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LCDC celebrates 20 years

Lawndale Christian Development Corporation celebrates its 20th anniversary of “Loving Our Neighborhood” tonight at DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E. 56th Place, 6 to 9 p.m.  Among those being honored are five young emerging leaders of the community.

Little Village Rallies for School Health Center

In the face of flagging public support for school-based health centers this year with budget crises for the state and county, community and business partners rallied to open a new health center at Little Village Lawndale High School.

The new center opened October 27 and has been very busy, said director Maria Sauerzapf. Parents toured the new clinic Monday during report card pickup day, and coaches bringing teams in for sports physicals note that what used to require a day off from school now takes only one class period, she said.

The health center provides primary care, pediatrics, and clinical counseling along with health education, and is open to students and community residents. A counselor has been able to help kids who were “close to being kicked out of school,” she said. “Before, when students were referred for [mental health] services, they had to send them way out of the community” and many didn’t make it, Sauerzapf said.

The closest public clinic is the Jorge Prieto Clinic operated by Cook County, about a mile away, but it often takes weeks to get an appointment there, she said, and the nearest site for STD testing is even further.

The Prieto clinic was proposed as sponsor of the school’s health center, before the clinic itself was threatened by county’s budget crisis. State assistance for the health center became unavailable when Governor Blagojevich vetoed funding for 20 new school centers.

The nonprofit community-based Alivio Medical Center stepped in as the sponsor, with major support from CITGO Petroleum Corp. as well as the school’s primary sponsor, the Little Village Community Development Corp.

The Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers plans to persist in efforts to restore state funding for new and expanded centers, said Blair Harvey, noting that local governments, school districts, health care providers and community groups in 50 communities have asked for school health centers.

“They know high school students are one of the most underserved groups, the least likely to visit a doctor’s office, and the most at-risk,” she said.

Manley Students Rehab Abandoned Home

Manley High School students who helped rehab a long-abandoned railroad flat around the corner from their school will celebrate their success on Wednesday, December 21, when a Manley graduate who has purchased the home will take possession.

It’s the second Lawndale home rehabbed by students from Manley and the Umoja Student Development Corporation, a nonprofit based at Manley which provides academic, college and career preparation, leadership programs to students at schools across the city.

Over 100 students from Manley’s construction technology small school surveyed the neighborhood for community input, worked on architectural drawings, and completed demolition, framing, plumbing and electrical work with professional architects and contractors, said Lila Leff of Umoja. The project took two years.

The homebuyer is Carmen Morrison, a post office worker who is a 1994 Manley graduate and mother of two. As she saved up toward her goal of buying a home in Lawndale, she watched housing prices skyrocket and her prospects diminish. The Manley rehab is affordable because architects and developers donated time, and Harris Bank helped with financing, Leff said.

Students will turn the house over to Morrison on December 21 at 3 p.m. (2848 West Taylor), and a celebration will recognize student participants at 4 p.m. at Manley High School, 2935 W. Polk.

Umoja works with every student at Manley, offering academic, college, career, and leadership programs during and after school as well as weekends and summers. Before the program began at Manley, 10 percent of its graduates went on the college. Now over 60 percent of Manley graduates attend colleges across the country, Leff said.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandmothers and grandfathers who are raising their grandchildren will be recognized at the second annual Grandparents Awards Day on August 25 sponsored by a West Side social service agency.

The number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is climbing due to increased stresses of inner city life including violence, drug addiction, and incarceration, according to Saundra Spaulding.

Herself a great-grandmother, Spaulding serves as Grandparent Advocate at Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, a family service referral agency in Austin and Lawndale, where she is working on establishing a support group for childrearing grandparents.

Sankofa is sponsoring an appreciation luncheon celebration recognizing caregiving grandparents on Wednesday, August 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at United Baptist Church, 4242 W. Roosevelt. The day will conclude with an award ceremony for grandparents, presented by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis.

Hearing Called on Blue Line Restoration

Under pressure from neighborhood groups in the Blue Line Transit Task Force as well as several aldermen, CTA president Frank Kreusi has agreed to testify at a hearing on restoring weekend and late-night service on the Cermak branch of the Blue Line.

Kreusi had refused numerous requests for meetings with the Task Force, said Jaime de Leon of Little Village Community Development Corporation, but he has agreed to testify at a hearing of the City Council’s transportation committee scheduled for July 19.

The Task Force has been working since 1998 to restore service on the Blue Line, the only transit line in the city without weekend service. A recent report by the Task Force found strong demand for restored services among riders. The study compared ridership on other CTA lines and other factors and concluded that Blue Line service cuts discriminate against low-income minority communities.

“There are people here who have to turn down jobs because they can’t get to them,” said Maurice Redd of the Lawndale Neighborhood Organization. With an average family income of $18,000 and a 50 percent poverty rate, there are a lot of one-car and no-car households. “The census showed 15 percent of our community works third shift,” said Redd. “In parts of the community, after 12 or 1 there’s no way to get around at all.”

Many Little Village residents work in the hospitality industry downtown or around O’Hare, said de Leon. Students attend high schools and colleges downtown. And there’s no way to get to city events downtown, which are funded by residents’ taxes, he said.

CTA officials have said they won’t consider restoring service until reconstruction is completed in January. Task Force members say reconstruction is ahead of schedule and may be complete by October — and that what work remains is comparable to the scope of the Brown Line reconstruction, which is being carried out without service disruptions. “We need more accountability,” said Redd, welcoming the City Council’s intervention.

The Task Force had hoped to restore service by this summer. “Every day it continues, people are denied access to jobs, people can’t get to festivals,” said Alejandra Ibanez of the Pilsen Alliance.

CIRCLE LINE

While Task Force members focus on restoring “24-7″ service, other community groups are worried that if service is restored, it will be rerouted into phase one of a new Circle Line.

The CTA is finishing up a $33 million project refurbishing an old section of elevated tracks and running test trains, while working on a plan to divert the Blue Line’s Cermak branch trains at Polk and Paulina up to the Green Line before routing them downtown, said Jacqueline Leavy of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.

It’s described as phase one of a Circle Line which would link gentrifying neighborhoods around the Loop with the downtown, and which would ultimately cost billions of dollars. “And nobody has asked for it, and there’s been no discussion of it,” Leavy said. She points out that the CTA would be building a new system in areas already well served by public transportation, while “huge swatches of the city are underserved by rapid transit.”

“It means the Red Line won’t be extended to 130th, the extension of the Orange Line to Ford City will get no priority, and the South East Side will continue to have no access to rapid transit,” said Leavy. And it means the long-standing proposal for a Mid-City Transit Way, linking O’Hare and Midway as well as existing CTA and Metra lines, will languish.

“We’re very comfortable with the way [the Cermak branch] is set up, with direct access to downtown,” said Jo Ann Bradley of the Community Action Group of North Lawndale. “We don’t see a benefit to the circle line.”

Bradley scores CTA for lack of transparency. “They say they haven’t decided [on the Circle Line] but they’ve already spent millions of dollars on it.”

“They make their plans in secret and come out and hold what I call puppet hearings and slant everything to make it look like people want what they’ve already planned,” said Bradley. “Nobody out here is asking for the Blue Line to be rerouted up to some Circle Line,” she said.

Noting that as now configured, the Cermak branch connects the major Latino communities in the city, Miguel Turnil of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization said, “They are not doing this to benefit the community.” LVEJO is collecting signatures on petitions and postcards saying “24-7 and no reroute,” Turnil said.

West Side LSC Group Promotes Parent Involvement

An estimated $1 million in new federal funds earmarked for schools to promote parent involvement went unspent last year because LSCs didn’t know the money was available. In North Lawndale a new neighborhood network of LSC members help spread the word, and a dozen schools were able to hold onto about $36,000 for programs to bring parents into schools.

The North Lawndale LSC Federation (NLSCF) brings together council members from 14 schools to help each other by filling information and training gaps and discussing common problems and solutions. It’s goal is to empower LSC members, says founder Derrick Harris. Similar networks are getting off the ground in Austin and Bronzeville.

Promoting parent involvement is the theme of the NLSCF’s third quarterly meeting next week, with scores of LSC members expected to attend. CPS chief education officer Barbara Eason-Watkins will speak on parent involvement and student achievement, and workshops will address funding and programming for parent programs, as well as best practices at one participating school. The meeting is Tuesday, September 16, dinner at 6:30 p.m. and program at 7:30, at Dvorak Academy, 3615 W. 16th Street.



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