Creating the Beloved Community Together Through Relationships

Time has proven that genuine and lasting relationships are powerful. We have seen first-hand former participants healing from traumas, finding their own place in this world, and becoming mentors themselves.

Here are some amazing stories:

Marcus didn’t think he needed a mentor until he got connected to Aaron Rivas. Aaron took Marcus under his wing as if he was one of his sons. In fact, Aaron’s son is Marcus’s best friend. Having these relationships motivated him to seek opportunities and felt accompanied along the way. The impact was so great that he decided to become a mentor as soon as he graduated from college. Marcus became a CPS mentor for a year at Centers. He took youth on field trips, adventure therapy and shared tons of meals! He is now pursuing a Master’s Degree to continue growing his skills. Marcus believes there are a lot of talented youth in Chicago but much is wasted because they don’t have the self-motivation or the people behind them to push them. 

Axander Andrade was one of Marcus’s mentees in the Choose to Change program. He also didn’t know he needed a mentor until he met Marcus. He said it has made a difference to have someone from the neighborhood there for him, who has been through the same struggles, motivating him and teaching him important life skills.

Aaron Rivas is one of our Street Outreach mentors. He met Marcus through some of our basketball programs. He is thankful that God has allowed him to have relationships with young men who look at him like a father.

Aaron believes everyone needs a mentor to pour into them, so they can in turn pour into others. This is especially needed in neighborhoods like Little Village and Humboldt Park where youth are often surrounded by violence.




Vanessa met Jazmin Torres, Director of GEMS program, when she was in 7th grade. She’s been participating ever since.

Vanessa is the oldest of 3 siblings. In that role, she always felt responsible and pressured to act perfectly. Jazmin remembers Vanessa being a shy quiet girl who would agree to everything. She started opening up to Jazmin during one-on-one mentoring sessions and has witnessed Vanessa step out of her comfort zone and challenge herself. She is soon graduating from high school and is thinking of pursuing a medical degree.

Vanessa is now a GEMS student ambassador and assists Jazmin during program. GEMS is a girl’s mentoring program that empowers them to embrace their hurt, their community and their struggles. The program ultimately helps young girls find their misplaced selves and makes GEMS out of them.

Vanessa is only one of many girls Jazmin Torres has poured into during her time working at New Life Centers. The youngwomen admire her confidence and self-determination to work towards her dreams and goals. They also admire her faith in Jesus, which Jazmin shares very boldly. Jazmin is a pillar for women at New Life Centers as a whole.

Diana Franco is another young woman whom Jazmin Torres mentored for years. She had participated in La Semilla after-school program before she joined the GEMS program. Through her mentoring relationship, she learned the importance of fighting for her own voice. She is now motivated to raise her voice for her community.

At the beginning of the pandemic when many were losing their jobs, Diana stepped up to help lead the new food pantry. The team was serving hundreds of families a week. Diana is currently the Food Pantry Administrative Coordinator.

Joining that team meant a lot to Diana. She vividly remembers a time when her mom didn’t have enough money for food. Being able to make sure her community has the groceries necessary, warms her heart.

Jazmin has witnessed Diana’s growth, is blown away and humbled by the experience of walking alongside of her as a leader in the organization and a mother. Diana believes having a mentor tell you they are there for you no matter where you are at, is crucial and can make a great impact in a young person’s life.

Be a part of what God is doing through Centers! GIVE here!


About 1,500 Turkeys and Food Boxes Distributed for Thanksgiving

About 1,500 turkeys and food boxes were distributed to families in Little Village right before Thanksgiving Day! It was so essential for us to continue this. Hundreds of families had their holiday dinners secured. Special thanks to our volunteers who helped make this happen. The Israeli Consulate, UPS, Target, White Sox and the CJ Brown Foundation supported us. Special thanks to some of our staff who delivered to participant families.

Resiliency Services Walks With Families During Hard Times

Our Resiliency Services team walks alongside victims of violence and their families with empathy and compassion. They arrive at the scene, visit the hospital and connect them to resources. They help plan a funeral if the incident is fatal. They continue to walk with them long-term through grief groups and counseling. This team is there in the most challen

The Vine Students Learn to Sew

Activities at The Vine after-school program are carefully planned and thought out to help students learn extra-curricular skills. Recently, older children had the option to take a sewing class by Mrs. Brown. The children enjoyed seeing their creations come to life through patience, persistence and learning by making mistakes. One of the hardest lessons to learn for some of our students is that mistakes are not the end. They can not only recover but also learn and grow each time they make a mistake. Sewing enhances cognitive development and motor skills, requiring concentration and hand-eye coordination. We are excited to offer more classes like this one in the future!

Centers Youth Run the Chicago Marathon

Running Forward in the Chicago Marathon! Six youth participants of our running group ran over 26 miles around our city to complete the Chicago Marathon. These young men demonstrated dedication and endurance during months of training. We are so proud of them! Shout out to their mentor, Epi Diaz who walked with them through that process!

After Years of Waiting, Humboldt Park Location Gets a Playground

Our after-school program The Vine in Humboldt Park got a new playground! After years of the students dreaming, sketching, and planning what it would look like, it finally happened! The students are thrilled and ask to play on it every day during gym time. This playground is so much more than a playground. It promotes social and emotional learning, brain development, motor skills and coordination. It also helps students cope and heal from the trauma they experience in their neighborhood

Playing for Peace: Crosstown Classic Game

Last weekend was all about playing for peace! We held our annual Crosstown Classic to conclude the Little Village Summer Softball Season! Dozens of teams competed all summer to get to this point. Only the top 3 teams from each neighborhood side got to battle it out on this field. The most important thing is that this event promotes community-building, addresses division, and promotes peace.
Thanks to Chicago Baseball and Educational Academy and Curtis Granderson for the continued support and partnership!

Centers Opens New Technology Center, AT&T Partnership

We recently held our official ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new AT&T Connected Learning Center. This is located on the second floor of our Pan de Vida Fresh Market building. Our students from La Semilla will be the first beneficiaries of this technology center. We are so excited to be able to provide additional safe space for our participants. This center is part of AT&T’s mission to bridge the digital divide and the homework gap.

Hundreds Run El Grito 5K Despite Heavy Rain

September 11, 2022 was very special. We held El Grito 5K Family Run/Walk for the first time since the start of the pandemic. We were blessed with a lot of rain and got soaked. Hundreds of runners came out to enjoy Zumba, dance to tamborazo, tamales and jarritos! We are so thankful for all the volunteers and sponsors who helped make this race happen!

Following the race, our organization participated in the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade. We had a couple of floats! Matt DeMateo, our executive director, was honored to be a Grand Marshal. Centers was recognized for the work done during the pandemic through the food pantry.