“COFI taught me how to lose my fear. I learned to feel that I was not a nuisance and a hindrance to my community, that I was a person who could contribute a lot and that I could be part of my community and this country.”

Maria Alvarez is an immigrant mom who found her voice at COFI’s very first training in 1995, offered in partnership with Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Maria at COFI’s first parent training, with her daughter in a baby carrier

Some things haven’t changed since 1995. Maria still lives in the same house. She still cooks her children’s favorite meals for dinner, although they are now in their 20s and 30s. But so much has changed. Thanks to COFI and LSNA, hundreds of Logan Square parents were trained to become skilled community leaders, taking on—and solving—tough problems. Parents won the building of new school buildings and expansions to address overcrowding. The schools operate community centers that serve as hubs for families and the neighborhood.

In the video below, Maria explains about how being a parent leader had a profound impact on her, her family, and community. She tells parents: “Don’t just sit there, don’t sit down. You are the leader, you are the parent, and you know what you want for your child.”

And as a bonus, we bring you Maria’s son Oswaldo’s story! Maria’s activism as a parent inspired her son to succeed in school and to now pursue a life of championing for equity for all. It’s a reminder of the power of mothers (and all parents) like Maria at the table—in strengthening today’s families and communities, as well as influencing and lifting up future generations. In other words, this is COFI’s mission in action.