Samantha Alloway is a dynamic force in government relations, advocacy, and human services. Her journey is marked by resilience and victory, as a cancer survivor who became a lead canvasser for the American Cancer Society. This ignited her passion for advocacy and politics.
As a mother of three sons, Samantha encountered a pivotal moment when her middle son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of three. This event ignited her passion for disability advocacy, propelling her to become a dedicated advocate for individuals with disabilities and a champion for autism awareness within her community and beyond.
In her current capacity as the Director of Government Relations at Little City Foundation, Samantha leads cross-functional teams, aligning policy, strategy, and services. Her role as a spokesperson for the Direct Support Professional wage increase initiative resulted in a $2.50 rate increase for DSPs in Illinois, underscoring her profound commitment to advocacy.
Concurrently, Samantha actively contributes to the community as a devoted CASA/GAL of Kane County, collaborating with local and state agencies to determine optimal living solutions for foster care children.
As an Advocacy Coordinator at Lazarus House Ministries, Samantha orchestrated effective mental health solutions and conducted research on policy reform for unhoused individuals, further highlighting her commitment to social justice.
Actively engaged in affiliations such as The Institute on Public Policy for Disabled People and The Arc of Illinois, Samantha remains steadfastly committed to advocacy, compassion, and enhancing the human experience.
Academically, Samantha holds a Certification in Legal Justice Studies, boasting a stellar 4.0 GPA and ranking in the top 1% of her class. Samantha also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Sociology from Northern Illinois University.
Samantha seamlessly combines diverse skills, an unwavering commitment to advocacy, and strategic leadership, making her an invaluable asset to any team.
A fervent advocate for change, Lynne Chambers is on a mission to make a positive impact. She breathes life into ideas, transforms dreams into reality, and challenges the status quo with an infectious enthusiasm that sparks inspiration in others.
Lynne M. Chambers is a licensed attorney (Illinois and Missouri), social entrepreneur, and consultant. She is the Owner of the Law Office of Lynne M. Chambers, LLC, and the founder/Executive Director of Legacy Training, Inc., (www.legacytraininginc.org).
Chambers holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University, a master’s degree in Social Work, and a Juris Doctorate from Southern Illinois School of Social Work and Law respectively. In addition, she completed post-graduate studies in leadership as a graduate of the Executive Academy of the Delta Leadership Network, the Executive Training Academy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and as a fellow of the National African American Women’s Leadership Institute.
Lynne was appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to the Delta Regional Authority, (https://www.dra.gov). She is a lifetime member and state officer for the Illinois Conference of Branches for the NAACP, and on the Executive Board of the Alexander/Pulaski County Branch of the NAACP. She has been a member of the Pulaski County Democratic Committee, and Southern Illinois Democratic Women. She is currently a candidate for Pulaski County State’s Attorney.
Behind layers of ambition and zest for life lies a compassionate heart that beats in rhythm with the pulse of humanity. Lynne believes in the power of kindness, the strength of unity, and the magic of spreading joy like confetti.
So, whether Lynne is penning the next chapter of her story, conquering new peaks, or inspiring others to embrace the extraordinary, one thing is for sure: this is not just a biography. It’s a testament to a life lived vividly, passionately, and unapologetically.
Mickensy Ellis-White is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, US Army Veteran of the Iraq War, Chair of the Vermilion County Democrats, business owner, yoga instructor, and wife.
She currently works in private practice as the owner of her counseling practice, Mpower Counseling, PLLC. She has extensive experience working in behavioral health all the way from supervising behavioral health sections in two detainee prisons in Iraq to working with Veterans at the VA in a substance use rehabilitation program.
She is a lifelong resident of Vermilion County, IL. Mickensy married the love of her life, Garin, in 2021. She enjoys spending time with her husband, French Bulldog named Hope, and two cats.
Kerry O. Ferris
Kerry was born and raised in Southern California, earned a B.A. from Pomona College and a Ph.D. from UCLA, and moved to Illinois in 2000. She is currently Associate Professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University, and is President of the NIU tenure-track faculty union, United Faculty Alliance (UFA), a chapter of University Professionals of Illinois 4100, IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO.
As a professor, Kerry has taught thousands of college students in California and Illinois, and has pursued a research program focused on the sociology of fame and of fan-celebrity relationships. She is co-author, with Jill M. Stein, of the bestselling introduction to sociology textbook, The Real World, in its 9th edition with W. W. Norton and Company, publishers.
Union organizing was Kerry’s entry into politics: working toward the consolidation of collective power, and using that power to increase justice, seemed like the culmination of sociology’s insights about the synergy between the individual and society. After supporting the negotiation of two successive UFA contracts, as well as bargaining multiple COVID-protection agreements during the pandemic, she concluded that many of the problems faced by public higher education in Illinois—issues of equity, access, funding and pedagogical priorities—cannot be effectively solved in individual classrooms or on individual campuses. That is when she began considering running for statewide office, and the IWIL Training Academy call for applications showed up in her in-box at just the right time.
Kerry lives in Rockford with her husband, Greg, a fine woodworker. They share their home with their 7th grader, EJ, a Doberman named Lucy, and twin tabbies, Spencer and Asher.
Bernadette was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, and graduated from Lanphier High School. She attended Lincoln Land Community College for a couple of years before graduating from Springfield College with her Associate in Arts. Bernadette continued her education with earning a Bachelors of Business Management and Organizational Leadership and finishing with an MBA Master in Business Administration.
Bernadette has worked for the state of Illinois since 2014, currently as an Executive I at the Department of Human Services. She has been a Capital Township Trustee since November of 2021, and is a member of Pastor T Ray McJunkins’ Union Baptist Church. Bernadette is also a sorority member of Sigma Gamma Rho Springfield/Decatur chapter. She is a very family-oriented person who loves to thrift shop and watch sporting events (Lebron James is her favorite basketball player)! Bernadette enjoys watching movies/plays and spending time with her family.
Saba Haider grew up in India and moved to the US 16 years ago. Saba has a Master’s degree in Wildlife Sciences. She has been running her business in the health and wellness area for over a decade. She provides wellness consulting services to corporate clients, and many other local businesses and organizations from the Chicago-land area. She also trains people to become yoga and meditation teachers. Saba is constantly working in her community to expand mental health resources to make them accessible to everyone
Saba serves on the Public Health Board of the DuPage County Health Department. She also serves as the Board Member of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Illinois (for children with disabilities), and as a Director on the Board of the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, the biggest nonprofit arm of School District 204 (4th largest school district in the State of Illinois). She also serves on the leadership team of the Parent Diversity Advisory Council, a parent advocacy group that has been working in the Aurora-Naperville area for about 20 years to advocate, educate and empower parents in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Saba has been volunteering to help many Democratic candidates get elected. She is an appointed Precinct Committee-person at the Naperville Township Democrats. She is also a part of the Democratic Women of DuPage County and serves on the Fundraising Committee.
Saba’s professional and community engagement experiences have given her the opportunity to interact and network with people from diverse backgrounds – socially, culturally and economically. She has built strong relations with local community leaders, business owners, and nonprofit organizations.
She lives in Aurora with her husband, Ali, two kids Azim (15) and Aizah (11), and two cats, Simba and Gumball. Saba and her family love to hike, read, and travel.
Corliss King is the 2nd Vice President of Transport Workers Union Local 556, the Union of Southwest Flight Attendants. She has been a member of the Union since 2012 and a National Officer since 2021. She has been actively involved in the organized labor movement at the highest levels, serving as an Illinois AFL-CIO Vice President and a member of the Chicago Federation of Labor Finance Committee.
She is the mother of two daughters, Nayla (24) and Adarah (22). Corliss and her children have faced personal tragedy with the passing of her husband Terrance Hale in April 2020. His illness and tragic loss fueled her to enact legislation that impacted tens of thousands of aviation workers by getting legislation passed to allow airline workers to use their earned sick time to care for their loved ones without a loss of income. That legislation was signed by Illinois Governor Pritzker in December 2021. This has sparked her passion for helping others through the legislative process.
Corliss is committed to continuing the legacy of change instilled in her by her late mother, Mary King. She believes in leaving the world a better place than she found it and is passionate about achieving this goal through the lens of her children. In addition to her work with the Union, Corliss is an educator specializing in entrepreneurship and an accomplished entrepreneur. Corliss is dedicated to fighting for the rights of workers and ensuring that they are treated fairly and with respect.
Corliss’ work has made a significant impact on the lives of countless workers. She is a true champion of workers’ rights and is committed to making a difference in the world through her dedication to advocacy.
Jaemie L. Neely
Jaemie L. Neely is a dynamic force in economic development, specializing in business diversity with corporations, private institutions, and governmental agencies. With nearly 15 years of experience in retail and business banking, spanning Credit Unions, Commercial Banks, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), peaking a $300M portfolio of small businesses and nonprofits, fostering $20M in new relationships, banking the unbanked and underbanked across Chicagoland.
Her journey into supplier diversity began at the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). Here, she collaborated with local and federal agencies to expand their procurement pool, providing invaluable financial and capacity building assistance to hundreds of businesses.
Jaemie later managed the Small Business Development and Outreach team at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), helping small and disadvantaged businesses navigate CTA contracts and surpassing the agency’s 26% diverse spend goal. Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, she implemented educational cohorts, pre-bid/proposal meetings, and various outreach events, advocating internally for increased diverse goals and reduced barriers.
Currently serving as the Executive Director of The Federation of Women Contractors (FWC), Jaemie leads efforts to advance women-owned businesses in construction and design. She actively engages in legislative advocacy, collaborating with stakeholders to create economic opportunities for FWC members. She sits on several local and municipal diversity councils and committees, such as CTA, IL Tollway, and City of Chicago.
Appointed by Governor Pritzker in 2022, she became the first woman to Chair the Illinois Procurement Policy Board, demonstrating her influential role in shaping statewide policies.
Jaemie holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Finance from Alabama State University and recently earned a Master in Public Administration, Public Management from DePaul University.
Her multifaceted career proves a commitment to fostering equity, advocating for small businesses, and driving economic development initiatives.
Demerike, a native of Edwardsville, Illinois, embodies a rich blend of her mother’s Mexican heritage and her father’s proud Bronx roots. Her journey in public service commenced after high school, propelled by a sense of duty to her country, a passion for aiding others, and a drive to pursue education, she enlisted in the USAF.
Her trajectory faced adversity, as a young Security Forces member, she experienced the trauma of sexual assault. Undeterred, she shifted to the Army National Guard, simultaneously pursuing her education and amplifying her involvement in community service to support others in similar situations.
In response to the tumultuous events of January 6, 2021, Demerike served in the Presidential Inauguration Support mission in Washington D.C. Assuming the role of her unit’s Equal Opportunity Leader, she ardently advocated for the equitable treatment of military personnel, families, staunchly championing equality for all.
Returning to Chicago, her passion for activism surged. Taking the helm as the President of the 46th Ward Democrats and Director of the Young Democrats of Illinois Veteran Caucus, she tirelessly advocated for veteran care bills and spearheaded various community-driven initiatives, from school supply drives to refugee welcome dinners.
Her quest for change led her to delve into global leadership studies at Escuela Politica Fratelli Tutti, a transformative institute focused on ethical political frameworks. Learning from international models, she gleaned innovative strategies to address societal challenges such as homelessness, addiction, and migrant support, nurturing a vision for profound societal transformation.
Currently serving as President of Chicago’s 46th Ward Democrats, Illinois Veterans for Change, Director of the Young Dems of IL Veteran Caucus, and Vice President of the Young Dems of Chicago, Demerike is deeply rooted in Uptown, Chicago. Her unwavering commitment to community immersion fuels her dedication to fostering an inclusive and brighter future for all.
Mx. Guadalupe Rivera
Guadalupe Rivera is profoundly influenced by their heritage as a child of immigrant parents, which has fueled their dedication to immigrant rights, women’s rights, and healthcare advocacy. Their academic history – including a Master of Arts in Public Policy and a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, along with a Master of Arts in Community and Teacher Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University – are the backbone of their advocacy work.
As the lead coordinator with the Police District Response Team at the 6th District Police Station, she has played a crucial role in assisting over 1000 newcomers who sought temporary shelter, offering vital support in times of crisis.
Their personal journey as a sexual assault survivor drives her advocacy for women’s rights. Active with the CTU Women’s Committee, she has championed these causes and hosted a vigil for Vanessa Guillen with UNITY Native American Tribe, where she is a board member. This work mirrors their experiences and the collective fight for safer, more equitable conditions for women.
Serving on the board of directors with IMAN, particularly in the healthcare committee, she is instrumental in expanding our health clinic, enhancing healthcare access for our community. Currently we are celebrating the first steps toward building a state of the art health center for our residents.
As an educator, she has implemented the PBIS program across my school, focusing on creating supportive and inclusive environments. Additionally, training volunteers and registering over 100+ students in temporary shelters.
Through her initiative, Women for Liberty and Justice for All, a PAC supporting women of color, she has helped over half a dozen women attain judiciary positions, promoting diversity and legal system representation.
Her commitment across these roles reflects a deep personal and professional dedication to fostering a more just, equal, and empowered community.
Gail Schnitzer Eisenberg
Gail Schnitzer Eisenberg is the New Trier Township Supervisor, mother of two young children, and civil rights attorney at Loftus & Eisenberg, Ltd., representing women, minorities, older workers, and the differently-abled in employment matters. She frequently speaks on civil rights matters and has been recognized as one of 40 Under 40 “On the Rise” by the American Bar Association.
In 2017, Gail was elected as the only female New Trier Township Trustee, a position through which she helped oversee the community’s social safety net and social programs. She was elected Supervisor in 2021 and has made efficient, transparent, modern government a priority.
Gail is also active in leadership positions with the Chicago Bar Association, Jewish United Fund, Decalogue Society of Lawyers, National Employment Lawyers Association – Illinois, Women Employed, PersonalPAC, her synagogue, Girl Scouts, and Triage Cancer, among other groups. She is passionate about fighting prematurity and was selected to the inaugural class of Gretchen Carlson March of Dimes Advocacy Fellows.
Gail received her BA/MA in Political Science, summa cum laude, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign through Jim Nowlan’s Civic Leadership Program. After a fellowship with the Anti-Defamation League, Gail graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern Law where she studied local government under Dawn Clark Netsch, the first woman to hold statewide elected office in Illinois. During law school, Gail interned for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and represented clients in immigration proceedings through the school’s legal clinic. After law school, Gail clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, taught appellate advocacy at Loyola Law School, and worked in both big and boutique law firms before starting her own practice.
Anupama Uddavolu is a philanthropist with a background in law, having worked as a litigator in New York & New Jersey and a pro bono attorney for New York City Civil Courts and Prairie State Legal Services. She currently works as a Supply Chain Contract Administrator for OSF Healthcare System.
Anupama has been living in Peoria, IL for the last 10 years, where she has taken on various leadership roles in the community, including serving as a Commissioner for the Peoria Joint Commission on Racial Equity and Justice (JCRJE) and Peoria Fair Employment Commission, serving on the advisory board of Community Foundation of Central Illinois Women’s Fund. She is also a member of Women in Leadership of Central Illinois, Peoria Women’s Club, Impact Central Illinois, and a youth mentor for the Asian Indian Community Collaboration of Peoria.
In 2018, Anupama organized an indoor cricket tournament as a fundraiser for Easter Seals of Central Illinois and successfully raised $15,000.
She also leads the volunteering for Passage to India, the largest annual fundraiser for Easter Seals of Central Illinois where the volunteers cook delicious Indian food for 600 – 1,000 attendees. The annual event has raised more than $4.5 million.
Anupama ran for Peoria City Council At Large in April 2023. She is the first Asian Woman to run for a public office in Peoria, IL. Though she may not have won her first campaign, she remains a role model in the community for her courage and determination to run for public office.
Anupama Uddavolu has received several awards for her leadership and dedication, including Peoria Magazine’s “40 Leaders Under 40,” Outstanding New Leader Award from Women in Leadership of Central Illinois, and the SEWA (Service) Award from Asian Indian Community of Central Illinois.