Mikva Alumni Spotlight: Berto Aguayo
Berto Aguayo is a proud Back of the Yards native, where he was raised by a single mother who emigrated from Mexico. Berto’s struggles and experiences as a former gang member have led him on an ardent journey toward social justice. He holds two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Economics, and he is a community organizer and civic engagement strategist, learning some of his skills from his time with the Mikva Challenge.
He was appointed by Mayor Emanuel to the My Brother’s Keeper Cabinet, and he organized the Hoops in the Hood program in Back of the Yards. As an organizer, Berto co-founded the #IncreaseThePeace initiative. Through the initiative, Berto trained more than three hundred young leaders in community organizing. Those group of leaders mobilized thousands of youth in Chicago to combat the issue of gang violence through peace actions, policy advocacy, and overnight camp outs in Chicago’s south side. The initiative has received local and national recognition. In 2017, Berto reopened the St. Michael community center as a safe haven for youth in the neighborhood. In 2018, Berto became a national leadership trainer with the Obama Foundation and he is currently a member of the Back of the Yards College Prep Local School Council as a Community Representative. Most recently, Berto ran an independent campaign for Alderman of the 15th Ward. Although he was outraised eleven to one, he came just 277 votes short of a runoff.
Berto is also the recipient of USHLI’s young Hispanic Leader Award, he is a scholar of the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program, and he is also a Civic Seminary Fellow at Citizen University in Seattle.