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Boarded-up businesses cover the intersection of North Pulaski Road and West North Avenue in Humboldt Park, illustrating how tough it is to find jobs.

Nonprofit working to cut Hispanic unemployment opens its new home

by Brina Monterroza
Nov 15, 2012


Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Vice President of United Latinos for Empowerment, Education and Development Rosalinda Rodriguez, signs up new clients to attend their career workshops. 

Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Rosalinda Rodriguez, vice president of United Latinos for Empowerment, Education and Development talks about issues young Latinos face and the reason they started their organization. 

Neydi Jimenez, a college junior concentrating on musical theater and vocal performance at Northeastern Illinois University, struggled to find a position in theater. Until she ran into an organization in Humboldt Park that helped her.

United Latinos for Empowerment, Education and Development is a nonprofit that serves Latinos in Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Belmont Cragin. It provides resources to people looking to continue their education, find a job or simply seeking guidance for next steps. That’s how they helped Jimenez. The organization revamped her resume and helped her find an internship as a stage crew member with Mikey O Comedy on Halsted.

“It’s hard to find places that are into that business that are open to have inexperienced people to work for them,” said Jimenez. “I didn’t know where to find a place like that.”

The nonprofit gears its programs to 18- to 25-year-olds. Illinois Latinos aged 20 to 24 had an annual average unemployment rate of 13.5 percent compared with 10.8 percent of whites in the same age group, according to 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“We feel like there’s been a gap of services to that age range,” said Rosalinda Rodriguez, vice president of the organization.

The Hispanic unemployment rate has always been higher than the unemployment rate among whites. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, national Hispanic unemployment for October was 10 percent compared with 7 percent for whites.

The unemployment rate among Hispanics has seen a steady slight drop from month to month, but is still higher than the national unemployment rate, 7.9 percent.

One of the reasons young Latinos have difficulty finding jobs is that many have cut their education short.

According to the nonprofit, nearly three-quarters of Latinos aged 16 to 25 end their educations because of family and economic challenges.

“There’s this idea that once you’re in college and over 21 that you have everything together and being a young adult myself, that’s not always the case,” said Rodriguez. Many students drop out after their first year of college due to financial constraints or because they have to support a family, she said.

Many young adults feel lost simply because they don’t know what resources are available for financial aid or how to find a job, said Rodriguez.

“A lot of young adults, especially with how much competition there is to even get a basic job … is they’re intimidated of how to seek it,” she said.

Rodriguez and Daniel Maldonado, president of the organization, said they co-founded the nonprofit in 2010 because they, too, faced struggles as young Latinos. Rodriguez and Maldonado are both Chicago natives and both became parents at a young age. Despite their family obligations and financial struggles, they were able earn bachelor’s degree.

Rodriguez said she strongly believes that young adults should have access to mentors, which she didn’t experience, so that’s one of the services they provide.

“I think everybody who’s gotten somewhere, who’s been successful, has had at least one person that was able to provide guidance,” said Rodriguez. And without being exposed to that, some “fall through the cracks,” she said.

The nonprofit, funded by donations from individuals and companies, recently got its own building at 3946 W. North Ave. They had their grand opening in September. But it’s been a difficult start.

“I think because we’re still fairly new and just opened the doors, a lot of individuals are a little hesitant in stopping in and joining us, but our door is open and our services are free,” said Daniel’s sister-in-law, Monique Maldonado, new media coordinator of the organization.

They currently offer a job placement workshop series on Saturdays. The remaining two sessions will focus on finding the right job for each individual and the interview process. Participants can register online. In January they will offer an education workshop.

They provide services to anyone in the community over the age of 18, regardless of race, through their workshops or by appointment..

Jimenez said she is grateful for all of the opportunities the organization provided her and that because of them she can look forward to the future.

“They really eased my nervousness about where I’m going to go after college, because now I have this chance to network and meet more people,” she said.