High school classrooms are transformed into ‘welcome center’ for migrant families in West Town, Humboldt Park

A new pilot program from Chicago Public Schools will provide additional support to newly arrived immigrant families while enrolling their children in classes.

SHARE High school classrooms are transformed into ‘welcome center’ for migrant families in West Town, Humboldt Park
Mayor Brandon Johnson on Monday announces the opening of a welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Mayor Brandon Johnson on Monday announces the opening of a welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Alex Wroblewski/For the Sun-Times

A pilot program will start Tuesday at Roberto Clemente Community Academy to help newly arrived immigrant families living near West Town and Humboldt Park enroll their children in neighborhood schools while also providing services like school supplies and vaccinations, city officials announced.

Families will be served at the school by appointment only, and referrals will be made by the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, community organizations or other city agencies, said Pedro Martinez, the chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools. Newly arrived families can also walk-in to their local school to enroll students, but the center at Clemente is designed to operate only via appointments.

Mayor Brandon Johnson shakes hands with a CPS employee at an event to announce the opening of a pilot Chicago Public Schools welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Chicago on Monday.

Mayor Brandon Johnson shakes hands with a CPS employee at an event to announce the opening of a pilot Chicago Public Schools welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Chicago on Monday.

Alex Wroblewski/For The Sun-Times

The high school, at 1147 N. Western Ave., is transforming four classrooms into a welcome center for the migrant families that will orient them to the district and provide them with information about health services from Erie Family Health Centers. Mayor Brandon Johnson and a team from City Hall toured the classrooms Monday morning ahead of the program’s launch.

Martha Valerio, a community coordinator at Roberto Clemente, said the staff has organized the center with “much love,” laying out small water bottles, snacks and school supplies.

“These are my families who come to seek that dream, and we are going to be a part of that dream,” Valerio said. “And as the team here in CPS, we want to make sure that we receive them with that warm welcome, we want to receive them with a smile.”

Martha Valerio, community coordinator at the school, speaks at a news event to announce the opening of a Chicago Public Schools welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Martha Valerio, community coordinator at the school, speaks at a news event to announce the opening of a Chicago Public Schools welcome center for newly arriving families at Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Alex Wroblewski/For the Sun-Times

Martinez, during a news conference, said the effort will cost the district about $250,000 from the general operating budget.

“I told the mayor, I could see this being a standard of how we should be supporting all families, frankly,” Martinez said. “Because we have so many families that have so many different needs, so depending on the success and lessons learned, the bigger plan will be taking those lessons and expanding them to other sites.”

The pilot comes nearly a year after the first bus arrived in Chicago from Texas, part of a political ploy to send immigrants to states and cities led by Democrats. Since then, city officials have scrambled to provide housing and other basic essentials to a population that has fluctuated.

La Voz Sidebar

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago, la sección bilingüe del Sun-Times.
la-voz-cover-photo-2.png

Earlier this month, immigrants were moved out of the Ogden district police station following allegations of sexual misconduct involving police officers.

As of Monday, there were 947 newly arrived immigrants still living at police stations awaiting a shelter bed, Johnson said. He said the city wants to move individuals staying at the police stations into shelters as soon as possible.

In addition, there are more than 5,200 people living at the city-run shelters. Officials say they are considering other locations for temporary housing. The city is holding a virtual meeting for 3 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the possibility of the Broadway Armory Park being used to temporarily house immigrants.

“I know the city of Chicago has become accustomed to the mayor’s office doing stuff to people,” Johnson said, adding that his administration plans to include more community input than past administrations. “We’re different. We build it with people. We’re going to get this right.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

The Latest
Lane baseball player Sebastian Wilson and several Morgan Park football players recently signed deals.
At least 10 tornadoes were reported in the Chicago area Monday night — including twisters near both airports.
The Supreme Court ruled that a key statute at play in Michael Madigan’s case criminalizes bribery among state and local officials, but not after-the-fact rewards known as “gratuities.” Citing the new ruling, Madigan’s lawyers argued that 14 of the indictment’s 23 counts must be dismissed.
Meanwhile, Downstate U.S. Rep. Mary Miller told Illinois delegates: “If just gun owners would come out and vote ... we could flip the state red.” And at a downtown Milwaukee news conference, Democrats slammed the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 as the Trump agenda for a second term.
The semi-truck left the roadway and went down an embankment, then overturned onto Kedzie Avenue, according to Illinois State Police.