February 23, 2024

Introducing: 2024 Family Leaders

Welcome to our 6 new Family Leaders!

After a year marked by remarkable prenatal-to-three achievements and the launch of Governor Pritzker's Smart Start Illinois initiative, we are thrilled to expand our Family Leader program and welcome 6 new members to our team!

The aim of our Family Leader program is to prioritize the inclusion of individuals who have firsthand experience navigating the challenges faced by families with young children into the policy & advocacy space. In this applicant round, we also sought individuals who would contribute to a diverse Family Leader team, both in terms of lived experiences and geographic representation, mirroring the approach we took with our original cohort of Family Leaders. Additionally, we specifically looked for parents with children aged 0-3 years to bring a fresh perspective to our coalition.

Upon the selection of the new Family Leaders, we dived right in and immediately convened an in-person retreat to foster team cohesion and strategize our field, family and community engagement efforts for the year ahead. Our agenda includes:

  • Facilitating two focus groups—one for fathers and another for single mothers.
  • Organizing Legislative Forums in Moline, Palestine, and Evanston, aimed at garnering support from legislators for early childhood education initiatives and fostering champions for the cause.
  • Hosting perinatal policy-focused events in Aurora and East St. Louis.
  • Launching an Early Intervention campaign to raise public awareness and advocate for increased funding for early intervention services through grassroots efforts.

We were delighted to have nearly 30 applicants for the 6 open positions in this application round, and we encourage any applicants who were not selected to stay involved in our work by signing up for our mailing list, attending upcoming advocacy events such as Early Childhood Advocacy Day or hosting a Community Conversation in your area, and regularly checking our Action Center!

Our 2024 Family Leaders

  • Sharniaka Ambrose (Chicago), Cross Systems Work Group
  • Chanelle Brown (Evanston), Perinatal Support Work Group
  • Lety Campos (Aurora), Home Visiting Work Group
  • Mykela Collins (Chicago), Home Visiting Work Group
  • Kesha Harris (Springfield), Early Intervention Work Group
  • Stephanie Jimenez (Mundelein), Economic Security Work Group
  • Marisol Luna (Aurora), Cross Systems Work Group
  • Wendy Jo Mamola (Rolling Meadows), Economic Security 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
  • Keith Thompson (Rolling Meadows), Economic Security Work Group
2024 Family Leader Retreat 600x600

Role of Family Leaders

Our 15 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

“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, Raising Illinois Family Leader

Are you ready? Learn how you can get involved.