3 Questions With…Paula Gean

Chicago has given sanctuary to over 8,000 migrants since August 2022. Hundreds of people, including many young children, have had to find temporary shelter across the city, putting tremendous strain on resources and communities.

A scheduled vote Wednesday to spend $51 million from the Chicago’s 2021 budget surplus to help care for migrants was blocked by the City Council. It’s estimated that $112 million will be spent by the city to care for the new arrivals through the end of June.

Some Northwest Side residents were upset at plans to house up to 400 asylum-seekers at a temporary shelter at Wilbur Wright College. They’re the latest community to argue that resources being considered for migrants should be used to tackle local issues, like homelessness. 

Still, there are volunteers and community organizations stepping up to support migrants as Chicago sees an increase of the newcomers coming into the city. Paula Gean, founder of Chicago4All, is one of them.

She spoke with with Hugo Balta, publisher of Illinois Latino News on the podcast, “3 Questions With…â€� about galvanizing community organizations to produce events aimed at helping immigrants, like herself – who she says want to give more than what they are being given.

Immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. In addition to ensuring that essential services continue to be provided across the country, no better proof of that than at the height of the COVID pandemic – undocumented immigrants are also consumers whose spending power uplifts our national and local economies.

Indeed, according to some estimates, undocumented immigrants and their households pay nearly 80 billion dollars in federal taxes and more than 40 billion dollars in state and local taxes annually. Moreover, despite being ineligible for social safety net programs, like social security, undocumented workers continue to pay into them. 

If it were not for Latinos, the population, labor force, number of households, and number of homeowners in the Chicago Metro Area, all would have declined from 2010 to 2018, according to a report published by UCLA Health. Strong contributions by Latinos overcame the declines among Non-Latinos and turned all of these economic variables positive Metro-wide.

SUGGESTION: “The Perilous Journey To The American Dreamâ€�

“3 Questions With…� is co-produced by the Latino News Network (LNN), an independent, multimedia digital news outlet with local newsrooms in the Northeast and Midwest, including IL Latino News  and CAN TV, Chicago’s hub for community centric news, hyperlocal stories and educational resources.

The post 3 Questions With…Paula Gean appeared first on ILLN.

A Danbury charter school, approved but unfunded, causes tensions

Several years ago, Barbara Luna Merchan, who’s now 13, learned about a charter school that would open in Danbury. She begged her mom to enroll her when she was entering middle school.

She thought it would be an opportunity to finally feel safe at school away from bullying. She thought a smaller class size would change feeling invisible in the classroom. She thought a charter school would be a better space to keep learning English. 

But Barbara Luna hasn’t had the chance to find out if the charter school would have been a better fit for her. Five years after it was approved by state officials, the Danbury charter school has yet to open. 

“I want to try a different school that’s going to be better than the one I am at,â€� Barbara Luna told the CT Mirror. “I want to go [to a new school] that is the opposite of the one I go to now.â€� 

The Danbury charter school has been caught in the middle of emotionally charged debates about whether it’s a good option for struggling students, particularly students of color, who make up about 94% of the children who attend charter schools in Connecticut and may need a more individualized approach to learning.

The issue is playing out across the state and the nation.

Weeks ago, a charter school in Middletown approved by the state Board of Education garnered hours of emotional debate among state board and community members about whether it would be a better option for students who said they’ve struggled with racial tensions at public schools. 

Across the United States, charter school enrollment has more than doubled between 2009 and 2019, especially in states like California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Michigan — five states that had the most charter schools in the country between 2020 and 2021. In Detroit, between 1995 and 2015, over 100 charter schools opened despite nearly 200 traditional public schools shutting down, according to reporting by VICE News.

Charter school advocates argue that the schools offer parents and students a choice and have unique characteristics that allow them to run independently from their home districts, providing more room for innovation in their curriculum and teaching styles.

Opponents counter that charter schools, in a sense, privatize public education as they strip away investments into local districts and offer only a select number of students the opportunity to potentially thrive in another school while others, who may be stuck on a wait list, are left without resources. 

What makes Danbury unique in Connecticut is the intensity of the debate between the charter school’s opponents and supporters, as local organizations, teacher unions, state legislators and parents remain deadlocked over the best options for educating their children. The lack of compromise has contributed to the delay in the school’s opening since its approval over five years ago. 

Most recently, of four approved charter schools in Connecticut, Danbury’s was the only one left out of the state budget endorsed by the Appropriations Committee this session, although a final budget is still in negotiations.

In Connecticut, which is home to 21 charter schools, no charter school has opened since 2015 after legislation changed the way the schools are approved — adding a larger role for legislators in the process. Connecticut is the only state in the country that requires legislative approval in the creation of charter schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

But a new bill that passed out of two legislative committees this session might give future charter schools a chance to avoid being stuck in the same situation by removing the extra step in the approval process.

A different reality

The Merchans are one of what may be thousands of families across the state that have asked for school choice after struggling with language barriers, lack of support or an inability to succeed in the traditional public school system. 

The family’s transition to the United States from Ecuador five years ago wasn’t easy. 

They first settled in New York City, but moved to Danbury after learning about its diversity and wealthy neighboring towns. Barbara Luna’s mother, Evelyn, was also excited that her eldest daughter would be enrolled in what she heard was one of the country’s best education systems. She thought it would set her up for success to chase her dream of being a pediatrician one day. 

“But the reality was something else,� said Merchan, who only speaks Spanish. Her expectations changed the first day she dropped her daughter off at school and learned her new classroom had what she estimated to be 30 to 35 children.

“I asked myself ‘How did they give this one teacher all of these students?’â€� Merchan said. “I started to realize the reality was different than my expectations and the things I had heard. It was hard for me to swallow.â€� 

For months, Barbara Luna came home from school saying she felt invisible, like the teacher didn’t even know she was in the class. 

“She told me ‘Mom, the teacher only focuses on the students who know English,’� Merchan said. “She was so sad. She didn’t even want to go to school anymore, but I told her no, that she had to go and she had to learn, but she felt they discriminated against her because she couldn’t speak English.�

Barbara Luna, 13, watches TV after school. Barbara said she has homework to do only once or twice a week, different from having assignments almost every day back in Ecuador. YEHYUN KIM / CT MIRROR

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the feelings of isolation. Barbara Luna would sit at her computer and cry every day after Broadview Middle School transitioned to remote learning in early 2020. 

Her normal seven-hour school day stretched several hours longer as she had to translate her recorded video lectures line-by-line to understand her lessons and homework. 

“My teacher wasn’t really my teacher,� Barbara Luna said. “My teacher was Google Translate.�

Merchan would try to help her daughter with her schoolwork, then excuse herself to go to the bathroom and cry. 

“I’d be cooking and I’d hear, ‘Mommy, I don’t understand this,’ and I felt hopeless because I don’t know English,� Merchan said. “I had the chance to learn it in my country, but I never took it seriously because I didn’t think I would need it. I never thought I would move to the United States. So I [would tell] my daughter she needs to do this. She needs to learn. I would see her eyes red [from crying] and it would make me frustrated that I couldn’t help her.�

For months, the family persevered. Barbara Luna developed her English skills, but her mother says it was because of her daughter’s efforts, not through school support.

When classes returned to in-person learning, new challenges arose. 

Barbara Luna says she goes to school in fear most days.

“If you go into the bathroom, you see the girls smoking. You can’t go to the bathroom or relax or nothing like that. In the hallways, every time, you see people fight,� Barbara Luna said. “In the boys bathroom, they fight. It’s just a little weird because every time you go to school, you see things like that, and it’s bad.�

Nearly 160 children, or 14.2% of the students who attend Barbara Luna’s school have been suspended this academic year, according to state data. The figure is more than double the state average which sits at 6.5%. Last year, Broadview Middle School reported nearly 300 “incidents,â€� including 80 reports of fighting and battery and 32 verbal or physical confrontations

School officials, including the school’s principal and the district’s superintendent, did not respond to requests for comment. 

A cry for additional resources

Crowded hallways are a familiar sight at many schools in Danbury. The school district is home to over 12,100 students. Barbara Luna’s middle school educated 1,065 students last year, a 4% increase from its enrollment in 2020. 

Between 2010 through 2020, Danbury’s population grew by 7%, trailing just behind Stamford and Norwalk for the largest number of people moving into a Connecticut city. 

The city is limited to just one public high school, which educates nearly 3,600 students, and is the biggest high school in the state. The proposed charter school would serve students in grades six through 12.

In the last 10 years, Danbury High School’s total population increased by nearly 25%, or 712 students, including a rapid rise in the number of Latino students from about 36% of the total student body in 2013 to 59% this year. 

At the high school, the number of English language learners nearly tripled this decade from 384 students to 917, according to data from the state. 

Residents have argued there needs to be a solution to ease the city’s growing pains as its influx of Latino immigrants continues to rise. 

But what that solution entails, especially for high school students, has been heavily debated.

The proposed charter school, which would be located in Danbury’s downtown area and teach up to nearly 800 students, received its initial approval in 2018 from the Connecticut Board of Education.

To date, the school remains unbuilt. 

Prior to 2015, a charter school could begin recruiting students and building its campus as soon as it received approval from the state Board of Education. That year, however, a bill changed the process into a two-tier approval system, where the state Board of Education grants “initialâ€� approval and then funding is approved by lawmakers. The state Department of Education said the change helped make the charter process more transparent.

“That second tier frankly kind of always existed to the extent that when the State Board approved the charter school — it received its full charter — but that didn’t mean that there was funding in place,â€� said Kathleen Demsey, the Department of Education’s chief financial officer. “The legislature at the time felt an enormous amount of pressure to fund the school, because the schools — once they got their charter — they would begin recruiting students, they had families who were engaged and wanting to go. … So the legislature decided to create this two step process to make it clear that the state board’s approval was an educational approval, and that the actual funding approval, the appropriation of funds, happened by the legislature.â€�

Still, since the 2015 legislation, no charter school has been built in the state. The Danbury school, and another in Norwalk, have been waiting for funding for over five years. 

Charter school proposals have to undergo an extensive process before approval, including an analysis of the school’s curriculum, model and community need. There also must be public hearings to determine if there’s a demand and local support from constituents. Applications often take more than a year to be considered.

The 700-page application for the Danbury charter school was submitted in August 2017 and proposed an International Baccalaureate program, which focuses on preparing students for college. The application said the school would open with a sixth grade class of 110 students, and every year add a new class, eventually reaching a total of up to 770 students.

More than 170 people attended a public hearing for the school in March 2018, with 27 out of 37 residents who spoke in favor of the school.​​ The application also had dozens of letters of support from local families, children, the city’s former mayor and several local representatives.

María Matos, the executive director for Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, advocates building a charter school in Danbury. Her daughter graduated from the Danbury High School, and Matos said she understands how harsh the educational environment is, especially for students who don’t speak fluent English. YEHYUN KIM / CT MIRROR

Written opposition mainly came from surrounding town’s superintendents who were concerned about funding.

“Bethel, like most Connecticut communities, has yet to receive our ECS allocation,â€� wrote Christine Carver of Bethel Public Schools in 2018. “While we understand that Charter School Programs are a separate fund, we believe that full funding of Connecticut’s 500,000 student public schools should be the state’s first priority.â€�

Leaders of the Region 9 district, which includes Easton and Redding, and the New Fairfield public schools also sent in letters. 

Recently, the Department of Education acknowledged the state’s difficulty to fully fund its public schools and said it’s a “huge conversation” still being had between state leaders.

“There are bills in the legislature to accelerate full funding of the education cost sharing formula, but … the lens from which we direct resources is with the thought that the vast majority of funding goes to the highest need districts,� Demsey said. “The education cost sharing formula is not based on the cost of educating a child, and I think people forget the education cost sharing formula is designed to even the playing field to raise revenue at the local level to pay for education. And based on that, it does do that. Now can we argue should there be more money put into it? Yes, but the formula itself is a municipal tax aid. It is designed to even the playing fields.�

Alongside the letters from the neighboring districts’ superintendents, former Danbury Public Schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella did not provide direct comment on the charter school, but rather used his letter to ask questions about the school, including whether it came with no cost to the district, where it would be located, and if it was possible to require the school to proportionally represent the district’s large number of English learners. 

Funding concerns

Despite its initial approval five years ago, the charter school in Danbury remains at the center of an emotionally charged debate. Advocates have spent this session heavily pushing lawmakers to fund the school and secure its spot in the governor’s budget, while opponents have fought for a second traditional public high school to be built. 

The group Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, also known as LEAD, is one of the major proponents of the charter school. The group gathered hundreds of residents to testify in favor of the Danbury school at several public hearings this session.

The organization’s CEO, Jose Lucas Pimentel, moved to Danbury in the fifth grade and has lived in the area for more than 35 years. After going through the public school system, he shared similar sentiments as the Merchans, saying he felt unsupported. 

“[The high school] was a place that had just so many holes,â€� said Pimentel, who later taught in a Bridgeport charter school. “I was a guy that needed a smaller environment, that needed support, that needed caring people to say, ‘Hey, you’re pretty smart,’ but really, it was like I was just another number.â€�

Jose Lucas Pimentel, the CEO of the organization Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, poses outside its building in downtown Danbury. The location, at 358 Main Street, would become the home to the Danbury Charter School if its approved by the legislature. MARIA MATOS / LEAD

Although some opponents understand the appeal of a smaller school, many argue that it’s not a fair system because it will only serve a small number of students and leave others behind. 

“We should invest in finding good solutions for the whole student population, as opposed to a charter school solution which would really only address a very small percentage of the student population,â€� said Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury. “We have worked on that for a number of years and we are making significant progress. We had a bond referendum in June that was approved by the people of Danbury to build a new school, grade six through 12, and it will have room for 1,400 students, which is more than twice as big as the charter school proposal.â€�

About $164 million of a $208 million bond referendum will go toward renovating a building to house the Career Academy â€” the school Kushner mentioned — which will host “24 pathwaysâ€� for students, including opportunities in Emerging Technologies & Entrepreneurship, Scientific Innovation & Medicine, Information & Cybersecurity, Professional & Public Service, Art, Engineering & Design and Communication & Design, according to a presentation from Danbury Public Schools

The school is expected to enroll 1,400 students through a lottery system. Once enrolled, a student’s first year will be centered on career exploration, followed by essential courses then two years of specialized courses toward certification. The Career Academy was supposed to open in 2024, but is expected to be delayed by a year

But advocates argue a charter school isn’t an “either or� option with the second high school, but an “and� option. They say the charter school won’t be a solution to all overcrowding concerns or displeasure with the traditional public school system, but opens up another choice for parents and students.

“Our school is unique in that it provides the option of an International Baccalaureate Program, which is probably the opposite of what the Career Academies would provide. [The] Career Academies is geared towards school-to-career and the IB program is geared very intentionally towards preparing kids for the rigors associated with college,â€�  said John Taylor, who served as the executive director of Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven and was later named the CEO of Elevate Charter Schools, which will manage the charter school in Danbury. “You’re giving parents a different option. The Career Academy is not any direct competition.â€�

The Department of Education added that choice schools, which includes charters, magnet and vocational schools, educate over 70,000 students, which “is not a small number of students that are served by these programs.” 

The department also said that charter schools also often work hand in hand with their district to share what’s working best for students. 

“We regularly highlight best practices, regardless of which type of public school you’re attending,â€� Demsey said. “So if it’s your local school district operated, or if that’s a magnet school, if it’s a charter school, if it’s the technical or vocational, … one of the things the department firmly believes is that we take where we find success, and we share that because I think everybody benefits from that regardless of what type of school they call themselves.â€�

Opponents further argue that a charter school would strip Danbury’s already struggling school system of needed financial resources.

“We are on a fiscal cliff. Our schools are overcrowded, understaffed and under-resourced. The additional costs the district would have to absorb in a charter school, or to open, would push our district and students right over that cliff and have devastating consequences for our schools,â€� Matthew Sweeney, a Danbury parent and school counselor, said at a state Board of Education meeting in April. “As it stands, we don’t have enough money to adequately staff and support the schools we already have. … There’s no way we can sustain the associated costs of a charter school, not to mention the loss of ECS funding … per student who enrolls in the proposed charter school.â€�

Sweeney noted the school district would have to absorb the costs of transportation and special education for charter school students, which would lead to a loss of millions of dollars throughout the years.

However, Demsey said that impression is wrong. 

Connecticut charter schools are funded separately from traditional public schools, and although a public school district does have those responsibilities that Sweeney mentioned, it’s “not as simple as it sounds.�

Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, works in the hallway at the State Capitol. Kushner favors investments in public schools. (file photo) YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG

“Would Danbury not receive some revenue because those students attended the charter school? Yes, but by the same token, they are not incurring costs related to educating those students,â€� Demsey said. “I think in the end, you’re probably looking at something that’s almost cost neutral, because of the fact that if the children don’t go [to the charter], well, then [the home district has] to educate the children. And if there’s enough [students], now you start talking about needing additional classroom space, needing additional teachers. It sounds really easy to say, ‘Oh, we’re missing all that revenue,’ but the truth is that there would be a cost to the district if they were being educated in the district. That’s the other side of it that I think people don’t realize.â€�

The traditional public school district would fundamentally lose state funding, or ECS money, from the student who transferred because “the state would instead pay a per pupil grant to the charter school educating the student,” the Department of Education said.

“If a child enrolls in a charter school they would no longer count as a resident student in the home district’s Education Cost Sharing grant calculation,” said Eric Scoville, the department’s director of communications. “This is the same as students attending the CT Technical Education and Career System,â€� which are also known as vocational schools. 

Legislation change could open doors for charters 

Danbury is not alone in being caught in the middle of this debate. 

Earlier this year, the state Board of Education granted approval to two additional charter schools: one in Middletown and another in New Haven.

The approval of Capital Preparatory Middletown Charter School garnered hours of debate at the March board meeting. Parents in attendance, mostly people of color, overwhelmingly favored the charter school. Yet, the Department of Education initially recommended the Board of Education defer its decision after receiving an influx of letters in opposition to the school the night before the meeting. The board overruled the department’s recommendation and granted the school its initial approval.

Four charter schools now wait in the pipeline for funding. All of them, except Danbury, were written into the Appropriations Committee version of the state budget earlier this month.

As currently written in the state budget, which passed out of the Appropriations Committee with a 40-12 vote, the Norwalk, Middletown and New Haven charter schools would be given $200,000 each next year, then in 2025, Norwalk would be given $2.1 million, Middletown $4.75 million and New Haven $937,500.

The budget, which is still being negotiated, prompted Rep. Rachel Chaleski, R-Danbury, to request a “surpriseâ€� amendment to add her city’s missing school before the committee voted to approve the budget. Chaleski’s amendment triggered a 90 minute recess, followed by an hour of testimony from two dozen state representatives who overwhelmingly voiced their support for the school, but were split between voting in favor of the amendment or voting with their party. 

The amendment ultimately failed 33-20, but the Danbury charter school could still be written into the budget as lawmakers expect there to be a few more weeks of negotiations before a final budget is approved.

In the meantime, Senate Bill 1096, proposed this session by Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, makes an effort to clear the path for the creation of Connecticut charter schools and dial back on the 2015 law that required the two-step approval.

McCrory’s bill would return to a one-tier approval process and also start a separate state grant account “for the purposes of providing the initial funding for a local or state charter school that has been granted a new charter,â€� according to its language.

The bill had state representatives split along party lines before it passed 30-13 out of the Education Committee. It was then approved by the Appropriations Committee.

“These communities … who are underserved, marginalized, underrepresented and under-resourced … these [communities are] largely Black and brown children and families, and they’re poor, and they want another option,� McCrory said at the Education Committee’s March 24 meeting. “It’s time for us in this state to give our parents a choice and give these children a chance.�

Publisher’s Note: A Danbury charter school, approved but unfunded, causes tensions is an original story by the CT Mirror. CT Latino News partners with the CT Mirror in best serving the diverse Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.

3 Questions With…Cristina Pacione-Zayas

CHICAGO – Days after being elected mayor of Chicago in the April runoff election against Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson named state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas as his first deputy chief of staff.

Pacione-Zayas, widely recognized for her career-long efforts to promote educational equity, sat down with Hugo Balta, publisher of Illinois Latino News on the podcast, “3 Questions With…”. “I think one of the advantages that we have is that Mayor Johnson is a former education,” Pacione-Zayas said. “What that will translate into is having some significant advocacy efforts around funding for our schools; ensuring more equitable distribution of resources.”

The incoming Deputy also shared her accomplishments in Springfield, as a state senator. Among them, her advocacy created the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity, which provides financial and wrap-around support for members of the incumbent early childhood workforce while earning degrees and credentials to improve the quality of early childhood services and programs. She led the Too Young to Test Act, which dismantles harmful testing procedures for young students in the state. Sen. Pacione-Zayas established the floor for economic eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program to ensure that budgets are not balanced on the backs of families with limited economic resources.

Still, despite the large body of work during her tenure as state senator, Pacione-Zayas admits there is still more (work) left to be done because of institutions not “designed to have folks with my lived experiences, and other lived experiences, particularly people of color, people who grew up with limited economic resources to be at those decision making tables to really make government more humane, more of a system of care, and more people centered.”

The only child of two community organizers, Pacione-Zayas grew up in public housing on Chicago’s northwest side. Experience that helped shape her life’s work. “Community is family; we show up for each other,” she said when sharing how her parents work, including ensuring that families had their basic needs met, instilled in her a sense of social responsibility.

“3 Questions With…” is co-produced by the Latino News Network (LNN), an independent, multimedia digital news outlet with local newsrooms in the Northeast and Midwest, including IL Latino News  and CAN TV, Chicago’s hub for community centric news, hyperlocal stories and educational resources.

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Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness; $42 Billion Approved

$42 billion in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) has been approved since October 2021, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Education this week. The announcement states that 7,000 borrowers had been approved under the previous administration, with the amount reaching over 615,000 approved under the Biden-Harris administration.

“The difference that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is making in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans reminds us why we must continue doing everything we can to fight for borrowers and why families cannot afford to have progress derailed by partisan politicians,� said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

PSLF is a program designed to forgive public service workers including teachers, nurses and other government employees from their student loan debt after 10 years of service. Full-time employees of agencies or non-profits who have Direct Loans and have made at least 120 payments may be eligible to apply.

The program was criticized in 2018 for denying 99 percent of applicants. President Biden brought changes to PSLF including a one-time waiver from October 2021 to October 2022 that expanded eligibility for borrowers, making it easier to receive forgiveness. 

“Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has worked relentlessly to fix a broken student loan system, including by making sure we fulfill the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness for those who have spent a decade or more serving our communities and our country,� said Cardona.

PSLF is separate from the blocked Student Debt Relief Plan that includes loan forgiveness for up to $20,000 per eligible borrower. With 23 percent of Latinos taking out loans under $10,000, and 26 percent receiving loans between $10,000 and $50,000 this could potentially forgive almost half of Latino student loan debt

A poll published by Newsweek revealed that 62 percent of Americans surveyed support Biden’s plan for student loan forgiveness. Of the 1,500 sample size, those between the ages of 25 to 34 were most favorable, with 82 percent in support. 

The average amount of student loan debt for Wisconsin borrowers is $31,894, with almost 58% under the age of 35, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Student loan payments have been paused due to ongoing litigation and will potentially go back into effect 60 days after June 30, if the litigation is not resolved by then. 

To find out if you’re eligible for PSLF, use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool available on the Federal Student Aid website.

The post Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness; $42 Billion Approved appeared first on WILN.

LNN Spotlight: NH Family Caregivers

LNN Spotlight focuses on major issues important to local Hispanic/Latino and underrepresented communities — stay updated on the monthly series by following us on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Radio Public.

On this episode of LNN Spotlight, Writer/Editor Belén Dumont speaks with AARP New Hampshire State Director Christina FitzPatrick on the invisible work of family caregivers and the types of resources available to them.  

The total amount of unpaid care New Hampshire residents provided for their loved ones in 2021 carried a value of $2.8 billion, an increase of $500 million since 2019, according to an AARP report released in March

Currently, more than half of Millennial family caregivers identify as people of color, while an increasing 27 percent identify as Latino, according to the U.S. Census. Further research shows that about 75 percent of Latino caregivers are women and are likely to be in their early to mid-40s. 

As a variety of federal and state-level initiatives look to address the growing financial and emotional stress New Hampshire caregivers are experiencing, community organizations are calling for culturally-informed policies that look at the specific needs and experiences of different communities. 

“There’s a real cultural component to how people perceive this role as caregiver,� FitzPatrick said. “So, I’m looking at it and thinking about how difficult it is and it is difficult. But in the Latino community, in particular, there is more of a sense that this is a duty and something that people want to live up to rather than seeing it as a burden or something that they have to do.�

In the interview, Dumont also shared her experiences as a bicultural Latina who watched her family care for all four of her grandparents at home. Listen to learn why she sees “pride� in the family caregiver role. 

The COVID pandemic continues to impact family caregivers as it has “disrupted the work patterns and the apparatus that family caregivers had created to help them maintain a balance in their lives,â€� FitzPatrick explained. 

It’s common for family caregivers to work full-time or continue their education while caring for a loved one. Many of these individuals learn to single-handedly juggle multiple schedules and responsibilities at a time, creating a delicate system around them.

FitzPatrick pointed out that “…Hispanic caregivers are more likely than others to be working full-time and they’re more likely than others to be caring both for their own children and for an older relative at the same time.â€� 

According to FitzPatrick, organizations that work with family caregivers are more likely to meet the needs of their clients and understand their perspectives when their staffs are increasingly diverse.

“It’s diversity in all its forms,� she said. “There are differences between people who live in rural areas than people who live in urban areas, people who have kids living at home and people who don’t, people who don’t speak English and people who do.�

FitzPatrick added that all employers can greatly support their employees by providing them with some flexibility so they can better balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.

“It really helps out the worker and the worker’s family and also really helps people to feel more loyal to their employers and in the long run that means you’re reducing turnover,� she said.

Learn more by listening to the full conversation and checking out the March 2023 report at www.aarp.org/

Publisher’s Note: AARP New Hampshire and New Hampshire Latino News are partners in providing greater visibility and voice to local Hispanic-Latino communities. 

Latino News Network & CAN-TV Present: 3 Questions With…

CHICAGO – The Latino News Network (LNN), an independent, multimedia digital news outlet with local newsrooms in the Northeast and Midwest, including IL Latino News proudly announced its new partnership with CAN TV, Chicago’s hub for community centric news, hyperlocal stories and educational resources.

In the collaboration, CAN TV is supporting the production of “3 Questions With…” (3QW), a public affairs program that focuses on the social determinants of health and democracy. 

Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, and board member of Illinois Unidos was the first guest of the joint venture.

Hosted by Hugo Balta, publisher of LNN, the weekly show will feature thoughtful conversations with community leaders working to solve the most pressing social issues in their spaces. Balta, a veteran journalist whose past experiences include being the executive editor of The Chicago Reporter, news director of WTTW News and editor at WBBM News Radio, is also the twice president and a Hall of Fame member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

“When we began speaking with CAN TV about 3QW, we knew we wanted to go beyond a look into social issues, ” said Balta. The program is built on a foundation of solutions, said Balta, which he believes is essential to overcoming societal pressures and divides and instead creating a more equitable and sustainable world. “Today, we need community voices and leaders elevated and amplified, and this partnership will perfectly align with that mission.”

“This partnership is a key step in redefining the importance of thoughtful, community-centric journalism,” said Darrious Hilmon, executive director of CAN TV. “We’re thrilled to provide Chicagoans with another way to access LNN’s incredible reporting, and look forward to expanding the partnership in the months to come, shining a spotlight on the stories that matter most.”

3QW will air weekly on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. CST, and will also be available on streaming services, including Roku, Fire TV Stick and iOS and Android devices. The program will also be available in podcast form. The first show will air on May 10 and feature Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director for Chicago’s Department of Public Health.

This announcement is the latest in CAN TV’s continued push to amplify the voices of local reporting and community leaders. As it enters its 40th year, the community television network is launching a new spring lineup of signature programming that will continue to connect Chicagoans to hyperlocal stories and the people who make Chicago such a great place to live, work and play. To stay up to date with new releases and announcements, and for more information on CAN TV, visit www.cantv.org.     


For four decades, CAN TV has unlocked the voices of Chicagoans with community access news, hyperlocal stories and journalistic education and resources. Through signature and public programming, alongside educational opportunities that build media literacy, skill and independence, CAN TV takes community access to the next level, supporting local Chicagoans to hear and tell the stories that matter most. CAN TV’s programming can be viewed on its five local cable channels (CAN TV 19, 21, 27, 36 and 42) or on streaming platforms including Roku, Fire TV Stick and iOS and Android devices. For more information on the organization and upcoming initiatives, events and programming specials, visit www.cantv.org.


The Latino News Network (LNN) was founded in 2012, responding to the gap in news coverage of the Hispanic-Latino community. The LNN launched with CTLatinoNews.com, the first English language news and information outlet dedicated to the community in Connecticut.

In 2019, under Hugo Balta’s leadership, the network expanded its statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus to include independent news outlets in MassachusettsRhode IslandNew HampshireIllinois, and Wisconsin.

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The Latino Policy Institute Looks To Expand Efforts Nationally

The Latino Policy Institute (LPI) at Roger Williams University is set to transition to an independent research and advocacy organization starting July 1, leaving the Bristol-based university after 17 years of operation. 

The institute announced its departure on April 24 as the organization looks to expand its education, research, and advocacy work on a national level. 

“LPI has shaped public policy discourse by objectively researching and communicating the evolving Latino experience in Rhode Island for the past 17 years,â€� the institute shared in a press release. “With the move towards independence, LPI is excited to explore new opportunities for impact and continue its critical work toward greater social, political, and economic equity for the country’s growing Latino community.â€�  

The organization plans to offer additional consulting, reporting, and advising projects that amplify and support the needs of diverse Latino communities across the country.

“During its partnership with Roger Williams University, LPI has been instrumental in shaping policy decisions related to important issues such as health disparities, driving privileges for undocumented immigrants, and housing for Latinos in Rhode Island,� shared LPI Executive Director Marcela Betancur. “As LPI sets its sights on national impact, it is excited to continue collaborating with Roger Williams University and other higher education institutions on research and projects that serve the Latino community.�

Founded in 2005, the institute moved to RWU’s Providence campus in 2009. LPI’s new offices will be in the Olneyville neighborhood, according to Betancur.

“Roger Williams University is proud to have been a partner of the Latino Policy Institute, which has made a tremendous impact through its work and continues to serve as the leading voice of education and advocacy on the most important issues facing Latinos in Rhode Island,� commented RWU President Ioannis N. Miaoulis. “While LPI is ready to start moving in new and independent ways, we still look forward to continuing to partner with them on research and projects that serve Rhode Island and the Latino community.� 

Midtown Athletic Club fires over 30 employees after workers speak out about poor working conditions, employees fight for their jobs back

Since September, housekeepers at Bucktown’s Midtown Athletic Club have been advocating for better working conditions. They claim they were understaffed, overworked, and operating in dangerous conditions, resulting in injuries for some. However, their pleas went unanswered after the luxury fitness center and hotel abruptly fired them on April 13. 

Vanessa Vasquez (right) stands with ex-staffer during a press conference on April 20, 2023. (Photo by Brenda Ordoñez)

Ex-staffer Vanessa Vasquez, 30, says she feels humiliated and useless. Vasquez worked at Midtown Athletic Club for two years and says that she was shocked when she learned she was fired through an email.

According to the email, Midtown decided to “expedite the previously-communicated transition to a third party housekeeping team� meaning workers’ positions were terminated effective immediately.

This email followed another sent on March 23 in which the club first notified housekeeping that their positions would be eliminated on May 1, as the club outsourced the positions to Advanced Cleaning Technologies (ACT).

In both emails, the club stated workers had the option to reapply for their jobs with ACT directly, but that their positions were not guaranteed by the company. 

“We want to be clear that once this transition takes place, the new service provider will be your employer. They will supervise you and be responsible for your terms and conditions of employment including wages and benefits,� Midtown Athletic Club said in the March 23 email.

Workers are now feeling devastated and blindsided as they believed they had until May 1 to try to negotiate with the gym to improve working conditions and retain their jobs. 

The dismissal has fueled ex-staffers to speculate that the club’s decision to fire them just weeks before the May 1 deadline was in retaliation for them speaking out about poor working conditions.

Workers spent the past six months organizing for better working conditions, allegedly filing several complaints.

“There were many complaints, even by email. We said it through texts, we wrote to them, there were many and with the help of Arise Chicago they began to help us,â€� Vasquez says. 

Arise Chicago, an organization that helps non-unionized workers organize, educated the workers on their rights and supported them in filing complaints with the Illinois Department of Labor, Chicago Office of Labor Standards, National Labor Relations Board and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

“First talking to these workers, they were raising the concept of a union. They liked the idea of being able to come together and bargain collectively with their employer. But their big focus was around democratizing the work,â€� Jose Uribe, a campaign organizer with Arise Chicago. 

In those complaints, the workers alleged that the club refused to provide them with adequate sick leave and endangered workers by exposing them to unsafe cleaning chemicals without proper protective equipment.

“They would cancel our sick days and said we needed a note from the doctor. It was impossible knowing we had a right to our sick days,â€� Vasquez says. 

Midtown Athletic Club located on 2444 N Elston Avenue. (Photo by Brenda Ordoñez)

In an interview with Block Club Chicago, Midtown’s President Jon Brady said the cleaning staff had the same amount of sick time as every other club employee. 

Photo by Vanessa Vasquez

Vasquez says that she was one of the workers who suffered injuries while at work, claiming that she suffered an eye infection after chemicals splashed in her eye. The injury left her on a month-long disability leave. She also noted that she began experiencing skin irritations when working inside of the gym.

“We had no protection,� she says.� We were exposed to many illnesses that caused our skin to become irritated.�

Vasquez says coworkers found needles and blood-stained towels but had no place to safely dispose of the materials. According to the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), human blood contains infectious bloodborne pathogens that can cause disease in humans. In order to reduce the hazards of occupational exposure to pathogens, OSHA requires employers to implement an exposure control plan that must include providing personal protective clothing and equipment, employee training, and other provisions required by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

In response to speculations of retaliatory behavior on the gym’s part, Brady told Block Club Chicago that the long-planned layoffs had nothing to do with retaliation and that staffers were all paid through May 1. 

Workers have filed additional complaints in response to the layoffs in hope their pleas will be heard and that they can return to work.

“I was one who loved it and we liked it because it was already our second home. You start to make friends with the members,â€� Vasquez says. “We love our work and we want to return to our work.â€� 

Katherine Bissell Córdova stands with ex-staffers during press conference. (Photo by Brenda Ordoñez)

Ex-staffers aren’t the only ones concerned about the club’s response and treatment of these workers. Katherine Bissell Córdova, who’s been a member of the gym for over a year, says she and other members were “shocked� and “upset� when they heard how housekeeping was being treated, adding that they were the “backbone of the club.�

Bissell Córdova says she wants the company to hire the workers back or she and other members will find another gym to work out at.

“We really want them to rehire these workers or a lot of people I know are considering no longer being part of the club,� Bissell Córdova says.

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Why one man says ‘speaking’ for the trees can address inequity in Boston

When you think about trees, a few things probably come to mind: the bristling of their leaves in the wind, the crunching of their branches when they’re on the ground, the feeling you get when you’re surrounded by them — which can be rare in a city like Boston. But what does it mean to “speak” for trees?

“I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss and ‘The Lorax.’ And in the book ‘The Lorax,’ the Lorax sort of says at a certain point, ‘Stop cutting down my trees. I speak for the trees, for they have no tongues.’ He doesn’t say because they have no voice. The trees actually do have a voice. They just say things in ways that we don’t necessarily hear,” said David Meshoulam, executive director and co-founder of the advocacy group Speak for the Trees. “And it’s time that we come together, building community around, speaking together in one voice for the trees.”

Meshoulam joined several volunteers at Kevin Fitzgerald Park in Mission Hill for a recent clean up ahead of Arbor Day. Last year, the group planted about 20 trees. This year, they came back to mulch, water and check in on those same trees, as well as replace the trees that didn’t survive with four new ones.

Mission Hill is home to Northeastern’s student population, as well as longstanding Black and Latino communities in the neighborhood. It also has fewer trees than some other neighborhoods.

Read the full story at GBH News: www.wgbh.org/

Publisher’s Note: GBH and Massachusetts Latino News (MALN) are partners in providing greater visibility and voice to local Hispanic-Latinos communities.

Call For Applications: Journalism Camp 3

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) is pleased to sponsor, once again, the Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, a first-in-class 12-week program providing practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

The FREE virtual workshop led by award-winning news media veteran and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)Hugo Balta, returns in the fall. 

Young journalists from across the country have participated in the first two classes. “Sometimes when you are young and new in a country, you don’t have an experienced person to give you advice and guidance,â€� said Danna Matheus, University of Maryland. “Hugo took the time to listen to me and help me improve in many areas, not only in journalism but with my resume, general life advice, finances, and even my 401k questions.“ Matheus was a cohort in the class of 2022.

Boris Q’va had this to say about his experience, “I felt heard when I needed it the most.� Q’va was enrolled in the New Media Journalism Master of Arts degree at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. “All of the lectures were equally important to me, but I found myself thinking about Solutions Journalism, and how it builds trust with the public through transparency.� Q’va was a cohort in 2021.

Class of 2021

As part of the program, all of the stories produced by the fellows had the chance to be published on one or all of the Latino News Network’s six outlets. Balta is the owner and publisher of Wisconsin Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

“It is imperative that students get real work experiences and mentoring to navigate a newsroom that more often than not is not diverse and inclusive,â€� said Balta. 

Due to a lack of equitable representation in newsrooms, there is an urgent need to train journalists to be transparent in news gathering and reporting on the complexity of racial identity, social constructs relating to ethnic terms, and cultural competence.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling is a course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

Guest speakers also share insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

The Journalism Camp is open to all students (undergrad, graduate) in good standing.

The application process runs from May 1 to 29. The weekly class will begin on September 3.

For more information about HZF’s Journalism Camp curriculum, how to apply, and ask questions – please email us at hortenciazavalafoundation

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) was founded in 2016 in honor of Hugo Balta’s maternal grandmother.

HZF is a not-for-profit organization that helps students offset the costs of higher education with scholarships. In 2021, the organization expanded its support of students to include the Journalism Camp, and in 2023, sponsoring a paid internship with the Latino News Network.

Cover Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

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