Oak Park has never been in short supply when it comes to interesting people doing important work, and three locals are getting some well-earned recognition for their efforts.

Chicago Magazine recently named Oak Parkers Steve James and Maria Woltjen as Chicagoans of the Year, and Forbes Magazine named Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley in its 30 Under 30 in the Law & Policy category. 

Celebrated filmmaker James directed the documentary series America to Me about educational equity at Oak Park and River Forest High School, which ran earlier this fall on Starz. “Somehow, James transformed the daily doings of a suburban Chicago public school into an exegesis of who we are as a nation and how we’re raising and teaching our kids,” the magazine notes.

Woltjen is founder and director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights and is a national voice on issues of immigration. Chicago Magazine notes that the center served 822 clients this year, “submitting so-called best-interest recommendations to judges to avert deportation.”

Mbekeani-Wiley, who is an occasional contributor to Wednesday Journal and policy advisor for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, was recognized by Forbes for her work on a report “on harmful policies in Chicago Public Schools that resulted in a new state law dictating training procedures.”

 Timothy Inklebarger

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