Two win Critical Language Scholarships from U.S. State Department
Chakena D. Perry ’16 has been fighting for voting rights since before she was old enough to vote. Now, as the newly appointed Commissioner on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), she’ll be fighting to protect the health and safety of citizens and waterways in the greater Chicago area.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker appointed Perry in early January, stating that “her commitment to equity, environmental justice and fighting climate change will help lift up communities across Chicago and have a positive impact across Cook County.”
Pritzker added that he is “delighted that the MWRD board will be able to count on Chakena’s professional expertise and lived experience as a young, dynamic, Black woman as they work to serve the diverse communities of Cook County.”
At the age of 28, Perry, who previously served as aide to MWRD Commissioner Josina Morita, is the youngest member of the Board.
“Over the past three years, I’ve worked every day to advance green infrastructure, better land use management and clean energy initiatives at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and I’m honored that I will be continuing that work as a Commissioner,” Perry said.
“As a resident of the south suburbs, I’m proud to stand up for my community and all Cook County residents as we safeguard their health and safety and our waterways,” Perry added.
MWRD President Kari K. Steele welcomed Perry’s appointment, focusing on her experience and leadership skills.
“We welcome Chakena D. Perry to the MWRD Board of Commissioners and thank Governor Pritzker for appointing a qualified and deserving candidate whose knowledge of the MWRD runs deep,” Steele said. “As we transition to a new year with new challenges amid a pandemic, it is encouraging to have a leader we can count on in protecting our water environment.”
Perry earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Connecticut College and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in public policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
Before joining the MWRD, Perry held an array of professional positions, including deputy press secretary for the Chicago Public Schools. Her passion for civic engagement and voting rights advocacy previously led her to serve as president of Chicago Votes Action Fund and chairwoman of the Cook County Young Democrats. Additionally, she has received many honors, including the Posse Foundation's Ainslie Alumni Achievement Award and the WE Will “Young Woman of the Year” award. She has also been recognized as a Chicago Scholars “35 under 35” honoree and a Quad City Urban League’s Women’s Empowerment honoree.