Executive Director, Increase The Peace
Berto Aguayo is the co-founder and Executive Director of #IncreaseThePeace (#ITP), an organization that develops young leaders and promotes peace through community organizing and policy advocacy. From 2013 to 2016, Berto coordinated the “Hoops in the Hood” program in Back of the Yards. In 2015, he was appointed by the Mayor’s Office to the My Brother’s Keeper Cabinet. And in 2016, Berto co-founded #ITP. Since then, #ITP reopened a community center, trained hundreds of residents in community organizing, organized dozens of actions to increase the peace, and has expanded its work to include violence prevention, youth development, food access, mutual aid, and multicultural unity.
Berto was born to parents who emigrated from Mexico; his story begins in the southside of Chicago. Growing up in a single parent home, his mother Rosy worked long hours to provide for her children. And like many others in his shoes, he turned to a gang for acceptance. With the help of his H.S. director, Aguayo got involved with the Mikva Challenge, an organization that helps teenagers get involved in politics. Mikva’s placement of Aguayo in a northside Alderman’s office, sparked Aguayo’s interest in public service and inspired him to get off the streets and leave the gang life. Berto’s struggles and experiences as a former gang member led him on a passionate journey toward social justice. He holds two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Economics. In 2017, Berto reopened the St. Michael Community Center as a safe haven for youth in the neighborhood. In 2018, Berto worked as a national leadership trainer with the Obama Foundation.