Las Caras Lindas (LCL) was founded in 2006 through the vision of six women. Monika Black, Kim Cox, Carmen Flores-Rance, Patricia Perez, Nadine Porrata and Jeanine Ward were all inspired to start a program for adolescent girls after working with the struggling youth who were in their personal lives and communities. In their own way each of the founding members were already reaching out to help adolescent girls. LCL simply became the funnel through with the collective efforts of each of the founders could be more fully leveraged to serve the needs of young women. In June of 2006 LCL launched an 8-week self-esteem workshop in collaboration with San Lucas United Church of Christ (San Lucas UCC).
From 2008 to 2010 LCL was lead through the vision and leadership of Monika Black, co-founder and Past Executive Director, and Patricia Perez, co-founder and Past Program Director. During that time the LCL program expanded to a 6-month self-esteem mentoring program for girls (ages 12 -18). LCL became a leading program, designed to focus on the unique needs of minority adolescent girls that live in urban communities. Using an integrated approach to community development that is both strengths-based and culturally grounded LCL created transformational opportunities to address the challenges faced by African American and Latina youth within the Humboldt Park and other Chicago neighborhoods. The LCL curriculum not only addressed the personal development of diverse adolescent girls but it also sought to redefine youths perspectives of themselves, their community and their society away from deficits towards assets, from the inside out. In addition to workshops that focused on issues of self-esteem, mental health and physical well-being, LCL provided tours of Chicago’s various ethnic communities so that youth could reshape their view of the often labeled stigmatized “disenfranchised” urban communities. LCL Also created a focus on leadership so that once youth had an opportunity to view themselves and their communities in a more positive light that they could more effectively leverage their strengths to promote themselves while remaining integrally committed to using their talents for the benefit of society. In this space, LCL also hosted a series of cultural immersion trips to American cities with a rich cultural history of Black and Latino cultural heritage, including New York City, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
Today, LCL is led by a growing team of passionate, committed, visionary women. In 2011, Yemisi Dinkins, Executive Director joined the LCL team to help expand programming from a socially conscious perspective, holding true to the values of equality, collectivism and solidarity across Black and Brown cultures. Yemisi was joined by Lisba Romo-Martinez, Strategy Director, Lissette Romo, Creative Director and Donna Medina, Program Director. Together they have expanded LCL programming beyond youth to include diver girls and the women who support them. In 2011, LCL launched the LEAD Expo a community event that bridged the gap between Black and Brown girls and women throughout the Chicago area, leading discussions on leadership, entrepreneurship, advocacy and personal development. Already 2012 our commitment and programming to support the evolution and elevation of Black and Brown women has grown with the implementation of LCL’s Youth LEADers Program, Community Impact Network and Social Entrepreneurship Consulting.
Monika Black is a community partner, educator and researcher. As a community partner Monika provides a wide range of services. At the individual level she is keen on engaging individuals in the active progression and advancement of themselves as leaders in a way that creates synergy at multiple levels of one’s life. When working at the organizational level, she partners with organizations and leaders as an extension of the organization, intently integrating the organizations vision, culture, strengths and resources in a way that helps to more succinctly align program theory, design and evaluation. As an educator Monika provides her students with the knowledge, experiential understanding and space to fully integrate their learning experience so that participants can advance academically and personally. In her research Monika focuses on the design and development of culturally grounded interventions that will lend towards the achievement of impactful policy, processes and procedures and real results across various under acknowledged and utilized communities. Specifically, she focuses her research on diverse populations, women, community organizational development and leadership engagement.
Monika is also a Partner at TandemSring Small Business Consultancy. Before starting TandemSpring, Monika was co-founder and Executive Director of Las Caras Lindas. With a Master’s degree in both Clinical Psychology and Healthcare Administration, Monika was responsible for the leadership, mentoring and program design and development f or Las Caras Lindas from 2008-2010. Monika is currently in the process of completing her Ph.D. at DePaul University in Community Psychology.
Carmen Flores is a mother and Social Service Program Coordinator for the Illinois Department of Human Services and a dedicated community activist in the Humboldt Park community. Carmen is also the Council President of San Lucas United Church of Christ. Carmen became engaged with Las Caras Lindas through a grant that she received through the Illinois Department of Minority Health to bring awareness of HIV/AIDS to the West Humboldt Park Community. After the program concluded, her vision evolved into working specifically with young women due to the heightened awareness of new HIV/AIDS cases among African American and Latina women and adolescents. Carmen’s inspiration also came from the struggles she saw young women facing with domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse and health concerns. She felt that working with young women would provide an opportunity to empower them and provide them with a better view of life. Carmen’s goal is to see beautiful faces with a positive outlook on life so that they can become role models for other women and men in t heir communities.
Patricia (LadyP) Perez
Patrica Perez is a Visual Artist and Art Instructor in the Humboldt Park community. She is also a current undergraduate student at Northeastern University majoring in art with a minor in Latino and Latin American Studies. Patricia is instrumental in helping to organize activities, workshops and events for Las Caras Lindas. Her inspiration for Las Caras Lindas began when she landed a job teaching art in Humboldt Park over three years ago. There, she met two very special sisters who she came to know on a more personal level as time progressed. Patricia learned of the domestic violence in their backgrounds and the lack of communication they had with their parents. She felt the need to do more for them other than just provide an after school recreational activity. That is where her inspiration for LCL began. Patricia’s personal goal is to continue to provide opportunities for young women that they would not typically receive at school or in their communities. She wants to assure that after young women graduate from LCL, that their experiences will continue to give them an optimistic and positive viewpoint on life as they continue their journeys in this world.
Nadine Rosa (Rosita) Porrata
Rosita is Program Coordinator at San Lucas Church United Church of Christ where she has been a member for close to 30 years. As s a youth, Rosita participated in the Central Unidad Latina program, a youth course hosted by San Lucas. In her daily activities, Rosita is responsible for coordinating the food pantry, hot meals for the homeless and the Energy Assistance Program. Like Carmen Flores-Rance, Rosita started her work with Las Caras Lindas through a grant that San Lucas received for HIV education from the Department of Heath. Rosita’s role in Las Caras Lindas is to make sure that these young girls are directed along the right course in life, and make sure that the girls get mentored. As a mother, Rosita’s personal goal is to make sure that the young women of Las Caras Lindas grow up to be beautiful women and to let them know that their community is here to make sure that they won’t be lead in the wrong direction.
Jeanine Ward is a mother, Executive Administrative Assistant and community volunteer. Jeanine became involved in Las Caras Lindas through her volunteer work at San Lucas United Church of Christ where she assisted with various aspects of the weekly food pantry. The volunteer activity was something that she took on with her own daughter to broaden her perspective, showing her the importance of giving back to the community. Jeanine’s strength of spirit and character was demonstrated when she was simultaneously diagnosed with depression and cancer in 2006. As a cancer survivor and someone who is recovering from depression, Jeanine continues to show the depth of strength that women embody. Jeanine is an Individual Contributor for Las Caras Lindas. Her ability to bring people together toward a common goal led to the initial introduction of many of the founders of Las Caras Lindas. Her continued support has provided the program with programmatic and financial support. Jeanine’s personal goal for Las Caras Lindas is to make certain that young women are provided with a wealth of information and resources necessary to develop into healthy, well-rounded women who are capable of making their own well-informed decisions.
Kim Cox Kim Cox is an artist and designer/seamstress. Kim currently works for Aerial Gym Stars, a program that focuses on positive reinforcement and confidence building. In the past, she has taught children arts programs. Within Las Caras Lindas, Kim focuses on building self-esteem and a true sense of personal empowerment by creating a safe and supportive environment to talk about the impact of the external environment on each girl; talking about “painful truths” helps each girl realize that she is not alone in what she is going through and it helps to realize that they do not have to be overpowered by the circumstances in their life. Kim was inspired to work with a program like Las Caras Lindas based on her own personal experiences and the influence that Meds Young Moms had on her life as a teen mother. Kim’s personal goal for the participants in the program is to help each girl to develop the power, knowledge and support to make conscious choices about how they live their lives so that the future does not just happen to them, but they instead create it of their own heart and design.