Omar Aquino was born and raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Of Puerto Rican descent, both of his parents were public workers, his mother working for the Chicago Public Schools and his father for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.
His parents have always been involved in their community and have made it a priority. They assisted in block party coordination, served as church board members and consistently looked for ways to make a difference. Omar was inspired by their work and involvement, which led him to dedicate his career to public service.
Omar attended Chicago Public Schools from pre-k to 12th grade. He attended Lincoln Park High School and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in Criminal Justice and Sociology. He was President of the Latin American Student Organization, Diversity Councilmember, co-founder of the Empowerment Pipeline (this program was an after school mentorship program designed to combat the school to prison pipeline). Omar was also a Research Assistant for two studies, one in Sociology on race and ethnic relations and the other in Criminal Justice on probation officers’ discretionary decision-making. At Loyola, he also worked multiple part time jobs including the department of resident’s life, dept. of athletics, and as a research. Omar was also a recipient of the MAP grant.
Omar’s first job after graduation was as a Bilingual Case Manager at Central West Case Management Unit at the Jane Addams School of Social Work. He to the homes of elderly clients and assessed their needs for services under the Community Care Program. The CCP program is designed to assist low income elderly residents with homemaker services, meals on wheels, and adult day service. This is done to help seniors maintain their independence and remain in their homes and community and to prevent them for ending up in a nursing home.
Seeing the needs of the elderly population inspired Omar to get into policy work.
"I became frustrated by the weekly memos coming from the higher ups in the Illinois Department of Aging insisting there would soon be changes made to the problem. These changes they believed would save the program money but as the worker on the ground I saw first hand how these "changes" were negatively affecting seniors, their families and their communities."
Omar knew these policymakers and administrators had little understanding of the impact of their proposed changes. He decided to look for work in policy in order to help provide the perspective of those that worked in the field and on the ground.
Omar found the opportunity to work as a Legislative Assistant in the Illinois House of Representatives. He fulfilled a number of tasks including outreach efforts, and creating issues based committees so as to ensure constituent participation in the policymaking process. Omar eventually moved on to work for Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth as her Outreach Coordinator.
In December of 2015, State Senator William Delgado announced that he was retiring. With his long held desire to make a difference and understanding of needs faced by people in our community, Omar decided to run with the support of Senator Delgado. He won the 2016 election and was appointed to the seat effective July 1, 2016.
As State Senator, Omar will work hard each day to pursue policies that he knows will have a positive impact on the people of the 2nd District and the state of Illinois.