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Logan Square Heroes:
Maura Nugent, Delia Ramirez

What a neighborhood can be is largely a function of what its residents and the people who work there do. On a day-to-day basis, their actions – organizing block clubs, mentoring the children of incarcerated parents, providing shelter to homeless people, tending a neighbor’s garden – may not be heroic in the popular sense.

But those actions, and countless others like them, are what make a place what it is. And the people – the community heroes – saluted by the New Communities Program lead agencies and their partners are the ones doing the heavy lifting, often with little acknowledgement or reward.

The community heroes for Logan Square are Maura Nugent and Delia Ramirez. Congratulations to them and all of the other community heroes for their commitment to improving Chicago neighborhoods.

Maura Nugent

Photo: Gordon Walek

Maura Nugent

Don’t be surprised if many of the honorees at the 2029 Community Heroes event had Maura Nugent as a teacher. As one of the founders of the Social Justice Academy at Kelvyn Park High School in Logan Square, Nugent helps students learn about social justice and what it takes to create change.

“She has an incredible mind and heart. She really loves young people and believes in them and prepares them to be leaders,” says Juliet de Jesús Alejandre, who works with Nugent through the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

With a background working at community-based organizations and for immigrant rights, Nugent became a teacher to promote social justice in the next generation. So when she and another teacher at KPHS had a chance to start the academy program in 2004, she jumped at the chance. Now, the justice-oriented curriculum is being expanded at the high school to double the number of students and include English, science, math, and social science.

Nugent is also active in local and national networks of teachers for social justice and has been a keynote speaker at the 2009 National Urban Service Learning Conference in Philadelphia and honored as the 2008 Service Learning Teacher of the Year.

Delia Ramirez

Photo: Gordon Walek

Delia Ramirez

Delia Ramirez’s social service education started early, as a child helping her mother serve homeless people in a soup kitchen at Humboldt Park United Methodist Church.

Since then, she’s been president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, a member of LSNA’s Housing and Land Use Committee, a co-convener of the Latino Council on Homelessness, and other activities too numerous to mention here.

Currently, she’s executive director of Humboldt Park Social Services, a 17-year-old organization that provides housing and supportive services to homeless and disadvantaged people. At age 26, she’s only recently stopped adding a couple years to her real age so people will take her seriously.

“Delia every day demonstrates her commitment to justice in our community,” said Susan Yanun, the NCP director at LSNA. “She has a gift for working with anyone and everyone – individuals in need, families hoping to build a better life, other agencies and organizations – to create a stronger, better neighborhood.”

Ramirez says she always knew she’d have a life in social service, mostly likely as a teacher or legal aid lawyer. But her career path in aiding the homeless was, she thinks, a direct consequence of the experiences of her parents, who emigrated from Guatemala. “They were given a place to live while they worked and saved money,” she said. “Otherwise, we would have been homeless.”

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