Introducing: 2022 Family Leaders

Welcome to our 12 Family Leaders! We are thrilled and grateful to have you on board. 

In order for Raising Illinois to lead a movement that will fundamentally improve the lives of young children, we recognize that, in fact, families with those young children must inform the movement. Specifically, families from communities left under-served throughout the state. If we want to create justice for families, we must have those most aware of injustice lead the fight.

To do this, we've kicked off our robust family engagement plan by welcoming 12 parents from diverse backgrounds across Illinois to be a part of our inaugural Family Leader Program!

Our 2022 Family Leaders

  • Teresa Banda (Aurora), Perinatal Supports Work Group
  • Mykela Collins (Chicago), Home Visiting Work Group
  • Lettie Hicks (East St Louis), Economic Security Work Group
  • Sharniaka Ambrose (Chicago), Cross Systems Work Group
  • Marisol Luna (Aurora), Cross Systems Work Group
  • Esmeralda Martinez (Chicago), Home Visiting Work Group
  • Silvia Martinez (Elgin), Child Care Work Group
  • Tiffany Peake (Chicago), Child Care Work Group
  • Susana Salgado (Chicago), Early Intervention Work Group
  • Raeyonda Sparks (Chicago), Early Intervention Work Group
  • Leann Swain (East St. Louis), Perinatal Supports Work Group
  • Tamika Whitley (Collinsville), Economic Security Work Group
600x600 Pregnant Mama & Little Girl

Role of Family Leaders

Our 12 parents will:

  • Develop their leadership skills
  • Learn about early childhood policies
  • Share their ideas and experiences about early childhood issues as one of two parent representatives to one of our policy work groups
  • Meet with a group of other parents to learn from and support each other

"If we want to create justice for families,
we must have those most aware of injustice lead the fight."

Jesse Rojo, Raising Illinois Member &
Family Leader Program Lead

“As official Family Leaders, we need to invite more parents to this coalition, welcoming them and listening to them so that they too can participate and make changes for all of our children.”

Susana Salgado, Family Leader

How We Got Here & What's Next

Program applications and interviews focused on past experiences that could best support their role, as well as discussion on what challenges applicants have faced within the early learning and care system.

Once our 12 Family Leaders were identified, we worked with each leader to identify the policy work group that they could most successfully contribute to and inform.

Next, we will train contributing members within our coalition on best practices of family engagement, and will train the Family Leaders themselves on how to best utilize their lived experiences. Together, this will prepare our Raising Illinois to empower our Family Leaders to help lead us as we advance our policy priorities and ultimately improve the lives of the youngest in our state.

Over the next few months, we will share more about each parent, so you can get to know them and hear why they are champions for quality early learning and care programs. Stay tuned!

Are you ready? Learn how you can get involved.