Juanita Irizarry currently works in philanthropy as a senior program officer at the Chicago region’s community foundation.  She manages a portfolio of grants to non-profits working to end homelessness, providing affordable rental housing, and fighting the foreclosure crisis.  She also oversees grant-making to combat hunger and to improve the quality of life of people with disabilties.  She also assists Latino philanthropists in developing and implementing their grant-making strategies, which are currently focused on enhancing education in the Latino community.  She sits on a number of state-level commissions and working groups related to her grant-making work in an effort to help promote better public policy.

Her current professional role builds on two decades working in the non-profit sector.  She previously ran and retooled a small, Latino-focused, public policy advocacy organization.  Her social justice career also spans the gamut from assisting with lease-up for affordable housing to running a lead abatement program to overseeing homeownership and business development programs at a prominent faith-based community organization to serving as associate director for one of Chicago’s oldest community development corporations.  She also has co-developed, run, and taught in education and training programs on Christian community development and served two universities as an adjunct instructor.

Juanita is a published author as a contributor to the book, A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos.  Her chapter is entitled, “The Border, the Barrio, and the ‘Burbs: Ministry Among America’s Biggest Minority.”

Her many community volunteer activities include her current role as the vice-president of the board of the Community Renewal Society.  She is also active on her church’s Faith in Action Team.  She is an active mentor and the founder of the Latina Leadership Circle: a book club, networking, and leadership development group for up-and-coming activists, non-profit executive directors, and other Latina professionals in the Chicago area.

Juanita has been honored to participate in a number of leadership development programs.  She is a member of the National Hispana Leadership Institute’s Executive Leadership Program class of 2005.  She was a 2006 fellow of the Jovenes Lideres Hispanos (Young Hispanic Leaders) program of the Government of Spain.  And she participated in the 2007-2008 cohort of the From Harvard Square to the Oval Office political practicum of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Juanita holds a Bachelor of Arts in History/Political Science and Spanish from Greenville College and earned a Master of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she studied as a Presidential Scholar/Public Service Fellow.  She has done additional graduate study in urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The opinions in Juanita’s blog are exclusively her own.


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