Maxica and her three school-age children moved into their new home in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood last January. It has six bedrooms and a big backyard – perfect for making snow angels in the winter and leaf angels in the fall. The residential streets and proximity to parks offer ample space for family strolls with their new puppy, Roxy. And a nearby community garden provides fresh produce for cooking and eating together.
DeNaysa,16, is a bookworm. The salutatorian of her 8th grade class, the now high school sophomore enjoys band, choir, and volleyball. She is also learning how to drive. DeSera, 14, is a “momma’s girl,” – a natural caregiver and straight-A honors student. She loves choir and is a sprinter on her high school’s track and field team. DeVon, 13, is a talented athlete, playing basketball, football, softball, and volleyball. He likes turning his poetry into music, using skills learned from an After School Matters program.
“My kids are my heart and soul and the centers of my life,” said Maxica.
Mayra Fajardo recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She earned a double major in psychology and criminology/law, with a double minor in history and Spanish. Having navigated high school and college as an unaccompanied student, Mayra is passionate about using her skills and experiences to help others.
Born and raised in Chicago, Mayra moved with her family to Ecuador at 15. A year later, she made the difficult decision to return to Chicago alone to pursue better educational opportunities. Her goal? To provide hope and support for her mother and younger sister.
At the start of the pandemic, Shamaje Singleton, then 18, was unable to afford housing on his own. He bounced around Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, living doubled-up with various family members and sharing crowded hotel rooms with friends.
A month after turning 19, Shamaje received wonderful news: He had been accepted into the Solid Ground transitional living program at La Casa Norte. Shamaje instantly connected to the community living in the dorm-style building in Humboldt Park.
All parents want a safe, stable, loving home for their children. Grassroots leader Elizabeth Maldonado, a mother of four, is no different. Although her journey to housing had been tough, her desire to provide a real home for her children was stronger.
Born in Honduras, Elizabeth’s family moved from place to place – never having a home of their own. They moved to Florida, then Ohio, and then back to Central America, always staying with family or in shelters. Abuse was a common occurrence.