Through job training, she helped change Latino landscape in Chicago

WGN News celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and takes a look at the people who have made great contributions.

CHICAGO -- Mary Gonzalez-Koenig changed the landscape for Latinos starting five decades ago.

She founded one of the largest job training groups in the city.

“We have a common language. It’s Spanish. So we became the Spanish Coalition for Jobs,” she said.

Thousands of people went through that program. People like former mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia and others. That success led her to push for Latino representation in media.

Faces like Phil Ponce became more common in tv newa, both in front and behind the camera. That extension of the Spanish Coalition for Jobs is known as the Latino Committee on Media.

“What I’m proud of is that we were able to establish relationships with corporations and the media,” Gonzalez-Koenig said.

Gonzalez-Koenig became synonymous with the effort to advance the Latino experience. She stepped away from the organization and retired in 2009. Not long before that, the groups name changed to the National Latino Education Institute.

NLEI is still helping people today with job training from tech to nursing to educating young immigrant families.

These days Gonzalez-Koenig funnels her spunk and energy to her grandkids and still volunteers her time at a local nursing home, many of whom may not even realize she has a street named in her honor for paving the road for so many Latinos in Chicago.

Mary Gonzalez-Koenig is one of Chicago’s Very Own.