Arleen N Peterson is nonprofit leader and community organizer with over 20 years of experience. Arleen is a graduate of East Chicago Central (’87), Indiana University (BA ’94) and Ball State University (MA ’97) and she is parenting her son, Myles Peterson. Arleen joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated in the Fall 1988 as an inductee for the Gamma Nu Chapter of Indiana University. She currently serves on the Gary Alumnae Chapter in Gary, Indiana. Arleen began her formal community organizing on Chicago’s Southside community in 1997 with the Lugenia Burns Hope Center an affiliate of Centers for New Horizons. The Hope center as it’s know in the community helped to establish and train community residents from public housing into advocates for issues around low-income housing, education, and jobs. Arleen worked with various community leaders, including our 44th President, Barack Obama; they implemented a leadership training program that used public advocacy and African-centered principals for the framework to organize. The organizers trained in this program created the MidSouth Plan, the Southside Partnership and Brozeville2020 and other initiatives geared toward residents of the Southside of Chicago.
In 2004 Arleen joined Voices for Illinois Children. Voices for Illinois Children is a non-profit, non-partisan, statewide group of child advocates solely supported by private donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. Voices' enables individuals to join together with a unified voice that is strong enough to achieve concrete improvements and lasting changes for children at the community and state levels. During the time at Voices, a statewide foster care campaign in collaboration with WGN Channel 9/CW Network, Illinois Department of Children and Families, Better World Advertising, and over 60 private child welfare agencies was managed by Arleen. You can view more about her work for the Foster Kids Are Our Kids Campaign at www.fosterkidsareourkids.org
Arleen spent the majority of her career with two national organizations, spanning more than a 12 years of work from 1999 – 2011. At Communities In Schools National, Arleen trained and organized community stakeholders in rural and urban settings, developed and taught nonprofit Board of Directors, and helped implement a community engagement process to change educational outcomes for students in the public schools in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. Arleen moved to Washington DC area to head up three national education initiatives: The Performance Learning Centers® network in seven states encompassed non-traditional high schools for overage and under credited students to achieve high school diplomas; The Diplomas Now, five-city initiative created a middle and high school transformation model keeping kids on track to graduation; and the CIS Race Equity Initiative, a ten-city engagement and curriculum development utilizing the structural racism framework for the CIS Model. With the knowledge and support of organizations nationally and locally Arleen is committed to work with nonprofits devoted to children and helping at-risk students attain their educational endeavors.
Arleen briefly served as the Vice President of Education Initiatives for the Simon Youth Foundation, she directed their $2 million dollar a year scholarship program and rebuilt the Simon Youth Academy at Opry Mills mall, one of the most innovative non-traditional schools in the nation. It was at her time at the Simon Youth Foundation that Arleen yearned to come back to the Region and recently joined the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana as the Executive Director to help fight hunger and feed hope to food insecure people in Northwest Indiana. Arleen led the vision of a 21st century food bank that supports its member food pantries/programs of the national network of Feeding America.
In August 2016, Arleen spent time on two consulting projects with Indiana Youth Institute and the Lilly Foundation Counseling Initiative and the University of Chicago Arts+Public Life public arts challenge initiative, ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen. Arleen, now serves as the Director of Operations for Sojourner Truth House.
Arleen continues to dedicate her life’s’ passion and commitment to philanthropic causes that support the most vulnerable in our communities. Arleen says, “My community organizing gift was bestowed upon me by my late grandfather, Sonny Peterson. He believed in the community and he believed helping your family and friends.”