Meet Gabe Herrera, a Bilingual Programs Manager at CCR!
A native of the Washington, DC area, Gabe studied non-profit communication at Boston University. After teaching English for a couple of years in Madrid, he returned Stateside to earn his MS at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
As fate would have it, Gabe’s mentor at George Mason knew of CCR’s great reputation. So, having no connections to Chicago, Gabe applied to CCR’s Mediation Skills Training for a scholarship – and was awarded one. A few months later in 2018, when a job opportunity opened at CCR, Gabe applied the day that he found out. The rest, as they say, is history. “I feel privileged to be working directly in the field that I studied for because a lot of my fellow classmates are working in adjacent fields, but not directly in conflict resolution. I feel very lucky.”
Gabe loves that there is no “typical day” in his job. He recalls that when Rae first interviewed him, she asked, “How flexible are you?” He is reminded of that important question constantly. “I never leave work thinking that was a boring day.”
Roughly half of Gabe’s time is spent at various Cook County courthouses managing volunteers handling small claims and evictions cases. In that role, he works to try and get cases assigned to mediation by judges, suss out whether cases are a good fit for mediation, and support volunteers as they mediate cases. He likes this aspect of his job because it involves a certain amount of “selling” mediation to people who otherwise might not know about this option. “Not only is it a great opportunity, it’s also completely free!” he likes to say. Sometimes parties, who have found the process up to that point very daunting, get really excited about just sitting down and talking to the other party. “Mediation can help simplify a process that is often very overwhelming for people,” says Gabe.
CCR mediates thousands of cases a year, and those cases have to be managed by four programs managers plus Rae. So in addition to time in court, Gabe spends a lot of time on the phone doing intake calls, scheduling mediations, and coordinating volunteer mediators. He is also responsible for leading the adapted model training for law students and Mediator Mentorship Program classes. He sums it up this way: “My job is to support our volunteers so they can best support our parties.” But Gabe says his favorite part of his job is probably mediating itself. He feels privileged to be in the room with parties and hold space for people when they’re in some of their most vulnerable moments.
Outside of work, Gabe and his partner are (in his own words) obsessed with greyhounds. They spend a lot of time fostering greyhounds through an organization called Greyhounds Only. The dogs are young, retired racing dogs who have never been without the company of other dogs and have lots to learn (like what a mirror is, and how to climb stairs) before they can be adopted by permanent owners. Finally, an additional fun fact you may not know is that for Gabe’s 18th birthday, his father made sure Gabe was a dual citizen of Costa Rica. So, next time you see Gabe, you can ask him how the greyhounds are – and when he’s off next to enjoy Pura Vida!