Hero’s name: Elideth Hernandez
Home city: Chicago
Their organization: Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)
How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?
“Marquette School of Excellence on the southwest side of Chicago is a school where a lot of things can go wrong. The student body is low income, academically challenged, and split almost evenly between African-Americans and Latinos.
But Elideth Hernandez has worked hard to make sure things go right, both at the school and in the community.
Elideth, an immigrant herself, has fought to make Marquette a safe space for other immigrant families.
Long before the Chicago Public Schools announced they would turn back Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant, Elideth was pushing, and winning, a plan with the school administration to ensure immigrants would be safe in the school.
In addition to her work on immigration, Elideth has been active on the school planning committee and fighting for more police accountability in the community. She does this as a leader at the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in the Chicago Lawn community.
At SWOP, Elideth is a Parent Mentor Coordinator at Marquette. In this capacity, she recruits, trains, and supports parents (mostly moms), as they work as paraprofessionals in classrooms at the school.
She spends a lot of time in this role helping parents build their skills not only to assist children, but to be leaders in the community, just like she is.
Because the school is split along racial and ethnic lines, Elideth has worked hard to bridge language and culture divides between the two communities.
She has been instrumental in recruiting and retaining an equal number of parent mentors from both communities.
In her role as a Parent Mentor Coordinator, she’s always going the extra mile. She volunteers for field trips, leads workshops and pushes important issues with the school administration.
She does this because she’s a parent. She’s also a leader. Elideth knows that to win on any issue, the community has to come together and exercise its power.
Time and again, she’s demonstrated her leadership by bringing people together to identify issues and leading collective action to address them.
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Elideth is also the mother of four. Two of her children attend Marquette. One is in high school, and the oldest is now attending college. Elideth is a role model for her own kids and for all the kids in the community.
As SWOP organizer Jamillah Rashad says, ‘When I think Elideth, I think angel.’”
Honored by: Chris Brown of SWOP
Note: This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special Cesar Chavez Day Community Heroes edition. These submissions were edited for clarity.