Marquette School of Excellence on the southwest side of Chicago is a school where a lot of things can go wrong. The student body is low income, academically challenged, and split almost evenly between African-Americans and Latinos. But Elideth Hernandez has worked hard to make sure things go right; both at the school and in the community.
Elideth, an immigrant herself, has fought to make Marquette a safe space for other immigrant families. Long before the Chicago Public Schools announced they would turn back ICE agents without a warrant, Elideth was pushing, and winning, a plan with the school administration to ensure immigrants would be safe in the school.
In addition to her work on immigration, Elideth has been active on the school planning committee and fighting for more police accountability in the community. She does this as a leader at the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in the Chicago Lawn community.
At SWOP, Elideth is a Parent Mentor Coordinator at Marquette. In this capacity, she recruits, trains, and supports parents (mostly moms) as they work as paraprofessionals in classrooms at the school. She spends a lot of time in this role helping parents build their skills not only to help children, but to be leaders in the community; just like she is. Because the school is split along racial and ethnic lines, Elideth has worked hard to bridge language and culture divides between the two communities. She has been instrumental in recruiting and retaining an equal number of Parent Mentors from both communities.
In her Parent Mentor coordinator role, she’s always going the extra mile. Volunteering for field trips, leading workshops, and advocating for important issues with the school administration. She does this because she’s a parent, but also because she’s a leader. Elideth knows that to win on any issue, the community has to come together and exercise its power. Time and again, she’s demonstrated her leadership by bringing people together to identify issues and leading collective action to address them.
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Elideth is also the mother of four. Two of her children attend Marquette, one is in high school, and the oldest is now attending college. Elideth is a role model for her own kids and for all the kids in the community.
As SWOP organizer Jamillah Rashad says, “when I think Elideth, I think angel.”