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Vonna Hayes: Reimagine Program Supervisor

Updated: Mar 22

In the heart of Chicago's vibrant communities, Vonna Hayes emerges as a formidable advocate for the empowerment of black and brown youth. With a profound commitment to mentorship and community building, Vonna has embarked on a transformative journey aimed at nurturing the potential of the city's next generation.

 

Hailing from the west side of Chicago, Vonna's upbringing was shaped by the resilience and strength of her family, despite the odds stacked against them. Raised by teenage parents, she found solace and inspiration in the power of music and the unwavering support of her loved ones. Fueled by a desire to create positive change in her community, Vonna pursued higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree in Family and Youth Services from Eastern Illinois University before obtaining her Master of Social Work in Administration and Planning from Chicago State University.

 

Armed with a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of the challenges facing black and brown youth, Vonna embarked on a mission to make a tangible difference in their lives. In July 2023, she assumed the role of Program Manager at CHIL, a position that provided her with the opportunity to implement her vision and enact meaningful change.

 

At the core of Vonna's approach lies a profound belief in the transformative power of mentorship and community support. Drawing from her own experiences and the invaluable guidance she received from her own mentor, she seeks to create a nurturing environment where young people feel empowered to pursue their dreams and overcome obstacles.


"My mentor is the reason I do this work. She was a leader, a role model... a Black woman beating all the odds and not letting traumatic experiences stop her," Vonna says. "She embodied everything I want to be."

 

Central to Vonna's work at CHIL is the development of dynamic and impactful programming tailored to the needs of the youth she serves. From hosting events focused on critical issues such as housing, employment, and self-love to organizing engaging activities like poetry slams and networking opportunities with influential artists and community leaders, Vonna is committed to providing youth with the tools and resources they need to thrive.

 

At the heart of Vonna's philosophy is the principle of restorative justice, which emphasizes the importance of building relationships and fostering a sense of belonging. By creating a supportive community where youth feel valued and heard, she empowers them to resolve conflicts peacefully and take ownership of their actions.


"We all do restorative justice in some way, we just don't always know it. In the simplest terms, it's building relationships. For our youth who are in survival mode, it's crucial to know that you have people around who are here to help you. That's what I want to be to youth," reflects Vonna.

 

As Vonna continues her work at CHIL, she remains unwavering in her dedication to uplifting Chicago's black and brown youth. Through her compassion, leadership, and tireless advocacy, she is paving the way for a future where every young person has the opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute positively to their community.


"Our youth are not helpless. They are very capable of solving their own problems. These are our future artists, our future doctors. We have to make sure we are pouring into this generation. These are highly intelligent, beautiful people who have experienced things most people couldn't even imagine," Vonna says. "These people are the future."

 

In a world where the voices of marginalized youth often go unheard, Vonna Hayes stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Her journey is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in the inherent worth and potential of every young person. With her guidance and support, the future of Chicago's youth shines brighter than ever before.

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