Meet our Midwest Young Advocates
Isabella Marie Nuño
Isabella is a 22 year old resident of Chicago were she was born and raised. She attended John of Kennedy High School and is a current senior at Lake Forest College with majors in Psychology and Communication. She is a first-generation student who will be pursuing her masters in the fall. She joined YI to gain experience working on advocacy in a community setting. Her passion is in the mental health and nonprofit fields. In her spare time, she enjoys to reading and watching shows.
Emily Springer is a 19 year old resident of Illinois. She is a sophomore attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign majoring in Community Health with a concentration of Health Education and Promotion. Post-graduation, she is interested in attending a program for a Masters of Public Health so she can further her learning in health and health care. Her career goal is to be a promoter for the health and well-being of communities as there is still a need in improving access to health care and minimizing health disparities. At UIUC, she is the VP of Philanthropy for her sorority Alpha Gamma Delta and volunteers at the Women’s Resource Center. Emily is exciting to be working alongside YI to gain experience in advocacy for issues she cares about, such as healthcare and mental health (especially in college campuses in times of COVID-19), and to work with peers with similar interests from all around the Midwest.
Tori Munson is a 26-year-old resident of Chicago. Tori attended Eastern Illinois University, where she received her B.A. in Psychology. She then continued her education at Indiana University, where she received her doctorate in Occupational Therapy. She is currently employed as an occupational therapist, working with geriatric populations to improve their independence and quality of life. Tori is passionate about reducing barriers to health care and ensuring all individuals have access the the care they need, regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. Tori joined YI in order to increase her knowledge of public policy and advocacy in order to be an agent of change in both her profession and her community. In her free time, Tori enjoys playing volleyball, going to concerts, playing with her dog, and spending time with friends and family.
Elvis O Kouassi
Elvis Kouassi is a rising junior at The University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in Urban Studies. As a New Jersey native, he owes his burgeoning interest in the structure of cities to his Jersey roots and his wanderlust. He is the third child of two West African immigrants and a true product of his environment. He currently holds a 3.5 GPA and is a proud member of The Collegiate 100 Chicago Chapter. He strives to be a force in Chicago’s urban planning and real estate development industries. He plans on pursuing a Master’s in Urban Planning & Policy at The University of Illinois at Chicago. In the future, Elvis hopes to use his curiosity and imagination to shape communities across the globe.
Laila Bonner is 19 year old resident of Chicago currently studying animation and interactive media at Howard University in Washington, DC. Laila joined YI to gain real advocacy experience and to learn how she can combine advocacy and art. In her spare time, Laila enjoys drawing, animating, and playing video games.
Esther Huescas is a 20 year old junior at UIUC. She was born and raised in Chicago and she lives there whenever she is not in school. She is a first-generation Mexican American. She is currently a double major in Psychology and Sociology with three minors in Legal Studies, Social Work, and Criminology, Law, and Society. She is also the author of “What We Call Love.” She joined YI because she is passionate about helping my community and creating change. She hopes to use the skills she gains at YI to be an asset for change in my legal career.
Ebony Ellis is a 24 year old resident of Chicago, where she was born and raised. She is a first-generation college graduate, attending Harold Washington College and DePaul University. Ebony joined YI to further understand the importance of public policy and organizing. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Cherise Williams is a self-proclaimed nonprofit veteran. Since graduating with her bachelors of psychology in 2014, Cherise has spent her professional life serving the needs of minority youth and other underserved populations. In her current line of duty she works as a housing coach for New Moms LLC and endorses a housing first policy while working with mothers experiencing homelessness in the Austin and Oak Park area. When the work week ends, Cherise enjoys spending time thrift shopping or sitting in her garden surrounded by her partner, their two sons and their pit bull Tyga.
Alvaro Gallegos, who goes by Aj, is a born and raised Southside Chicagoan. A proud queer Chicano who considers himself an active worker in providing equal economic, social, and political opportunities for our disenfranchised youth. He currently studies Psychology, Political Science, and Gender/Sexuality Studies at Lake Forest College where he is apart of activism club, Latinos UNIDOs, and BSU (Black Student Union). With education and work experience behind him, he hopes to offer his services and advocacy back to the community, specifically in social services.
Monica Vasquez is 22 years old and originally from Asheboro, North Carolina, but now resides in Aurora, Illinois. After attending Asheboro High School, she decided to go out of state to pursue higher education. She graduated from Aurora University in May 2021 with a degree in Global Leadership Services and Sociology. She is a first-generation Latina graduate student. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s in Business Administration. Monica joined YI to be more confident in talking passionately about social issues in her community and be part of a group of like minded people. Monica loves to seek a deeper meaning of her spirituality in her spare time and meet new people.
Ayana Clark is a 27-year-old mother, advocate, and communications specialist. Born in Chicago, she left the city to earn her Bachelors in Broadcasting and a Masters in Communication from Purdue University Northwest. She was inducted into the National Society for Leadership and success in 2016 and earned the title of Outstanding Graduate Student 2019 for her innovative research centered on media and minority movements. During her time at Purdue, she served as the Show producer for The Roundtable Perspective, which airs on Lakeshore PBS. Her collaboration with other students earned the show four international awards of excellence. She is an alumnus of the 2019 Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corp, where she collaborated with other young emerging leaders to design and implement projects that tackle pressing social issues. She currently serves as the Executive Assistant and Community Advocate for Congressman Bobby L. Rush. She spends her free time organizing and volunteering in underserved communities. Clark brings a unique perspective to issues impacting people of color and utilizes her knowledge of media to bring voice to those who have been silenced.
Khadijah is a 28-year-old resident of Chicago where she was born and raised. She earned an Associate’s Degree from Harold Washington College and transferred to Dominican University in River Forest, IL last Fall. She is an Elementary Education major. She joined YI to learn more about advocacy and policy and how to use it to create a community for which she would like to live in. Khadijah has the goal of opening a community center on the Southside of Chicago within the coming years. Outside of having a passion of working with youth, Khadijah has spent many years working in event management and operations. Khadijah enjoys reading, traveling, and learning to play golf.