Concerns of Voters 50+ Addressed in AARP Illinois Community Forum

With over 50 percent of votes cast in the February election deriving from voters 55 or older, this demographic holds significant weight in deciding which mayoral runoff candidate will take office. 

In an effort to ensure all Chicagoans’ concerns were addressed in the final week before Election Day, AARP Illinois hosted Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened, a virtual community forum highlighting the concerns of older constituents. 

“AARP Illinois is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates, but we have a long history of providing our members and voters 50+ with accurate information to make informed decisions in their local elections,� said �lvaro Obregón, Associate State Director of AARP Illinois.

Obregón was joined by Edgar Ramírez, President and CEO of Chicago Commons; Claude Robinson, President of Onyx Strategic Partners, LLC; and Abe Scarr, State Director of Illinois PIRG as panelists for the Tuesday evening event. The group took turns answering questions submitted by video from local AARP members. Publisher of IL Latino News, Hugo Balta, moderated the conversation.

“Throughout this election cycle, we’ve heard from hundreds of our members in Chicago about what matters most to them – things like affordability, and being able to age in place in their communities, access to essential services and improvements that foster the ability of our older adults to participate in community life. Community organizations like Chicago Commons, Illinois PIRG and Onyx Strategic Solutions, LLC. live and breathe these issues every day and so it was very important to bring them together to address the issues experienced by voters 50+, and weigh in on possible solutions for the next mayor to prioritize,� said Obregón.

For Chicagoans 50 and over, crime is the number one issue determining their vote in the runoff election. According to a poll by AARP Illinois, 89 percent said a candidate’s stance on crime and violence is “very important,� and 88% percent that they have considered leaving the city to move to a safer community with a lower crime rate in the past year.

The most recent findings from other organizations also highlight crime as the number one issue for all Chicagoans, including 52 percent of participants of an Emerson College poll and 50 percent of a Northwestern University poll. The latter broke down results to show that 49 percent of Latino, 53 percent of Black and 50 percent of white voters reported crime as the most important issue. 

Essential services were vocalized as a concern in both the poll and during the community forum, with seven in ten 50+ voters saying that a candidate’s stance on essential services for older adults, people with disabilities and low-income families would impact their vote. This includes mental health services, community-based services and access to quality healthcare.

AARP member and Avalon Park resident Karen Price asked the panel about providing services for older adults and supporting caregivers who juggle tending to their families and working.

The conversation hit close to home for many of the panelists who are caregivers themselves.

“As a Latino, it’s embedded in our culture. We take care of our own,� said Balta.

“This is what we do,� agreed Ramírez.

He said that these services are essential for not only seniors, but the city itself. 

“It’s time that we invest and invest critically in these services, make known the services that are available currently for seniors in the city, but also look to policy change…� he said.

For just over 30 minutes, the group addressed and discussed other issues like neighborhood safety and accessibility for aging Chicagoans and intergenerational collaboration and understanding. 

“Candidates seeking office must listen to the needs of the people; all of the people. Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened and events like it ensure constituents are heard on issues seldom covered by mass media,” said Balta, on the event. “Older voters determined the outcome of the last election and will do so again on April 4.”


Editor’s Notes: To assist constituents in this election, AARP Illinois has prepared a Chicago Voter Hub, including a voter guide available in English and Spanish.  Run-off Election Day for Chicago’s 2023 Municipal Election is April 4th, 2023.

Cover photo: Connor Betts for Unsplash

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Spencer-Herrera Appointed As AARP WI State President

MADISON, WI – AARP Wisconsin announced this week, the appointment of Leslie Spencer-Herrera of Whitefish Bay to the two-year position of State President – the highest state-level volunteer position within the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has more than 800,000 members statewide and nearly 38 million members nationwide.

Spencer-Herrera, 69, who was appointed to the position by AARP Wisconsin State Director Martha Cranley, will begin her role immediately.

“Leslie truly embodies everything AARP is striving to achieve,â€� Cranley said. “She understands the importance of empowering Wisconsinites of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and income levels to live their best possible lives.”

As AARP Wisconsin State President, Spencer-Herrera will work with AARP members, volunteers, staff, legislators, and state residents on key issues facing the 50-plus population and all Wisconsinites, such as strengthening health care, long-term care, financial security, voter education, and addressing digital needs. She comes to this role with a great appreciation for all Wisconsin has to offer.

“I am so honored to have been appointed to this important position,� she said. “I have seen how AARP succeeds at the local, state and national levels to improve the quality of life for those over 50. “I have two goals. First, to help AARP to better hear and learn the hopes and needs of all Wisconsinites over 50 from Superior to Milwaukee and everywhere in between. And second, to recruit more volunteers from all our communities to make AARP more effective in meeting these hopes and needs.�

Spencer-Herrera’s career, education, and volunteer activities have revolved around analyzing issues, developing plans, and helping organizations (both in the non-profit and for-profit sectors) to provide services to improve workforce and financial capacity of low-income individuals and families. Her professional life centered on developing training programs which helped individuals access jobs and more skilled positions.

Technology is also a big issue for some Wisconsinites, which is why Leslie is committed to narrowing the digital divide by improving access, training and affordability of computers and hand-held devices.

Having immigrated from Mexico at the age of nine, Spencer-Herrera said she saw the ability to open doors through education. She has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from UW-Madison and another Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction with a focus on Adult Education from UW-Milwaukee. She has an undergraduate degree from Indiana University.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning.

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Roxbury Muralist Creates Message of Love

MA Latino News covers the social determinants of health and democracy. Collaborations like the partnership with Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication is integral to the health of news and the health of democracy. 

One of Anna Rodriguez’s murals, “Mind over Matter,’’ adorns Warren Street near Nubian Square. Another that bears her imprint pays homage to Roxbury’s ZIP code 02119. 

The others are in the works, and Rodriguez is just getting started. She creates murals that aim to capture a message of self-love. 

“Being from Roxbury and being an artist…it is really important for me to be connected to my community,� said 27-year-old Rodriguez.

Rodriguez began painting and drawing when she was 13 years old. She enjoyed designing art on the “shoes and clothesâ€� of her friends. 

Three years ago, after the global pandemic upended lives, Rodriguez became serious about her artwork. Instead of putting pen to paper, she is learning to create murals.

Rodriguez began to hone her skills in digital art and “master spray painting,’’ a technique that artists use to finetune their mural styles. She is still learning the skill of angling her wrist and listening to the can to create the right layers and texture in each of her murals.

Rodriguez said she began working on murals after being inspired by other artists. One of them is Rob Gibbs, who goes by the name “ProBlak.â€� Gibbs is a popular mural designer and community organizer whose mission is to transform the cultural landscape of Boston. 

“He did a mural in my neighborhood — a beautiful, life-changing mural,’’ Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has started an Instagram account — with her username “_ellainspires� — to showcase her art and murals. This new digital workspace allows her to get feedback from followers and express her art.

Her “Mind over Matter” mural is a permanent fixture in Roxbury. Its big white letters atop a colorful background can be found on the corner of Warren and Taber streets. Rodriguez said she wants to connect her interests — healing and mental health — with her art, and in turn, help to keep Roxbury beautiful. 

“It’s just about creating beautiful things, and beautiful spaces,’’ said Geo Ortega, a Roxbury visual artist — and mentor to Rodriguez — who helped Rodriguez with her work. 

Ortega teaches visual arts at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, which has helped to increase the art footprints around Nubian Square. Murals — bursts of red, yellow, and blue and images depicting the local people — are displayed throughout the school covering the outside, hallways, and classrooms. 

Ortega first met Rodriguez when he was project manager on a mural Gibbs painted with the Museum of Fine Arts on the back of Madison Park. Rodriguez walked up to Ortega and asked about the project. Soon she was part of the mural community. 

“She did pretty well really fast,’’ Ortega said. 

Ortega said he is trying to change the perception people have about murals, including the words they use to describe them. Many artists have reclaimed the word “graffiti,’’ which for years had a negative connotation. Instead, Ortega has been incorporating graffiti into pieces of his art such as the stripes on a tiger he painted. 

“Graffiti can be beautiful. We can make it so it improves a space,â€� Ortega said.  

Roxbury’s murals are part of a wider city effort to reflect Boston’s diverse communities. 

The City of Boston, which featured the work of prominent artists in Roxbury on its website, also started a mural tracking map, and Boston’s mural crew, established in 1991, has been painting murals across the city. 

Rodriguez said she is proud that her work is part of Boston’s multi-generational artist community. 

“I’m very grateful for anyone that reacts to it and has any impact. It’s not about quantity for me,â€� Rodriguez said. “It’s about just having meaningful relationships with the people that I do have.â€� 

Anna Rodriguez with her mural “Mind Over Matter”. Photo Courtesy of Anna Rodriguez.

This story was published in collaboration with Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication. The student journalist is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.

Hannah Edelheit is 19 years old and a second year journalism student at Boston University from Denver, Colorado. She enjoys writing and wants to be a journalist in the future.

Community Conversation Shares Accessible Financial & Technical Business Resources

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits continue to recover—with a disproportionate impact on organizations in historically underserved communities that tend to face more barriers in accessing federal resources.

CT Latino News partnered with the CT Small Business Boost Fund to produce an informational presentation on free resources available to small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

The virtual event was released on Facebook and Youtube Wednesday evening.

Originally planned as a hybrid event at the Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Branch, CTLN transitioned the event to be completely online to accommodate accessibility and health & safety concerns.

CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont moderated the event and briefly spoke on a few local support networks that provide free online resources and offer funding specifically to women and minority-owned organizations.

Sheila Hummel, Director of the Small Business Development Office within the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, shared available financial resources for small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

She highlighted the CT Small Business Boost Fund for its advertised accessible and flexible loans, before answering a few common questions from applicants.

“The focus is really on deploying to small businesses and nonprofits in underserved markets and [to] women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veteran-owned businesses,” she explained.

Hummel also emphasized the importance of technical assistance, explaining where businesses can find this support—for free.

“These organizations will help you build the capacity of your organization,” Hummel said. “[Technical Assistance] kind of provides you with, if you have a development need or a problem in your business, or you need help with your financials…they’re there to help you.”

The online event then featured highlights from Capital For Change Earl Randall’s appearance on CTLN Opinion+.

Director Randall of Small Business Lending explained how his work looks to specifically support businesses in local underserved communities. He also emphasized the role that accessible loan programs play within the state’s economy.

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Randall also spoke on Capital For Change’s role within the CT Small Business Boost Program, and how his team looks to support interested applicants.

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Access The Statewide Resources for CT Small Businesses Presentation Below:

Contact Director Sheila Hummel of the Small Business Development Office at

Contact CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont at

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

Mayoral Candidates Johnson, Vallas on Chicago’s Black and Brown Future

Chicagoans flocked to the Chicago History Museum on Monday night for a chance to hear from mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas before the April 4 Runoff Election. Chicago’s Black and Brown Future: Conversations with the Mayoral Candidates focused on issues impacting Black and Latino communities including housing, crime, education, economic development, equitable representation, and immigration.

The conversation was moderated by veteran journalists, longtime CBS2 Chicago reporter, Dorothy Tucker and publisher of IL Latino News, Hugo Balta. Tucker is the current president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Balta has served twice as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Moderators Dorothy Tucker and Hugo Balta.

“Events like tonight’s conversation with Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas gives voters an opportunity to make side-by-side comparisons,� said Balta. “ The health of our democracy depends on an informed citizenry.�

Unlike a traditional debate with candidates going back and forth, interacting with one another, each candidate had a dedicated space in the program to answer predetermined questions. The two did not appear on stage together. Audience members were given green and red cards to express approval or disapproval, by waving the colored sheets of paper in the air as the opponents spoke. 

Both candidates were met with applause when introduced to the stage. Johnson went first, followed by a short intermission, and then Vallas.

A recent poll by Northwestern’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy showed that crime was top of mind for many voters, rated as the most important issue for 54 percent of Black voters and 46 percent of Latino voters.

Johnson said he would focus on getting to the root of crime by investing in youth programs and hiring 200 more detectives.

“We’re going to double the amount of young people that we hire, not just for summer positions but year-round positions,� he said.

On crime, Vallas stated that he wants to fulfill current Chicago Police Department vacancies, not expand CPD. He added that he wants to add officers to CTA platforms “because people are afraid to take the CTA,� citing another recent poll by WBEZ.

Both Johnson and Vallas said that they would support the Welcome to IL coalition, vowing to support immigrants and migrants arriving in the city. Governor JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation to speed up the availability of state money and resources to help deal with the busloads of migrants being sent to Chicago from Texas.

There are now two weeks left before a new mayor is elected. Early Voting is open in all 50 Wards. More information about Early Voting can be found on the Chicago Elections website.

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RI Opinion+: Juan Espinoza & Melissa Cruz

Welcome to another episode of RI Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Rhode Island. This week we spoke with Communications & Development Manager Juan Espinoza and Community Programs Manager Melissa Cruz from the RI Coalition To End Homelessness

The RI Coalition to End Homelessness has a variety of responsibilities across the state, such as being the lead agency for the Homeless Management & Information System (HMIS) and the Coordinated Entry System (CES) Call Center. 

The organization’s main areas of focus also include policy and advocacy work, training and support for service providers, along with educating the public on reasons why people experience homelessness to diminish existing stereotypes.

“Our commitment is to ensure that no Rhode Islander experiences homelessness,� Espinoza said. “We promote and preserve the dignity and quality of life for men, women, and children by pursuing comprehensive and cooperative solutions to the problems of housing and homelessness. And this is accomplished through advocacy, education, collaboration, technical assistance, and selective direct services.�

The HMIS is a shared database used by all homeless service providers in Rhode Island that tracks people who are experiencing homelessness across the state. 

“HMIS is basically the data repository for the Continuum of Care (CoC)…so it’s partnered with 47 agencies with over 200 projects that we are serving persons and households that are experiencing homelessness or [who were] formerly homeless,â€� Cruz explained. 

The CES helpline is available 24/7 and connects residents who may be experiencing homelessness to a shelter or other services related to housing and homelessness. 

“You can either call or send an email and that will connect you to an agent who will look at what are the available options to get you into shelter,� Espinoza told RI Latino News. “Now, shelter is not guaranteed as there is limited shelter in the state of Rhode Island, but they can put you on a waiting queue…the waiting queue has grown, unfortunately.�

RICTEH, among other local advocacy groups, has urged the government to declare a state of emergency for homelessness as this would prioritize homelessness as an issue. Although, enacting a state of emergency is a relatively new tactic in addressing homelessness, according to Espinoza. 

“It has not been a very common strategy, but…declaring a state of emergency for homelessness [would] reduce bureaucratic barriers, such as bypassing zoning requirements… which allows for a quicker ability to use city-owned property to open and maintain shelters, so it’s not just for housing, but also for shelter,� Espinoza said. “Declaring that would really mean more funding, more collaboration, and less bureaucratic red tape…�

Resources mentioned in this video: 

  • RI Coalition to End Homelessness Website:
  • The CES helpline: 401-277-4316
    • Learn more and/or contact the helpline online at 
    • Available agents speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, & Haitian Creole 
  • Check out local resources available through the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development at 

WILN Opinion+: Nicole Winters and Tim Schindler

Welcome to another episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. This week’s guests include two members of the Milwaukee-based organization Wisconsin Voices: Co-Executive Director of Fundraising & Development Tim Schindler and Managing Director of Operations Nicole Winters.

Wisconsin Voices is a grassroots not-for-profit organization started in 2010 to protect democracy and encourage civic participation, particularly for those in marginalized groups statewide. Historically, Wisconsin is a state with high civic engagement, but stricter voter ID laws and other suppression strategies in recent years have challenged this reputation.

Schindler and Winters explain how their work with Wisconsin Voices aims to counter this trend in their state by “giving a voice to the voiceless.�

“There are individuals that just won’t use their voice for democracy,� Winters said. “It’s important because it makes a difference. It may not look that way in the end result, but when you are out there expressing your voice, using your voice to fight for democracy, it actually does make a difference.�

Schindler said that the organization tries to use education as one method of encouraging this participation.

“A lot of [people] don’t understand what’s the difference between an alderman and a county supervisor,â€� Schindler said. “So really empowering them and educating them on who to go to for what issue… that’s a lot of the impact that we’re trying to make.â€�

These goals from Wisconsin Voices are particularly applicable to the state’s Latino population, who, due to gerrymandering and strict voter ID laws, are underrepresented in local legislatures. According to Princeton University’s gerrymandering project, Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.

“There’s very minimal representation,� Schindler said. “Even when you look at the redistricting of Milwaukee, [Latinos] really don’t have much representation in every district in Milwaukee and even in the legislature. So that’s why it’s important for them to get their voices heard.�

Wisconsin Voices collaborates with numerous other local organizations to accomplish their broader goals of education and voter outreach. It measures success in a variety of ways, including voter turnout and overall residents reached.�

“If our partners engage with a large number of individuals and they can talk to them and educate them on the importance of using their voice, I think that’s the greatest measurement we could ever use,� Winters said.

Resources mentioned in this video
Wisconsin Voices:

Wisconsin Voices Facebook:

Information on Youth Advocacy:

Information on Voter Education:

Wisconsin Voices current projects:

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Labor of Granite Staters caring for relatives estimated at $2.8 Billion according to AARP report

157 million hours worked. 168,000 New Hampshire caregivers. $0 paid out.

A new report by AARP revealed that the amount of unpaid care Granite Staters provided for loved ones in 2021 carried a value of $2.8 billion dollars.

Compared to the last report in 2019, this number has increased by $500 million.

“Family caregivers play a vital role in New Hampshire’s health care system, whether they care for someone at home, coordinate home health care, or help care for someone who lives in a nursing home,� said Christina FitzPatrick, AARP New Hampshire State Director. “We want to make sure all family caregivers have the financial, emotional and social support they need, because the care they provide is invaluable both to those receiving it and to their community.�

Whether it’s an abuelo, a tia or a parent, Latinos are known for caring for their family members and in many households, it is expected that Latino children will eventually care for their elderly relatives. In 2021, Salud America estimated that 1 in 3 Latino households had at least one family caregiver.

AARP reports that 61% of caregivers are also working a full time or part time job. This leads to lost income, less career opportunities and reduced savings due to their commitment at home. The report also points to the notion of “sandwich generationâ€� caregivers. AARP estimated that 30 percent of caregivers lived in a multigenerational household, including children or grandchildren. This “sandwich generationâ€�, consisting of Gen Z and millennials, are even more likely to be balancing work and tending to elderly relatives. 

26 percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. lives in multigenerational homes, according to Pew Research.

AARP suggests several recommendations to offer support for diverse family caregivers including federal government assistance and an expansion to the Family and Medical Leave Act. To access the full report, click here.
Publisher’s Note: AARP New Hampshire and New Hampshire Latino News are partners in providing greater visibility and voice to local Hispanic-Latino communities. 


Cover photo: Kampus Production for Pixels

The Interpreters Who Pushed For Higher Pay And Won

MA Latino News covers the social determinants of health and democracy. Collaborations like the partnership with Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication is integral to the health of news and the health of democracy. 

When her daily pay rate finally increased after 17 years, Gema Schaff bought a new pair of shoes. 

The 75-year-old Spanish language court interpreter, originally from Havana, was able to upgrade her wardrobe with new flats for work. It was part of her goal to replace “some really worn out� warm-weather shoes. 

“The [other shoes] look really old, and the first thing I thought was: I can get new shoes,’’ Schaff, who currently lives in Cambridge, said. 

The new shoes were a small victory for Schaff, who helped successfully advocate for a long overdue wage increase for herself and other Massachusetts court interpreters hired to do daily translation work. It is a battle these interpreters have been waging for years — and earlier in February they staged a walkout highlighting their plight. 

Three of the women who participated in the walkout recently described their long quest for fairer pay and said their efforts are far from over.

Before this year, Massachusetts court per diem interpreters — mostly immigrants, some in their 60s and 70s — had not had a pay raise since 2006. For 17 years, they were paid $200 to $300 per diem for translating court proceedings to defendants in criminal and civil court cases.

“The feeling was of complete helplessness,� Schaff said about the years of advocating for higher pay for per diem workers. “There was nothing we could do to get a fair pay.�

Interpreters are an essential part of court proceedings, often traveling across the state to provide courtroom translation services for people with limited English proficiency. 

They translate predominantly in Spanish, but also in Vietnamese, Portuguese, Haitian, and Chinese languages, such as Mandarin and Cantonese.

“In the trial court … you really have the opportunity to help people,â€� Schaff said. “If you are in a position to help somebody in such a stressful situation, I think you’re very privileged.â€�

Genevieve Howe, a 65-year-old Spanish interpreter of 12 years, said the idea for protesting their low wages had been circulating for many months before the interpreters settled on a date for the five-day walkout.

“We’ve been badgering our office for years to correct the compensation rates,’’ said Howe of Dorchester. “The walkout, clearly, got us the attention that we needed.�

Per diem interpreters alerted court officials about the walkout to ensure that defendants were being serviced, and met with the state’s new trial court administrator, Thomas Ambrosino, on Feb. 1.

Ambrosino approved increasing the pay to $300 for half-day and $450 for full-day certified interpreters along with $200 for half-day and $300 for full-day screened interpreters. This increase is retroactive to Jan. 1. 

“The Trial Court values the work of all of our interpreters and recognizes that they are integral to providing access to justice,’’ Donahue said.

The interpreters welcomed the increase but said it was not all they had hoped for.

“Some people … felt disappointed that $450 was the number that the courts offered,â€� Howe said. “It feels like a victory because we’re getting a 50 percent increase which is a nice bump up.â€� 

But the women had sought an increase of around $560 for a full day of work for certified interpreters after consulting with an economist. 

They also expressed concern that a state plan to hire 50 new staff interpreters would eliminate the per diem workers who have “been loyally working in the courts’’ without receiving a raise for 17 years, according to a Feb. 4 letter addressed to Governor Maura Healey’s office. 

The trial court currently has 65 staff and 90 per diem interpreters, Donahue said. 

“I do fear that being largely a group of immigrants and people of color has played some role in the trial court’s failure to pay us the attention that they should,� Howe said in an interview.

Mercy T. Cevallos, the 77-year-old Spanish interpreter of Newton who sent the letter to Healey, wrote that the $450 figure was “unacceptableâ€� and cited a compensation formula that led to the $560 figure.  

Without fair pay, Cevallos said she had to tap into her savings to pay her rent, utilities, and general living expenses, which was “emotionally painful.�

Going to court is confusing and stressful, and for people who don’t understand English, the feeling is much worse, said Cevallos.

“We’re buttressing this legal system that requires that people have access to a fair trial,� Cevallos said. “And we would like to have that apply to us as well in compensation terms.�

Per diem interpreters are also not fairly compensated for the travel time required to get to and from courthouses, which can sometimes take one to three hours a day, Howe said. 

Ambrosino promised to meet the per diem interpreters again in May to look at the travel time issue, Howe said.

“It’s just a huge relief because it’s been so long with nothing happening and no one paying any attention to us,â€� Howe said. “It feels really good that we have his ear [and] that we can continue to be in communication with him.â€�

This story was published as part of a collaboration with Boston University’s School of Journalism in the College of Communication. The student journalist is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.

Clare Ong is a Sophomore studying Film & Television and Journalism at Boston University. She is a 20-year-old international student from Singapore who came to the U.S. to pursue her dreams of working in the film and media industry. She hopes to be a filmmaker, photographer, or documentarian in the future and aims to tell powerful stories through her work.

Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club Coach Christina Murillo sets the role model for young players

The 9- and 10-year-old girls training with Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club coach Christina Murillo are constantly running after the ball during the training session. They learn how to pass the ball to each other and how to shoot at the goal. They laugh and have fun during Monday afternoon trainings, and that is one of Murillo’s goals as a coach – to make surethe players have a good time practicing soccer.

“It’s so much more important that players enjoy the game than me guaranteeing that they’re going to go pro,â€� said Murillo, head of Pre-Formation Phase (13U-15U) and Community Outreach in Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club. “We want them to be in competitive environments, but I hope families get the understanding this is supposed to be for fun.â€�

Murillo, 30, is a role model for the girls and boys in the club. She tries to teach them in every session that it doesn’t matter if they make mistakes – the important thing is to overcome them and keep playing.

“Girls are more hesitant to make mistakes, and in sports, that’s very importantâ€� to understand, Murillo said. “I push for the girls to get outside of their comfort zones and be assertive.â€�

Concerning boys, Murillo said she likes to see that “they understand that they can have these emotions and that they should feel comfortable with it.”

Murillo’s coaching philosophy and her impact on and off the field were key to the Illinois Youth Soccer Association’s decision to give her the 2022 Female Coach of the Year award in December.

Christina Murillo played for the for Lithuanian club GintraUniversitetas in 2017 and Chicago Red Stars in 2018.She coaches youth group at the Fire Pitch on NorthTalman Ave. in Chicago. (Diana Giambona/MEDILL)

Christina Murillo played for the for Lithuanian club GintraUniversitetas in 2017 and Chicago Red Stars in 2018.She coaches youth group at the Fire Pitch on NorthTalman Ave. in Chicago. (Diana Giambona/MEDILL)

“Christina brings a lot of passion to the field, she works incredibly hard, she has a good understanding of the game and I think she has high standards because she’s played at a very high level herself,â€� said Nate Boyden, Youth Technical Director for Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club. “She can connect and relate to the players, and also push them along in their development so that they become better soccer players.â€� 

Murillo’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. She was born and raised in California where her passion for soccer began when she was four years old and watched her older brothers playing. She started playing at home before starting school and went on to compete at the highest level. In 2010 she was called up by the Mexico National Soccer Teamand competed in the U-17 World Cup in Trinidad andTobago. Two years later, she played as a defender in the U-20 World Cup in Japan, and in 2015 she represented Mexico in the Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Her experience as a professional player and her competitive spirit are reflected in her training sessions. The girls have fun playing soccer, but also follow their coach’s directions with discipline and try to improve at every opportunity.

Although Murillo never thought of coaching children, she now says it is “amazingâ€� working with them. 

“To see them grow as people has been the most gratifying thing,� Murillo said. “I tell people all the time, I love my job every single day.� 

Christina Murillo coaches girls and boys of different ages. (Diana Giambona/MEDILL)

Christina Murillo coaches girls and boys of different ages. (Diana Giambona/MEDILL)

In addition to physical training, Murillo stresses the importance of psychologically preparing young players. 

“The mental part is of the utmost importance to me and since day one of coaching, that’s been more of my emphasis,â€� she said. “There’s going to be a lot of kids who can play soccer well, but I think the ones that don’t know how to handle adversity, that’s going to be a lot harder for them.â€�

Murillo recalls that, in her experience as a player, the psychological pressure was very hard, and that is why she is concerned that her players always have a good time training. 

“It’s hard when you as a player put the burden of a whole country on yourself thinking that if you don’t do well, you’re letting down millions of people,â€� she said.

Murillo decided to stop playing and focus on coaching. She has been working in the Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club since 2019 and one of her objectives is to promote the empowerment of girls and women through sports. 

“I want every girl in our club to come out feeling like a leader,â€� she said. “Whether they continue with soccer[or not], that’s okay. But it’s more important to me that they develop skills that make them into the best versions of themselves after soccer.â€�

According to EY and espnW report, 94% of women in the C-suite played sports, including 52% at the university level. 

“Soccer and sports, in general, are just like a very good environment to develop leadership skills,â€� Murillo said. 

In Chicago, more and more girls are becoming interested in playing soccer, and role models like coach Murillo can show them that it is possible to become professional players. 

“When it comes to the youth soccer on the girls’ side, I see that it is growing in Chicago,� Boyden said. “Still, there is a gap and work to do in providing opportunities for young female players and to help them fall in love with the game.�

Soccer is becoming an ever more popular sport in the United States. Murillo said that it is a sport that allows everyone to connect culturally and is a space where young people can make friends.

Murillo said Chicago athletic programs have underestimated the population of youth soccer players including Latino players. “There isn’t a huge population of players but there is a Latino market that wants to play and my goal, from who I am and my background, is to make our program more accessible,â€� Murillo said.

Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club offers programming for ages 5 to 19 years old. Over the past year, the club has been working on new youth soccer development initiatives aimed at increasing access and pathways for players and coaches in the Midwest to engage with Chicago Fire Academy.

“We want to be at the forefront of providing access opportunities, and furthering the knowledge, whether that’s soccer skills, or improving personal kind of developmental skills for players and coaches,â€� said Jamie Lyons, Executive Director for Youth Soccer for the Chicago Fire FC.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup will be held in July and August in Australia and New Zealand, where the U.S. team will be one of the favorites. In 2026, the United States, along with Mexico and Canada, will host the Men’s World Cup. Murillo, Boyden and Lyons agree that these two events will be very important to continue promoting soccer among the young. The girls and boys who now train at the club will watch their idols play and prove that reaching the top of soccer â€“ and a dream or two – is possible.

Cover Photo Credit: Coach Christina Murillo transmits her passion for soccer to girls and boys in training session at Chicago Fire Youth Soccer Club.  (Diana Giambona/MEDILL).

Diana Giambona got a degree in journalism from Universidad de La Laguna (Tenerife, Spain). She is a graduate student at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University specializing in sports media. She has experience covering topics such as politics, society, sports and culture.

IL Latino News partners with Medill School of Journalism and many schools of higher education in providing students mentoring and real work experiences.

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