West Side United Team

Ayesha Jaco, Executive Director

Photo of West Side United Senior Program Director, Ayesha Jaco.

Ayesha Jaco is a philanthropist, educator and choreographer and Co-Founder of M.U.R.A.L. (formerly the Lupe Fiasco Foundation). She has partnered with many Chicago based organizations to provide comprehensive social services, substance abuse prevention, food equity, study abroad and artistic programming for over 18,500 inner-city youth and their families. In 2008, Ayesha founded the youth dance company Move Me Soul and has provided over 1,000 Chicago teens and young adults with professional dance training and life skill development.

Currently, Ayesha is a faculty member at The Northeastern Illinois University; Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner-City Studies. She was featured in Hype Magazine South Africa for her artistic prowess and youth work and she was recently awarded the Power 25 Chicago Award by Walker’s Legacy for her commitment to excellent leadership, community achievements and philanthropic contributions. Ayesha holds a Bachelor of Science in Dance and Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a Masters of Arts Management (Arts in Youth and Community Development) from Columbia College Chicago. Ayesha is excited to lead the work of West Side United. You can reach Ayesha at ajaco@westsideunited.org.

Karen Aguirre, Program Manager

Photo of West Side United Senior Program Manager, Karen Aguirre.

Karen Aguirre is a health researcher, policy advocate, and civic engagement youth mentor interested in promoting health equity within communities of color who have been marginalized by structural violence. She currently serves as program manager for West Side United and oversees initiatives for the collaborative.

As a previous consultant for the inaugural Obama Foundation training day in Chicago and the Community Leaders Corps program, Karen sought ways to empower and train highly motivated young leaders from ages 18-25 to create positive change in their own communities. During her time as a social science researcher, she participated in research studies related to foster care, breast cancer health disparities, cognitive health among older Latino adults, smoking behaviors among communities of color, and comprehensive care models at hospitals.

Karen holds a Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she was a Healthy Brain Scholar for the CDC and a Schweitzer fellow. She received her Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Management from Loyola University Chicago. She has also received a series of honors for her work including the Loyola University Set the World on Fire Award, the UIC School of Public Health Rising Star award and the 35 under 35 award by the Chicago Scholars Foundation.

Martina Coe, Program Manager

Photo of West Side United Program Manager, Martina Coe.

Martina Coe is a health care researcher and public health advocate with a background in program management, health policy, and psychology. Her work as a mental health administrator in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, allowed Martina to witness the huge gaps in mental health understanding and policy changes. She previously worked as a Program Specialist at the American Hospital Association. While there her focused centered on population health and the social determinants of health.

Martina holds a Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In academic, Martina served as a policy researcher conducting a social impact analysis on marginalized communities and organizations impacted by the Illinois Budget Impasse. In her role as a research assistant for the MidAmerica Center for Public Health Practice (MCPHP), Martina served on the planning committee for the Change Institute focusing on nutrition and physical activity.

Outside of work, Martina loves to travel. Her recent adventures have taken her to Europe and will soon include travels to South America. She looks forward to contributing and growing the West Side United goal by applying her skills and knowledge.

Stephanie Gómez, Program Manager

Photo of West Side United Program Manager, Stephanie Gomez.

Stephanie Gómez is a first generation Latina from the North Side of Chicago. Her parents’ migration from Colombia has informed much of her academic and professional work. She earned a B.A. in Sociology from Northeastern Illinois University with a minor in Latina/o Studies and a Master in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida. During her undergraduate career, she was part of a student taskforce carrying on generations of struggle to have a Latina/o Student Resource Center at NEIU that resulted in the Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs. She also co-founded an organization, Latinas in Power (LIP), to help first generation Latinas navigate their college experience while culturally affirming their identities.

Prior to joining West Side United, Stephanie was Co-Director of Programs and Pathway Success at Public Allies Chicago, a national organization committed to advancing justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership of young people. During her time at PAC, she analyzed organizational engagement of Latinx youth in Chicago and developed targeted outreach plans to connect unemployed and out of school youth to opportunities with Public Allies. As Co-Director of Pathways, she was responsible for developing and delivering coaching sessions to young adults geared towards educational attainment, full time employment, and national service. She is excited to bring her years of experience in workforce development to WSU’s Pathway Programs and local hiring initiatives.

When she’s not chasing her toddler all over Rogers Park, you can find her with her nose in a book. She is a self-proclaimed bibliophile and particularly enjoys reading works written by POC.

Rachael Wilson, Program Manager

Rachael Wilson is an advocate, coordinator and researcher with a background in urban planning. She is native to Chicago and is also an Irish citizen with roots in Belfast. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science and her master’s in Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rachael became fascinated with urban planning while working with a team of planners to assess the social impacts of a river remediation as an undergraduate researcher. While completing her masters degree, Rachael focused her research on the intersection of community health needs and the built environment. She also developed interests in economic development and local finance.

Before starting work with West Side United, Rachael worked as the Health Outreach and Engagement coordinator at the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA), located in Humboldt Park. There she forged partnerships with residents and local health institutions. She also led community programming focused on decreasing health disparities in the communities LUCHA serves.

Rachael’s work at LUCHA provided her with a visceral understanding of the negative health effects of displacement, which informed her advocacy work for the creation and preservation of affordable housing with LUCHA and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

In her free time, Rachael enjoys singing and playing guitar, catching up on local news, and reading science fiction.

Jennifer Norsworthy, Healthy Food Program Manager

Jennifer Norsworthy is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Master of Public Health degree (MPH) focused on directing community-based interventions. She serves as the Chair for the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group (DPG) and on the Communication Committee for the Global Member Interest Group (GMIG) under the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In additional, she volunteers with GreenCity Farmers Market (GCM) and on the Junior Associate Board for Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA). Jennifer is an advocate for regenerative and equitable food systems. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys experimenting with recipes and traveling to new places.