Archive | March, 2013

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Ald. Maldonado: Demands Quality Education for El Barrio

Posted on 05 March 2013 by alejandro

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Recently, we talked with Alderman Roberto Maldonado of the 26th Ward about his passionate desire to bring Marine Math & Science Academy to our community.

Q:  Why do you want to bring Marine Math & Science to the 26th Ward?

RM:  As the Alderman and a parent, I feel it is my duty to provide our children with a real option to get a quality education in the 26th Ward.  That is why I have been strongly lobbying to bring Marine Math & Science Academy to our community, at the site of the Ames Middle School located at 1920 N. Hamlin. One of the main misconceptions among those who oppose Marine Math & Science is that this is like a training camp to send our children to serve in the military after graduation.  That is absolutely not true.  In fact, Marine Math & Science’s main goal is to prepare students for college and professional careers by providing an environment of structure, discipline, and a high expectation of academic performance.  I believe our youth deserve this opportunity to succeed and their futures should not be compromised by misconceptions. No one who opposes bringing Marine Math & Science to the 26th Ward has the track record of protesting military actions that I have.  I actively demonstrated in Vieques, Puerto Rico against the U.S. Navy’s military exercises and its presence in this town island of Puerto Rico, which, I am proud to say, successfully closed that military base.   Clearly, I would never promote anything that would ultimately result in putting our youth in harm’s way.  It is discouraging that despite its state-of-the-art facility, Ames has demonstrated chronic under-performance, under-enrollment, and instability with its leadership team since its inception in 1997.  The persistent underutilization of this school clearly shows that if parents have a choice they won’t send their kids to Ames for their middle school education.  As Alderman, I am fighting for a better educational opportunity for our youth.  That is why I strongly support providing our students with the option of attending Marine Math & Science—a high school with a proven track record of graduating students who attend college.

Q: Are students obligated to serve in the military after graduation?

RM:    No.  Marine Math & Science focuses on delivering a high-quality education with an emphasis in service, leadership development, and personal responsibility, with the principal goal of preparing all students to attend the 4-year college of their choice.

Q: What is the college acceptance rate for Marine Math & Science students?

RM:    95% of the class of 2012 went to college.  Together the class earned $4 million in scholarships.

Q: Is Marine Math & Science a charter school?

RM: No.  It’s part of the Chicago Public Schools.

Q:  Are the teachers former service members?

RM:    The majority of Marine Math & Science teachers have not served in the military and they are all members of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Q:  What makes Marine Math & Science a “math and science” school?

RM:    Marine Math & Science puts an emphasis on math and science to provide ideal preparation for college courses and the future job market, which increasingly requires a highly skilled technical workforce.

Q:  What about other classes and extracurricular activities?

RM: Marine Math & Science offers college credit classes and electives, including Finance, Journalism, Sociology, Art, and Band.  All team sports are offered including soccer, football, basketball, and cheerleading.  Students also take JROTC as one of their courses every year, where students learn about history, government, citizenship, leadership, personal finances and responsibility, and physical fitness.   Moreover, students are required to engage in extracurricular activities giving parents peace of mind while they are at work.

Q: Are bilingual and special education classes offered?

RM:    Yes.  Marine Math & Science currently serves a student population that is predominantly Hispanic and over 95% low income.  About 10% of students receive special education.

Q: How are students chosen to attend Marine Math & Science?

RM:    For students for which Ames would be their neighborhood middle school, 7th graders will be automatically accepted if parents so choose.  There is no minimum grade point average for acceptance.  Students can also apply for High School enrollment directly to 9th grade.

Q: Who is the Marine Math & Science Principal?

RM:    The Principal is Fred Aguirre, who has a strong relationship with the Humboldt Park and Logan Square communities, as well as other Hispanic communities, and who is, himself, a graduate of Benito Juarez High School where he did Marine JROTC.

Q: How does the learning environment of Marine Math & Science compare with that of Ames?

RM:    Marine Math & Science and Ames show major differences in terms of discipline and behavior, as measured by the number of misconducts resulting in suspension (86.2% at Ames v. 37.3% at Marine Math & Science).  Marine Math & Science provides a safe environment for our students to learn with an emphasis on discipline and structure.

Q: Can interested parents discuss this proposal further with you?

RM:    Absolutely.  I welcome their input.  They can call me at my 26th Ward Office at 773.395.0143; visit me at Ward Nite any Monday, 3-6 p.m.; send me an email at Roberto.maldonado@yahoo.com; or visit me on Facebook.  Together, we can provide our children the best educational options for their future.

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Puerto Rican Community Celebrates Annual Three Kings Parade

Posted on 05 March 2013 by alejandro

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The Puerto Rican Community in Humboldt Park celebrated its 19th Annual Three Kings parade on Paseo Boricua (Division St). Thousands of parents and children braved the cold to participate in the first parade of the year in Chicago. Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) and his family were present as well as the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA). In a surprise visit Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel paid a visit to the parents and children lining up for the parade. The parade began at Roberto Clemente High School with various buses, trolleys, horse drawn carriage and other vehicles and marched along Division Street to the Humboldt Park Field House. LAMA was able to distribute thousands of toys that were donated by their members, as well as, Toys for Tots. The Parade was sponsored by the Division Street Business Development Association (DSBDA), the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago and COMCAST. The organizers of the Parade promise that next year the parade will be bigger and will have an even more festive and cultural atmosphere.

Eduardo Arocho

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IPRAC’s 4th Annual Navi-Jazz a Triumph!

Posted on 05 March 2013 by alejandro

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On Friday, December 7th over 450 people packed the auditorium at Roberto Clemente High School for the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture’s 4th Annual Navi-Jazz, which featured the Grammy award-winning Latin Jazz bassist, John Benitez, and his band. His electrifying performance mesmerized the crowd and received a standing ovation.  The highlight of the performance was a piece composed by John Benitez’s son, Francis Benitez (the group’s drummer) dedicated to the freedom of Oscar Lopez-Rivera, a Puerto Rican political prisoner who has served 31 years in jail.

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Ocasio, Chairman of Norwegian American Hospital Board of Trustees

Posted on 05 March 2013 by alejandro

Ocasio, Billy

Former 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio has been named Chairman of the Norwegian American Hospital Board of Trustees for the fiscal year of 2013. He brings with him a passion for the Humboldt Park community and a wealth of knowledge of the City of Chicago and State of Illinois. “As someone who was born at Norwegian American Hospital, this is truly an honor,” Chairman Billy Ocasio said. “While many changes have taken place in the last few decades, Norwegian American Hospital has remained a vital part of this community, with hundreds of residents employed by the hospital. Given the health disparities we have seen in the last few years, Norwegian American Hospital’s role is needed now, more than ever. I am committed to overseeing Norwegian American Hospital’s mission and how it is accomplished.” Ocasio is a lifelong resident of Humboldt Park, born to Antonio, a pipeline factory worker for over 40 years, and Gladys, a lunch lady for the Chicago Public School system. Ocasio attended Von Humboldt Elementary School and graduated from Roberto Clemente High School.

After graduation, Billy attended the University of Illinois at Urbana and received a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. He began his career in public service working at various nonprofit, community-based agencies in the fields of education, affordable housing, youth programs and economic development. In January 1993, he was appointed 26th Ward Alderman by Mayor Richard M. Daley to complete the unexpired term of Luis V. Gutierrez, who was elected to Congress that previous fall. During his standout tenure as 26th Ward Alderman, Ocasio was responsible for sizably increasing affordable housing and bringing “Little Wrigley Field” to Humboldt Park. Of his many accomplishments in education, Ocasio is proudest of the construction of Ames Middle School, at the time the first new middle school built in the city in over 30 years. The Ames School construction relieved overcrowding at four surrounding grammar schools. Ocasio became Senior Advisor to Governor Pat Quinn in 2009 and currently serves as the Director of Community Affairs for the Illinois Housing Development Authority and oversees foreclosure prevention activities on a program and community level through the newly created Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network.

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Vida/SIDA Celebrates World AIDS DAY

Posted on 05 March 2013 by alejandro

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The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day was “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” Started back in 1988 by the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day has a rich history in mobilizing the global community against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Coincidentally, a year earlier Vida/SIDA opened its doors to the community. Taking a proactive approach towards intervention, Vida/SIDA provides education, information, resources and testing services to those at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because of their novel approach and interconnected networks within the community, Vida/SIDA has now become the model for HIV/AIDS prevention centers across the nation, according to Jose Lopez, Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.  This year’s World AIDS Day commemoration started on November 30th with an event held at Antronio’s Bar and Grill in Berwyn, IL. The evening started off with a reception and was followed by outstanding performances by Gaby Badu, Rage DeMornay and Milani Ninja.

The performers then honored Miss Ketty, a longtime supporter of Vida/SIDA. Gustavo Varela, staff of Vida/SIDA, helped to organize all the wonderful performances and has been an instrumental part of the work done at Vida/SIDA. Angel Diaz, another staff member at Vida/SIDA, did an amazing job of decorating for the event. Vida/SIDA would like to thank Emmaus Ministries for their gracious donations and continued support of our work. We would also like to thank Antronio’s for allowing us to do testing at their facility on Saturdays and for their continued support of Vida/SIDA.  On December 1st, World AIDS Day commenced with a parranda (Puerto Rican Caroling) that started off at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC) and ended with a vigil at El Casita de Don Pedro. All the local businesses that participated in the parranda were treated to coquito, songs and a community filled with compassion and solidarity. As a follow up to all the World AIDS Day events, Queer Fest America held a benefit concert for El Rescate Transitional Home at The Mutiny, 2428 N. Western Ave. Saturday night. The night started off with a showcase highlighting David Bowie tribute band Stardust, The Cathy Santonies, The Recruitment and Ez Kabage. Attendees were encouraged to bring blankets and winter coats. Queer Fest America was founded by Lair Scott, a longtime advocate of the LGBTQ community. “It’s a demographic that’s in need, in dire need, especially in wintertime,” he said. “They have no place to go.” On behalf of all the residents and staff at El Rescate and Vida/SIDA, we would like to thank Lair Scott and Mutiny for their continued support. As Vida/SIDA continues to reassert its commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS, they encourage the local and global community to work together to strengthen the cause.

by Lourdes Lugo

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