Karin Norington-Reaves is a public servant and change agent with thirty years of experience in job creation, education, advocacy, and community development.
A third-generation Chicagoan, Karin is the daughter of an Air Force veteran and sheet metal worker father and an entrepreneur- business coach mother. Raised by her mom after her parents’ divorce, from an early age, she watched her mother advocate for, mentor, and serve others.
Inspired by her own love of school and the opportunity to serve, Karin joined Teach for America in 1991. Fluent in Spanish, Karin spent the next two years teaching in Compton, CA, immersing herself into the lives of her bilingual elementary school students. During those years, she witnessed the education system fail students and their families; she knew she wanted to help create permanent, long-lasting change. A product of Chicago Public Schools and Northwestern University, Karin would go on to enroll in Southern Methodist University’s School of Law to begin her journey of breaking down systemic barriers to economic mobility for all.
Over the next decade, Karin fought for youth and families as a litigator, advocate, non-profit leader, and adjunct law professor, working in the fields of mental health law, community and workforce development, education, and public utility consumer protection. She held roles with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the Citizens Utility Board, Teach For America, the City of Chicago’s 20th Ward, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
In 2010, Karin was tapped to reform workforce development in Cook County. She then transformed a scandal-plagued, inefficient organization and led the merger of three workforce boards into what became the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, now the nation’s most extensive and effective publicly-funded workforce development system. Under her leadership since it began in 2012, The Partnership has focused on connecting people to careers, and businesses to high quality talent, impacting Chicagoland’s neighborhoods and business communities.
Among Karin’s leadership accomplishments in the past decade are the roughly 100,000 people placed into long-lasting careers, and her management of half a billion dollars of economic investments in job training and placement and business development. She has quadrupled the organization’s budget from $30M to $128M while receiving awards from numerous local and national groups for her work.
Karin recognizes and amplifies the unique, untapped potential of individuals and Chicagoland communities through job placement and occupational training, and has collaborated with more than 2,000 businesses to create jobs in underserved neighborhoods. She is a catalyst for change and leads by serving others, advocating for equity in all economic opportunities in every space she sits in. A teacher at heart, Karin describes watching her mentees and the people she places in jobs as her greatest motivators to keep advocating for change.
Of all her roles Karin considers “Mama” her most noteworthy title. She is a divorced single mom with a blended family of biological, step, and adopted children. Her parenting journey represents her life’s greatest and most heartbreaking rewards, lessons, and challenges. Karin and her crew – Alex, Rachelle, and their two dogs – live in Chatham.