2021 Recap: Action, Resilience, and Celebration

2021 saw its ups and downs, but at COFI/POWER-PAC IL, parent leaders’ strength, perseverance, and grace remained constant. Over the year, we came to various tables to bring our important perspectives and were lauded for our expertise and inspiring presence. We celebrated significant legislative victories and enjoyed each other’s company at COFI’s 25th anniversary year. We spoke vulnerably and honestly, telling our stories during Zoom meetings, in front of TV cameras, and everything in between. We showed up to rallies downtown, holding signs and demanding change.

This year, as always, we parent leaders fought and fought for our families and our communities, lifting each other up and never backing down. We want to congratulate our fellow POWER-PAC IL parent leaders for an amazing, inspiring year.

We are delighted to share below some of COFI/POWER-PAC IL’s highlights in 2021.


Michelle Morton
Co-President, POWER-PAC IL
Liliana Olayo
Co-President, POWER-PAC IL

Legislative Wins

After years of organizing and advocacy efforts, POWER-PAC IL parent leaders celebrated the following legislative victories in 2021:

  • Early Learning Campaign: the creation of specialized Early Intervention (helping children from birth to three years old with disabilities or delays to learn and grow) to ensure services wherever families live.
  • Stepping Out of Poverty (STOP) Campaign
    • Predatory lenders can no longer charge interest above 36% (the average was 300% prior to the bill’s passage)
    • Cash bail and driver’s license suspensions due to traffic and automated camera tickets were ended
    • The practice of deducting unpaid fines from the state income tax refunds of low-to-moderate income Illinoisans was suspended for a limited time
    • Chicago approved a Guaranteed Basic Income program in the fall, distributing $500 monthly cash payments to 5,000 families
  • Utilities Affordability Campaign: COFI-led bill SB265 was signed into law, which expands access to and improve the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP), making utility bills more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Illinois families. (more)
  • Health, Food, and Recess Campaign: The “Right to Play” bill, SB654, was signed into law, giving Illinois children grades K-5 30 protected minutes of recess. (more)

Moms on a Mission 2021, POWER-PAC IL’s annual legislative advocacy event, was held 100% virtually for the first time ever! The Zoom event connected 150 parents, grandparents, and children with Illinois State Senators, Representatives, and other legislative staff throughout the day. (more)

Moving the Needle

As part of the Chicago Public Schools Whole School Comprehensive Safety Plan, parents in the Elementary Justice Campaign worked to end the use of School Resource Officers (police) in schools and provide resources to support teachers and administrators without criminalizing young students of color. Along with CPS and four other community organizations, parents recently concluded the first two phases of the plan. The organizations led the inclusive process, gathering community feedback along the way, for reimagined approaches to student safety.

Leaders in the Health, Food, and Recess Campaign worked on issues of mental health and trauma-prevention for children. As part of the Illinois ACEs Collaborative’s Working Group to Address Childhood Adversity, they explored trauma and ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and made recommendations to the state to better respond to children and families impacted by trauma. COFI/POWER-PAC IL also worked with partners in Kane County, East St. Louis, and Chicago to increase parent voice and engagement around planning and delivery of children’s (and maternal/infant) mental health programming.

The Utilities Affordability campaign focused on lowering utility costs and debt. Solar Ambassadors continued outreach and hosted a few community forums. A new Utility Working Group was formed to support legislation and policy change to make utilities more affordable for everyone.

Longtime POWER-PAC IL grandparent Maria Sanchez (known as Doña Mari to many) talked about her experience getting the COVID vaccine and offered her advice to those who are hesitant.

Parent leaders Susana Salgado and Delia Perez advocated for expanding the Child Tax Credit in a couple of high-profile press events with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin over the summer. Susana also gave testimony at the #CareIsEssential rally in Downtown Chicago, alongside her Early Learning Campaign Co-Chair Yolanda Williams. Giving their speech in Spanish and English, they made a strong case for making childcare more accessible for everyone. (more)

In October, Elementary Justice Campaign parent leaders statewide hosted and participated in important conversations during the Dignity in Schools Campaign in the National Week of Action Against School Pushout. (more)

National Recognition

Five powerful COFI mother leaders (Donna Carpenter, Rosazlia Grillier, Lettie Hicks, Michelle Morton, and Liliana Olayo) were selected to be national Community Leader Fellows. In collaboration with a national network of leaders working to close the gender wealth gap and ensure economic equity for all, the Fellows shared their expertise and experiences as women of color, and shaped strategic decisions and solutions. COFI will be highlighting the five women’s amazing stories later this year… stay tuned!

25 Years of the Power of Parents at the Table

COFI/POWER-PAC IL families, supporters and friends, honored guests, and staff gathered together on a beautiful summer evening earlier this month to celebrate COFI’s 25th Anniversary. What a memorable celebration it was! (more)