The 26th Ward and this City deserve the type of leadership and commitment that Juanita Irizarry embodies.
A product of this community, Juanita intimately knows the challenges and the opportunities before us. Her path mirrors that of many who grew up on Chicago’s near northwest side. From HeadStart at Eckhardt Park and Holstein Park. To summer days spent riding bike, playing sports, and participating in youth programs from Humboldt Park to Mozart Park. To high school at Kelvyn Park, where Juanita was the valedictorian of the Class of ’85.
The experiences of her youth and young adulthood—marked by a strong sense of community despite the deterioration of the physical environment and public safety—inform her passion for public service and the preservation of those characteristics that have led her to love her lifelong community.
Her trajectory inspires us to imagine and hope for a bright future for our youth and this community. From Chicago Public Schools to college and graduate school in Illinois and then a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government—all on full-tuition scholarship—Juanita has always come back home to give back to the community that raised her.
A Lifetime of Leadership
Her leadership and potential already apparent at a young age, Juanita started tutoring, coaching, and mentoring other youth from Humboldt Park and Logan Square by the time she was in high school.
- From child and youth development to support services and community empowerment to economic development, Juanita’s passion has played out in a lifetime of professional and volunteer public service
- From non-profit leadership to philanthropy to government to community activism, her work has impacted all of the community areas touched by the new 26th Ward.
A Different Kind of Leadership
Juanita’s leadership comes from a strong sense of service. At an early age, she figured out that she had more access to education and opportunity than many of her peers because her parents were both teachers. During her childhood, Juanita watched both of her parents struggle and sacrifice to work while going to graduate school part-time to earn Master’s degrees so that they could better serve the community in inner city school and church settings. She set out early on to make her parents and community proud. To put her advantages to their best use—not for her personal gain but for the best interests of the community. For the common good.