Maria Elena Jonas


Began her tenure helping the migrant community in 1987 taking part of the implementation of the amnesty of 1986. Since then she has helped thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Lake County improve their lives by gaining legal status, becoming US citizens, registered voters and business owners.

In 2005, Mrs. Jonas founded the Hispanic American Community Education and Services (HACES) where she leads as the Executive Director. HACES mission is “to change lives and transform the immigrant community” through supportive services that aid in their personal and economic stability while going through the process of acculturation and community integration.

In 1994 Maria Elena led the foundation of the Coalición Latinos Unidos de Lake County (CLULC) with the goal of identifying and uniting all Latino professionals so that everyone felt supported in the process of serving our communities. Today, CLULC is a well-respected organization that contributes to the make of new Latino leaders providing leadership development opportunities and scholarships to further Latino student education.

In 1990 she implemented the first licensed child care program for Latino families in Lake County, customized culturally sensitive trainings for merging home child care providers and established the first professional Spanish speaking child care network. Today more than 400 Latinas are licensed home child care providers, function as entrepreneurs operating business from their homes or have opened their own child care centers.

She has served in local boards including United Way of Lake County, Nicasa Teen Reach Advisory Council and The Child Care Coalition of Lake County and is a current member of the Alliance for Human Services, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the New Americans Campaign.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the “Child Welfare Worker Award” mid-west region winner presented by the Child Welfare League of America of Washington DC, the “Racial Justice Award” by the YWCA of Lake County, The“Unity Award” by the Bahai society, the “Unity Award” by St Josaphat Catholic Church of Chicago, a “Women Empowering Women” honoree award by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Waukegan area branch and a Certificate of Recognition from the Movimiento Ciudadano – Movimiento Migrante, Mexico City.

Maria Elena is a first generation Mexican immigrant. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management, a Bachelor’s in Public Health and Community Development, a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from City Colleges of Chicago 10,000 Small Businesses.