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Courtesy of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council

Parents and students in attendance from the Fifth Annual Pilsen Education Summit.

Pilsen targets low graduation rate at education summit Saturday

by Brina Monterroza
Nov 01, 2012


Courtesy of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council

Parents and students engaged in one of last year's summit workshop.

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The percentage of high-school graduates in Hispanic communities is low, but organizations in Pilsen continue working to change that.

Just half of Pilsen adults ages 25 or older have a high school diploma, according Pilsen Education Task Force. 

That is one reason community organizations have teamed up again to offer the Sixth Annual Pilsen Education Summit.  The summit will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450-1510 W. Cermak Road. The public is invited but must register in advance online with the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council.

The conference is one way many organizations have come together to offer educational opportunities to families in the neighborhood. The Pilsen Neighbors Community Council organized the conference in collaboration with the Pilsen Education Task Force and other community-based organizations, such as the Latino Policy Institute and Instituto Del Progresso Latino.

Maru Coronel, a parent who attended last year’s summit with her daughter, said, “I thought it showed how if you really work with the children they can become very successful.”

This year’s theme is Studying, Living and Working in a Bilingual Community.  Workshops will focus on higher education, advantages of a bilingual education, and social and emotional issues connected with bilingualism.

“For culturally diverse communities, it is critical to maintain and be proud of our heritage and language because this strengthens who we are as individuals and as part of society," said Sonia Soltero, associate professor and chair of the department of leadership, language, and curriculum at DePaul University. Soltero said she believes a bilingual education gives Latinos more job opportunities, because they are able to read, write and speak in two languages.

On a panel with Soltero, a teacher, a parent and a student will highlight their experiences in bilingual education. The audience will also be encouraged to engage in discussion.

Other workshops will include the importance of a positive cultural identity and mental-health issues.

The task force, which is a subcommittee of the Pilsen Planning Committee, was created in 2006 by a group of elementary school principals interested in strengthening education in this neighborhood. It now includes education leaders from preschool through higher education who focus on increasing graduation rates and post-secondary attendance.

In 2010, the task force revealed a five-year education plan with three main goals:

* Providing access to educational options,

* Providing emotional and mental support, and

*Collaborating with many community-based organizations.

After two years, Juan Soto, director of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council and co-chair of the task force, said he remains hopeful about the plan’s outcome.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re on a path,” said Soto. Over the past two years the task force has increased the number of partners, now up to nearly 30. It has also started new programs, such as the University Round Table, in which universities and colleges in Chicago reach out to students and parents about available educational resources.

“The partnership, engagement of parents, the leadership of principals and teachers, and the community as a whole is vital,” said Soto.

Last year, about 350 residents attended the summit.