A champion of social justice, Jahmal Cole’s mission is to build a more interconnected Chicago on the pillars of service and education.
As the founder and CEO of the city’s fastest growing social impact organization, My Block My Hood My City, Jahmal is the creator of an exposure-based education program for teens and a network of volunteer initiatives that serve Chicago communities year-round.
Traveling, youth mentorship and community organizing are the subjects of Jahmal’s highly acclaimed books and speeches, He has spoken to audiences ranging from high school students to the Mayor of Chicago.
Jahmal is most recently the recipient of the 2019 Champion of Freedom Award from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the 2018 Chicago Defender Men of Excellence Honoree, and the 2018 Chicago City Council Resolution Award. In 2018, he was also named one of the “20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans” by Streetwise Magazine and a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine.
Cynthia Alfaro is known to many for her calm and cool personality, Cynthia is a woman on a mission to help people live better lives. As a teenager, she was a nationally ranked tennis athlete. Since then, she has always been intrigued with “winning” on the court and off, specifically what works in helping people achieve their highest potential. She found her way into a Finance degree after an injury sidelined her tennis career indefinitely and her heart for social work wasn’t paying her school loans back quick enough. Yet, after a semester away living in Mexico City, Cynthia was determined to do something immediately to make a difference in her world. After a year long apprenticeship with an Americorps group called Public Allies Chicago, a program made to groom the next generation of community leaders, her Finance career was halted by the impact of 9/11. Focused to win, Cynthia successfully pivoted again by entering into an up-and-coming field of Human Resources. She studied Finance and Human Resources from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and proceeded to work in a fast-paced entrepreneurial corporate environment at Pepsi Co, winning the respect and support of executives and frontline employees. Still on a mission to do more social good, Cynthia transitioned into the education sector, stepping into her true passion for training and development. It was at the New York City Department of Education that she supported the alternative schools’ superintendent, cabinet and principals on building their capacity as leaders. After starting a young family, Cynthia joined the leadership team of a popular dual-language progressive school in Washington Heights and helped manage the school, while raising her two daughters in New York. Shortly after, her need to be closer to home and family, brought her to Chicago where she quickly applied her business and education skills to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) as a School Finance Manager and then changed lanes to Development to gain exposure to non-profit fundraising. Cynthia is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at M3, where her HR, operations, finance and development experience are being fully utilizing and her dream of making Chicago a better place is being fulfilled. In her spare time, she teaches family fitness classes, volunteers with her daughters, supports moms through her Moms Winning empowerment blog and offers community workshops to help people live their best lives.
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.
Lady Sanders is a Program Coordinator for My Block, My Hood, My City. She was born and raised on the Westside of Chicago in the North Lawndale community. She’s a proud aunt of 13 nieces and nephews. Lady graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communications from Benedict College. While working on the pursuit of her dreams to one day become a Film Producer and Director, she focuses on giving back to the youth within and outside of her community. She is persistent and dedicated to the greater good of all people especially young people and seeks only to advance as an individual.