CORTEZ WATSON JR.
Manager of Youth Programs
Cortez Watson, Jr. is a dedicated Evanstonian with a profound commitment to youth development. With a diverse educational background including degrees from Elmhurst University, the University of Illinois @ Chicago (UIC), and Northwestern University, Cortez's journey in academia was shaped by his experiences at Evanston Township High School's Diverse Learning Department and Wrestling program.
With over 25 years of experience in Youth Development, such as in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, Cortez currently leads the CMAA (Chinese Mutual Aid Association) youth development team. His primary passion lies in supporting Black boys, youth of color and Diverse Learners.
Previously, Cortez established and presided over The Hip-Hop F.I.R.M., an Organization Development (OD) consultancy specializing in pedagogical design and change for youth development and educational organizations, including the Radial L.O.V.E. Institute.
Currently, Cortez is a second-year doctoral student in Organizational Development at Benedictine University, serves as an adjunct professor, and pursues graduate studies in Urban Community Studies at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). At NEIU's Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs, he spearheads a maturation learning pilot program focusing on SEL, DEI, and TRHT in youth development. Cortez's research centers on integrative thinking in urban contexts, exploring the potential of Hip-Hop as a pedagogical and organizational tool. He utilizes OD theory, Appreciative Inquiry, and Liberatory Design Thinking to transform youth development and learning spaces.
Above all, Cortez treasures his role as the father of a Beautiful Black Asian Daughter named Scarlett, considering it his most significant accomplishment.