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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Fundraiser Honors Legacy Of Community Organizer Alma Zamudio, Raises Cash For Scholarship

Alma Zamudio, who advocated for better wages for migrant workers and lobbied for college grants to assist first-generation students, died last fall at age 26.

A new scholarship will honor late community organizer Alma Zamudio. [Provided/William Camargo]
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PILSEN — Friends and family of community organizer Alma Zamudio, who died last fall at age 26, want to keep her legacy alive.

So, next month, they’ll gather for a fundraiser in Ukrainian Village to both celebrate her life and raise money for a scholarship in her name.

Zamudio advocated for better wages for migrant workers and lobbied in Springfield for college grants to assist first-generation students. She also worked to combat the displacement of low-income families in Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Her work also helped resurrect the No. 31 bus, providing public transit to the Little Village community.

“She really believed in justice, and what that meant for our community,” her sister, Maria Zamudio, told Block Club earlier this year. “If you look at her work, you see that.”

The fundraiser to support the Alma Zamudio Empowerment Scholarship will be held at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 2747 W. Chicago Ave., from 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 15.

Hosted by poet Luis Tubens and Jennifer Juarez of of the University of Illinois at Chicago, it will have live music from Jarochicanos and DJ Soulphonetics, food and a silent auction. 

The silent auction includes original photography, signed books from authors Ta-Nehisi Coats, Erika Sanchez, Alex Kolowitz and Achy Obejas, signed merchandise from Jamila Woods and more. 

The first recipients of the scholarship, Abigail Piñon and Dolores Castaneda, will also be recognized during the event.

Tickets are available online for $35, or $40 at the door. All proceeds will go toward the scholarship introduced earlier this year.

Credit: Alma Zamudio Empowerment Scholarship

The Alma Cruz Zamudio Empowerment Scholarship is awarded to first-generation students of color who have shown a commitment to community organizing and social justice issues.

The merit-based scholarship is open to UIC juniors, seniors and graduate students who have demonstrated a commitment to organizing around affordable housing, immigration, transportation, workers rights and environmental justice.

“We want to make sure that her legacy continues,” Maria Zamudio said. “The best way we can do that is by helping people like her.”

Alma Zamudio received her bachelor’s degree in urban planning and public affairs from UIC in 2013. The 26-year-old UIC graduate student died last fall from a chronic illness.

Following Alma’s death, friends started a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral costs and establish a scholarship in her name.

In a matter of days, the fundraising efforts reached and exceeded the initial goal of $10,000, longtime friend Susan Aguinaga said.

Aguinaga, who helped launch the crowdfunding page, said she “wasn’t too surprised” the campaign surpassed its initial goal.

“Alma touched many peoples’ lives,” Aguinaga said.

“I thought it was a beautiful thing scrolling through comments of donors, some people who didn’t even know Alma, but heard her story and were so moved by all that she had done in her life,” she said.

More than 400 people attended Alma’s funeral services. At the services, people lined up to comfort her family and share stories of how Alma impacted their lives.

“If you spoke with her, you can sense the passion,” Maria Zamudio said. “She had this gift of making you feel like you were the only person that mattered — she was so great.”

“I think it’s important to realize that no matter how young students might perceive themselves to be, they have the capacity to really create change in their community,” Aguinaga said.

Maria said her sister worked tirelessly around access, equity and creating opportunities, which is why she thinks the scholarship will be a good way to honor Alma’s legacy. Zamudio and the committee behind the scholarship are working toward offering the award to students every fall.

“We are trying to turn this tragedy into something good,” Zamudio said. “Alma’s work was dedicated to moving past the pain into some form of hope.”

Learn more about the scholarship here.

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