this month’s youth media professional
A passionate baseball enthusiast and a devoted community advocate, Irene was born and raised on the Southwest Side of Chicago in a community that was de-gentrified by an influx of Latino residents. Her parents were born and raised in Mexico, met in Chicago and settled here in their late teens.
Irene grew up speaking only Spanish until third grade when she was enrolled in an English speaking class and was left with no choice but to learn the language. Introduced to journalism and video production in high school, she pursued a degree in Communications, Sociology, and Spanish at Loyola University Chicago, and Spanish while balancing a steady part-time employment as a Guest Coordinator at the White Sox’s baseball stadium and as intern at WRTE 90.5 fm Radio Arte Chicago.
While enrolled in Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), she coordinated an evaluation project that involved the Native American community in the Uptown region of Chicago, the Native American Health Center and Mayor Richard Daley’s Domestic Violence HELP Hotline.
In 2000, a devastating encounter between immigration officials and her family encouraged her to pursue a career in immigration law and advocacy. Immediately after the incident, she became involved with the immigration movement, passing out petitions to keep families from being separated, and organizing to raise awareness among Latinos about changing legislation which would affect immigrants considering becoming residents in the near future.
Irene continues educating undocumented immigrants of all ethnicities through a monthly column for “Extra Newspaper”, providing weekly articles on sports and local events for “La Raza” newspaper and producing two “live” radio programs- “Without Borders” on Radio Arte and “STEREOTIPO” on La Kalle 103.1 and 93.5 FM in Chicago. The latter disseminates information to urban Latino youth and provides an outlet, otherwise absent, for them to clarify stereotypes and speak about the experiences that they encounter, including sex, gangs, domestic violence, gentrification, and racial profiling.
Irene is the Training Program Director for Radio Arte 90.5fm Chicago, a bilingual public radio station and a radio disk jockey for La Kalle 103.1 and 93.5fm, a Spanish language commercial radio station. She has also produced a program on women’s affairs, entitled “La Femme” and supervised nine young girls between the ages of 15 and 21 in the production of this weekly program. Lastly, she has engineered the sound and lighting board and coordinated various theatrical performances during the nationally recognized Sor Juan Festival at the National Museum of Mexican Art, and facilitated a course focused on teaching 15 urban youth about the gentrifying of their community and produced an audio documentary about the experience.