Stories by Joanna Hernandez

Joanna Hernandez kayaks in the Chicago River. (WTTW News)

Explore the Chicago River With Shedd Aquarium’s Kayak for Conservation Summer Tours

Shedd Aquarium is once again offering an opportunity to explore the Chicago River while learning about efforts to take care of it. The Kayak for Conservation program offers pay-what-you-can tours.

Steven Wells and Tanais Valdillez recently purchased their first home, a “Matthew Home” in North Chicago, with the help of ReNew Communities. (WTTW News)

How a Nonprofit is Helping People Purchase Homes, Cultivate Community in North Chicago

ReNew Communities is on a mission to build 300 homes in North Chicago. The suburb has long struggled with low homeownership rates; the nonprofit says 33% of residents in the city own a home.

Five years after being shot, Chicago police Officer Derrick Jones Jr. discusses the road to recovery. (WTTW News)

5 Years After Shooting Put Him in a Coma, Chicago Police Officer Reflects on the Road to Recovery: ‘I’ve Learned to Forgive’

Five years ago, Chicago police Officer Derrick Jones Jr. went from responding to calls on the job to becoming a victim of gun violence himself. Now, for the first time publicly, he’s sharing his story about life as a survivor.

At the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, Project Unloaded helps teens educate their peers on the risks of having a gun. (WTTW News)

How Teens Are Using Social Media to Try to Change the Cultural Narrative Around Guns

People can spend hours scrolling through social media. An organization called Project Unloaded is helping teens educate their peers on the risks of owning a gun by empowering youth to become social media influencers for change.

The 40th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival kicks off April 11, 2024. Here, a sign for the festival hangs at the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square. (WTTW News)

Chicago Latino Film Festival Celebrates 40 Years

This year’s lineup includes 50 feature films and 35 short films from artists in Latin America, the U.S., Spain and Portugal.

Hundreds of people gather at the Adler Planetarium to view the eclipse on April 8, 2024. (WTTW News)

Hundreds Come Out to View Solar Eclipse at Adler Planetarium

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago for a viewing party. People brought telescopes, cameras and the necessary protective eyeglasses.

Artist Yeison Perez, 31, is a Venezuelan migrant whose work will be on display at Starting Point Community Church from April 5-6, 2024. (WTTW News)

Venezuelan Migrant Depicts His Journey to Chicago in Series of Paintings

Last year, a Belmont Cragin pastor opened his church’s doors to house a group of migrants who were sleeping at a police station. One of the men has now created a series of paintings describing his journey to America. His artwork will be on display this weekend.

Inside Good Shepherd Church in Little Village. (WTTW News)

‘This is a Beautiful Way to Meditate’: Little Village Pastor Reflects on Stations of the Cross

On Friday, many Catholics will gather for the annual Stations of the Cross ceremony to mark Good Friday ahead of Sunday’s Easter holiday.

People dance during a class at DivaDance Chicago. (WTTW News)

Chicago Dance Studio Celebrates Self-Love, Builds Community Through Inclusive Classes

During the day, Lexi Longsworth is a speech pathologist. By night, she runs DivaDance Chicago, a dance studio focused on building confidence and community.

A photo of Kobe Puga on display in his mother’s home. (WTTW News)

Families of Homicide Victims in Chicago Await Closure Amid Low Clearance Rates

As homicide cases in Chicago remain open, the families of victims are left to cope with the trauma.

La Tiendita in Pilsen provides free necessities to people in need. (WTTW News)

Pilsen’s La Tiendita Connects Families in Need to Free Clothing, Necessities

The free shop is located inside a Chicago Public Schools Parent University, which offers classes and workshops on topics like financial literacy, career development and more.

Food at Belly Bowl Asian Kitchen and Lounge in Bridgeport. (WTTW News)

Bridgeport Restaurant Blends Mexican, Asian Cuisine: ‘We Try to Mix It All Up’

The owners of Belly Bowl Asian Kitchen and Lounge experiment with different spices and flavors, offering a blend of cultures.

Jaime Romero, owner of Futurama Beauty Academy. (WTTW News)

Cosmetology School Owner Looks to Teach, Inspire Others From Immigrant Backgrounds

At a cosmetology academy in Back of the Yards, Jaime Romero is using his entrepreneurial spirit to guide his students through the beauty industry. He also knows what it’s like to face obstacles because of undocumented status. 

A worker at the 211 Resource Navigation Center. (WTTW News)

211 Helpline Connects Cook County Residents to Health and Social Services: ‘It’s Those Everyday Emergencies’

Have you heard of 211? It’s a free hotline connecting Chicago and suburban Cook County residents to everyday services — from housing resources to utility payment assistance.

Breaking ground at the site of Xquina Incubator & Café on Dec. 5, 2023. (Provided)

Little Village Community Hub to Connect Local Entrepreneurs to Resources, Programming

Little Village is known for its business corridor and its Latino entrepreneurship. A space coming to the heart of the neighborhood is designed to help those without access to resources kickstart a business.

The labels from Funkytown Brewery pay tribute to Black cultural influences. (WTTW News)

Funkytown Brewery Looks to Bring Black Cultural Influences Into Craft Beer Market

Funkytown’s beers can be found at more than 100 locations around the Chicago area. It was their pale ale called Hip Hops and R&Brew that kick-started the trio into the craft beer industry.

Haugan Elementary School principal Heather Yutzy and students. (WTTW News)

At Albany Park Elementary School, Community Rallies Behind Migrant Students and Their Families

“We’re trying to put ourselves in the place of these families,” Haugan Elementary School principal Heather Yutzy said. “If we were in this situation, what would we need for our kids?”

(Gonzalo Guzmán García / Pexels)

From Making Pozole to Playing Lotería, Here’s How Some Chicagoans Are Celebrating the Holidays

“Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” host Joanna Hernandez went out to ask people to share what they enjoy about this time of year.

A customer makes a purchase from a Little Village food truck vendor. (WTTW News)

As Armed Robberies Continue, Street Vendors in Little Village Fear for Their Safety

Multiple vendors in Little Village say they have been robbed at gunpoint despite efforts to protect them. The latest victims are food truck workers.

What is Chamoy? See How Family-Run Company Makes the Sweet, Spicy Mexican Sauce

WTTW News stopped by Big Mich, a family-owned company that specializes in house-made micheladas and is now making chamoy at its Willowbrook headquarters. There’s an original lime flavor, plus strawberry and mango.

Volunteers with the Ojala Foundation distribute food. (WTTW News)

‘It Could Be Any One of Us’: Muslim Organization Helps Those Facing Homelessness in Chicago

Winter in Chicago can be brutal, and it can be even worse for those experiencing homelessness. A Latino Muslim organization is coming together to help those in need on the city’s Southwest Side.

A graduation program for the Avondale Restorative Justice Community Court. (WTTW News)

Cook County Restorative Justice Program is Giving People a Second Chance

The Avondale Restorative Justice Community Court program offers those charged with nonviolent offenses a chance to turn their lives around. Rather than serving time, people are given another option.

DACA Recipients Push for Action on Federal Health Insurance Coverage

Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced plans to expand health care coverage to those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the proposed change has yet to be finalized, leaving thousands of young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children in limbo.

Curtis “The Grandyman” Granderson works with kids at the Chicago Baseball and Educational Academy. (WTTW News)

MLB All-Star Inspires Next Generation of Players at Chicago Academy

Curtis “The Grandyman” Granderson spent 16 seasons playing Major League Baseball. Now he’s passing down those years of experience to the next generation of players and inspiring them to pursue college.


With Coffee and a Shaving Brush, Here’s How Some Chicagoans Are Remembering Their Loved Ones on Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Day, is a two-day celebration where people come together to remember their late loved ones. It’s a beautiful, colorful tradition with festivities, music and food.

Deronis Cooper works in his garden in Garfield Park. (WTTW News)

How a Chicago Police Officer Transformed His Backyard Into an Award-Winning Oasis

Deronis Cooper said getting his hands in the dirt helps him cope with the challenges of being a police officer. What started with four planters has grown into more than 50 plant species in his backyard.