Meet the Daily Herald's inaugural Diversity Advisory Panel members

The Daily Herald has created a Diversity Advisory Panel to better represent our suburban mosaic and help us broaden our understanding and coverage of diverse communities.

Our inaugural group is made up of people from varying walks of life, ages, experiences, various ethnic, racial, religious, educational, professional and public service backgrounds.

As Diversity Editor, I will be leading this volunteer panel of advisers to help us identify what we do well and where we can improve in better representing the communities we serve.

The panel's mission is to help the newsroom identify stories about underrepresented groups and to better reflect them in our coverage, keying in on the important issues affecting those communities, as well as to help monitor our coverage for matters of sensitivity and accuracy.

The 13-member panel will interact in private group conversations, giving feedback on various topics to the newspaper's editorial staff.

Here are our advisers:

•Jo Ann Armenta

Age: 71

Hometown: Elgin

Background/community involvement: Retired Illinois state trooper, former Gail Borden Public Library Board member and third-generation Mexican American.

"Newspapers and magazines are the conveyors of the essences of society and the building blocks of history - or at least they were before social media took over. To me, it is important to have many perspectives, including mine, on what happens in my community, or in society at large."

•Dennis Avelar

Age: 38

Hometown: Addison

Background/community involvement: Digital content developer for Underwriters Laboratories and a self-published author. The youngest first-generation, American-born son of Guatemalan immigrants.

"I hope that my contributions can lead to ideas in which we can tell great stories that make a difference, and that more of us are able to access positive news and content, which highlight the accomplishment of our residents, the success stories of our local businesses and the tireless efforts for those who want to see their cities/towns/communities flourish."

•Marcus Belin

Age: 34

Hometown: Huntley

Background/community involvement: First Black principal of Huntley High School; 2020 Principal of the Year for the Illinois Principals Association Kishwaukee Region; the first Black president to lead the Illinois Principals Association, which serves more than 6,000 educational leaders statewide.

•Keith Cross

Age: 51

Hometown: Yorkville

Background/community involvement: Aurora police chief and a 27-year veteran of the Aurora Police Department. Past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Northern Illinois Chapter based in Aurora.

•Wilbur Dumas

Age: 37

Hometown: Elgin

Background/community involvement: Owns Lincoln Avenue Barbershop in Elgin. A product of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin and graduate of Larkin High School. Volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin and teaches part time at the Cosmetology and Spa Academy in Elgin. One of six barbers for the Chicago Bulls.

•Mark Hellner

Age: 69

Hometown: Arlington Heights

Background/community involvement: Senior counsel/executive director emeritus for the Center for Disability and Elder Law, which provides free legal services to low-income seniors and low-income adults with disabilities. Served on the Arlington Heights Housing Commission and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013.

•Faraz Khan

Age: 19

Hometown: Park Ridge

Background/community involvement: Undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science with minors in legal studies and public relations. Evanston native born to Indian-Muslim immigrant parents. Former candidate for Des Plaines Park District Board. Volunteered with organizations related to environmental action, youth and civic involvement, and Muslim community groups.

"Growing up, I never saw people who looked like me positively reflected in the media. I hope that the work this panel does will lead to a newspaper where everyone reading can see themselves reflected in it."

•Megan Lavery

Age: 44

Hometown: Grayslake

Background/community involvement: LGBTQ+ middle school teacher and coach in Lake Forest. Member of Grayslake District 46 Equity Committee, PFLAG, LGBTQ+ Resource Center of Lake County, LCDW

Local media plays a critical role in presenting balanced, reliable information within communities, and newspapers have the power to shape behaviors and opinions. Because of this impact on civic life, it is essential that news outlets are representative of the entire community and not just dominant culture. I believe we are more alike in our human condition than we are different, and community-based news outlets like the Daily Herald are in a position to help foster empathy and awareness, while still providing sound, factual reporting.

•Marjorie Logman

Age: 73

Hometown: Aurora

Background/community involvement: Taught at private elementary schools in Batavia and Aurora. Member of the Together is Better Alliance and Come Unity, and state Sen. Karina Villa's Senior Advisory Board and Education Board; treasurer of the Batavia Historical Society. White with predominantly Swedish heritage.

"I am an advocate for the aging population as I see we are becoming more and more marginalized and discounted by American society. It is more important than ever that we are all represented in journalism through articles and photographs. Journalism is one of the windows to the world and we all like to see ourselves and our interests through the window."

•Marti Sladek

Age: 75

Hometown: Downers Grove

Background/community involvement: Retired lawyer with a former practice in employment law. Worked as a broadcast journalist and in public relations. Member of several women's rights organizations and an owner at Prairie Food Co-op.

"This project interested me as an established fighter for equity and diversity. But more than that, gradually coming out of the parallel caves of grief and COVID, I wanted to reinvent myself to be both relevant and visible, something that is very difficult in the suburbs for a single, older woman."

•Ashfaq Hussain Syed

Age: 47

Hometown: Naperville

Background/community involvement: Vice president of a private bank in Naperville. Formerly associated with Times Bank and ICICI Bank in India and RAK Bank in Dubai. Appointed to the Naperville Public Library Board. Member of Islamic Center of Naperville; former board member of American Association of Retired Asians, and general secretary of Glory of Hyderabad.

•Gina Walsh

Age: 51

Hometown: Crystal Lake

Background/community involvement: Retired Bartlett police officer who is half Korean. Member of Immanuel Lutheran of Crystal Lake.

"This work is important because I feel when there is more diversity and we share our perspectives, we can start to understand and appreciate others more."

•Toya Webb

Age: 42

Hometown: Barrington

Background/community involvement: Chief marketing and communications officer at Elgin Community College, certified life coach. Past or current member of: Diversity and Inclusion committee, Public Relations Society of America-Chicago; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, National Council for Marketing and Public Relations; ethics chair, Public Relations Society of America-Chicago; small group leader, Willow Creek Community Church; Elgin Community College Transition Academy youth mentor.

"Everybody has a story. However, not everyone sees themselves accurately represented in the stories that we tell. And these are not stories exclusively told by the media, but stories that we tell one another and even ourselves. As a former reporter, I understand the important role that journalism plays in informing and oftentimes influencing societal perceptions."

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at

Marjorie Logman
Marcus Belin
Ashfaq Syed
Megan Lavery
Keith Cross
Jo Ann Armenta
Faraz Khan
Gina Walsh
Mark Hellner
Marti Sladek
Wilbur Dumas
Dennis Avelar
Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy
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