Positive People

by Crystal Medina Editorial Assistant

Carlos Estes

Carlos Estes was a resident of Ida B. Wells from the time that he was a toddler up until he was 18 years old. He attended Doolittle East and Doolittle West grammar schools and Wendell Philips High School. After high school, he studied at Olive Harvey Community College. He also took courses at the National Institute of Real Estate and the National Center for Housing Management.

Former Ida B. Wells resident Carlos Estes. Photo by Crystal Medina

Growing up in Ida B. Wells, Carlos, like many youths, did not always stay out of trouble. Although he said he encountered some “turbulence” along the way, because his mother installed morals and values in him, he was able to change his life. The backbone of the family, his mother is a strong, independent woman, the wind beneath his wings. In regards to how he changed his life around, Carlos said “Be patient. Be humble. Change your surroundings. You have to be determined. Invest the time that you invested in the ‘hood in doing something positive.”

Today, Carlos has a number of roles as the Senior Legislative Aid for Illinois Rep. Constance “Connie” Howard (D-34). He helps ensure Howard gets the maximum amount of exposure through community events, parades and block clubs. He also works with ex-offenders, assisting in their search for jobs, for example. Right now, Carlos is helping Howard pass a bill that would seal criminal records for some ex-offenders, allowing them to start fresh.

He is also one of Howard’s Technology Liaisons. In this role, with the help of local officials, he makes sure that grants are provided in the community for technology. For instance, he helped put together the 2004 TEE OFF For Technology Celebrity Golf Tournament, a fundraising event for scholarships.

As part of his job, Carlos helps promote HIV/AIDS awareness as chairperson for the Let’s Talk Let’s Test Foundation. The Foundation is recently organized the 2nd Annual African American HIV/AIDS Walk on May 7. The theme was “I need you to survive,” a reference to the community’s need to support people that are affected by the disease.

From 1995 to 1999, Carlos worked for the Chicago Housing Authority. He was there for the “birthing” of private management in the CHA. His positions included Senior Property Manger for It’s Time for a Change RMC and Property Supervisor for Diversified Realty Management Group, a private management company for CHA.

From June, 2001 to Nov., 2001, Carlos was the Interim Director of Facility Management for the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. He managed day to day operations of 21 facilities citywide.

Along with working for Howard, his political involvements are definitely wide-ranging. He has been involved in field operations for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Sen. Donne E. Trotter, and in Dawn Clark-Netsch campaign for governor.

His volunteer work includes being a board member for the Chicago Housing Authority Alumni, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and God First Ministries. He was a youth mentor for the Black Star Project, and he worked on the Clean & Green Project.

This sharply dressed, intelligent, well-off man who once endured a life of poverty has found a new lifestyle. He enjoys where he is now but will never forget where he came from, he said. He considers his past a strength.

“It’s important, at some point, to wake up and decide you want a better life,” Carlos said. To the youth he says, “You can do the same thing I’m doing. You’ve got to let go” of all the negativity.

Ziff A. Sistrunk
Ziff A. Sistrunk is a very productive resident of the Robert Taylor Homes. He does a lot of work for the youth and he loves doing it.

Youth leader Ziff Sistrunk. Photo by Crystal Medina

In the Dearborn Homes, he runs the Youth Leadership Program, a program that involves violence prevention, television production and sports and recreation. The program teaches the youth anger management, self-awareness and self-esteem. One of the phrases that he teaches the youth is, “I am somebody!”

For the last seven years, the program has done documentaries within the Dearborn Homes on different people, places and things. Mary Mitchell, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, is among the people featured.

The program also has a show called “Urban Affairs” on channel 21, CAN-TV. The show is hosted by Roderick Walls, a Dearborn Homes resident who attends Tilden High School. It is produced by Jermaine Wells, also a resident and student at Phillips High School.

At the end of the year, the children are rewarded with a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Money is raised and ten youths are chosen to go. Why the Baseball Hall of Fame? Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins came out of 4429 S. Federal in the Robert Taylor Homes. He won two World Series and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Ziff is also part of Reduce the Violence Sports League. The league runs from April until October of each year and more than 165 residents from across the city participate. This program teaches how to direct energy, anger and skills toward doing something positive and helps with job skills in connection with 10 churches and 10 community organizations. Besides athletics, Ziff also emphasized the importance of reading.

“Keep reading. Readers are leaders,” Ziff said. “Find something you want to do and stick to it and see it through.” In 1994, Ziff invited President Clinton to the Robert Taylor Homes to see the developments. In 2001, he took a group of youth to see President George W. Bush’s inauguration. He did a documentary on the presidents.

When asked the rewards of his job, he said “The biggest reward is working with young people. They’re able to give you trust.” Another reward, Ziff added, is when a youth returns to the community.

I asked how it feels at the end of his long, hard days working with kids and he said “Tired.”

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