Leadership Evanston alumni reflect on the past year, reimagine Evanston’s future


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Dave Davis was one of four speakers at Leadership Evanston’s 29th annual alumni event on Thursday.

Katrina Pham, Assistant Copy Editor

Leadership Evanston alumni reflected on their experiences in the organization and looked to the city’s future at the 29th annual Leadership Evanston Alumni event on Thursday. 

Leadership Evanston is a program through ECF that seeks to strengthen the community by creating new leaders through a 10-month in-depth learning experience.

The virtual event, which the ECF hosted, featured Leadership Evanston alumni Dave Davis, Mercedes Fernandez, Jill Skwerski and Tasha Triplett. The alumni focused on the importance of creating a community, especially one that is inclusive to all of its members.

“As you’re building community, it is absolutely critically important to have every voice heard from the get go,” said Skwerski, who serves as Evanston Public Library’s community engagement services director. 

Skwerski said being a part of a community can create a sense of belonging — one that can only be achieved through conversations that respect all of its community members.

Fernandez, who is the executive director of Latinos en Evanston NorthShore, said she hopes members of the city’s Latinx community will have equitable access to educational and employment opportunities in the future. She said social, economic and educational structures have allowed for disparities between the Latinx community and other community members.

She said it is crucial to provide everyone in the community space to participate in decision-making processes, especially by including Latinx voices and the voices of undocumented immigrants in community decisions.

Latinx voices have historically been underrepresented in Evanston. The city lacked Latinx representation in its government until the election of incoming city clerk Stephanie Mendoza.

“I especially refer to those who have been excluded for far too long, like undocumented people, those without internet access or health care,” Fernandez said. 

Davis, who is the executive director of Northwestern’s Neighborhood and Community Relations, said advancing racial equity in Evanston means taking care of the city’s most vulnerable community members. 

He highlighted the words of Maya Angelou, building on her ideas that a society’s strength relies on all of its community members, not just those who are the most successful. He said the city and its residents need to focus on the “cancer of systemic racism” that threatens Black and brown people in Evanston. 

“We have to continue to focus, relentlessly, on ensuring that the folks that are most challenged, and are dealing with the most difficulties… are best supported,” Davis said. “What I see as the legacy moving forward, is that everyone in Evanston will take a moment to think deeply about their position of power and how they can best leverage that to help someone less fortunate.”

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