CAUSE Leaders

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Ariana Santana | CAUSE President

CAUSE Advisor

Dr. Miguel A. Saucedo | Director of Post-Secondary Strategic Interventions | Office of School Counseling and Post-Secondary Advising (OSCPA)
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Susana Mares | Undocumented Champion Program Manager

CPS Students

CPS Alumn

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Elena Hernandez
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Mia Mendoza
Yamali Rodas
Francisco A. Villaseñor
Valeria Monreal
Viri (1)
Viri Martínez
Isabela K. Ávila Ríos
Ileanne Cecilio
Alejandro Lopez Perez
Alejandro López Pérez
Natalie Velazquez
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Valeria Silva
Maria Mancero

CAUSE Allies

Dra. Joanna V. Maravilla | Website Sponsor
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Ariana Santana

I have been at CAUSE since April of 2022 thanks to Isabela Avila who was my current DREAMers president. 

I live in Belmont Cragin and currently attend Lane Tech High School. I enjoy making art and revolve my free time around the arts, playing video games and reading. 

My first meeting at CAUSE was a big step for me, I was able to see people my age work together to improve our school system but also behaving like a big family. This environment really captivated me and I felt like I had a place in this community. I do this work because as an undocumented student I understand the struggle and I want to make a better future for those that will come after me. I want to help others the way I was helped by my club and the entirety of CAUSE. This organization has helped me by motivating me to keep working for my dreams, they provided the information and the resources that I can use to move forward like the rest of my peers. The most rewarding part of this is when I hear people that find our resources or hear about CAUSE in other spaces because that means that our work is paying off and things are improving for my community. 

Dr. Miguel A. Saucedo | He/Him/His

I’m a Little Village native. I attended Farragut HS. I work for the CPS central office and support all High Schools. My title is Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Populations.

Dr. Miguel A. Saucedo is a native from Chicago’s Little Village community. He earned his doctorate from the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation focused on the academic achievement, suspension and expulsion, and criminalization of young Mexican American male students in Chicago Public Schools. He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Populations at Chicago Public Schools.

I’m An Unafraid Educator With And For Undocumented Students. CAUSE is one of the core reasons why I serve CPS student and their families. Since 2018, CAUSE co-created many of the initiatives that CPS has launched to support Undocumented Students across the district and beyond. As a result of CAUSE’s research findings and list of recommendations, CPS developed the Chicago Undocumented Champion Credential for all High Schools Counselors and partners.

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My name is Susana Mares, and I am a proud first generation, English Language Learner, and Chicago Public School’s alumna! My family is from Aguascalientes, Mexico. I grew up mostly in the south side of Chicago. First part of my childhood, I lived in the Little Village neighborhood where I attended Eli Whitney Elementary School, but graduated from Richard Henry Lee Elementary School due to moving to the West Lawn area during that year. I am the oldest of three siblings! 

I graduated from John F. Kennedy High School, and attended Northeastern Illinois University. Extremely thankful to my parents that were able to fund my education, since I was not eligible for FAFSA due to a high income. I received very little support in high school in terms of being able to discuss what I wanted to do after high school. With that said, I initially wanted to become an English high school teacher; however, once I began to be in the classrooms when I first started working with Chicago GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) as a part-time tutor, I realized I had a different career interest. I did not realize that there were careers, aside from being a School Counselor, that focused on supporting high school students in navigating post-secondary opportunities. I decided to graduate with a Bachelor’s in English to later apply for a full-time position with GEAR UP. 

I had the opportunity to work with GEAR UP for about 13 years under different roles and capacities. I was very fortunate to serve about six different cohorts from John F Hancock, Foreman, and Farragut Career Academy. In 2019, I achieved my Master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership. During the pandemic, I knew it was time to search for another opportunity. I was given the opportunity to work for a Title V Grant at Wright College in partnership with 13 CPS Schools and Northeastern Illinois University as the Director- Student Development Projects. 

Because I come from a family with mixed statuses, serving undocumented students and communities is important to me. I am very grateful to be in this new role as the Undocumented Champion Program Manager. And, I am very excited to work alongside a very committed group of adults, youth, and other stakeholders that want to support this population of students. 

Please contact me if you need to talk more about your options. There are many allies here willing to support you! 

Alejandro López Pérez | he/him/él

I have been with CAUSE since August of 2021. I found out about CAUSE through former president Francisco and current president Isabela at the Mayor’s Office.
I am from the Jefferson Park neighborhood and I attend Taft High School where I am the president and founder of the DREAMers and First-Generation Club. Outside of CAUSE I am a Public Health Youth Commissioner at the Mayor’s Office and a chair for the CPS Office of Student Protections and Title IX Advisory Board.
Although I only joined CAUSE in late last year, I am proud to be working along such great people. The support provided here is like no other and the people here at CAUSE have truly created a safe space that inspires me so greatly. I am so involved in advocacy work especially for the undocumented community because my family and community has suffered from inadequate policy on numerous occasions and I just grew sick and tired of not being able to do more. CAUSE has definitely allowed me to impact the community around me directly and be the change I want to see in the world. I hope to see CAUSE as an established organization that is implemented in all high school networks in and outside of Chicago. I truly feel the world will benefit from having CAUSE in its lives. I myself want to pursue policy work related to public health but I have no doubt that the intersectionality between the undocumented community, public health, and various other social issues will allow me to continue doing advocacy work and CAUSE has been the fundamental basis for which I will only grow from. CAUSE not only empowers, but creates future leaders that I know will change the world.

Dra. Joanna V. Maravilla | she/her/hers/la/ella 

I am a first-generation college student, child of immigrant parents – who was born and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. I earned my doctoral degree in curriculum studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and am currently assistant professor of educational leadership – English as a second language in the department of education at Lewis university. My work examines the impact of curriculum and language ideologies on the success of Latinx students in public education. This includes the education of emergent bilingual students, bilingualism, education policy, urban education, the education of undocumented youth and teacher preparation. Through the use of Latinx critical race theory (LatCrit) & testimonio as a methodology, my work focuses on the relationship between language, race, culture, and literacy learning.

As una hija of former undocumented parents and many family members that continue to identify as such, I understand the various ways in which such status impacts the daily lives of youth and their families. It is because of this that I am an unafraid educator and advocate for la causa. The work of CAUSE continues to remind me that we must stay grounded, hopeful and must strive toward ensuring that resources are accessible to all.

Outside of my professional endeavors, I helped co-found and am chair of The Anhelo Project, a non-profit organization providing scholarships to undocumented youth within the state of Illinois, since 2010. I look forward to continuing this work as part of my current and future goals in support of undocumented youth and their families.