About Us


El Valor’s mission is to support and challenge urban families to achieve excellence and participate fully in community life.  Our programs exist to enrich and empower people with disabilities, the disenfranchised and the underserved.

El Valor seeks to be the best in the nation in early childhood and youth enrichment, to be the premier organization developing Hispanic leadership, and to be an international model for inclusion of people with disabilities.

El Valor, which means courage in Spanish, is a nationally recognized non-profit organization that for 40 years has delivered programs that benefit thousands of individuals in Illinois and around the country. El Valor was founded in 1973 by the late Guadalupe Reyes, a visionary leader and mother who dreamed of a community in which all members, including her son with special needs, could live, learn and work.  From its roots in the Hispanic community, El Valor has grown into a multicultural, multipurpose organization with a mission that reaches millions through our International Public Awareness Campaign.    

Through El Valor’s comprehensive menu of services:

  • 3,000 families throughout the Chicagoland area annually receive high-quality early childhood education services
  • 1,000 people with disabilities learn how to live more independently
  • 350 youth receive individualized academic support. 
  • 150 working adults from traditionally marginalized communities are receiving masters and doctoral degrees at El Valor centers in the community in partnership with area universities.
  • El Valor works with area professionals, institutions and partners to increase diversity on boards and commissions in the area.

El Valor was nominated by Illinois State Governor Pat Quinn as a National Center for Excellence and is the second largest provider of early childhood education programs in Chicago after the Chicago Public Schools.

El Valor received an “Exemplary Status” designation from the International Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for its high quality programs for persons with disabilities.

In partnership with area universities, 600 working adults received bachelors, masters or doctoral degrees through our leadership programs held at El Valor centers in the community.  

El Valor has a Children & Family Center, Technology Center, and a Vocational Development Center in the Pilsen Community. El Valor also has a Children & Family center in the community of South Chicago and six Community Residence Homes for adults with disabilities throughout Chicagoland.  A third Children & Family Center is located in the community of Little Village.   El Valor has a budget of over $15 million.  Over 300 staff and hundreds of volunteers help provide services to children, people with disabilities and their families.     

To learn more about El Valor contact Maria Esther Lopez at 312.492.5936 


Promoting Children’s Early Development
Early Head Start & Head Start
Conductive Education
Family Child Care Network
Training for Spanish-Speaking Child Care Providers
Library & Resource Center
International Public Awareness
Advocacy & Public Policy

Enriching Youth
S.T.A.R.S.  Reading Clinic
STEM for Girls
STEM for Boys
Math Homework Under Guided Supervision (HUGS)
First Notes Music Program
USFS STEM Summer Academy

Strengthening Families
Family Support Groups
Father’s Initiative
Parenting Classes
Health Screenings
Educational Enrichment for Parents
Financial Classes
Computer Literacy

Supporting PEOPLE with Disabilities
Intake and Referral 
Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation
Vocational Development
Supported Employment
Job Placement
Lifestyle Enrichment  - Art, Horticulture, Food & Nutrition, Sports & Recreation
Community Residence Services
Acquired Brain Injury Initiative
Advocacy & Public Policy
Family Support & Respite Care
Home-Based Care

Encouraging Leadership
Leadership Through Education
 --Associate, Bachelor, Master, Doctoral Degrees, and Certifications
Latino Leadership Connections Project
--Addressing the demand for diversity in leadership