Alums Make a Lasting Impact on Waukegan Community

Jun 1, 2022 | Alumni Spotlight

Inspired by Cristo Rey’s commitment for students to become people for others, three alums from our first and early graduating classes, are embodying the mission to give back and help fellow immigrants and neighbors in Waukegan through several high-profile non-profits in town.

The trio, all under 35 — Amanda Diaz-Bahena, along with her brother, Rameses Diaz, and Miguel Nuñez (their cousin) — recently brought the Ballet Folklorico Tayahua troupe of dancers to entertain the audience at the May 19th evening of Hispanic Culture at CRSM. The Waukegan non-profit dance studio is located in downtown Waukegan. It celebrates the rich diversity of Mexican and Mexican-American cultural heritage through dance and music, to pass the legacy and culture on to future generations, said Diaz-Bahena, President of the organization founded by her mother, Lupe Muñoz. Both Diaz-Bahena and Nuñez are graduates of CRSM’s second classes in 2008 (Formerly St. Martin de Porres).

In addition to the deep spiritual and cultural commitment of the dance ensemble, Diaz-Bahena and Nuñez also work days “trying to return the help people gave to our families when our immigrant parents first came to Waukegan,” says Nunez, vice president of the dance school.

Amanda Diaz-Bahena, President of the ballet troupe, is a victim advocate for the Family Advocacy Program at the Naval Station Great Lakes. The program is responsible for the prevention of and response to child abuse and neglect and domestic abuse/intimate partner violence in military families. Miguel Nuñez, VP of Ballet Folklorico, is Program Supervisor at The Community Center of Catholic Charities (formerly the Gary Graf Immigrant Center) in downtown Waukegan. It’s a first-stop resource center for immigrant families. Diaz-Bahena’s brother, Rameses Diaz, also works as the Development Director for the dance ensemble and was a Class of ’11 CRSM graduate.

Both Diaz-Bahena and Nuñez say they were inspired to seek careers in helping others from their high school days. They are especially grateful to Jim Dippold, Director of Campus Ministry, who was new at the school at the time.

“Mr. Dippold just radiated the love of God and went out of his way to help me and believe in me,” says Amanda. “We learned the power of volunteering and reaching out to help others was very important and it inspired us to pick the careers we have.”

Cristo Rey changed the course of their lives.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but if it hadn’t been for St. Martin we could have gotten involved with the gangs and drugs that we saw many of our peers get into at the time,” says Diaz-Bahena. “I always say that I was a ‘nobody,’ that by the grace of God was picked to be a ‘somebody.’

Nuñez adds: “When my parents first arrived in the late ‘70s there was no help for them,” said Nuñez. “They couldn’t speak English and it was very difficult for them to navigate. It was great to bring the dancers to Cristo Rey, and was like a homecoming to see Mr. Dippold and realize all he and the school inspired in me. I knew in high school I wanted to someday help people like our parents. Our dance group too, is a way to honor our parents and make sure our Mexican culture doesn’t get lost in the assimilation.”