CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez will address the graduates and their guests at the 55th annual commencement ceremony at Prairie State College on May 17. The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. in the Pioneer Fieldhouse, located on Vollmer Road, north of the college’s main campus at 202 S. Halsted St.
The first female and first Latina elected to the post of Cook County state’s attorney, Alvarez also is the first career prosecutor elected to the position. She leads the second largest prosecutor’s office in the nation, managing an office of nearly 1,600 attorneys and administrative employees. In her role, she has continued her focus on representing the victims of crime in Cook County.
During her first two years on the job, Alvarez drafted a new law that increased the criminal penalties for gang members arrested with guns. Under the new law, gang members arrested face a mandatory prison sentence and are no longer eligible for parole. Other accomplishments since she took office include increased focus on investigating and prosecuting public and government corruption, opening three new community-based prosecution offices, and opening a mortgage fraud and investigations and prosecutions unit. She also created a Human Trafficking Initiative that works with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on individuals and human trafficking groups that exploit children. Alvarez also authored the Illinois Safe Children Act, a new law that enhances protections for juveniles caught in the sex trade and provides new legal tools for police and prosecutors to target those who prostitute children.
Before being elected state’s attorney, Alvarez served more than 20 years in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She began her career as an assistant state’s attorney in 1986, and steadily worked her way up, handling hundreds of felony cases ranging from homicide, narcotics, armed robbery, criminal sexual assaults, and domestic violence. She has argued before the Illinois Appellate Court and tried more than 50 felony jury trials. Prior to entering the race for Cook County state’s attorney, she served as chief deputy state’s attorney; chief of staff to the Cook County state's attorney; chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau; deputy chief of the Narcotics Bureau, and supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit. She also spent three and a half years in the Gang Crimes Unit where she prosecuted gang-related homicides.
Alvarez was promoted to the supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit in 1996, where she was responsible for prosecuting city, county, and state employees who committed felonies and violated the public trust. In 1999, she was promoted to deputy chief of the Narcotics Bureau where she supervised the prosecution of drug cases as well as long-term narcotics investigations in conjunction with Chicago and suburban police departments.
Alvarez is active in various bar associations and organizations. In 2009, she served as president of the Chicago Bar Association. She was also a founding member of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Association and served as its national president. Alvarez was chosen as a fellow in the 2004 class of Leadership Greater Chicago and served on their board from 2004 to 2006. She also serves on the board of trustees for Fenwick High School and is active in alumnae activities for her alma mater, Maria High School.
A Chicago native, Alvarez was born and raised in the Pilsen community. She is a graduate of Maria High School, received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University, and earned her J.D. degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She and her husband, Dr. James Gomez, are the parents of four children.
More than 400 students will graduate from PSC with associate degrees and certificates, and approximately 300 graduates will participate in the ceremony. For more information about PSC's commencement ceremony, contact the Office of Student Affairs at (708) 709-3507.