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District celebrates the 10th anniversary of Night Out in the Park and acknowledges the positive impact of the Inner City Hoops Basketball program    

Today, during its monthly meeting, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners appointed Rosa Escareño as the District’s General Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer, welcomed public servant and youth advocate, Sharif Walker to his first meeting as the Board’s newest Commissioner and heard presentations on two District programs that bring vital opportunities to Chicago’s neighborhoods. The meeting was held at Fosco Park, 1312 S. Racine in the Near West community. 

Escareño’s appointment follows seven months of serving as Interim General Superintendent and CEO since last October. During that time, she has sustained the District’s operations while facilitating fundamental growth for the organization, including implementing policy change to create the Office of Prevention and Accountability. The first office of its kind, OPA will be empowered to prevent misconduct and hold wrongdoers accountable through fair, independent and thorough investigations into allegations of misconduct by park employees and patrons. 

“I am humbled and excited to be appointed General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District and I thank the Board of Commissioners for their support and entrusting me to lead this incredible agency,” said Escareño. “Over the past seven months, I have had the opportunity to engage and empower our workforce and be reminded of the how incredibly important parks are to the fabric and success of our city, particularly for our children and their families who rely on our services. The work we do to improve lives through recreational interests and grow healthy environments for our workers and residents is vital to strengthening every community and building up Chicago’s future generations.”

"Rosa Escareño has committed 30 years of her life to public service, and I, along with the Board of Commissioners enthusiastically support her nomination as General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District,” said Chicago Park District Board President Myetie Hamilton. “Under her leadership, the Chicago Park District will continue the momentum in turning a new chapter with a commitment to transparency, safety, inclusion and accountability to our workforce, families and communities." 

Walker is a devoted community advocate and change agent dedicated to providing supportive environments that enable underserved youth on Chicago’s South and West Sides to thrive. He currently serves as President and CEO at Bethel New Life, Inc. where he has breathed life into the 40+ year old faith-based non-profit organization through a community centered vision to promote health and wellness for individuals and families of all ages through all stages of life on Chicago’s west side. Walker credits his childhood experiences in the parks to his success and commitment to youth and family advocacy. 

"It is an honor and a pleasure to serve our city in this capacity. As a young person growing up in the heart of Chicago, the park district was a second home; a safe and nurturing place that helped shape the person I am today,’ said Commissioner Sharif Walker. “From Kiwanis Park, where Supervisor James Hobson served as a role model and father figure, to Pottawatomie Park, where I played little league baseball, learned gymnastics, and attended day camp, parks provided structured activities and supportive environments that helped guide me through a challenging childhood. And now, having committed my entire professional career to helping youth and families successfully navigate urban systems and settings, this appointment affords me yet another opportunity to give back."

The Board heard presentations on two vital Park District programs that support the city’s youth. and their families. This year, the Night Out in the Parks series celebrates its 10th season of bringing world-class arts, culture and entertainment to each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. This Summer, the District will host 700 cultural events across the city including Movies in the Park, concerts, theatrical performances and more. Admission to most events is free. Night Out not only make these experiences accessible in all neighborhoods but it also supports the city arts community which makes Chicago so unique.  Launched in 2013, Night Out in the Parks has become one of the Parks District’s signature programs with the continued support from the City of Chicago and our sister agencies, especially the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. 

The Board also heard a presentation on Inner City Hoops, a Park District program that gives youth ages 9 to 12 the opportunity to learn and play competitive basketball. Launched in 2001 in partnership with the Chicago Bulls, Inner City Hoops has grown from 16 teams to 36 teams with more than 500 participants citywide. Many past participants have returned to the program as coaches paying forward the benefits they received as young athletes to the next generation. The Board also acknowledged the Boys Team from Rowan Park in the East Side community and the Girls Team from Shedd Park in the South Lawndale community for winning the 2022 Inner City Hoop Championship in their respective division.