Latino studies report examines two Chicago suburbs

by Dennis Brown

A report detailing the assets and needs of Latinos in the Chicago suburbs of Berwyn and Cicero will be presented at 10 a.m. Wednesday (April 24) at the Second Federal Savings and Loan, 4811 W. Cermak Ave., in Cicero.p. Titled “Bordering the Mainstream: A Needs Assessment of Latinos in Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois,” the report was prepared by the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame with funding from the MacNeal Health Foundation. The Egan Urban Center and the Center for Latino Research, both based at DePaul University, and the Interfaith Leadership Project assisted with the needs assessment.p. Known as the “First Suburb West,” Cicero borders the city of Chicago on its west side, and Berwyn is located immediately west of Cicero. The two towns are among Chicago’s oldest suburbs.p. The Latino population in the area has increased dramatically in the last decade. Data for the 2000 Census reveals that Latinos now make up 77 percent of the population of Cicero and 38 percent of Berwyn, increases of 166 percent and 475 percent, respectively, since 1990.p. “Bordering the Mainstream” is the first step in Notre Dame’s Berwyn-Cicero Latino Community Initiative, a program designed to identify the assets, challenges and needs of Latinos in Berwyn and Cicero, with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life in the area. The research team, led by Sylvia Puente, produced the report using historical and current data as well as information gathered through interviews with members of the communities and civic leaders.p. Puente believes the results of the study will be useful nationwide.p. “The Chicago area has the second largest Mexican immigrant population in the United States, and the Latino populations of Berwyn and Cicero are more than 80 percent Mexican immigrant,” she said. “By better understanding the Latino populations in Berwyn and Cicero, we can raise awareness of the needs and assets, as well as improve the lives, of Latinos throughout the nation.”p. Among the important assets of the area, the report found the communities have:p. ? Low unemployment and a strong work ethicp. ? A deep commitment to religionp. ? An important ally in the Catholic Churchp. ? Strong family support networksp. ? A variety of Latino organizationsp. ? Increasing numbers of Latino votersp. Among the challenges facing the communities, the report found the need for:p. p. ? Improvements in child care services and K-12 education, with an emphasis on language and immigration initiatives, dropout prevention, Latino and bilingual teachers, and parental involvement in the schoolsp. ? Expanded recreational opportunities and youth services to curtail gang activitiesp. ? More GED and English-as-a-second-language classes as well as greater access to higher education opportunities to help adults integrate into a new culturep. ? Improvements related to health care, including more bilingual and bicultural medical personnel, initiatives focusing on teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and services for disabled childrenp. ? More health education on diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, lead poisoning, asthma and tuberculosisp. ? Recognition of the cultural conflict between immigrant parents and their “Americanized” childrenp. Based upon their study of assets and needs, the report’s authors offered three principal recommendations for community leaders, public policymakers, social service providers, foundations and others interested in the communities:p. ? Improve the educational status of children and adultsp. ? Facilitate the development of leadership, public education, community organizing and advocacyp. ? Ensure that core social services are availablep. I The findings from the needs and assets report will be used by Notre Dame in its broader Berwyn-Cicero Latino Community Initiative to generate additional research, service learning projects and local leadership development in the communities.p. Founded in 1999, the Institute for Latino Studies is directed by Gilberto Cardenas, assistant provost for institutional relations and diversity and Julian Samora Professor of Latino Studies.

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