Jahmal Cole is a tireless volunteer and role model. An advocate for education reform in Chicago, Jahmal is passionate about improving schools and is a frequent speaker at colleges in the Chicagoland area. Jahmal is the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, “Athletes & MC’s” and “50 Excuses: to not Follow your Dreams.”

Recognized for his contributions to the community, he is the recipient of many awards, including a 2012 Certificate of Appreciation from Governor Pat Quinn, 2012 Chicago Ideas Award Winner presented by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, 2013 Scion Motivate Winner presented by Toyota, 2013 John Lennon Song Writing Grand Prize Award Winner, 2013 Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Volunteer Award. 2016 Roberto Clemente Global Health Award, 2016 Chicago Urban League Innovator Award 2017 Outstanding Commitment to Community Service Award on behalf of State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and 2017 Mazda Drive for Good Competition Winner and 2017 Bluhm Helmand Social Innovation Fellow. 2018 Chicago Defender Men of Excellence Honoree, 2018 Chicago City Council Resolution Award recipient. 2018 he was named one of the “20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans” by Streetwise Magazine. 2018 named a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. He was appointed as honorary chair of State of Black Chicago Steering Committee by Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court and named one of Huffington Post’s 15 Inspiring Chicagoans. Most recently, he has successfully launched a groundbreaking social initiative entitled “My Block, My Hood, My City, where he takes teenagers from underserved Chicago communities on City Wide explorations.


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Casey Merchant is a community advocate, organizer, and program manager for My Block, My Hood, My City. Born and raised on Chicago's North Shore and graduating with a B.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from UIUC. Casey spent years working in grassroots advocacy and on candidate campaigns around Chicago. Pursuing a range of interests he continued on to manage data for a digital organizing firm, and freelancing photo and design work. Casey has an entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for social justice, and broad range of experiences that make him a perfect fit for managing and developing program operations. 

Ramon Forte has been with Jahmal Cole since 2010, and he currently serves as the Dean of Students. He is responsible managing and implementing our engaging exploration program in an effort to ensure a positive living-learning experience for our students. Prior to this appointment Forte served as a program manager and photographer where his images have been published via CNN and the Washington Post. He plays a pivotal role in helping My Block, My Hood, My City achieve one of its fundamental goals, educating students through experiential learning and cultural immersion. 

Forte is a life long Chicagoan and graduate of Dunbar High School on Chicago’s South Side. He’s been actively involved in community organizing and civic engagement for the past eight years.