Cook County 4-H expands metro youth outreach with two new leaders

URBANA, Ill. – Illinois 4-H strives to unlock the potential in every young person, helping them to dream, plan, design, build, and achieve. Around the state, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development staff are guiding the next generation of leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

In November, Illinois Extension in Cook County welcomed two new 4-H youth development and metro educators to serve youth in the Chicago area – Maria E. Gutiérrez and Latosha Reggans.

“We are thrilled to have Maria and Latosha move into these leadership positions,” says Willene Buffett, Extension Cook County Director. “Both will expand our capacity to partner with local communities and to continue in our mission to create positive experiences for youth.”

Maria E. Gutiérrez has 20 years of experience working with racially, ethnically diverse audiences and has a strong background in adult education, youth development, and program planning. She most recently worked in Cook County 4-H as the Juntos program coordinator. She hopes to foster a culturally inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and to create welcoming spaces for all 4-H participants.

“I hope to instill enthusiasm, impart knowledge, and influence young innovators, and build community capacity to address issues that affect youth such as career, education pathways and, racial equity,” Gutiérrez says.

Gutiérrez has a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Sciences from National Louis University and two Master's,  Master of Educational Leadership and Master of Education in Learning Sciences in Education. As the first person in her family to attend college, she is driven to empower Latino youth to lead and grow communities through the power of education.

“I am thrilled to join the Extension and 4-H community of passionate thinkers to collaborate in revamping 4-H and to grow as a life-changing educator,” Gutiérrez says.

Latosha Reggans comes to Cook County 4-H with a background in counseling and trauma-informed care. With the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, she plans to provide leadership focusing on 4-H clubs, groups, and youth education initiatives.  

“My goal is to help youth define and understand emotions and behaviors through mental health education and social-emotional learning,” Reggans says. “I also want to teach and provide training and support to our skilled volunteers who teach and work with youth.”

She plans to develop higher education, business, and community partnerships to expand and support 4-H youth development program initiatives.

Reggans first joined Illinois Extension in 2016 as a Horticulture Program Coordinator managing the Chicago Master Gardener volunteers. Previously, she worked as a therapist at the Branch Family Institute and Deborah's Place, a housing program for women.

She holds a Bachelor and Master Degree of Social Work with a minor in Children and Families from Governors State University.

University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach. They work to provide businesses, families, and agricultural producers with the practical tools and resources needed to solve problems.

WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed.
ILLINOIS 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen.