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Ernesto Cortes, Jr.
Ernesto Cortes, Jr. is the Southwest Regional Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a non-profit organization founded in Chicago by the late Saul Alinsky. Cortes' affiliation with the IAF officially began in 1972 when he attended the organization's organizer training institute in Chicago. After training, Cortes worked with IAF leaders in Wisconsin and Indiana for a year developing his skills as a community organizer. In 1974 Cortes moved to San Antonio, his native city, where he founded the Communities Organized for Public Service, COPS, the well-known and highly effective church-based grassroots organization. In the following years Cortes helped found other community-based organizations in cities throughout Texas and the southwest. Together with COPS these organizations became what is now called the Southwest IAF Network. Under Cortes' supervision, the organizations of the network have developed successful initiatives in the areas of job training, economic development, citizenship and education. In the mid-80s, Cortes and the network envisioned and launched an innovative public education initiative, called the Alliance School Initiative, to engage communities in school restructuring and reform. The Alliance School Initiative, as well as the other accomplishments of the network, have been written about in several books and articles. Cortes has received numerous awards and fellowships for his work, including most recently the H. J. Heinz Award for Public Policy and an appointment as a Martin Luther King Visiting Professor at MIT in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.