Announcing the 2023 FOIA Fest Boot Camp Cohort

The Chicago Headline Club is proud to announce its 2023 FOIA Fest Boot Camp Fellows.

FOIA Fest Boot Camp is a mentorship opportunity that partners early-career reporters with experienced journalists for guidance on a FOIA-driven project. The Boot Camp aims to make access to investigative reporting more equitable by connecting journalists of color with informal mentoring relationships that can be difficult to find or unavailable in many newsrooms.  

The program was founded in 2021 by Chicago Headline Club board members María Inés Zamudio and Alejandra Cancino, who hoped to inspire newsrooms to create mentorship opportunities to help support and retain journalists of color in the industry.

This year’s FOIA Fest Boot Camp is led by Taylor Moore of the International Women’s Media Foundation and Jessica Villagomez of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Both Taylor and Jessica are Boot Camp alums.


Alma Campos

Alma Campos is an award-winning bilingual journalist and freelance reporter covering immigration and immigrant communities. She is also a senior editor at South Side Weekly.  

Siri Chilukuri

Siri Chilukuri is an Environmental Justice Fellow at Grist based in her hometown of Chicago, IL. She covers climate change, labor, housing and she was previously a fellow at City Bureau and Floodlight. She is currently the Vice President for AAJA Chicago and the co-Director for AAJA LGBTQ+.

Ambar Colón

Ambar Colón is a bilingual journalist who currently works as assistant editor at the Chicago Sun-Times’ Spanish section, La Voz Chicago. She writes stories about entertainment, arts, and Latino communities. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Andrea Flores

Andrea Flores (she/her) is a freelance multi-media journalist. She’s previously worked at WTTW and America’s Voice. She’s a graduate of Stanford University, where she produced an audio documentary with her grandmothers in Mexico. Andrea is from Waukegan and loves aerial hoop, pottery, and Shakira.

Zaynaib Giwa

Ola is currently a Contract Data Journalist. Her duties are to extract, transform and load data in order to assist in finding the story that lies within it. Prior to Chicago Public Media, she worked on cleaning data at the Invisible Institute for the Beneath the Surface project. This project uses machine learning to better understand police brutality in Chicago. Ola also works as a data science tutor at a coding boot camp.

Ola believes that educational barriers for programmers should be low. In her spare team, she volunteers her time teaching other data literacy skills and web development skills. Ola has worked with Black Girls Code, and Hacking for Justice, and was a from R-Ladies Chicago organizer.

Ola graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A in Statistics and M.S. in Library and Information Sciences

Sebastián Hidalgo

Sebastián Hidalgo is an independent photojournalist and National Geographic Explorer. Trained in civic-oriented newsrooms across Chicago and California, he has reported on issues ranging from the lasting psychological effects of gentrification to the impacts of toxins in areas with little to no environmental protections. His work is permanently archived in the United States Library of Congress, The National Museum of Mexican Fine Art, and the Harvard Art Museum. In 2022, he was among The 30’s New and Emerging Photographers to Watch. Hidalgo continues to freelance as a photographer and is also pursuing other avenues of reporting.

Yiwen Lu

Yiwen Lu is a student journalist based in Chicago. Most recently, she was the managing editor of The Chicago Maroon, the independent student newspaper at UChicago. Previously, she interned at The Washington Post, USA TODAY, The Charlotte Observer and NBC Chicago. She was the recipient of the Chicago Headline Club Foundation’s Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship in 2022. Yiwen also serves as the communications director of the Chicago chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.

Maia McDonald

Maia McDonald is a multimedia freelance journalist from Chicago’s Southeast Side. While her preferred wheelhouse right now is community journalism, Maia got her start in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she received her Bachelor’s of Journalism in Radio-TV Reporting and Anchoring. There, Maia was able to hone in on-air reporting by working as a general assignment reporter at the NBC-affiliate news station KOMU 8 News as part of her degree program. 

After graduating, she joined Free Spirit Media’s The Real Chi, a West Side community newsroom, where she worked as an Environmental Health and Wellness Reporter and, later, Environmental Health and Wellness Editor. Since then, she’s been a reporting intern for Block Club Chicago and a City Bureau Reporting Fellow, a position where she was able to work with other fellows to shed a light on the state of the temporary work industry in Illinois and Black and Brown people are often disenfranchised by it. She now regularly freelance reports for Block Club Chicago and other city news outlets. 

Melody Mercado

Melody Mercado covers the Loop, West Loop, Gold Coast and River North for Block Club Chicago and is a corps member for Report for America.

She started her career as a television reporter at NBC affiliate WHO13 News, where she played an integral role in covering the Iowa Caucus and the racial justice protests of 2020. She later covered the Des Moines city government, with a focus on local policy and its effect on the community for the Des Moines Register.

Annabel Rocha

Annabel Rocha is the current Editor of Latino News Network – Midwest, leading Illinois Latino News and Wisconsin Latino News in statewide reporting focused on the Hispanic-Latino communities. She is concurrently the Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice Reporter for Rebellious Magazine, an independent, feminist news organization in Chicago. She is a previous Civic Reporting Fellow for City Bureau and 2022 National Fellow for the USC Center for Health Journalism. Her project focused on period poverty, engaging with the community to conduct surveys about people’s experiences with menstruation and menstrual poverty. Rocha is a Chicago native with goals to continue amplifying marginalized voices through local reporting.

Anna Savchenko

Anna Savchenko is a Ukrainian-Cypriot reporter on WBEZ’s criminal justice team.

Previously, she covered Chicago’s colleges and universities when she joined the station in 2021 as a Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism fellow. Anna earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in English from Azusa Pacific University in southern California. At Azusa Pacific, she served as editor-in-chief of the student magazine. She speaks Russian, Greek and is learning Ukrainian.

Madison Savedra

Madison (she/her) is a staff reporter at Block Club Chicago, writing about politics, local businesses, gentrification and more on the Southwest Side. She’s a graduate of Loyola University Chicago where she got her start in journalism at the student paper The Loyola Phoenix and interning at the Chicago Sun-Times. Her work has also appeared in the Daily Herald and Chicago Magazine. 

Ankur Singh

Ankur Singh is a freelance journalist and a co-founder of Cicero Independiente, a hyperlocal bilingual news outlet based in Cicero, Illinois. His work has been published in the Chicago Reader, Truthout, the Washington Post, Austin Weekly News, and more. His reporting focuses on local government, labor, education, and issues related to the South Asian diaspora. Follow him on Instagram @ankurwantsatattoo.

Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covers city government and politics for WBEZ. She comes to Chicago from The Missouri Independent, where she was a founding member of the team and focused on covering health, education and the legislature. She previously covered Texas state government for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and first spent a stint in Chicago as an intern at The Chicago Tribune.

Jade-Ruyu Yan

Jade-Ruyu Yan is an investigative journalist reporting on government and corporations with a focus on healthcare. She is a reporter for Crain’s Ad Age and has worked for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, along with The South Side Weekly, City Bureau and The Peoria Journal-Star.


Tony Briscoe

Tony Briscoe is an environmental reporter with the Los Angeles Times. His coverage focuses on the intersection of air quality and environmental health. Prior to joining The Times, Briscoe was an investigative reporter for ProPublica in Chicago and an environmental beat reporter at the Chicago Tribune.

Lakeidra Chavis

Lakeidra Chavis is a reporter with The Marshall Project. She has written on wide-ranging topics including the rise in Black suicides during the pandemic, gang dynamics, the opioid crisis, and victim compensation. Lakeidra previously reported at The Trace, ProPublica Illinois and NPR stations in Chicago and Alaska. Lakeidra is a 2021 Livingston Award finalist. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Vernal Coleman

Vernal Coleman is a reporter for ProPublica’s Midwest newsroom. He came to ProPublica from the Boston Globe, where he had been a member of the newsroom’s strike investigations team, which won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Before joining the Globe, Coleman was a watchdog reporter with the Seattle Times’ Project Homeless initiative, where he wrote stories about the intersection of housing, mental health and local efforts to combat homelessness. Prior to joining the Seattle Times, in 2014, he covered policing and public safety in Newark, New Jersey, for the Star-Ledger and

Duaa Eldeib

Duaa Eldeib is an investigative reporter at ProPublica. She has examined failures that have led to a stillbirth crisis in the U.S., the fatal consequences of delaying care during the pandemic and the plight of hundreds of children trapped in psychiatric hospitals. Her work has sparked legislative hearings, governmental reforms and has led to the release of young men incarcerated as juveniles and the exoneration of a mother who was convicted of murdering her son. Before joining ProPublica, she worked at the Chicago Tribune, where she and two colleagues were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and psychology and received her master’s in public policy from Northwestern University.

Monica Eng

Monica Eng is a Chicago journalist who has worked as reporter and editor at the Chicago-Sun-Times, Tribune, WBEZ and today as a co-author of the Axios Chicago newsletter. She is a proud third generation Chicagoan whose children are fourth generation Chicago Public School grads.

Emily Hoerner

Emily Hoerner is an investigative reporter who works with data at the Chicago Tribune. She covers many topics including public health and education. She previously covered judges, prisons, policing and criminal justice at Injustice Watch. She has reported on topics including public restrooms in Chicago, the state parole system, dress codes at Chicago Public Schools, the evolving treatment of juveniles in adult court, and law enforcement activity on social media.

Alden Loury

Alden Loury is the data projects editor at WBEZ-FM, Chicago’s NPR member station. In that role, he leads projects, analyzes data, creates visualizations, and edits enterprise stories and investigations. He also writes a monthly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Documenting segregation and racial inequality in housing, education, employment, the criminal justice system, economic development and politics have been a focus of his work for more than 20 years in a variety of roles including reporter, editor, publisher, research director and policy analyst. His research has appeared in local and national publications including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Elvia Malagón

Elvia Malagón reports on social justice, immigration and income inequality for the Chicago Sun-Times under a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. She previously worked for the Chicago Tribune, The Times of Northwest Indiana and The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla. A native of East Chicago, Indiana, she is a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school.

Dan Mihalopoulos

Dan is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.

At the station, Dan has won three National Edward R. Murrow Awards, including the 2022 prize for investigative reporting, for a series of stories on sexual abuse of lifeguards at Chicago’s beaches and pools. The series prompted criminal charges, the resignations of top parks officials and reforms. It also won first prize in the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting.

Manny Ramos

Manny Ramos is an Accountability and Solutions reporter with the Illinois Answers Project, the new journalism arm of the Better Government Association. He covers a broad scope of topics that include transportation, housing, labor and politics. Before joining the Illinois Answers Project, he was a reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times where he reported on the city’s South and West Sides. 

Jared Rutecki

Jared is an investigative reporter and producer at “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW. He specializes in data reporting and public records in pursuit of watchdog stories. He filed more than 1,500 successful FOIA requests each year on average since 2016. He reports on topics including the court system, police, health, public payroll and pensions.

Jared was an Annenberg National Health Fellow at the University of Southern California in 2021. He has won local and national reporting honors including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Non-Deadline Reporting and the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award.

Kristen Schorsch

Kristen Schorsch has been a journalist for 20 years. She’s a reporter on WBEZ Chicago’s government and politics team, where she covers Cook County and specializes in health care.  Kristen has won more than a dozen local and national awards for her work. Her stories have sparked policy changes and spurred investigations.

Kristen is a former longtime board member of the Chicago Headline Club and co-founded the club’s annual FOIAFest about public information and transparency. This is one of her favorite events of the year. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and is a proud Daily Illini alumna.

Samantha Smylie

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago. Before joining Chalkbeat, they worked at the Hyde Park Herald covering housing, education, retail, and development in the Kenwood-Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods on the city’s southeast side. She was a reporting fellow for City Bureau where she covered civic education in Chicago. Later on, she participated in ProPublica’s Data Institute. They have bylines in Block Club Chicago, the Chicago Reader, and South Side Weekly.

Sam Stecklow

Sam Stecklow is an investigative journalist with the Invisible Institute focusing on FOIA-based investigations and projects to expand public access to criminal justice records and information. In Chicago, he has worked as a managing editor for South Side Weekly and a FOIA consultant to the Chicago Independent Media Alliance and Preservation Chicago. He is also currently a staff writer for the Athens County Independent in Athens, Ohio.

María Inés Zamudio

María Inés Zamudio is an award-winning investigative journalist. Prior to joining the Center for Public Integrity, Zamudio was a radio reporter covering racial inequalities for WBEZ, the Chicago NPR station. Her coverage of the city’s water affordability crisis led to a moratorium on water shutoffs, the creation of a city-wide program to help low-income homeowners, and a state-funded $42 million water emergency assistance program for homeowners who can’t afford their water and sewer bills.

Zamudio has led efforts to increase the number of journalists of color in the industry. In 2020, Zamudio co-created FOIA Fest Boot Camp, a first-of-its-kind FOIA mentorship program to support Chicago journalists of color working on projects with public records.