Jahmal Cole

CEO & Founder

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.

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Cynthia Alfaro


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 studied Finance and Human Resources from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Cynthia transitioned into the education sector, stepping into her true passion for training and development. 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.


Nathaniel Viets-VanLear

Program Manager, Explorer’s Program

Nathaniel identifies as a Multiracial Activist, Youth Social Worker, Facilitator, and Teaching Artist. Born and raised in Chicago, Nathaniel is most passionate about work with children, youth, and young adults in under-served communities in the city. He values art and music based approaches for learners of all ages, and had incorporated these mediums across a myriad of demographics and audiences. With over a decade of youth leadership development experience, he strives to only grow more in his work through the youth of the My Block My Hood My City Explorers Program. Nathaniel believes radical change can happen in communities with the right tools and investment: He is thankful for every opportunity to be a part of that change.   

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Casey Merchant

Program Manager, One Block At A Time

Casey 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 the One Block program. 


Lady Sanders

Program Coordinator, Explorer’s Program

Lady 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.


Ernesto Gonzalez

Community Organizer, One Block At A Time

Ernesto is a proud born and raised South Side Chicagoan. In the Spring of 2018 he received he B.A. in Political Science with a concentration on Urban Politics  He is a community organizer with the One Block at a Time program. Being a son of immigrant parents, Ernesto has seen the many different sides of the city and with that knowledge he hopes to connect the city with different experiences and opportunities. When he is not out enjoying one of the 77 communities in the city, he loves to watch futbol. He enjoys being a part of an amazing team at My Block My Hood My City and for him it is both and honor and a privilege to help this beautiful city.