Stacey Moragne, Sr., has taken a lead in Evanston, convincing residents with a criminal past to clear their histories.
“He’s actually got a reputation now where people know if they have a criminal background, there is a program that can help them clear or at least mitigate their criminal history,” said. Kevin Brown, Evanston’s community services manager.
At a forum held April 2 at the University of Illinois at Chicago on April 2, Moragne received the Community Achievement Award from the UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work – Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research.
He was honored for his work with the city of Evanston/James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy Certificate of Rehabilitation Program.
Working alongside attorneys at the Moran Center, Moragne has identified and processed more than 120 Evanston residents who have expunged or sealed criminal histories or are in the process of applying for certificates of rehabilitation.
Evanston officials, from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl on down, have spoken of the importance of expunging criminal histories to help youth become more employable.
“It’s critically important because you have people who have made mistakes in the past,” Brown said, “but as the legislation says, if they’ve been productive over a number of years and haven’t gotten into any trouble … then they deserve another opportunity to become productive citizens.”
Moragne has become a “lead person,” for the city in that respect, Brown said.
Moragne has been effective not only in reaching those in the 16- to 24-year-old age group – the program’s original focus – but has also connected with older individuals, working with community-based organizations, such as the Youth Job Center, McGaw YMCA and the Howard Area Community Center.
Moragne, a onetime Evanston Township High School football running back from the class of 1976, shows the same tenacity in his outreach work where he seeks to “go beyond boundaries,” meeting up with individuals who, for whatever reason, may be avoiding the issue.
“We are on a mission to try to help those who can’t help themselves,” he said, stopping in at the Mason Park field house on Friday. “If we reach one person a day, that’s a miracle.”
Some whose records have been cleared have gone on to jobs with major employers or have enrolled in programs such as the Youth Job Center’s career pathways program to make themselves more employable.
“I think it’s so key what he’s done,” said co-worker Nathan Norman, a full-time outreach worker. “It’s giving individuals an opportunity, so to speak, to make amends with their past.” Moragne returned the praise; “This is a team effort,” he said.