Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Dennis Delgado’s Impact at One Hope United

In the spirit of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we are shining a spotlight on Dennis Delgado, the Executive Director of CBFS at One Hope United. Dennis has been a trailblazer his entire life, from becoming the first in his family to graduate college to becoming the first Executive Director at One Hope United of Hispanic descent. This year, Dennis is celebrating his thirteenth year as a Hope Member, and his leadership has led to increased visibility and inclusivity, not only for his fellow Hope Members but also for everyone in our care.


What is your cultural background?

I was born and raised in the U.S. but I am from Puerto Rican descent, and my parents were born and raised there. My siblings and I are first generation in the U.S. I am one of 4 siblings, I am number 3 in line. My father was one of 13 children and wasn’t able to go to school. Because of this, he can’t read and write to this day because he had to help support his family. Coming to the United States, he didn’t have any type of education. My mom, on the other hand, did have a high school education, but the way that I was raised was still very old school. Although, it is a lot different than how a lot of Hispanics are raised now, because I feel like as a lot of generations continue on from first, second, third, and fourth generation, you tend to lose some of that culture. Spanish was my immediate first language, but I did learn both around the same time. My dad, to this day, still speaks broken English, so we always spoke Spanish around the house and English mostly in school.


How do you prioritize serving the Hispanic population in your work?

The unfortunate piece is that Hispanic culture is underserved and underrepresented. We don’t have specific programs designed for the Spanish-speaking population specific to Hispanics or Latinos. Especially in Northern Illinois, the Hispanic culture is the largest minority group, and we don’t have programs designed to address their cultural needs in a way that is in their native tongue. There are other agencies that offer such services, but I am specifically trying to get us back into that area. Some years ago we did offer some programs that were tailored to Spanish speaking clients, but due to the scarcity of Hispanics who are bilingual or bicultural entering this field, that is what helps fuel how we provide services to our clients. Right now, we have brought back the Burgos Foster Care Program, which is specifically for clients who speak Spanish and identify as Spanish and Latino. I’m working on getting this up off the ground again, but the difficulty is being able to identify qualified candidates with vast experience who speak Spanish and are bilingual.


How would you say that your culture helps bring a different perspective to people in our care?

It’s the unique lens in which I was born and how I have always seen the world. Yes, you grow and you develop and learn to utilize other lenses, however, I can’t view this world as a white person. No matter how hard I try, because I will not be treated as a white person. Same thing goes if I was talking about the black culture; minorities sometimes tend to be able to relate to each other, but not perfectly. My path has been a bit more difficult because of my cultural background. However, I will say this proudly, I have been able to tackle any type of adversity this far in my life in order to get to where I’m at. Whether that be through education, I have utilized my culture when it comes to getting various scholarships that were specific to minorities. Not everything has always been equal opportunities. I will say I haven’t had it the roughest, but my starting line was further back than the majority of those in the US. My goal in what I do is fueled by my culture, and I’m trying to make it easier so all cultures have a more equal starting line. When we do that, we set everyone up for the same success.


In your 13 years of working at OHU, can you think of an instance you were grateful for being bilingual?

When I started at OHU I was a case manager for the first 5 years in CCBYS that helps youth aged 11-17. There was a 12-year-old light-skinned Mexican male, and his legal guardian was his grandma. I remember his grandma being so appreciative that I spoke Spanish because the 12-year-old grandson was always having to translate things for her because she didn’t speak English. There were times she didn’t think he was translating things as effectively. For that family, it ended up being a godsend for them that I spoke Spanish. I’ve always been the only Spanish-speaking person on my team. The vast majority of my cases during that time were families from the Hispanic community because I could speak to them better and also relate to them better because I understood some of the adversities they had to overcome.


What is the importance in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?

The importance of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is equally as important as celebrating the 4th of July, marking our nation’s independence. It reminds us that before living in the United States, we all came from somewhere else. Our origins influence our unique identities, including our physical features, skin tone, music preferences, culinary traditions, and clothing styles. Each of these 21 different Spanish-speaking countries contribute its distinct flavor and spice to our shared heritage, and we take pride in where we came from, who we are, and where we are going.

OHU Announces Damon Cates as Interim CEO

We are pleased to announce Damon Cates as the new Interim President & CEO of One Hope United. While many are acquainted with Damon as our Chief Advancement Officer, Damon’s career in development and fundraising has spanned over 18 years at the University of Chicago where he led alumni relations and development programs for several of the University’s academic units. In addition to UChicago, Damon has held leadership fundraising positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University. 

Beyond Damon’s typical work week, his dedication to our mission extends to his freetime, where you can frequently find him visiting various OHU sites and volunteering for events. Whether he’s shadowing case workers to gain insight into our various programs and services or cheering on OHU kids as they open their new basketball court, Damon consistently demonstrates his support to our organization.

As the OHU Board of Directors embark on a search for the next CEO to increase access to quality early childhood education, improve child welfare outcomes, and expand mental health services, we are confident in Damon’s leadership to provide collaboration and teamwork. 

“My priorities have been and will continue to remain focused on our Hope Members,” Damon said. “The children and families we serve critically depend on Hope Members having the necessary tools and resources they need to do their best work. It is my top priority to ensure our teams are best equipped to solve the challenges of those who most need us and our services.”

With Damon’s seasoned leadership and dedication to our mission, we are excited for the chapters he will help write in our organization’s inspiring journey. Congratulations, Damon!

Planting Seeds of Success in Kindergarten

Kindergarten teachers play a crucial role in building the foundation for our children’s educational journey. Dedicated educators– like Hannah McVey from the Aurora Early Learning Center– are not just teaching the ABCs and 123s, they are helping kids grow, enjoy learning, and prepare for a successful future.

A Glimpse Into the Kindergarten Classroom

Every day in Hannah’s classroom is new and enjoyable. The first hour of her day is filled with the joyful buzz of chatter from the 5-6 year olds. They engage in building intricate structures with blocks, unleash their creativity through coloring, and share laughter while racing toy cars. During these moments of unstructured play, the children’s cognitive development is growing while they learn interpersonal skills through social interaction with their classmates and teachers.

As the clock inches towards 9 a.m., the transition from play to structured learning begins. The kindergartners make their way to their desks and go over what classroom responsibilities and learning are planned for the day. From there, the academic day unfolds–reading and writing, math, social studies, and science.

By thoughtfully crafting group activities tailored to each learning level, Hannah ensures that every child receives the attention and support they need to succeed, enabling her to accommodate the diverse needs of her students. The student’s classwork is designed to be split into two-week long units exploring how the world works with their learning group–a carefully curated team of students, selected to match progress while still allowing each child to be challenged.

The Impact of Early Education

Currently Kindergarten is not mandatory in the state of Illinois, but the impact of early education is profound due to its role in shaping crucial cognitive, social, and emotional development in young children. These foundational skills lay the groundwork for academic success, school readiness, and a lifelong enthusiasm for learning. In a nation where over 2 million students drop out of high school every year in the United States, it costs communities approximately $272,000 per dropout in public assistance, healthcare, and incarceration expenses. 

However, among these concerning statistics, research shines a hopeful light on the significance of early education. Research has shown, children in today’s early education programs not only experience personal growth, but also have greater chances of success. Children enrolled in early education programs today are 25% more likely to graduate high school and 4 times more likely to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

“I love seeing how much the kids grow,” Hannah said. “Being able to see how much they change throughout the school year, how much they can come out of their shell since the first day of school and seeing how much they grow as individuals–socially and emotionally, but also academically–is probably my favorite thing about teaching.” 

Embrace Your Journey At One Hope United

As part of OHU’s kindergarten team, teachers find a supportive and collaborative environment with accessible lesson plans at their fingertips. Just like Hannah, they are equipped to inspire learning and curiosity in their students, setting them on a path to success from day one. To offer full support, we include assistant teachers in the classroom to ensure both our students and teachers are supported. 

But it’s not just about the classroom–it’s about being part of a community. Our regular events include art fairs, science fairs, and open houses, creating a genuine relationship between families and teachers. Through our parent portal, communication becomes seamless so parents and teachers are on the same page about their child’s education and developmental growth.

As a kindergarten teacher at OHU, your role extends far beyond education. You’re influencing and molding the next generation. If you’re ready to embark on your teaching journey with One Hope United, click here.

Thriving Together Luncheon: Nurturing Bright Futures and Inspiring Change

We are happy to announce that our Spring Luncheon, Thriving Together, was a great success! The event brought our community together at the beautiful USG Headquarters in Chicago to help break the cycles of poverty, trauma, and neglect. Together, we raised an astounding $155,000 that will go towards our early education and child development centers. Opening doors to a brighter future, this will help us provide vital health screenings for hearing and vision, STEM supplies, computer stations, books, and more! 

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton, for her powerful speech on advocating education and children’s welfare. She truly inspired us all, highlighting the importance of building stronger, more equitable communities. Her words reinforced the belief that investing in early childhood education is a powerful catalyst for a world where every child can flourish.


Another highlight of the day was the presentation of the Chairman’s Award to John W. Rogers Jr., a true visionary and the driving force behind Ariel Investments. Rogers’s dedication to the Chicagoland community has paved the way for economic opportunities and transformed the lives of countless underserved youth. We were also fortunate to hear from Cree Thurmond, a valued Hope Member, who shared her heartfelt experience as a parent with children in OHU’s program while also being a part of our dedicated team. Her story was truly captivating, filled with inspiration that touched the hearts of everyone in the room. 

To further support our mission, you can donate here to play a part in our incredible journey. Together, we can empower children and families, opening doors to a world where everyone has access to quality education. Let’s continue thriving together!


How OHU Creates a Safe and Inclusive Environment for LGBTQIA+ Individuals

At OHU, we are dedicated to creating a nurturing and accepting environment for all individuals who access our services. As we proudly celebrate Pride Month, we had the privilege of speaking with Emily Owen, the Director of Programs for the Residential and Group Homes in Centralia, IL. With 17 years of experience at OHU, Emily provided valuable insights into how our organization actively supports and cares for LGBTQIA+ staff and the children in our care.

OHU is dedicated to actively promoting and supporting inclusivity and diversity, encompassing a wide range of individuals, including LGBTQIA+ youth. As one of the first programs in Illinois to accept transgender youth, we take pride in our progressive approach.

“Our organization serves clients from diverse backgrounds, providing them with every opportunity to express themselves freely,” Emily said. “For transgender youth, we prioritize their well-being and identity by placing them in homes where they feel at ease, respecting their self-identified gender. We firmly believe in client choice and actively support preferred names and pronouns, ensuring that everyone feels validated and respected within our environment.”

To create this safe environment, OHU has implemented various policies, procedures, and initiatives. We prioritize ongoing education and training for our staff, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and understanding to support LGBTQIA+ youth effectively. As part of our commitment to celebration and recognition, we engage our clients in activities that honor Pride Month and validate their identities. Additionally, we offer specialty groups and a youth advisory board where LGBTQIA+ youth can find support and a sense of belonging.

Residential Living Room

“We strive to educate our staff members and empower them to support our youth, regardless of their personal beliefs, always meeting them where they are,” Emily said. Addressing potential biases or discriminatory behaviors is of utmost importance to us. During staff orientation, we emphasize our Red Flag Reporting System and Open Door Policy. We encourage staff members to openly express any concerns they may have, providing a culture of trust and open communication. We also have availability in all of our homes to do anonymous reports for those who may feel uncomfortable reporting in person.

OHU takes pride in the positive impact we have made on the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals who have accessed our services. We have helped youth connect with essential services during their transition processes, addressing their mental and physical health needs. In cases where families may struggle to accept their child’s pronouns or identities, we provide a safe space for processing emotions and navigating these challenging situations. Through collaboration with therapists and family members, we assist clients in finding understanding and support systems.

Looking to the future, OHU remains committed to enhancing the care, provision, and protection of LGBTQIA+ individuals within our organization. Our dedicated activity team plans events every month that celebrate and support various aspects of our community’s identities. We understand the importance of continued education, maintaining an open mindset, and being willing to learn and adapt. Our organization has presented on a national level in Washington, D.C., and we will continue to support and welcome individuals regardless of their beliefs or preferences. Above all, our ultimate goal is to create a safe and accepting space where all our OHU community feels valued and respected.

The Power of Early Education: Setting Up Children for Lifelong Success

Education serves as a fundamental pillar of personal growth and development. From the time we are born, we are constantly learning. These early years are some of the most important stepping stones to help a child succeed early in life. It is during these years that their minds are most receptive, and the capacity for learning is at its peak. Studies such as one by Harvard, have shown how early education programs benefit children in developing necessary skills they need to succeed. Recognizing the importance of this crucial stage, One Hope United has established a network of Early Learning Centers that provide comprehensive programs to nurture children and empower families. 

Early education has a multitude of positive effects that contribute to a child’s overall progress and long-term success. Some key benefits include:

  • Cognitive Development: Early education programs provide a stimulating environment that promotes cognitive growth through language and literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
  • Social and Emotional Skills: Children learn to share, take turns, cooperate, resolve conflicts, and gain empathy and emotional resilience.
  • School Readiness: By exposing children to early learning, they are better equipped to adapt to the classroom environment and succeed academically when furthering their schooling.
  • Language and Communication: Early education programs focus on language development, helping children build a strong vocabulary, express themselves effectively, and by gaining listening and comprehension skills.

These positive effects of early education demonstrate its profound influence on a child’s learning. It is important to realize that the emphasis is not solely on the child, but also on building strong partnerships with parents. At OHU, we recognize the vital role parents play in a child’s education. This is why we actively involve families in their children’s learning process by creating open lines of communication, providing resources, and engaging parents in their child’s education.

At our Early Education Centers, we provide a supportive environment where children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old embark on a transformative educational journey. These centers offer a wide range of programs designed to encourage children’s independence and curiosity. By providing a solid foundation for their academic and social-emotional growth, our goal is to empower children to become confident, lifelong learners.

We are committed to making a lasting impact on communities and empowering individuals to break free from the cycles of poverty, trauma, and neglect. Early education is a transformative force that shapes the trajectory of a child’s life. By nurturing children’s growth and partnering with parents, we are creating a solid foundation to set children up for success. To further our mission, we are hosting an event called Thriving Together on June 6th, 2023. Join us to become part of the movement to build a brighter future for all. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children and communities, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive. Buy tickets or donate today!

Running Towards Hope: One Hope United’s Spring Shuffle 5K

On a beautiful Sunday morning, One Hope United hosted its annual Spring Shuffle 5K event at the Sun Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa, IL. The event brought together the One Hope United community to serve the mission of providing education, resources, and support to children and families.

The highlight of the event was the participation of the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa. Despite the early start, the boys were excited and ready to tackle the 5K. As they lined up at the start, the air was filled with anticipation and nervous energy.

As the race began, the boys took off, some sprinting ahead, while others settled into a steady pace. The trail was challenging, with twists and turns, and a few steep inclines. But the boys persevered, pushing themselves to their limits.

Along the way, volunteers and supporters cheered the boys on, shouting words of encouragement and high-fiving them as they passed. The sense of community was palpable, and it gave the boys the boost they needed to keep going.

In the end, all the boys finished the race, each receiving a participation medal with a look of pride and accomplishment on their faces. One of the boys stated, “Every ounce of my body was telling me to stop, but I used my head and my heart to keep going.”

Events like this play a crucial role in providing the boys with opportunities to grow, develop social skills, build trust, and form relationships. By creating a nurturing environment, One Hope United’s Residential Programs help these young individuals work towards achieving self-sufficiency, educational or personal goals, and ultimately preparing them for a successful transition to a family setting or adulthood.

After the race, everyone enjoyed tacos and ice cream sandwiches while celebrating the achievements of the boys. During lunch, there was an award ceremony where each boy was awarded a superlative, a hat from their favorite sports team, and a McDonald’s gift card. The smiles on their faces were a testament to the hard work and dedication they put into completing the race.

The event would not have been possible without the outstanding work from the OHU team and the many volunteers who gave their time to make it a success. As one volunteer, Christie, said, “This is my second event volunteering at One Hope United. I love doing it and bringing my kids along to set a good example of helping the community.” Click here if you are interested in becoming a volunteer for OHU. 

Overall, the Spring Shuffle 5K was a great success, bringing people together to support a worthy cause and providing a fun and challenging experience for the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus. One Hope United looks forward to hosting more events like this in the future and continuing to make a positive impact in the lives of our community!

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