About

José Antonio Rico is a community leader and educator from Chicago. He is the inaugural Executive Director of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Chicago, part of a comprehensive, national and community-based process dedicated to promoting healing, increasing racial equity, and eliminating the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs created by racism. Previously, he was the Senior Vice President of Community Investment for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, which invests in initiatives to advance human services and improve the lives of individuals and entire neighborhoods.

He is also the former Executive Director of the Obama Administration’s White House Initiative On Educational Excellence For Hispanics and was the founding high school principal of Multicultural Arts School, a Chicago Public School serving the families in Little Village and North Lawndale with a focus on social justice and arts integration.

Rico weaves together extensive education and public policy experience with an intimate knowledge of people across class and cultural lines. He brings his experience as an immigrant, teacher and father who is deeply committed to building community, racial equity and empathy in all his endeavors.

“I am a Chicagoan by way of Mexico. Raised on the southwest side, I was blessed to receive support from family, neighbors and teachers along my journey. Those relationships fueled a deep commitment and passion that compels me still- to seek out & uplift others amongst my community I hold so dear. This is why I serve.”

Work

(Click for highlights)

Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago
Director  |  2019 – 2024

Dedicated to promoting healing, increasing racial equity, and fueling transformation in neighborhoods and communities across Cook County, TRHT Greater Chicago is part of a comprehensive, national and community-based process supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) to “unearth and jettison the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs created by racism.”

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago
Senior Vice President of Community Investment  |  2014 – 2021

Creating and implementing a community impact strategy through the investment of $23M in annual program funding, advancing a statewide advocacy agenda for human services, and cultivating strategic partnerships with civic organizations to improve the lives of individuals and entire neighborhoods. He also stewards United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Neighborhood Network model of delivering highly coordinated and concentrated services in underserved communities.

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Executive Director  |  2009 – 2013

Appointed by President Obama to represent the White House and implement policies, strategic initiatives, and communications to advance the Administration’s education agenda in the Latino Community nationwide. Term highlights include reduced high school dropout rates and increased Latino college graduation rates through implementation of new initiatives, regulatory policies, and national public awareness campaigns; serving as the Administration’s spokesperson on educational issues for Latinos at national stakeholder meetings and on national & local television, radio & print; drafting an Executive Order signed by President Obama in October 2010 resulting in new public­ & private partnerships in Early Learning, K­12, and Higher Education.

Multicultural Arts School - Chicago Public Schools
Founding High School Principal  |  2004 – 2009

Founding Principal and lead designer responsible for overseeing a community planning and development process that resulted in the construction of a $70M Chicago Public High School serving 1,400 Latino and African American students from Little Village and North Lawndale.

University of Illinois at Chicago
Instructional Coach  |  1999 – 2004

Created new, small, and innovative learning communities in large public schools through trainings and technical assistance to teachers, administrators, and district staff in Chicago and across the country. Provided leadership to a growing local and national network of education reform organizations including the Gates Foundation, New Leaders for New Schools, and KnowledgeWorks.

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Director of Community Organizing  |  1997 – 1999

Organized a regional network of over 100 organizations to coordinate federal advocacy, direct actions, and political participation of immigrant communities. Protected the rights of immigrant students and families against unlawful practices from school districts and police departments resulting in federal consent decrees protecting their rights.

Public Allies
Program Manager  |  1994 – 1997

Redesigned and implemented a leadership training curriculum and workforce readiness program for individuals preparing for careers in community service and advocacy.

Events

Essays

Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Dear TRHT Chicago Community, With a heart full of gratitude, I share the news that my season as the Executive Director of TRHT Chicago has concluded. The journey we've shared has been nothing short of miraculous, and I want to express my deepest thanks to each and...

FIRSTHAND Talks

FIRSTHAND Talks

José Rico talks about segregation in Chicago and shares an idea for addressing it in Chicago. See the full video here

Jose Rico on Community Partnership & Co Creation

Jose Rico on Community Partnership & Co Creation

The Pritzker Traubert Foundation's Chicago Prize 2022 invests in community leadership and community-led plans to create economic opportunity on Chicago's South and West Sides. This video is part of our "Practitioner Perspectives" series for Chicago Prize 2022....

Press

Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Letter of Gratitude to TRHT Chicago Community

Dear TRHT Chicago Community, With a heart full of gratitude, I share the news that my season as the Executive Director of TRHT Chicago has concluded. The journey we've shared has been nothing short of miraculous, and I want to express my deepest thanks to each and...

Noticias Telemundo presents Foro Contra el Racismo

Noticias Telemundo presents Foro Contra el Racismo

On Tuesday, in New Orleans, LA, Telemundo held its first Foro Contra el Racismo – a town hall-style National Day of Racial Healing conversation about how to work toward an equitable society free of racial divisions.  The event was moderated by...

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