College of Education > About > Centers & Initiatives > Penedo Organization > Our Background
DePaul University’s College of Education is proud to serve as the new home of the Penedo Program, which became part of the College’s Education and Counseling Center officially in 2019. The College has served this Program in partnership with the Penedo Charitable Organization since 2016.
The Penedo Program originally was developed by the founders of the Penedo Charitable Organization, Mrs. Sunny Chico (MED ’88) and Mrs. Onelia Berringer (BSC ’84) in honor of their niece. The sisters fled Cuba following the Cuban revolution, and their niece followed twenty years later as part of an exodus of 125,000 Cuban refugees who sailed to Miami on makeshift rafts. Their niece’s transition into life in the United States was challenging, as she confronted countless obstacles before her tragic death at 23. To honor her memory, Sunny and Onelia vowed to provide opportunities to young women in an effort to transform their lives for the better.
Since January 2020, the Penedo Program has expanded its support services. Facilitators now are tapping into the expertise of a broader base of faculty and staff from the College of Education at large. In addition, student teachers now help provide tutoring, weekly psycho-social educational programs, and college advising. The Program’s facilitators connect with participants’ schools, offer support to parents, and construct a network among the young women.
The DePaul University community is committed to responding to the call, “What must be done”. DePaul’s Vincentian Mission, embedded in a deep respect for the dignity of all persons and especially of those less fortunate, aligns with the work that the Penedo Charitable Organization has accomplished. Through mutual collaboration, the College of Education and Penedo Charitable Organization realized the power of their shared beliefs and values and committed to forging a meaningful partnership.
Kathy Adams Iwashima, M.Ed., has worked with middle through high school students in both Chicago Public Schools and diocesan schools for over two decades. Driven by her mission to level the educational playing field for students, Iwashima has significant experience serving Chicago’s Southside, aiding in a restorative justice agenda and investing countless hours in case management with the hope of improving the lives of those who lack the fundamental resources and support to thrive. Iwashima has developed proven programs that address the staggering odds that many underserved youth face, not only in school, but in their daily lives.
For six years, Iwashima has worked with DePaul University as an adjunct professor for the Office of Innovative Professional Learning, supporting high quality programs for higher education. In her role as the Penedo Program Manager, despite COVID-19 interrupting the school year, Iwashima has succeeded in increasing the number of direct service hours the Penedo participants receive. She remains determined to provide underrepresented students with the necessary support that will shift the paradigm for their lives.
College of Education faculty, staff, and pre-service education and counseling students provide critical support and expertise to the Penedo Program.