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Press Conference & Panel Discussion

On March 15, Chicago Commons held a Press Conference to announce a $2.2 million philanthropic commitment from JPMorgan Chase to advance workforce development and wealth building for women of color. The investment will fund a new strategic initiative to create workforce strategies helping low-income women and single mothers of color achieve financial stability and build wealth.

“A full 95% of Chicago Commons parents are living at or around the poverty line and are Black or Latina women who work hard to make ends meet and provide the best possible opportunities for their children,” said Edgar Ramirez, CEO of Chicago Commons. “By partnering with community organizations, with the support from JPMorgan Chase, we can create an ecosystem of family-supportive job training, education and employment opportunities for these women so they have a stronger foundation on which to succeed.”

JPMorgan Chase began the Annual Challenge competition, formerly known as the AdvancingCities Challenge, in 2018. This year’s competition called for projects focused on supporting women of color and received more than 200 applications, from which just eight winners were selected nationwide.

“Chicago Commons’ mission to provide trauma-informed career development and wealth-building programs for women of color can lead to impactful, sustainable and transformative change,” said Joanna Trotter, Executive Director & Senior Program Officer, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase. “Teaming with local organizations and leveraging Chicago Commons’ successful Family Hub program will help address the systemic barriers underrepresented groups face, and create new hiring, training and retention practices that lead to greater economic opportunity.”

Chicago Commons and partner organizations including Instituto del Progreso Latino, YWCA, and PODER, will provide an array of resources to help single mothers and women of color to overcome barriers through social support, mental health interventions and job training.

The Chicago Commons Workforce Development Collaborative will receive funding to provide an array of resources such as financial, employment and health coaching and workshops, as well as mental health interventions with career-focused support. In partnership with local organizations like PODER, Instituto del Progreso Latino and YWCA, Chicago Commons will work to overcome barriers and provide career pathways and employment opportunities for women of color.

“I commend Chicago Commons and JPMorgan Chase for their collaborative efforts to provide trauma-informed career development programs and wealth-building opportunities for women of color in our community,” said Sol Flores, Deputy Governor, State of Illinois. “This initiative aligns with our state’s commitment to creating equitable economic opportunities for all. By addressing systemic barriers faced by underrepresented groups and leveraging successful programs like the Family Hub, we can ensure that all women have access to the tools and resources they need to build successful careers and achieve financial stability.”

The project will build on Chicago Commons’ successful Family Hub program, which meets the critical needs of mothers with a uniquely holistic approach that pairs early childhood education with employment and post-secondary services for parents, along with financial coaching and health and wellness programming. The project has great potential for long-term sustainability by increasing knowledge and changing workforce development practices across participating agencies and employers. Convenings with employers will elevate best practices, successful strategies, and family-supportive policies.

Instituto del Progreso Latino will help support the onboarding and intake process for new healthcare-related cohorts in the program, bridging these women in the community into positions such as Basic Nursing Assistants, enabling them to earn a living wage and providing a foundation for future educational and wage growth while addressing Illinois’ shortage of bilingual healthcare professionals.

“Instituto is proud to represent parents who are extraordinary students fulfilling their dreams to work in healthcare. Our students have overcome significant barriers, with many being non-traditional students from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities. Most are parents who have placed their educational goals on hold to take care of their children,” said Karina Ayala-Bermejo, President and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino. “We are absolutely thrilled to be part of this collaborative to advance support for our parents within the workforce. We hope that our work and findings lead to new practices in onboarding, and job descriptions in different employment settings.”

PODER will train Latino/English as a second language (ESL) participants by providing comprehensive training on the financial and insurance services sectors. The programs will equip these individuals with the knowledge and skills required to pursue entry-level positions in these fields. Through a deep commitment to the needs of immigrant communities on Chicago’s Southwest Side, PODER provides critical societal and workforce integration services with both immediate and long-term impacts on families and communities.

“We at PODER are thrilled to partner with Chicago Commons to help provide trauma-informed career development and wealth-building programs in language, financial, and digital literacy for women of color,” said Daniel Loftus, Founder and CEO at PODER. “Collaborating with other organizations in our community to address the barriers that women face is critical, and we believe that this initiative will help create a supportive ecosystem that fosters growth and success.”

YWCA will support participants within the early learning home daycare program and will co-develop home childcare business strategies for immigrant families. YWCA has been operationalizing home daycare business strategies for over 10 years, with a keen understanding of licensing and tax implications, and has deep experience assisting community members with starting new businesses. YWCA seeks to support cross-sector collaboration to create an inclusive marketplace.

“At the YWCA of Chicago, we believe that every woman deserves access to the tools and resources she needs to build a successful career and achieve financial stability,” said Latecia Patton, Vice President of Economic Inclusion & Strategic Partnerships at YWCA. “That’s why we’re thrilled to partner with Chicago Commons and other local organizations to provide trauma-informed career development and wealth-building programs for women of color in our community. This initiative aligns perfectly with our mission to empower women and eliminate racism, and we’re excited to work together to create new opportunities for these underserved groups.”

As part of this initiative, Chicago Commons Workforce Development Collaborative will provide resources such as mental health interventions with career-focused content support. Participants’ mental health and stress metrics related to depression, anxiety, stress and family functioning will also be measured, along with the correlation between job readiness skill reports and mental health symptom change with the persistence and completion of job training or education programs.

“I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had in my career, from being a home care aide to working at a company that supported my role as a parent. However, I always knew deep down that I wanted to pursue a career in early childhood education. When I discovered the Chicago Commons Family Hub program, I was thrilled to finally have the chance to follow my passion,” said Evette Williams, Chicago Commons Career Pathways Participant. “It’s important for companies to be open and flexible to women who have responsibilities outside of work, like raising children. By doing so, they can support the growth and development of their employees, just like the Family Hub program has done for me.”

Thank you to JPMorgan Chase for your generous commitment to this new initiative. Thank you to Sol A. Flores, Illinois Deputy Governor; Evette Williams; Molly Baltman Leonard, Vice President and Program Officer of JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy; Rosa Julia Garcia-Rivera, Co-Owner at Chicago Growth Mindset; Karina Ayala-Bermejo, President and CEO at Instituto Del Progresso Latino; Cherita Ellens, CEO at Women Employed; Vikki Rompala, Vice President of Family Hub at Chicago Commons; Nyla Diab, Chief of Staff at Chicago Commons; Veronica Herrero, Chief of Strategy & Staff at City Colleges of Chicago; and Daisy Playa for joining us.

To learn more about this program, or to enroll, visit or call (773) 254-7305.


Courtesy of Chicago Commons – Photos by Steven Koch

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