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Chamira Sankey: YDC Operations Manager

Updated: Feb 20

Growing up in the Harold Ickes Homes public housing project surrounded by poverty and struggle, Chamira Sankey's story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of education and mentorship. Despite the challenges she faced, Chamira's journey from the projects to becoming a successful business owner and advocate for youth empowerment is nothing short of inspiring. 


Raised by a single mother who made immense sacrifices to shield her from the harsh realities of their environment, Chamira credits her mom for steering her away from the allure of gang activity and crime. With the support of Section 8 housing, food stamps, and cash assistance, Chamira's mother prioritized her education and future, emphasizing the importance of breaking the cycle of poverty through academic achievement. 


Transitioning to a charter school in 6th grade proved to be a pivotal moment for Chamira, where she glimpsed a different trajectory for her life beyond the confines of her neighborhood. Encouraged by dedicated teachers who served as mentors, Chamira set her sights on higher education, ultimately attending the University of Illinois to study psychology and communications. Despite initially feeling out of place in a predominantly white academic environment, Chamira persevered, driven by the belief that education was her ticket to a better life. 


As a first-generation college student, Chamira understood the importance of furthering her education to secure financial stability. Pursuing a graduate degree in school psychology at Loyola University, Chamira soon realized that traditional diagnostic methods often failed to address the unique challenges faced by Black and brown youth. This realization led her to shift her focus towards community advocacy and support.


In 2020, amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, Chamira embarked on a new chapter, working at a cosmetic company and later as a therapist at Hartgrove. However, it was the opportunity to make a meaningful impact as a youth and education coordinator at the YWCA that truly resonated with her. Recognizing the critical need for consistent support and mentorship for youth, Chamira dedicated herself to empowering young people to break free from cycles of poverty and adversity.  

Chamira joined the CHIL team in December 2022 and now, as the YDC Operations Manager, she continues her mission to advocate for marginalized communities, particularly Black males. Drawing inspiration from her own experiences, Chamira understands the importance of representation and mentorship in fostering positive outcomes for youth facing similar obstacles. 


In her current role, Chamira ensures that the YDC program is operating at its fullest potential, from planning engaging activities to making sure youth can access the entire array of services that we provide. In Chamira’s own words, “I spend a lot of time collaborating with youth and advocating for what they need. I know what it’s like to be Black and growing up in poverty. Sometimes we might miss the mark, but if we do, I make sure we adjust so we don’t miss it again.”  


Recognizing that our YDC serves a variety of youth, Chamira works with them to plan events and create meaningful programming. “It’s important for [our youth] to have consistent role models in their lives. That’s what the staff here does, even if it’s just playing games with them some days,” Chamira reflects.

“It’s not a coincidence that our largest homeless population is Black males—adults and youth. It’s crucial to intervene when they’re at this age. We know that our youth want good jobs, a family, money... If I can assist with that, then I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose.” 


Outside of her professional endeavors, Chamira is also a successful entrepreneur, founding her loungewear brand, LBN. Inspired by her family's struggle with diabetes and the importance of prioritizing health and wellness, Chamira's brand embodies comfort, confidence, and community. Despite the challenges of balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship, Chamira remains committed to building her brand and supporting other businesses through marketing and branding services. 


As she reflects on her journey, Chamira remains steadfast in her commitment to advocating for marginalized communities and empowering the next generation of leaders. Through her tireless dedication and unwavering determination, Chamira continues to inspire hope and resilience in the face of adversity. 


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