Stories by Erica Gunderson

(Courtesy of Circus Vazquez)

Circus Vazquez Returns to Chicago Area With Shows Through June 11

Five brothers started Circus Vazquez in Mexico City in 1969. The family-run circus has made the Chicago area one of its stops for more than 20 years.

Author and DePaul University forensic accounting professor Kelly Richmond Pope appears on "Black Voices" on May 26, 2023. (WTTW News)

Fraud Big and Small Detailed in New Book ‘Fool Me Once’

In “Fool Me Once: Scams, Stories, and Secrets from the Trillion-Dollar Fraud Industry,” DePaul University forensic accounting professor Kelly Richmond Pope explores the many forms fraud can take and the sometimes surprising stories of the people who perpetrate it.

Hector Perez of the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs appears on "Latino Voices" on May 26, 2023. (WTTW News)

‘La Ultima Palabra’ on How Mentorship for Kids Changes Lives

Kids in mentorship programs might not yet appreciate how their mentors have helped keep them on a successful path. But Hector Perez of the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs says these programs are critical to shaping productive futures.

My Block My Hood My City founder Jahmal Cole gives appears on "Black Voices" on May 26, 2023. (WTTW News)

‘The Last Word’ on Saving Street Basketball in Chicago

My Block My Hood My City founder Jahmal Cole says bringing back basketball to our parks will lead to a safer city. Cole is leading the Save Street Ball campaign to replace and restore rims and nets across city parks.

Chesa Rollins, owner of Chesa’s Bistro & Bar, appears on "Black Voices" on May 26, 2023. (WTTW News)

How a Celiac Diagnosis Led This Chicago Chef to Open a Gluten-Free Restaurant

The kitchen at Chesa’s Bistro & Bar is entirely gluten-free, meaning customers with severe allergies can dine without worrying about cross-contamination.

(WTTW News)

Non-Citizen Veterans Face Deportation for Post-Service Infractions

Service in the U.S. military can be a speedier route for people hoping to get citizenship, but it’s not a guarantee. Non-citizen veterans are subject to deportation for crimes committed after the military service, and application of those rules can be inconsistent across states.

(WTTW News)

UIC Study Finds Youth Unemployment Spiked During Pandemic

Mayor Brandon Johnson has instructed the city’s budget office to find ways to fund youth unemployment and enrichment programs — and according to a new study by UIC’s Great Cities Institute, those jobs are critically needed.

Felix Martinez was named residential sanitation driver of the year. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Mt. Prospect Residents Say Award-Winning Trash Collector Felix Martinez is Community Treasure

Most neighborhoods don’t eagerly anticipate the weekly arrival of their sanitation engineer, colloquially known as the garbage man. But most neighborhoods don’t have a national award-winning sanitation engineer like Felix Martinez taking away their trash.

(WTTW News)

Greening La Villita at Kanoon Elementary School

A dense green tree canopy can reduce the effects of air pollution and climate change. A 2019 study by the city found Little Village was among communities burdened by higher air pollution — and now, the neighborhood is planting the seeds for change.

Brandon Johnson is pictured in a file photo. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Latino Communities Look Ahead to Chicago Under Mayor Brandon Johnson

As Mayor Brandon Johnson closes out his first week in office, Chicagoans are watching closely. In the city’s Latino communities, public safety, the cost of living, job opportunities, schools and environmental justice are at the top of the long list of issues people are hoping to see the new mayor address.

Refugees. (CNN)

What Does the End of Title 42 Mean for Those Seeking Asylum in the U.S.?

The policy allowed authorities to quickly expel migrants at U.S. borders in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. More than 2.8 million migrants were expelled, according to Customs and Border protection data. But the policy has also created more confusion and misinformation among the people who are seeking asylum in the U.S.

Jerry Bowen. (WTTW News)

South Side Retiree Finds New Passion as Sign Language Teacher at Thurgood Marshall Library

Every Tuesday afternoon at the Thurgood Marshall Branch of the Chicago Public Library, retiree Jerry Bowen signs “hello” to the sign language class he’s taught remotely for three years.

Kameron Huckleby (WTTW)

Finding ‘The Road Home’ with Re-Entry Navigator-in-Training Kameron Huckleby

Kameron Huckleby is on the road home after incarceration, and he’s on the road to helping others do the same as a re-entry navigator in training with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.

Francisco Perez (WTTW News)

‘La Ultima Palabra’ on Resources for Those Returning After Incarceration

Francisco Perez gives “La Ultima Palabra” on why he says creating a smoother landing for people leaving incarceration is good business for everyone.

Brandon Johnson is pictured in a file photo. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

From Accessible Gathering Spaces to Educational Opportunities, Young Chicagoans Share Their Hopes for Brandon Johnson’s Administration

For young people in the city, the start of a new administration at City Hall is both a chance for progress and a moment to call attention to the issues most important to them. 

“Underground Railroad Game” is playing at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts May 18-20. (Ars Nova)

Provocative Play ‘Underground Railroad Game’ Shaped by Gettysburg School Trip Memories

“Underground Railroad Game” touches on heavy themes like race, power, sex and the American psyche, but its creators say it’ll also make you laugh. The play runs at the at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts from May 18-20.

(Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

Chicago Hot Dog Icon Superdawg Drive-In Still Going Strong 75 Years Later

In 1948, the neighborhood around Milwaukee and Devon avenues was mostly undeveloped prairie. But North Side newlyweds Maurie and Flaurie Berman saw potential, and a Chicago icon was born.

Project Hope assists young mothers through their pregnancies and beyond. (WTTW News)

Marillac St. Vincent’s Project Hope Raises Young Moms Into Parenthood

Project Hope supports young mothers through their pregnancies and beyond. Doulas give prenatal support, and care countinues with parenting classes, intervention screenings and peer groups.

(WTTW News)

Dog Day Care Owner on Digging Up Small Business Support

With a pandemic-related dip in business, Furry Paws Dog Day Care owner Carolina Ayala began looking for small business support options.

(WTTW News)

How Kennedy Expressway Construction Helped Get Unhoused Residents Into Housing

The Kennedy Expressway construction project that kicked off earlier this year had an unexpected effect on some of the 35th Ward’s unhoused residents: the scope of the work endangered those living in viaducts under the expressway.

Members of Mariachi Herencia de Mexico (WTTW News)

Treat Mom to Mariachi on Mother’s Day with Mariachi Herencia de Mexico

Latin Grammy Award-nominated Mariachi Herencia de Mexico will be performing a Mother’s Day concert at Thalia Hall on May 14.

(Erica Gunderson / WTTW News)

Black History in Bloom in Washington Park with ‘Redefining Redlining’

Artist Amanda Williams and a small army of friends and neighbors participated in an act of faith and reclamation in Washington Park. In the footprint of nearly two dozen lost buildings, they planted 100,000 red tulip bulbs.

Deonte Baker was recovering from a violent attack when he was selected for the Resilient Communities program. “I was able to rebuild my life and feel good about it,” he said. (WTTW News)

Resilient Communities Participants on How Program Helped Get Them on Track

Last summer, the 5,000 Chicagoans selected to participate in the city’s guaranteed income pilot program began receiving $500 per month. The Resilient Communities program was designed to help income-qualified Chicagoans stabilize their financial circumstances.

In March 2023, 11 wrongfully convicted men filed a lawsuit against former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara, the city of Chicago and other officers. (Courtesy of Matt Thibodeau / Loevy and Loevy)

11 Men Exonerated of Murder Convictions File Civil Suit Against Disgraced Ex-Detective Reynaldo Guevara

For nearly two decades, Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara was an infamous presence on the city’s Northwest Side. More than 50 people have accused Guevara of framing them for murders, coercing false confessions and engaging in other misconduct from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Poet avery young appears on “Black Voices” on April 29, 2023. (WTTW News)

Poetry Beyond the Page With Avery Young, Chicago’s First Poet Laureate

In a city known for its poets and poetry, being named Chicago’s first poet laureate is high praise and a tall order. But teacher, producer, composer, performer and poet avery young, who styles his name in all lowercase, said he can’t wait to get started serving as the city’s poetry ambassador.

Small business owner Gia Davis gives “the last word” on why she says hiring returning citizens just makes good business sense. (WTTW News)

Small Business Owner Gives ‘The Last Word’ on Second Chance Employment

About 26,000 people leave Illinois prisons each year, and many of them report having trouble finding employment once they’re home.