Puerto Rican leader Lopez-Freitag named Woman of Power
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2013 5:44PM
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit; Mirna Lopez-Freitag, president of the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council; Aurora Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo; and Michelle Meyer, Mutual Ground executive director at the Women's Power Lunch Thursday at Two Brothers Roundhouse. Lopez-Freitag was honored as SHARE Fox Valley's 2013 Woman of Power. | City of Aurora
Updated: October 21, 2013 2:25PM
AURORA — It was her day, but Mirna Lopez-Freitag used the podium to recognize the women that inspire her most.
“Some of them may not even know that they are (my role models),” she said.
More than 140 came out to honor community activist Lopez-Freitag, SHARE Fox Valley’s 2013 Woman of Power at the Women’s Power Lunch Thursday at Two Brothers Roundhouse.
Lopez-Freitag is president of the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council and owns her own business, Midwest Occupational Health Management Services in Aurora. She has also worked at Edward Hospital in Naperville since 1999.
She said that she most looks up to Zaida Rodriguez, Rush-Copley outreach coordinator; Lulu Blacksmith, Waubonsee director of governmental and multicultural affairs; Alderman Juany Garza; state Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia and Stephanie Kifowit; and Michelle Meyer, Mutual Ground executive director.
City Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said Lopez-Freitag is an “amazing leader” who contributes so much to the city.
“If everybody brought the leadership, the understanding, the compassion to what they’re doing as Mirna did, every single one of our events in the city would be a massive success,” Ergo said.
Lopez-Freitag said she’s used to being behind the scenes.
“This is a true honor,” she said. “This will go to my grave.”
In addition to her work with the Puerto Rican Council, Lopez-Freitag is board president of the Jesse “The Law” Torres Boxing Club and serves on the Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board. She also volunteers at Hesed House homeless shelter, Feed My Starving Children, area nursing homes and food pantries.
Lopez-Freitag was nominated for the award by former Aurora Township Supervisor Christina Campos. Born in Aurora and raised in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Lopez-Freitag lives in Oswego with her family.
At the lunch, Stephanie Pace Marshall, founding president and president emerita of the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, shared personal stories from her journey as an educational leader.
She will always remember something her mother told her at the age of 6, growing up in the Bronx, New York.
“‘Stephanie,’ she said, ‘You will never belong to me. You will only belong to the world,’” Pace Marshall said.
As a first-year teacher in Cicero in 1967, she said she was almost fired from her job four times. She went on to become superintendent of the Batavia School District.
Then Pace Marshall pursued the “outrageous” idea of building the Illinois Math and Science Academy, what could “be one of the greatest institutions of its kind in the world.”
After IMSA’s first year open, the 210 students were slated to grow to 400, and funding would double.
“The General Assembly said, you know that deal we had? We can’t do it, we don’t have the money,” she said. She was urged to “uninvite” the additional students.
In 1986, Pace Marshall said she recommended closing the school because they couldn’t keep their word to those admitted students.
She told IMSA’s board that she would do everything in her power to get the General Assembly to provide the additional support to IMSA, and she did.
In addition to media appearances, with 400 IMSA students in tow, she set up class in the rotunda at the Capitol in Springfield. She connected every kid to a legislator, urging them to see what IMSA was doing and to fully fund the school.
“They did, and we got our money. And the governor said to me, ‘Don’t ever do that again,’” Pace Marshall said. “And I said... well you can imagine what I said.”
Sponsored by SHARE Fox Valley (Supporting Hope and Respecting Everyone), the event raised more than $5,000 for non-profit Mutual Ground, a shelter that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The Women’s Power Lunch was founded five years ago by Kifowit.