Maria Nava: Leading From Lived Experience

IL Latino News


Public libraries are an invaluable resource in any community. They provide access to knowledge, information, and entertainment for people of all ages and backgrounds. From books to digital resources, they offer a wide range of materials that educate, inspire, and empower individuals.

Public libraries play a critical role in fostering literacy, promoting lifelong learning, and enhancing community engagement.

Maria Nava, the Community Engagement Manager with the Warren-New Port Public Library (WNPL), was a guest on the program “3 Questions With…” hosted by Hugo Balta, publisher of IL Latino News.

Nava emphasized that partnerships are critical to the Warren-New Port Public Library’s success in serving the community. The Hispanic American Community Education and Services (HACES) is one of them. “One of the things that they do is focus on immigration, providing services like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and how to apply to become a citizen,” she said. Nava explained how HACES go into WNPL with all their staff to lead bilingual workshops focused on legal, health, and educational programs.

Nava is the co-founder of Future Leaders Alliance (FLA), a mentor group for students who need support and guidance as they pursue higher education. While working with the Round Lake School District, she encountered many Spanish-language dominant parents struggling to get information. “Parents want their kids on a better path; they want them to achieve a higher education. So, how do we help them with that?” Nava said, explaining how she and her sister started hosting workshops to demystify the process of getting resources to help families reach their educational goals. FLA aims to equip young individuals with the skills and confidence to become transformative leaders.

The Mexican native, who grew up in Lake County, also shared how her lived experiences have helped shape the work she leads. “It was a difficult upbringing. We were in a new country. We didn’t know the language. We didn’t know the culture. We didn’t know a lot,” she recalled. Nava said that one of the hardest hurdles was not knowing people and where to go for help. “Like many immigrants, we lived in fear.”

Many of the initiatives Nava builds are drawn from her experiences of navigating a new country riddled with barriers for newcomers. “That’s one of the things that really drives me. When I go out into the community and meet a parent or a child…I see my parents, I see myself, I see my sister.”

“3 Questions With…” is co-produced by the Latino News Network (LNN) and CAN TV, Chicago’s hub for community-centric news, hyperlocal stories, and educational resources.

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