Students gather for the first event in North Central College's Empowering Latino Communities speaking event.

North Central News

Speaker series brings Latina and Latino judges to North Central campus

Jacob Imm

Nov 22, 2021

A new initiative from Jelena Sanchez, assistant professor of Spanish, is welcoming influential, inspiring Latino professionals to North Central College to share their stories with students. In November, the series began with the Honorable René Cruz, the first Latino judge in Kane County, Ill., and the Honorable Bianca Camargo, the first Latina judge in Kane County.

“‘Empowering Latino Communities’ is a new speaker series I created to champion Hispanic success in higher education and to ensure equal representation of our Latino/Hispanic students and communities, thereby cultivating a more inclusive campus climate,” said Sanchez. “This speaker series is a … leadership initiative that provides support, networking opportunities, and mentors for our students.”

Judges Camargo and Cruz went through their personal narratives, tracking their path from students to the judicial bench, and the challenges they encountered along the way. They also delved into important social and cultural issues such as Latino representation in the legal system, the growth of Hispanic-owned businesses in the American economy, how Latino citizens are becoming engaged with their communities, as well as adjustments being made in the court system to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Jelena Sanchez with Judge Bianca Camargo and Judge Rene Cruz.

From left: Professor Jelena Sanchez, Hon. Bianca Camargo and Hon. Rene Cruz.

Sanchez selected the judges to begin the series due to their groundbreaking achievements in the challenging field of legal practice as well as their commitment to serving causes larger than themselves.

“In addition to representing a movement towards a more diverse and inclusive judiciary system in Illinois, (Judges Camargo and Cruz) are stellar role models who exemplify tenacious dedication to transformational change in Hispanic communities,” Sanchez said.

The judges’ talk was well received by students in attendance and represents what Sanchez hopes will be a transformative experience. She wants the speaker series to open attendees’ eyes to not only the challenges faced by the Latino and Hispanic communities, but how those challenges are overcome.

“Hispanics have made invaluable contributions to the United States and continue to be a powerful force shaping the future of our country in every arena,” Sanchez said. “That’s the message I want people to take from this event.”

Roberto Ramirez
Roberto Ramirez

“Empowering Latino Communities” will continue in February 2022 with an address from entrepreneur and philanthropist Roberto Ramírez, founder and CEO of Spanish Public Media. If you are interested in attending this and further events in the series, contact Professor Sanchez at

You can watch the first event in its entirety on YouTube.