has assisted in managing multicultural student organizations, and improving diversity and inclusion on campus.

Anali Vargas

Anali Vargas is a first generation college graduate and proud Latina from Chicago’s East Side neighborhood. A devotee of the grassroots model, she has lobbied at both the state and national level for comprehensive sexual health education and is also passionate about other social justice issues. Anali has lived in southern Spain and has studied at the border of the U.S. and Mexico during her time at Lake Forest College. While at LFC, Anali was involved with the Office of Intercultural Relations as a student coordinator for a pre-orientation program which aimed to assist students from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds with adjusting to the academic and social environments at the college. Her hobbies include spending time with her sisters of Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Inc., singing karaoke, and collecting inspirational quotes.

 
 

Perry Green, III

Previous Director of Leadership Development (aka CEO of Parties)

Perry is the son of two Sci-Fi geeks, with whom he watched lots of Star Trek and Star Wars growing up. Nicknamed Dictionary Perry by his grammar school classmates, Perry is an avid reader and a lover of random facts and knowledge. Perry is a seasoned community organizer, most recently serving as the Director of Communications and Special Projects at Brothers United Inc. a community-based organization in Indianapolis, Indiana. Perry has worked in the educational, governmental and political arenas across the United States, but he grew up on the South Side and considers Chicago to be the world’s greatest city! When he’s is not working too deeply change the world, Perry can be found traveling, eating and cooking, rooftop lounges, and enjoying Chicago White Sox Baseball.

 
 

Ruelyn Garrett

A Hoosier native, Ruelyn graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in political science and international studies. She moved to Chicago last August to attend culinary school, but found her inner activist and began working at a law firm in the Loop. She is excited to learn all that she can about grassroots organizing and showing young Chicagoans that they can make a difference in their city!

 
 

Travon George

Travon was born and raised in Chicago and became a Chicago Freedom Fellow during his junior year at Urban Prep Academy. He attended Denison University for a few semesters before coming back to Chicago to attend Kennedy King College. Next year, he’s heading off to Philadelphia to finish a degree in sociology at Eastern University! Last summer, Travon worked as an organizer with the Youth Service Project, where he developed his leadership skills and his understanding of urban sociology.

 
 

Amanda Lopez-Martinez

Amanda is a first-year student at DePaul studying political science. She is very excited to be working with Chicago Votes and getting involved in organizing in the great city of Chicago! She hopes to learn many skills that will be helpful when she achieve her ultimate goal, being a super-awesome campaign manager. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, crocheting, and binge watching Scandal.

 
 

Leah Menzer

Leah was once told by her high school AP Government teacher, “I think you’re the only one reading the textbook…and liking it.” She attended American University in D.C., then interned at Progressive Majority, wrote grants and puns for 826DC, became a political shark as a Summer Fellow at the Washington Bus, and gave tours of a historic Masonic crypt for a while. She moved to Chicago on a dare in 2012, and is currently working to start a community newspaper in Bridgeport (The Bridgeport International), and waiting for the FCC to process her application for a low-powered FM radio station.

 
 

Elena Sakopoulos

Elena is a third-year student at the University of Chicago studying political science, international relations, and human rights. Originally from California, she has become increasingly interested in the politics of our lovely Midwestern city over the last few years. When not volunteering for her community and fighting for progressive issues, Elena can be found cooking, playing guitar, or in the library. Usually in the library.

 
 

Willow Thompson

Willow is a recent graduate of Oberlin College who moved to Chicago to continue adventuring in the Midwest after being born and raised on the East Coast. She studied politics and law & society in college and currently works at a law firm in the Loop. Willow is excited to excite young Chicagoans about local politics while learning more about Chicago politics herself. She dreams of one day establishing an urban alpaca farm, and her favorite color is green.

 
 

Khadeeja Glass

Khadeeja was born and raised in the Garfield Park Community, living on the same street for all of her life! She graduated from North Grand High School, and hopes to become a professional songwriter. Khadeeja is proud of her creative and analytical writing, and enjoys experimenting with cooking– she’s getting super good at it! She also likes singing, and is eventually gonna gain the nerve to do karaoke!

 
 
 

Our 2013 Fall Interns

 

Antonio Bacon

Antonio is a Chicagoan born and raised on the South Side and a graduate of Rickover Naval Academy. Formerly, he was commanding officer of the Fox Trot Company where he supervised and led students in efforts to support their academic performance. He has also organized at Louder Than A Bomb, a city-wide exposition of student talent that includes art performances, slam poetry and short films/documentaries. He is a student at Malcolm X college majoring in political science. Antonio has always enjoyed intellectual debates with anyone who held an opinion. When he isn’t studying or debating he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes. His signature dish is chicken parmesan.

 
 

Eiman Hamad

Raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Eiman is a student at DePaul majoring in Political Science and Economics. She serves as a board member for the Students for Justice in Palestine, worked as a social media editor for the UMMA Ink Newsletter, and has worked on local campaigns with organizations such as Project Mobilize. and Having spent three years as a summer camp counselor, Eiman loves working with kids and hopes to continue working with younger generations in the future to shape them into political leaders. Politics aren’t the only thing Eiman loves–she enjoys hanging out with friends and family.

 
 

Chahinda Mustapha

Chahinda was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She is a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she studies Urban Planning and Affairs. She has previously volunteered with Project Mobilize, CAIR-Chicago and ICCR[b] where she worked on Get Out the Vote and New American Vote campaigns. Chahinda, who is Lebanese by origin, speaks both English and Arabic and dabbles in French. She’s an avid food lover, would prefer to travel than study and has read Atonement more times than she would like to admit.

 
 

Isacc Velasquez

Isacc Velasquez is from Chicago’s Archer Heights community and is a former student at Curie Metro High School. He formally organized at the Southwest Side non-profit organization Enlace, registering voters in predominantly Latino communities. At Chicago Students Organized to Save Our Schools, he helped plan a campaign to protest school closings. His goals in life are not yet set in stone, but his values guide him. He believes strongly in equity, compassion and empowerment, and that the backbone of democracy is people working together. At Chicago Votes, he organizes events to register voters at haunted houses, high schools and places where young people hang out. When he is not bringing democracy to the masses, he tries to bring people love and peace by playing guitar.

 
 

2013 Democracy Corps Fellows

 


Cinthya Rodriguez from Chicago’s West Eldson community, found out just how great it is to remain in the Chi when she chose to study not-so-far-afield at Northwestern University. Cinthya has organized on campus and in her community around issues ranging from the living wage to the DREAM Act. When she isn’t stirring up trouble on campus (the good kind!) she can be found mentoring younger students who share her background or practicing with the ballet folkorico group on campus (she helped create that puppy!)

 
 


Chakena Sims hails from Scottsdale neighbrhood and studies Government and History at Connecticut College, where she is also a leader in several student organizations including SISTERS, the Black Student Union, and a bunch of other groups. While she is interested in providing positive rolemodels for the youngsters, Chakena also has a distinct interest in spending time watching Pretty Little Liars and Scandal. Fun fact: Chakena recently visited South Africa, which is kind of a big deal, if you didn’t know.

 
 


Christohper Huff joins us from South Shore and is a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. While studying at Oglethorpe University, he served as Class President and started a student organization that provided students from diverse backgrounds a platform to discuss sensitive social issues facing the nation. Chris is deeply involved in causes relating to the young people of Chicago, Illinois, and the country at large (the children are the future, guys!). Chris might seem like a pretty extraordinary fellow, but he’s just an all around great guy.

 
 


Evelyn Venegas is an Ecuadorian student currently studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Raised in Chicago, hailing from Albany Park, she is comfortable with all the beautiful diverse people she encounters. Having volunteered with Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights at workshops for immigrants, her passion for organizing ignited. She also enjoys competitive sports such as volleyball and soccer and will bring passion from the field into DemocracyCorps.

 
 


Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza was born in Zambia and raised on the south side of Chicago. He is a rising sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont where he is an English major with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in African American studies. He is a devout believer of social justice and youth mentoring. He has demonstrated his passion by founding an open mic club at his high school where youth combine art and culture into a solution for many of the problems that they face. In his spare time, Cheswayo enjoys heavy reading, writing poetry, listening to jazz, blues, and critical thinking as a hobby. He aims to one day become a professor of Africana Studies in hopes of enlightening more minds and saving them in the process.

 
 


Evelyn Vargas(center), originally from Chicago, has always been involved in non-profits- from tutoring at an after-school program, to writing grants for other community programs. She attends college in Grand Rapids, Michigan and keeps busy majoring in Political Science and International studies, and getting her minor in History. Politically active, Evelyn voted as soon as she was allowed to, and honestly believes in the power of a community’s voice. Although an expensive hobby, Traveling has become an important aspect of her life, doing service trips to Guatemala, Turkey, and Mexico. When she’s not traveling, she loves reading at the beach, or trying out new recipes.

 
 


Scott Corsey was born on the South Side of Chicago and currently attends DePaul University, studying both Political Science and Mathematics. He is a member of the service group, Circle K, and is also the Treasurer of his Mock Trial team. Scott is an avid proponent for political finance reform and public education reform. He has been on two week-long service trips to Saint Louis, MO and Tuba City, AZ where he developed most of the political ideologies he holds today. Scott plans on signing up for the Peace Corps after graduation and dreams to someday play a major role in a landmark governmental change.

 
 


Cheyenne Evans, originally from the South Side, is a rising sophomore at Denison University. She was involved in the Black Student Union, Freshman Foundation, and Sustained Dialogue on her campus. Her passion is to help others in her community become politically aware and involved. The recent Presidential Election was her first time voting and she was very excited to be allowed that opportunity. In her spare time she enjoys cheerleading, watching Horror Films, and reading classic novels.