I ALWAYS do my research before interviewing my Chi@Glance Spotlight features. I have them fill out a questionnaire and if they have a website I peruse through it to help me formulate questions I believe my readers/followers would like to know. Chi@Glance September Spotlight is shining the light on Theresa Siaw. Theresa Siaw is running for 26th Ward Alderman in Humboldt Park. After I perused through Theresa’s website, (https://www.theresasiaw.com/) ….my main question was “HOW IN THE WORLD DOES SHE FIND TIME TO DO IT ALL?!?”
Seriously, not only is Theresa a community activist, but she’s also the Business Director of Omni Healthcare, a multi-location health clinic for the underserved. She founded and directs the Omni Medical Student Training Program which helps students who have trained at foreign medical schools prepare for residency in the United States. Theresa is very big on community and works with businesses and organizations to sponsor community initiatives including youth sports programs, back to school programs, and the food pantry at New Life Covenant Church Southeast. Theresa is big on second chances and is working with community partners at the Omni Health Care Division Street location to launch a program to reintegrate ex-offenders back into the Humboldt Park community in a positive way.
Walking into the interview I was already thinking WOW, but her personality is the cherry on top. Our interview took more than a hour because she’s so relatable and easy to talk to. Before we get into why she’s running for Alderman and her platform, I think it’s good to share her back story first. So here we go…..
Theresa grew up with her family on the Southeast side of Chicago (95th and Commercial) in 1986. It was a rough time for Theresa and her family because they were one of the first black families to move into the area. They were faced with racism constantly. Their garage was burned down and the N word was graffitied on their property. Material things may come and go, but Theresa’s family instilled in her the value of an education. Her father always told her no one can take your education away from you. Theresa went to mostly boarding/private schools growing up. Her family had enrolled her for a semester into Beasley Academy, which is a magnet school, by the old Robert Taylor Homes. She remembers as a kid the bus driver telling her and the other kids on the bus to duck because an active shooting was occurring. With that….she started attending boarding school again.
One thing that astonishes Theresa is how different schools are in the suburbs versus the city. If you go one mile left or one mile right the schools aren’t the same and the students do not receive the same level of education. She believes all schools should be equal, have the same programs, and receive the same funding. Theresa believes it’s not fair to tell one area because the taxes are lower they cannot receive the same education. As she visited several inner city schools she noticed that if they had a pool, it would have no water in it because of a “lack of funding.” Head down the street to a magnet school though and they have it all. One of Theresa’s biggest platforms she will address if elected Alderman is the school system and providing affordable and quality education for all children.
Theresa’s run for 26th Ward Alderman of Humboldt Park is personal. She has strong ties to the community. Her late boyfriend/son’s father, Dr. Rustum, was a pillar in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Dr. Rustum was known as being the area doctor and for his kind giving spirit. He gave turkeys to his patients for Thanksgiving, hosted back to school programs, and was always willing to lend a helping hand in the community. Humboldt Park has a huge gang presence, but Dr. Rustum never felt the need to lock the door or put bars up. Everyone knew Dr. Rustum was a genuinely nice man and didn’t disturb him. Theresa didn’t want to return to the hospital at first as she grieved her late boyfriend, but members of the community talked her into carrying on her son’s father legacy. Theresa not only plans on carrying on his legacy, but expanding upon it and doing more.
If elected Alderman Theresa will continue to champion for quality/affordable healthcare, education, and economic fairness. She also wants to raise incomes and restore economic security for the middle class. Want to know more about Theresa and how you can get involved? Check out our one on one interview below.
Tavi J One on One with Theresa Siaw (Candidate for 26th Ward Alderman)
Before you turned into Theresa Siaw the public figure we know today, can you tell us a little bit about your background/schooling?
I went to boarding/military schools most of my life. For college I went to DePaul University and studied Marketing. I went from 2004 to 2010 because I took off for a bit when my mom passed away. My first job out of college was driving around giving out marketing brochures for a company, but I didn’t like it. However, it was how I met my boyfriend (Dr. Rustum), which happened to be my boss’s brother
You mention how big your family is on education and I love that your dad instilled in you it’s the one thing that can’t be taken away from you. Can you tell us an experience you faced in your life that was meant to bring you down, but made you stronger?
I’ve faced hard times being a woman…and especially a minority woman. I remember when I managed an apartment building my dad bought in the Gold Coast on State and Chestnut. One day a guy came up to me and said “You know you’re not going to go far in life because first you’re black and second you’re a woman.” I’m like what do you mean? He said “You’re going to get taken advantage of because your black and you’re a woman.” I didn’t pay that man any attention….you know why? If you keep listening to people like him and his negativity you are always going to be part of that systematic barrier mentally. I started a women’s group for the main reason of encouraging each other and sharing insights.
I am a huge fan of women groups and have done some of my best networking through them. Can you tell us a little bit about yours?
I started my women meetup group because it’s hard for a lot of women to start their own businesses since there are a lot of barriers. I always encourage women to get their Minority Certification and their Women’s Certification. You need to apply through the city and it’s a very lengthy process. However, once you receive it you can start bidding on several state run opportunities and it gives you an upper hand on receiving the bid.
What is one piece of advice you would give to minorities/women trying to start their own businesses?
If you fail you fail….get up and get moving. A lot of people mistakes are they’re not proactive. When I was pregnant with my son I heard a rumor that one of my contracts would be ending. I went straight to the decision maker’s office and stood there for 3 ½ hours full term and he would walk by and just look at me. I stood there and I stood there. Finally he said “Theresa what’s going on?” I said I heard our contract is ending. He said yes we want to terminate the contract because of XYZ. I told him XYZ and I don’t think that’s fair. He ended up extending our contract by two years. He liked how persistent I am. Till this day we have a good relationship with that hospital. You have to be persistent. Sometimes you can change someone’s mind because you never give up.
That’s awesome! Can you tell us a little more about the clinic?
I have the best staff! We’re like a family! I want to carry on my son’s father legacy and also help the community. When my boyfriend was alive he was such a generous person. A huge portion of my staff is from Puerto Rico and they haven’t been outside the country. Some of my staff have never left Humboldt Park, been on a plane, or driven on the expressway. I closed down the clinic for Dr. Rustum birthday and flew my staff to Las Vegas. They were crying and thanking me for this experience. I want to show my staff, and women for that matter, there’s a huge world out there to be seen. You can’t let fear get in the way.
Speaking of fear….Humboldt Park has a huge gang presence. I also know you’re big on giving second chances. Can you speak on that and your initiative on giving offenders a second chance?
Some of the people that work for me, I don’t know what’s on their record and I don’t want to know. Not every Harvard grad is going to be the best employee. Sometimes the best worker is the person that had a hard time in life and is genuinely trying to turn their life around. I believe in second chances and so does my staff. One of the women on my staff came face to face with the mother of the man that killed her son at the clinic. She knew who murdered her son, but she did not retaliate. Her son would be around 34 now if he was still alive. He was shot when he was 18. My employee went up to the lady that murdered her son and said “Your son murdered my son. I forgave you and I could have started a war. I stopped my son’s father to make sure nothing happen to your son, so you didn’t have to experience the pain I feel every day.” It takes one person to change a whole entire situation. That’s why I believe second chances are so important.
Wow…what a touching story and so true how one person can end a war. You’re out in the streets striving to make Humboldt Park a better community. What contributes to your giving spirit?
When you finally get the money to buy all the materialistic things that are supposed to make you happy and you realize you aren’t. Material possessions make you happy for 5 minutes, but it can all get taken away from you. You don’t want to just be surrounded by a bunch of shoes. I feed the homeless every Thursday and give back to the community. That’s what makes me happy. I want to carry on a legacy to pass down to my son.
Last question I ask all my Spotlight features…Why are YOU a Chicagoan we should know?
I’m very humble….I want to change the world…. I really do. It sounds like a pageant answer, but I really feel my purpose in this world is for something bigger. I want to help people and make a difference in other people’s life. It takes just one person to change something. You don’t know which kid you help is going to become the next president. Everyone remembers their favorite teacher or that special mentor that help them. I want to be that person.
Theresa is amazing and I’m excited to watch her journey to becoming the 26th Ward Alderman of Humboldt Park. Join Theresa on her journey and support by following along at https://www.theresasiaw.com/.
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