Sandra Sosa is a Community Engagement Network Organizer with the W. Haywood Burns Institute. Sandra brings over 18 years of experience in working to create a safe space for endangered youth in communities to listen, share, learn, and heal together so that they may flourish and thrive. Born and raised in the Little Village Community of Chicago, IL, Sandra Sosa’s social justice philosophy and approach to community development weaves ancestral teachings and rites of passage work together with modern youth development practices. Her personal journey began as a rites of passage recipient and mentor with Youth Struggling for Survival and since then she has grounded her work in ancestral teachings, which nurture each individual to take their own contributions into account and to develop themselves into changing behaviors unbecoming of a healthier and harmonious way of life. Sandra’s family has been repeatedly, intimately impacted with violence, and through this ancestral philosophy, she has found healing and purpose in her community work.
Sandra has extensive experience as a trainer in youth development practice. As a Trainer of Trainers under the Advancing Youth Development (AYD) curriculum, she has trained over 1,000 youth workers from all areas of the Youth Development field. Her love for the art of community building around understanding youth development and child wellness has been continuously shared since her early roles as after school program instructor, alternative school teacher, and through today, as a Social Justice Practicum Facilitator at Adler University in Chicago.
Sandra served nine years as Program Director for the Greater Lawn Community Youth Network of the Southwest Youth Collaborative in Chicago. Her year-long program was built around the values of deliberate diverse cultural humility, leadership through development, resolving conflict through conversation, all building towards academic achievement.
More recently through her work with Alternatives, Inc, as Restorative Justice Program Manager, she managed and developed a team of 16 school-based Restorative Justice Specialists, Regional Coordinators, and Trainers, which included the implementation of comprehensive restorative program structures in Chicago Public Schools, as well as suburban districts. She managed the ongoing building and engagement of strategic partnerships across diverse city-wide networks as well as the greater Chicagoland area, including but not limited to system stakeholders from juvenile justice, education, workforce development, law enforcement, and other youth serving systems across Chicago and Cook County.
Sandra is the first generation middle daughter of her Mexican parents, is fluent in both Spanish and English, and recently began learning her native language of Nahuatl. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with an award as Outstanding Woman. Sandra continues to use her experiences, knowledge, and skills to work with building the capacity of adults to strengthen positive relationships with children and youth.