‘We stand for social justice’ – El Valor President and CEO Rey B. Gonzalez

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Noticias Locales

By: Ashmar Mandou

It is all about social justice for new President and Chief Executive Officer of El Valor Rey B. Gonzalez. After 30 years of serving as chair of El Valor’s board of directors, Gonzalez steps into his new role ready to bring the best education practices to families across the city.

“When a Latino parent walks into one of our facilities, I, along with the rest of the amazing El Valor staff, want them to feel like they are giving their child the best opportunity to succeed,” said Gonzalez. “We truly believe there is greatness in every child and it is up to us to help bring out that greatness.”

El Valor was founded in 1973 by the late Guadalupe A. Reyes who saw a void when it came to quality education for bilingual families and families with disabilities, which was inspired by her own son with special needs. Reyes and several others took out bank loans and situated themselves in a small church basement in Pilsen where they started the first bilingual, bicultural rehabilitation center in Illinois.

“When I think about the history of El Valor, I am reminded at just how far we have come as a community,” said Gonzalez. “El Valor is very much rooted in social justice, very much rooted in social change, at offering the very best to our families. Before we wanted to build the Guadalupe Reyes Children Family Center, here in Pilsen, we heard so many say to us, ‘no,’ but we did it anyway because we saw a need and we wanted to correct an injustice.”

Today, El Valor is acknowledged as a stellar organization working with Latino families and is considered a model for the inclusion of people with disabilities. El Valor was ranked among the top 25 Hispanic non-profit organizations in the country and is a partner with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

“We take great pride in developing programs we feel will best strengthen families in our community and best inspire children to reach their potential,” said Nina Duenas, senior program director of El Valor. “We also take great pride in making sure families feel that El Valor is their home. They have a say in what’s involved in their child’s education. We offer families training for them to become advocates for their children.”

As a result of the multiple programs El Valor hosts, such as promoting early childhood development, enriching youth, and developing leadership, over 3,000 families who have or care for a child under the age of five, including children with disabilities, are in early childhood programs that work; more than 1,000 people with disabilities lead more independent lives; and over 320 young people between the ages of 7 and 18 are increasing their grade levels through El Valor’s academic-based youth enrichment programs; lastly, in partnership with local universities, 600 leaders from the Latino community have received masters and doctorate degrees through the leadership program held at El Valor.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Noticias Locales

“I am a mother and an employee at El Valor and with El Valor’s help I am able to work on getting my master degree,” said Rosa Moreno, site director of the Guadalupe Reyes Children Family Center. “This is an organization that I can truly say works for the betterment of the community. They want us to succeed and grow stronger as a community.”

El Valor’s reputation has earned them the respect and longevity to continue to provide adequate programs for families. Since 1973, three Children and Family Centers have been built in the communities of Pilsen, South Chicago, and Little Village. As for a possible fourth Children and Family Center, according to Gonzalez, that has yet to be seen. “We have been asked several times if we will ever open up another center on the north side and that, perhaps will be a possibility,” said Gonzalez. “We are currently looking at locations and speaking to several aldermen who are interested in working with El Valor. So we shall see.”

Currently, El Valor has a waiting list of more than 800 families waiting to have their children enter the Academic Enrichment Program, but Moreno and Duenas still encourage parents to walk in and learn more about El Valor. “We do not want parents to be weary of the waiting list,” said Duenas. “We are still here to help out in whatever way we can.”

If you would like to learn more about programs being offered at El Valor, visit www.elvalor.org or call the main office at 312-666-4511. “We are one of the best kept secrets,” said Gonzalez. “What I want families to know is that we are here to help them and encourage children to continue dreaming those dreams and not allow barriers to interfere.”


(Left to right) Senior Program Director Nina Duenas; President and CEO of El Valor Rey B. Gonzalez, and Site Director for the Guadalupe Reyes Children Family Center Rosa Moreno.

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