Stories by joanna hernandez

Dancers from Ballet Folklorico de Chicago rehearse. (WTTW News)

A Chicago Dance Studio Is Working to Keep Traditional Mexican Folk Dancing Alive

A dance studio on the Northwest Side is working to keep a Mexican tradition alive. And for a group of young dancers, there is joy to be found in every step and turn.

(WTTW New)

Ride Along With a Task Force Working to Reduce Car Jackings in Chicago

Get an inside look at how a regional task force is working to apprehend carjackers across Chicago. 

Exploring the Pride and Pressure of Being a First-Generation Latino American

Being a first-generation Latino American comes with rewards and struggles — from honoring your roots while defining your identity as an American to dealing with the weight of family expectations while forging your own path.

Harry and Yolanda Pena have been helping asylum seekers in Chicago. (WTTW News)

A Year Later, Asylum Seekers Work to Build New Lives With Help From Chicagoans

This week marks one year since the first bus of asylum seekers arrived in Chicago from the southern border. Since then, WTTW News has covered the city’s and volunteers’ response to aid the thousands of migrants seeking shelter.

Shequita Burch, a Safe Passage worker, is pictured on Aug. 21, 2023. (WTTW News)

As Chicago Public Schools Students Return to School, Safe Passage Workers Prepare to Keep Kids Safe

As students return, so to do the Safe Passage workers who are tasked with making sure students make it and from school safely.

Taqueria Las Flores, 3352 W. Foster Ave., was burned down on Aug. 5, 2023. (WTTW News)

Taqueria Las Flores Owner Hoping to Rebuild After Fire Destroys North Park Restaurant

Jazmin Flores, the young entrepreneur and owner of Taqueria Las Flores, used her savings to open the restaurant four years ago. She stayed open through the pandemic and navigated financial struggles. Now she’s forced to start over.

(WTTW News)

At Humboldt Park Hub, Cook County Sheriff’s Office Helps People Released From Jail

“We’re doing all this work with people and mental illness and working with their individual issues, but then when they would leave us, they would go out to the community with minimal services,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. “And I said, OK, we will set up our own services office.”

Protesters gather outside a Chicago Police Department building on July 12, 2023. (WTTW News)

Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Calls to Move Migrants Out of Chicago Police Stations Grow Louder

Local organizations are demanding answers from the Chicago Police Department amid allegations that officers at the Ogden (10th) Police District headquarters had sexual relations with migrants.

Chicago CRED hold a session for participants on July 6, 2023. (WTTW News)

Chicago Violence Prevention Program Targets Those Who Are Most At Risk: ‘I’m Doing the Healing’

Chicago CRED aims to approach violence reduction by engaging with those most at risk of being shot. The nonprofit organization, which has nine locations, provides young men in the city with opportunities to change their lives through services like life coaching and education.

(Courtesy of Chioma)

Local Entrepreneurs Receive $150K Google Grants for Tech Startups

Starting a business from scratch takes a lot of work — not to mention capital. A startup initiative from Google is helping Black and Latino entrepreneurs reach their goals.

(WTTW News)

Brighton Park Family Showcases Local Talent with No Sé Discos Record Label

Breaking into the music industry is not an easy task, but a local family is working to help guide artists. Brighton Park residents Jorge Ledezma and Lupe Martinez created the record label No Sé Discos in 2021. From the vocals to the instrumental, each artist has a niche.

(WTTW News)

Physicians Work to Expand Trust, Understanding of Organ Donation Process

Historically, the medical mistreatment of people of color has resulted in the mistrust of a system that saves lives. With health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease on the rise within Black and Brown communities, physicians are working to restore trust.

(WTTW News)

City Plans to Use Wright College as Respite Center as Migrants Continue to Arrive in Chicago

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward) hosted a community meeting Tuesday to discuss the city’s plan to use parts of Wright College as a respite center — a temporary location where 400 asylum seekers will have a place to rest, take a shower and receive a hot meal as the city works to find shelter for them.

South Shore High School. (WTTW News)

South Shore Residents Take Legal Action to Prevent High School From Being Used as Migrant Shelter

The residents say they have filed a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order against the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools to prevent a migrant respite center from opening in the former South Shore High School building.

South Shore residents protested outside the old South Shore High School on May 4, 2023. (WTTW News)

South Shore Residents Push Back on City’s Plan to Convert Former High School Into Migrant Respite Center

Dozens of residents from the area and neighboring communities attended the capacity event. According to the city, the plan is to use the first floor of the former high school, giving 500 asylum seekers a space to stay temporarily as local efforts continue to find shelter for them.

Chicago Police Department District 10. (WTTW News)

As Migrants Continue to Arrive, Chicago Officials and Community Groups Say They’re Out of Money and Space

Chicago officials say they are having a hard time finding places for migrants to stay, with dozens now sleeping at police facilities.

Christine Hernandez. (WTTW News)

As Changes Come to the National Organ Donor System, Those Waiting for Donations Hope for the Best

Despite more people receiving organs, it’s still not enough to meet high demand. Recently, the U.S. government announced a plan to revamp the way organ recipients are chosen and organs distributed. 

(WTTW News)

Sam the Barber Creates Hope, Boosts Confidence With Free Haircuts Across Chicago

Public libraries can be a safe haven for those struggling with homelessness. That’s the story of a local barber who benefited from the library’s resources to turn his life around. From living in the streets to becoming a licensed barber, Samuel Brown is now on a mission to pay it forward.


Chicagoans Come Together to Celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility

On Friday, people around the world came together for the annual Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to celebrate the resilience of transgender and nonbinary people.

(WTTW News)

How a West Side Congregation is Helping Migrants Bused to Chicago From the Border

It’s been more than six months since hundreds of migrants arrived in buses from the Texas border. At Grace and Peace Church in North Austin, a congregation is helping asylum seekers through their journeys.

(WTTW News)

On Match Day, Loyola Medical Students One Step Closer to Achieving Their Dreams

Every year on Match Day, medical students across the U.S. anxiously open envelopes to learn the name of the institution where they will start the next chapter of their careers. 

Funeral services were held for fallen Chicago police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso, 32, on March 9, 2023. (Chicago Police Department / Twitter)

Mourners Gather at Funeral of Slain Chicago Police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso

Chicago police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso, 32, was shot and killed last week while responding to a domestic violence call on the city’s Southwest Side. Hundreds gathered Thursday to pay their final respects, describing the officer as selfless and brave.

The United Center is pictured on March 6, 2023. (WTTW News)

United Center Concession Workers Prepare for Strike During Big Ten Tournament as Negotiations Continue

United Center concession workers are in the middle of contract negotiations with the hospitality company that operates the service. On Sunday, dozens of workers walked out on a one-day strike during the Chicago Bulls game. 

Half of Discount Mall Vendors to Close Shop in Little Village: ‘We Don’t Have Any Choice’

For the last two years, Discount Mall has been in the middle of a battle between its vendors and property owner Novak Development. Now, half of the mall’s vendors have until the end of this month to pack up and leave.

Chicago Public Library sign. (WTTW News)

Back of the Yards Residents Push Back Against Plan to Merge New Library with Public Housing Project

The only library in Back of the Yards shares a space with a local high school. Some residents have advocated for a new freestanding library, securing $15 million in state funding to build it. But a new proposal would incorporate the library into a public housing project.

A rendering of the redesigned area around the Discount Mall in Little Village (Courtesy of Novak Construction, Mid-America and Hirsch, MPG)

Discount Mall in Little Village to Continue Operations as Long-Term Deal Signed

Improvements to the mall are planned, including new roofs and facades, parking lot resurfacing, new landscaping, new lighting and an underground storm water detention system.