The associate board consists of young professionals in their 20s and 30s who are passionate about advocacy, engaging in their communities and supporting the Esperanza mission to uplift and support individuals with disabilities. 

Current associate board chair and clinical director at Sage Therapy Chicago, Sadie Salazar, joined the board during a rebuilding phase, hoping to support Esperanza through her network and commitment to ensuring the sustainability of current and future programs.

“The services that Esperanza provides to people with disabilities, particularly Latinx families, are essential,” says Salazar. “I have been continuously impressed by the warmth, creativity, and exuberance of the participants and staff.”

Board member Nicole Jansma makes time for the associate board as a recent law school graduate and former Esperanza employee. Before going to law school, Jansma was a behavior analyst who helped start the behavior program at the Esperanza school.

“The work Esperanza does is incredibly significant,” she says. “This is such an under-served population. For the students, this is very often their last hope before possibly facing a transition to more restrictive residential services. And for the adult participants, this is their chance to experience some semblance of the independence we all enjoy as adults.”

Being a part of the Esperanza associate board allows Jansma to stay connected to the organization she once worked so closely with. 

Associate board members Skylar Imhoff, Community Engagement Manager at The Cradle and Arlinda Bajrami, Policy & Engagement Manager for Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA), have a similar outlook and similar goals for the future of the associate board.

In addition to recruiting more members to the board, both Imhoff and Bajrami hope to connect more with the West Town neighborhood and Chicago on a broader scale.

“A large goal for the associate board that I have is sharing our mission on a broad scale and showing the community the available resources that Esperanza provides that are really unknown to most families who love someone with a disability,” Imhoff says.

Bajrami also hopes to increase community engagement by creating a space for volunteers and hosting outreach events. Thanks to the associate board, Esperanza has the opportunity to do just that. 

The current associate board has many goals and plans for the future of Esperanza but know that the first step for success is recruiting more young professionals to join their team. Whitley Pleas, who is a current associate board member and works in media, encourages others to get involved, even if they are on the fence.

“Esperanza is significant in its ability to help support individuals in the community through providing them with a positive environment to learn and be creative,” Pleas says. “I would like to see the associate board grow in membership and have an even greater impact on Esperanza.”

Apply for the Esperanza Associate Board:

The Associate Board is a leadership group made up of young professionals who, through their own time, talent and resources, help expand the capacity and advance the mission of Esperanza. Members will plan initiatives and events, and help connect Esperanza to helpful resources.

Additional benefits of joining the Associate Board include:

  • Professional networking experience
  • Leadership development
  • Mentorship from Governing Board members
  • Volunteer opportunities

The board meets once a month and plans four events per year. Members are expected to contribute $500, through a variety of ways, including selling tickets, donations, volunteering and more.

Current associate board members left to right: Arlinda Bajrami, Nicole Jansma, Sadie Salazar, Whitley Pleas, Sky Imhoff