Meet our CHAngemakers - everyday people who make a difference in their community, impact the lives of those around them and strive for a brighter future. We invite you to read their inspiring stories here and we encourage you to check back often for new stories. CHA is honored to highlight the uplifting work of these individuals as they make themselves, their families and their local communities stronger.
CHAngemaker: Tyra Stephens
When Tyra Stephens, an honor student at Simeon Career Academy, was applying for colleges, she didn’t care where she went. She simply wanted a school that would help take the financial burden off her mother.
She chose Ball State University. The four-year University in Muncie, Indiana paid for room, board and tuition. But college is expensive, and there were miscellaneous fees for things like books and car maintenance. That’s when the Chicago Housing Authority’s Scholarship Program assisted.
CHAngemaker: Kierra Russell
“I wasn’t going to go; my mom made me go,” she said of last year’s Take Flight: Staying the Course event. “And then at the end of the program, I was walking around, talking to different people and I went up to the BMO Harris table. They asked whether I could email them my resume, and I said I could do you one better: I have one right here.”
CHAngemaker: Jayliyah Hicks
Jayliyah Hicks, a freshman at the University of Michigan, has big dreams. She is on a degree plan that includes cellular molecular biology for her bachelors and biomedical engineering for her masters.
“I want to be a doctor; I want to be a pediatrician,” she said. “And I’m interested in cancer research.”
CHAngemaker: Michelle Murray
Tasked with caring for three siblings after her mom fell ill, 15-year-old Michelle Murray assumed the parenting duties: cooking, cleaning, homework and paying bills. She was also forced to address eviction issues, and she consequently formed relationships with landlords and office managers. She became so knowledgeable in the business of property management that, a few years later, she was offered a job as an administrative assistant at a development management company, Tria Adelfi.
CHAngemaker: Ahriel Fuller
Growing up with five younger brothers in a single-parent household, Ahriel Fuller worked hard in school with the dream of one day going to college. Thanks to CHA’s Springboard to Success scholarship, Ahriel graduated with honors from Dominican University, and next year she will attend law school with the goal of becoming a civil rights attorney.
In a thank you letter to the agency, she wrote, “I don’t know if I would have successfully graduated without financial help from CHA, and for that I am truly forever grateful.”
CHAngemaker: Tierica Coleman
Navigating the capitol of the United States is no easy task. It takes not only grit and communication skills to work with elected officials and policy makers, but a strong sense of direction to navigate Capitol Hill and the halls of Congress. But that is exactly how recent CHA scholarship recipient Tierica Coleman, now a 20-year-old rising junior at Georgetown University, has spent her summer as an intern in the office of U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL).
CHAngemaker: Julius Claybron
Julius Claybron is an Ivy Leaguer, a Cornell University graduate, who today works on the third floor of a towering office building that borders the Chicago River in Chicago’s Loop. His daily routine was not always this way however, growing up with the now-demolished Ickes Homes outside his childhood window, and Julius has used his drive and dedication to shift his life in a new direction.
“The experience sticks out, and in a lot of ways these opportunities are a way to gain social capital to penetrate a professional setting. This was my first taste of professional life.”
- Julius Claybron
CHAngemaker: Omari Stamps
Omari Stamps displayed a passion and aptitude for carpentry at an early age learning about the intricacies of the craft as a teenager while working alongside his family members in construction. In 2013 he took a leap of faith and launched his own Section 3 business, and soon after he was accepted into the Chicago Housing Authority’s Job Order Contracting (JOC) program.
“My mother always taught me to go after what you want, and I go after things. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity at this point in my life.”
- Omari Stamps
CHAngemaker: Keosha Thomas
Keosha Thomas is a driven woman from the South Side with a passion for people. After working at Chicago Public Schools for several years, Thomas wanted a change and found what she was looking for as an HCV housing inspector.
“I’ve been an inspector for about six months, and I plan to stay with it because I love what I do. Tenants deserve to live in safe and comfortable homes and as an inspector I ensure that’s happening.”
- Keosha Thomas, passionate HCV inspector and role model for aspiring housing inspectors.
CHAngemaker: Amber Jones
Amber Jones was researching jobs recently when she came across information about Jobs Plus, a federal job training opportunity based right in her backyard - Altgeld Gardens.
"I thought it would look good on a resume if I got some training. I jumped on it because it was a gift; the tuition was free. In five years, I plan on being set in a career. I plan on being a homeowner and financially stable for me and my children.”
- Amber Jones, an Altgeld Gardens resident and Jobs Plus participant working to establish a career and a family.
CHAngemaker: Daushay Campbell
It didn’t take Daushay Campbell long to figure out what she’ll be doing after she graduates from Virginia State University in May. Just a few months after wrapping up her internship at CHA over the summer, she was offered a position at PricewaterhouseCoopers, among the most prestigious auditing firms in the world.
“Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box. Most importantly, always follow your dreams. Whatever you think you can do – you can do!”
- Daushay Campbell, prospective college grad and future PricewaterhouseCoopers employee
CHAngemaker: Young CHA Documentary Filmmakers
Filmmaking is a means of personal expression that this summer allowed 16 young women who are Chicago Housing Authority residents to document the realities that surround their lives
“When I first heard about this summer film program, I didn’t think I’d be the one behind the camera filming. But I’m actually learning how to use the camera, set up the equipment and, most challenging for me, speak with people in the community I’ve never met before.”
- Aisha Horns, 16-year-old documentary filmmaker
CHAngemaker: Reggie Hatley
Reggie Hatley never dreamed he’d be advising CEO’s at age 16, or making policy recommendations for the city of Chicago as a high schooler. But this past summer, the high school junior found himself doing exactly that when he joined the inaugural CHA Youth Council sponsored by Mikva Challenge.
“This is not like any other job in the world! We get our work done and have fun at the same time. I feel like I’m a part of something special and I’ve met people like me that want to make Chicago a better place.”
– Reggie Hatley, CHA Youth Council Member
CHAngemaker: Susan Tovar
Susan Tovar, a mother of three, is among the recent CHA residents who purchased a new home as the agency’s “Choose to Own” (CTO) program celebrates its 500th closing. When Tovar found about the CTO program she worked on her credit, saved up money, and then finally joined the program. When she landed a job with Easter Seals as a case manager, she was ready.
“My little one gets home from school, and goes right out to the backyard and play. I watch him through the window. That means so much to me.”
– Susan Tovar, Home Owner
CHAngemaker: Christine Magee
CHA resident Christine Magee, a participant in the CHA Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS), program was highlighted in the New York Times for building $7,765 in escrow and improving her credit score from 540 to 720 in just two years. Originally, Magee joined the Family Self Sufficiency program simply to improve her credit score after racking up $22,000 in debt, but soon she discovered she could do so much more.
“I could have stayed on for another three years and continued to build escrow, but I thought, ‘You’ve accomplished your goal. Give someone else a chance. Anybody would be crazy not to take advantage of this program.” - Christine Magee, FSS Graduate
CHAngemaker: Kenya Robertson
Kenya Robertson’s dream is becoming a reality.
The South Side resident and CHA voucher holder will open the FAM Entertainment Theater Company performing arts space on Oct. 22, a collaborative with a mission to inspire women, artists and youth.
“I am very excited! This has been a dream of mine for over 10 years. I have been doing this as a hobby. But after receiving the grant from CHA and taking classes at the Urban League, it helped my dream move out of ‘hobby mode’ and establish a business.” – Kenya Robertson
CHAngemaker: Armeker Wright
A new grocery store coming to your neighborhood is always good news, but for Armeker Wright, it means so much more. The Oakwood Shores resident is one of 97 CHA residents who is working at the new Mariano’s in Bronzeville, and her road to success started with her own great attitude, big smile and determination to land a job at the store that’s just one block from her home.
CHA sold the land to developers Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and WBS Equities, LLC and as part of the land sale, Mariano’s agreed to hire CHA residents. CHA’s role in the project underscores how its investments in people and community assets are making an impact on
people’s lives and Chicago neighborhoods.