Friends of the Parks installs new Executive Director
Chicago, Illinois - Friends of the Parks has appointed a new executive director, Juanita Irizarry, 46. Introduced to the organization's stakeholders and donors at the organization's 40th anniversary gala on Friday, September 11, 2015, Irizarry is a homegrown leader who brings years of advocacy and community-based organizing experience to the cause. Her expertise and energy will be applied to staying the course charted by the organization's board of directors to protect public trust land and promote and preserve Chicago's parks.
Irizarry's community context inspired an interest in real estate and land use issues and the equitable investment of government resources across the city. This led her to a public service career that has spanned non-profit, philanthropy, and government roles alongside volunteer work in community development and housing policy. In addition to professional roles at Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, and The Resurrection Project, she has gained deep experience addressing competing interests around open space, economic development, and real estate development via her community organizing and leadership roles with the Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership. Her most recent community activism has revolved around neighborhood parks-debating the merits of Riot Fest; strategizing to save Humboldt Park's beach; and ensuring that a diverse cross-section of the community knows about and uses The 606.
Irizarry also previously led a regional non-profit policy and advocacy organization, Latinos United (now Latino Policy Forum), managed a portfolio of non-profit grants at The Chicago Community Trust as a Senior Program Officer, and served in the Office of Governor Pat Quinn. She serves on various boards and committees, including the United Way Chicago Council, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. She is also adjunct faculty at DePaul University, where she has taught Intro to Non-profit Management and Foundation Management.
Irizarry earned a Bachelor of Arts in History/Political Science and Spanish at Greenville College and studied urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She later went back to graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School on a full-tuition Presidential Scholar/Public Service Fellowship and earned a Master of Public Administration, graduating with a Littauer Fellow Award for Academic Excellence, Public Service, and Potential for Leadership.
"As we launch into this new era, the board of directors of Friends of the Parks warmly welcomes Juanita's enthusiasm and talents and the smooth transition that has already begun," said board chair Frederick Bates. "And we are so thankful for the continuity of vision and leadership made possible by the generous interim service of long-time board member Lauren Moltz as she transitions back to her executive committee role. Together we will continue to build on our 40-year legacy as the best friend of Chicago's parks."
Since joining Friends of the Parks, Irizarry has hit the ground running defending Chicago's parks and open spaces. Below are some recent highlights of what Irizarry has been busy working on.
Friends of the Parks is a 40 year old nonprofit parks advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, protect, improve, and promote the use of Chicago's parks and public open spaces. We advance our programmatic, educational, and advocacy work with the support of our members, donors and volunteers, and through our governmental, community and environmental partnerships.