Josephine DiCesare, MAExecutive Director
Josephine joined Youth Crossroads as the new Executive Director in May 2021. With a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Northeastern Illinois University, she has spent the last 15 years dedicated to the non-profit sector. This includes working with the homeless population at Pilsen’s former San Jose Obrero Mission and, most recently, with
performing arts and education at Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater.
In her spare time, Josephine volunteers with Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly and enjoys making memories with her husband and two children. Josephine has a passion for mission-driven work and looks forward to supporting youth and their families in Berwyn, Cicero and surrounding communities.
Norman Alexandroff, BAMarketing and Development Coordinator
Norman is Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator for Youth Crossroads. Previously, he was the founding president of the Berwyn Public Art Initiative, which used the arts to create a healthier, more inclusive, and culturally vibrant community. He also helped create the Wabash Arts Corridor, which transformed Chicago’s South Loop from an island of urban forlorn into a destination neighborhood.
Norman has extensive experience in marketing and fundraising, having started the offices of Media Relations, Publications, Student Communications, and Business and Community Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago, as well as the Chicago Center for Arts Policy. Norman has lived in Berwyn for nearly 20 years and is committed to strengthening the social and economic fabric of the city.
Elida Ortiz, BAParent & Community Liasian / Administrative Support
Elida grew up in Rogers Park and obtained a degree in Applied Sciences from Robert Morris University. Elida has worn many hats to reflect her passion for community work. These include being former Coordinator to the Cicero Community Collaborative – United Way Neighborhood Network; Parent Leader within the Cicero 99 School District; ESL Facilitator at Universidad Popular; Computer Instructor at Corazón Community Services; Ambassador/Coordinator for the NRI, CVPP and Innovations Zones/Escuelita Movil Parent programs.
Of the varied experiences, the common thread throughout is the gratification of helping others grow personally and professionally.
Michelle Desideri, MA, LCPC, CCTPDirector of Counseling Services
Michelle is a former resident of Cicero and graduate of the local school districts. She obtained her Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Lewis University, is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois and most recently a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. She has 30 years of experience, specializing in the areas of youth, family and trauma.
Michelle currently oversees all Counseling Services at Youth Crossroads, including the Counseling Training Program.
Tayra Romo, MA, LPC, NCCAssociate Director of Counseling Services
Tayra received her Bachelors in Sociology from NPU Chicago (2008). She worked for JCFS as a Respite Worker (2008-2013), provided services to children with disabilities ages 2-16 yrs.
Tayra worked for CPS for 6 years in ECE, supported low-income families. Graduated from Concordia University with a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Completed internship at Youth Crossroads (2017-18), provided counseling services at Morton West High School. Joined us during internship as a crisis counselor. She is passionate and excited to continue working with youth here at Youth Crossroads.
Katrina Diaz, MSWSchool-Based Counselor
Katrina received her Degree in Bachelor of Social Work in 2019 and she received her Master’s in Social Work in 2020. She now works as a Youth Developmental Specialist at Youth Crossroads. Katrina comes with a wealth of experience in the private and non-profit world, partnering with grassroots organizations to bring awareness of social issues to her community in La Villita and advocating for families of undocumented citizens.
Having been part of a youth program herself and a volunteer in her community since a young age, Katrina is devoted to utilizing her experiences to serve, mentor, and inspire youth through life’s challenges. She lives in Cicero with her 9-year-old daughter and their two cats.
Natalia Dorsz, MASchool-Based Counselor
Natalia received her Associate Degree in Science from Waubonsee Community College and her Bachelor’s Degree in Arts at Lewis University in 2017. Natalia then completed her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, with a concentration in children and adolescents. She did her internship with Youth Crossroads in 2019-20 at Morton West High School.
Natalia is bilingual in Polish and has taught preschool children of various backgrounds. She is now a Youth Crossroads’ School-Based Counselor at Morton West High School and is thrilled to continue serving youth.
Morgan Eslinger, MASchool Based Counselor
Morgan received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from North Central College. She worked as a Registered Behavior Technician where she provided therapy for children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum. This is when her passion for working with youth was solidified. She went on to pursue her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration on children and adolescents at Lewis University.
Morgan did her internship at Youth Crossroads at Morton West High School and is now the Youth Development Counselor. Morgan has a passion for fostering youth development and for working with individuals and their families to provide the best level of support.
Nicholas Miller, MSWSchool-Based Counselor
Nicholas Miller is a resident of Berwyn and attended Northeastern Illinois University. He received his Bachelor of Social Work (2018) and interned for Youth Development. Then, Nicholas continued his education at Northeastern and earned his Master of Social Work (2019). He returned and completed his internship at Youth Crossroads to provide school-based counseling services to students at Lincoln Middle School.
He is dedicated and ready to provide exemplary services to his community. Nicholas will continue to provide support and services to students at Heritage Middle School and families in the community.
Natalie Palm, MASchool-Based Counselor
Natalie graduated from Lewis University in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Secondary Education. Natalie continued at Lewis University for graduate school, earning a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a child/adolescent concentration in August 2021.
Natalie interned for Youth Crossroads at Morton East High School during the 2020-2021 school year and is now a school-based counselor at Morton Alternative School and Morton East High School. Natalie is passionate about learning how trauma-informed and restorative practices can have a positive impact on youth in the community.
Chandace Campbell, MASchool Based Counselor
Chandace B. Campbell received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology at Lewis University in 2013. In 2017, she continued at Lewis University to pursue and complete her Master of Arts in Child and Adolescent Clinical Mental Health Counseling. During the Master’s program she effectively accomplished her internship with the Valley View School District 365U, as a counseling intern. The internship was an enlightening experience where she was able to gain a wealth of knowledge as she led groups, did individual counseling, participated in Individualized Educational Plan meetings, and so much more. For several years, Chandace worked for the Southwest Cook County Special Education School System in which she worked directly with Children and Young Adults with Diverse Abilities.
Her degrees have afforded her many opportunities to help and serve numerous youths. Justice is of great importance to Chandace as she has done clinical counseling and worked with foster care youth over recent years with an agency as a clinical therapist. It has always been vital to promote moral and ethical action, which is so important not only for the clients that one serves, but for others as well. Chandace is constantly reflecting on ways to effectively help individuals and she will continue to be the voice and advocate that is needed to help with the injustice that our youth face in life.
Kelsie Conway, MSWSchool-Based Counselor
Kelsie obtained both her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and Masters of Social Work from Dominican University. While receiving her masters degree Kelsie interned at Youth Crossroads (2017-2018), providing counseling services at Morton West.
Kelsie also has experience in medical social work, providing care and services to patients and their families. Upon graduation with her MSW, Kelsie accepted a job with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Where she provided crisis intervention services, and individual and family therapy to youth in crisis within the northwest side of Chicago.
Kelsie is passionate to continue her work with youth and families. She is now excited to be back with Youth Crossroads and is the School Based Counselor at Lincoln Middle School.
Norma CastrejonSchool-Based Counselor
Norma obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University, and Master’s in Social Work from Dominican University in 2017. While completing her Master’s Degree Norma interned at Sarah’s Inn. Norma has experience providing individual counseling services to adults, youth and families. Norma also has experience working with adults and teens affected by domestic violence as well as survivors of sexual trauma. Norma is now a School Based Counselor at Morton East High school and she is passionate to continue her work with youth and families
Briani Shorter, MSWYouth Development Director
Briani Shorter is the Youth Development Programs Director at Youth Crossroads. She received her Bachelor of Social work in 2018 from Western Illinois University. During that school year she completed her undergraduate practicum internship at Youth Crossroads as a Youth Development Intern.
Her experience at Youth Crossroads helped her realize her passion for youth development. In 2019, Briani received her Master’s in Social Work from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where her specialization was Organization and Community Practice (OCP). Briani is committed to empowering youth to be engaged and find pride in their community.
Michelle Bahena, BSWYouth Development Program Coordinator
Michelle received her Bachelor’s Degree from Concordia University Chicago in Social Work with a minor in Spanish. She resides in Cicero and was previously working as a preschool teacher in Chicago. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her loved ones, cheering for her favorite sports teams, and appreciating all forms of art. Previously working as an intern, Michelle is now the Youth Development Program Coordinator at Youth Crossroads. She is so excited to work with the local youth!
Olivia Paplaczyk, BAYouth Leadership Program Specialist
Olivia was born and raised in Berwyn and is excited to join the Youth Crossroads team this year. She is currently finishing her last semester to earn a bachelor’s degree and plans on getting a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling. In her spare time, she loves to read, go to concerts, and enjoy the outdoors.
Jacquilyn Frausto, BSWYouth Development Specialist
Jacquilyn “Jacquie” Frausto received her bachelor’s degree in social work and a dance minor at Western Illinois University in 2019, where she held leadership roles in her sorority, and planned numerous events on social issues. Jacquie grew up in Franklin Park where she developed considerable experience working with youth. Recently, she worked in early childhood education as Lead Teacher for school-age students for a daycare in Berwyn.
Now, Jacquie is one of the new Youth Development Specialists at Heritage Middle School for the after-school program YCA. She plans to return to school in Summer 2022 to receive her master’s degree in school social work.
Arafat Olori, BSYouth Development Specialist
Arafat graduated from Western Illinois University in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Her two concentrations are Health Policy Administration and Global Health. After years of tutoring students and working with children through programs offered by Upward Bound and David Philemon Ministries International, she is now the Youth Development Specialist at Freedom Middle School.
Arafat loves working with youths and is always ready to meet them right where they are at. Arafat enjoys serving at Church on Fire International’s food pantry located in Cicero and giving back to others.
CICERO COMMUNITY COLLABORATIVE
Yadira “Yadi” Martinez received her Bachelors in Psychology from Dominican University (2010) and received her Spanish interpretation training from LARC (Language Access Resource Center) in 2019. She is a former 17-year resident of Cicero and continues to work and serve in the community. She has 12 years of professional experience with families, case management, community engagement, and project management.
Yadi was previously elected by community organizations and community members to serve as a Co-Chair to the AOK/Early Childhood Committee of the Cicero Community Collaborative (CCC) from 2016 to 2017. She then stepped down to take the position of CCC Coordinator. She is committed to advocating for her community, by providing information on resources and to insure equitable, inclusive and transparent work is being provided from the CCC.
City of Berwyn
Gilbert Pena is a dedicated community member of the City of Berwyn. A longtime resident, he is currently the Administrative Manager for the Office of the Mayor and the Commissioner for the Community Relations Commission. He also served on the board of the Berwyn Development Corporation for 6 years. Gilbert has a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications field and attended the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UIC. Gilbert is also a United States Marine Corp veteran. Gilbert has served on the Youth Crossroads Board since 2008. He recognizes the important services that Youth Crossroads provides to the community and the impact that positive male role models can have on young men.
Chris BobowskiVice President
Chicago Board of Trade
Chris Bobowski has worked at the Chicago board of trade dealing in commodity options since 2003. he’s a graduate of Illinois wesleyan university where he studied english literature and political science and was captain of the men’s varsity soccer team. Chris joined the board of directors in 2009 when the financial crisis dealt a devastating blow to non profits reliant on state and federal funding. during his tenure he has served as secretary, treasurer and is currently the vice president. in his spare time Chris enjoys traveling, reading and trying new restaurants in the city.
Villa St. Benedict
Kathy grew up near Berwyn and began her nursing career at MacNeal Hospital employed there for over 30 years. While in the role as Chief Nurse Officer, she joined the Board in 2015 with a desire to give back to the community and help the youth. Kathy has witnessed Youth Crossroads grow and successfully move forward in the mission of making a positive difference in many lives. She has held numerous leadership roles in healthcare and currently serves as a Director at Villa St. Benedict in Lisle Illinois.
The Arc of Illinois
Rocio Perez grew up in Chicago and is a long-time resident of Berwyn. She is currently the Assistant Director of the IL Life Span Program at ARC of Illinois. Rocio graduated from UIC with a degree in social work. She enjoys to shop at bookstores and eat popcorn! Rocio joined the Youth Crossroads board because she feels it is important to give back to your community.
Denise Baker grew up in Cicero, attended Morton East High School and Morton College. She is currently the Branch Manager at Berwyn Byline Bank and has been in banking since she was 17 years old. Previous to her current position, she worked at LaSalle Bank for over 30 years. Denise first learned about Youth Crossroads at a Kiwanis meeting. In her free time Denise…. She knows how important it is for underserved youth to have access to services provided by Youth Crossroads, as it truly makes a difference to many families.
Aspira High School
Néstor Corona was born in Jalisco, Mexico and is a long time Berwyn resident. Previously he taught math at Mirta Ramirez High School in Chicago. He then has held various roles at Aspira Antonia Pantoja High School (APHS) including Dean of Students and Assistant Principal. Currently he is the school principal. Néstor graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics and Minor in Economics. He also holds a Master’s in Education from Chicago State University and a Master’s in Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. He has danced professionally with the Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago and Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. In his spare time, you will find Néstor spending time with his wife and two daughters. As an educator, Néstor has seen the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students and now, more than ever, youth need the types of services that Youth Crossroads provides. He is excited to support the mission and vision of this organization as it proactively serves and prepares our youth for the future.
Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater
Kim Grigsby, nonprofit professional, has been bridging the gap between opportunity and underutilized resources for the past 10 years. She serves as the development manager for Ensemble Español, where she leads efforts to facilitate philanthropic gifts and grants to advance the mission of the organization. Additionally, Kim is head of strategy for the Chicago Community ToolBank and is one of the founders and advisors of the Marvin L. Winans Educational Foundation as well as an advisor to the From the Bottom Up Foundation. Prior to working in the non-profit world, Kim served as a litigating attorney, both for the state of South Carolina and in private practice. In her spare time, Kim volunteers with young people and speaks to students on the value of education.
Emily LaFave is an experienced leveraged finance banker with BMO Capital Markets Corp., a leading, full-service financial services provider and the 8th largest bank in North America. Emily began her career with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey (now Truist Financial) following her graduation from the University of Richmond, where she earned her undergraduate degrees in Business Administration (with a concentration in Finance) and Leadership Studies. When Emily isn’t evaluating capital structures, you’ll find her on an early morning Peloton ride, planning an upcoming trip, or trying a new restaurant with her husband. Emily knows that support for our youth is a key factor to dismantling the institutional disadvantages faced by some of our Chicago neighborhoods. To change the course of the future, we must change the reality of our youth’s lives, and she continues to be excited and encouraged by that very work (like youth development, youth leadership, and crisis intervention) that Youth Crossroads is doing in the Berwyn and Cicero neighborhoods.
WGN and Tribune Media
David Miranda is a bilingual journalist with 20 years of experience. He started his career at the age of 13 at a community radio station of the Boys & Girls Club (Radio Arte 90.5fm) that was eventually bought by the National Museum of Mexican Art. David also works in brand positioning, media relations, event planning and emcee services. If you put him to dance, he won’t say no! After performing with the Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago for 19 years, putting on a show becomes second nature. David is currently a producer and report at WGN Radio and serves as an instructional manager at the Illinois Media School. In addition, to helping Illinois Media School as instructional manager. When David is not working, you will find him eating, attending theater shows or catching up with family. David serves on the Necahual Foundation committee, a group that helps orphans in Mexico. David
believes youth deserve opportunities in life. It is important to create activities for youth that will motivate them in the long run. Showing young people that it can be done goes a long way, especially when you lead by example.
Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young
Amelia Orozco has been a board director since 2015. Amelia is a litigation paralegal with Hawkins, Parnell & Young, LLP. In addition, Amelia is co-owner of Zarape, LLC, a small business formed by her and two friends to publish books and greeting cards. Amelia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in Political Science, Hispanic Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and a Master of Arts Degree from DePaul University in Writing and Publishing. She occasionally freelances and also hosts a podcast. Amelia loves the arts and working on social justice causes.