AmeriCorps Volunteers: Chicago’s Unsung Community Champions

With three academic degrees, fluency in five languages and a slew of certificates under her belt, Gabriela Juárez Domínguez has the skills to succeed in several careers. However, the Rogers Park resident is dedicating a year of her life to improving the lives of others in the Chicago region, serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the United Way of Metro Chicago.

What’s a Neighborhood Network?

The team at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago had an idea. They already knew that the people best equipped and most dedicated to creating positive change in their communities were the members of the community themselves. They saw that in Chicago, nonprofit organizations and human service providers were already working to establish affordable and comprehensive health care, safety regulations and engaging educational programs for their residents. But these groups weren’t always working in sync, and were often severely underfunded.

Neighborhood Network Spotlight: Little Village

The childhood obesity rate in Little Village is a staggering 32 percent, almost double the national average. The roots of the problem are varied and compounded; poor eating habits, made worse by the high prices of healthy foods, coupled with a lack of safe outdoor spaces, set children up for a lifetime of health problems. With the help of United Way and their Neighborhood Network Initiative, Little Village is working to change the story.

Little Village Takes on Trauma

Through a training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the group of social service providers, government officials and community members discovered how to better understand the lifelong impact of childhood trauma and strategies they can use to respond to local youths’ experiences.

Inside Chicago’s Neighborhoods with Andrea Zopp

Neighborhoods like the ones we work in every day—Austin, Auburn Gresham, Bronzeville, Brighton Park, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, Robbins/Blue Island, South Chicago and West Chicago—have strong community-based organizations doing tremendous work. In addition, they have growing groups of engaged citizens that are committed to lasting change.