The newly appointed Executive Director of Friends of the Parks in Chicago, Juanita Irizarry is a bilingual/bicultural, Illinois-born Puerto Rican whose current role builds upon 20 years of experience in philanthropy and the non-profit sector, with an emphasis on housing and community development work in Chicago’s Latino community. Juanita has served as Statewide Coordinator for Long Term Care Reform in the Office of Governor Pat Quinn and as Senior Program Officer in Human Services and Community Development at The Chicago Community Trust, the Chicago region’s community foundation. Her grant-making at the Trust was focused on housing, homelessness, hunger, disabilities, immigration, early childhood education for the Latino community, and capacity-building for small non-profits.
Juanita previously served the Christian Community Development Association as its Institute Director, during which she became a published author, contributing a chapter entitled, “The Border, the Barrio, and the ‘Burbs: Ministry Among America’s Biggest Minority,” in the book A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, published in 2009 by Moody Publications.
In June 2007, Ms. Irizarry completed her Master of Public Administration degree at the Harvard Kennedy School where she studied on a full-tuition scholarship as a Presidential Scholar/Public Service Fellow and, upon graduation, received the Littaeur Fellowship Award for Public Service, Academic Excellence, and Potential for Leadership.
For 5 years, Juanita was Executive Director of Latinos United (now Latino Policy Forum) and led the organization toward a comprehensive Latino advocacy, policy, and research network addressing a broad range of issues including immigration and early childhood education. She has also played various roles at high-profile Chicago community development corporations and served on the board of the Olive Branch Mission homeless services center.
Over the years, Juanita has also been in various academic roles; as Adjunct Faculty in DePaul University’s School of Public Service at the graduate level and in the undergraduate Community Services Studies program, as well as in Eastern University’s Master of Urban Studies program. Juanita taught a “Community Development, Culture and Christian Leadership” course at the Olive Branch Mission’s Christian Center for Urban Studies.
Juanita has served for many years on boards of community groups, has sat on the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, and has had several government advisory roles and gubernatorial appointments. In 2013 she joined the board of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. She served on the governor’s Transition Team Housing Committee and the Advisory Committee that created two City of Chicago 5-Year Affordable Housing Plans.
Perspective, leadership, commitment; Juanita brings so much to the Housing PLUS Board of Directors.