José Antonio Rico is a community leader and educator from Chicago. He is 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.”


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Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Greater Chicago

Director  |  2019 – Present

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 – Present

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.


Searching For Home And Healing My Broken Heart

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Most of my life, I’ve been searching for home. I came to Chicago with my younger brother as a young child. Both my parents had to make the journey to the US years before us, so they can put food on the table. Most of my life, I’ve been searching for home. I came to...

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