Our United Way network is full of motivated, resilient women who care deeply about their neighbors and the future of the Chicago region. Some lead fundraising campaigns in their office to support our work, while others rally their neighbors to advocate for change. They have different experiences and backgrounds, but they all share one thing in common: a passion for building stronger neighborhoods.
Get to know a few of these amazing women and read their advice for other women and girls!
Estela Diaz | Brighton Park Advocate
Originally from Mexico, Estela Diaz moved to Chicago 22 years ago. She is a proud resident of Brighton Park and health advocate with Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, a United Way community partner. Estela is passionate about mental health and healthcare access, especially for communities of color. She shares resources and her personal testimony with people in her community, hoping to break down stigmas around mental health issues. Estela is motivated to make mental health resources accessible for all people, no matter their race, gender, class or sexuality. As a mother of 5, she hopes this work will help heal her past traumas and positively impact her children.
Her advice: “Learn everything and listen to people who make mistakes. Listen because it’s for your own good. I was learning a lot about myself and how damaged my mental health was. So I had to fix that first to be a better mother for my kids.”
Tamiya Aurel | United Way Vice President Human Resources, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
At United Way, Tamiya Aurel leads the organization’s HR strategic initiatives and ensures that equity informs our planning and decision-making processes. Before joining United Way, Tamiya began her career journey in social services, working with people living with mental illness. Social service and mission work has always been a passion of hers. Today, Tamiya strives to remain connected to her community by volunteering in her neighborhood and with school committees. As a Black woman, she also values having a strong network of other women to lean on.
Her advice: “No matter where I have worked, I have always prided myself on being able to take care of people by listening, advocating and treating everyone with respect,” Tamiya said. “Be authentic. Don’t change who you are to ‘fit’ what you think others need you to be. You are awesome, just the way you are.”
Noreen Gallagher | Managing Director at Baird
For the last four years, Noreen Gallagher, a United Way donor, has rallied her colleagues at Baird to invest in building stronger neighborhoods through their employee giving campaign. Her commitment helped make Baird a Top 25 corporate partner three years in a row! She’s committed to this work because “our society can only do better if everybody does better.” As she prepares to pass the torch to a new campaign leader, she reflected on one of her favorite memories of volunteering: a day sorting clothes for people preparing for job interviews at CARA, a United Way partner. “I was so humbled by that,” she said. “It was so wonderful to hear people share their stories. It brought a sense of community.”
Her advice: “Throughout the journey of your life, you try to figure out really what you want to do or how you want to do it — and sometimes you don’t know the answer. [But get involved], however it comes to you, whether it’s an opportunity to run a United Way campaign or be on a board of an organization or doing a clean up day. And encourage others to do it, too.”
Tiarra Owens | Program Manager At South Chicago Neighborhood Network
As a lifelong resident of South Chicago, Tiarra Owens grew up seeing the struggles of her community. She wanted more for her neighbors. Now, through her work at Claretian Associates, United Way’s lead partner in the South Chicago Neighborhood Network, Tiarra helps build her community up by leading programs and providing resources to those in need. As a single mother of two, Tiarra works hard to set a great example for her daughters and advise young people, including women of color, in her community.
Her advice: “Don’t stop. Keep going. Be resilient. It doesn’t matter where you start but where you finish.”
Jazeline Rodriguez | Brighton Park Neighborhood Council Community Organizer
Jazeline, a native Chicagoan from the Northwest side, is building up the city that raised her. Last fall, Jazeline joined United Way’s AmeriCorps program and began her year of service with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. Over the last few months, she has helped provide many services to her community, including helping students and adults with their resumes for jobs, college and fellowships.
Her advice: “My hope for the future of women is for them to be able to walk into a room and be themselves, without any man belittling their knowledge and potential. I would advise a young woman of color to always look in the mirror and say ‘I will be the one to lead the stigma of being a successful woman of color.’”