Stories by Erica Gunderson

University of Chicago Study Reveals Benefits of Early Bilingual Education for English Learners

(WTTW News)

The Illinois State Board of Education is announcing a $4 million grant to cover tuition costs for teachers interested in becoming licensed to teach English-language learners.

Puerto Rican Flags Over Paseo Boricua Approach Landmark Status

(WTTW News)

In 1995 two 60-foot-high Puerto Rican flags were planted over Division Street, also known as Paseo Boricua, solidifying its identity as the heart of the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. Now, the flags are poised to receive landmark status from the city.

Organized Retail Crime Bill Proposed to Address ‘Smash-and-Grab’ Thefts

(WTTW News)

Illinois lawmakers have proposed a new bill that defines organized retail crime for the first time in statute. But some community groups are raising concerns saying the legislation will further harm communities that have been oppressed by the criminal justice system for decades. 

Culinary School Sets the Table for Food Industry Equity

(WTTW News)

Food Hero, a culinary school that operates on a social enterprise model, offers instruction on food preparation and entrepreneurship free of charge. Founder Javier Haro says the idea came in part from his own experience as the former owner of a tapas restaurant in Pilsen.

State’s Overdose Action Plan Seeks to Save Lives

(WTTW News)

The Illinois Overdose Action Plan offers new and expanded resources to help treat substance abuse and addiction.

One Year After Toledo and Alvarez Deaths, Communities Reflect on Role of Police in Public Safety

(WTTW News)

In March 2021, the city was sent reeling when Chicago police officers shot and killed Adam Toledo and Anthony Alvarez just a few days apart. We look at where the relationship between law enforcement and Latino communities stands.

Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults Expansion Takes Effect

(WTTW News)

In December 2020, Illinois expanded Medicaid to provide health coverage to immigrant adults ages 65 and older. Now, another expansion offers health care benefits to low-income immigrants ages 55 to 64 starting May 1. 

New Book Studies Why Many Latinos Lack Health Insurance

University of Chicago sociology professor Robert Vargas’s new book “Uninsured in Chicago: How the Social Safety Net Leaves Latinos Behind” takes a deep dive into what keeps Latinos feeling locked out of health care access.

Through extensive personal interviews conducted over three years, a new book takes a deep dive into what keeps Latinos feeling locked out of health care access. It’s called “Uninsured in Chicago: How the Social Safety Net Leaves Latinos Behind.”

‘A Search for Unity’ Heralds the Life and Legacy of Rudy Lozano

(WTTW News)

Rudy Lozano’s life is the subject of a new exhibit at UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library. It brings together a collection of papers, photos, and other items to tell the story of the activist and community organizer. It’s a story that some say is integral to the story of Chicago’s Latinos as they forged an identity in the city.

Germán López Transcends Tradition with a Timple, the Instrument of the Canary Islands

Germán López is performing in Chicago at the Instituto Cervantes of Chicago on March 25, 2022. (Credit Nacho Gonzalez)

When it’s used to play the traditional music of the Canary Islands, the small instrument’s sound is often bright and folksy. But in the hands of Germán López, whose style combines the sound of the Canary Islands with pop and world rhythms, the timple takes on an entirely new character.

Legal Aid Organizations Call on Gov. Pritzker for Increased Funding

(WilliamCho / Pixabay)

The Illinois Access to Justice coalition comprises 67 nonprofit legal aid organizations that offer Illinoisans free legal representation and free training on legal literacy. Now, it’s calling on the state to help with funding to help expand its services.

Examining the World’s Reaction to Ukrainian Refugees: A Voices Crossover Discussion

(WTTW News)

As Russian forces invade Ukraine, more than 2 million Ukrainians have now fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring countries —most of them greeted with warmth and generosity. But people fleeing conflict or disaster in other countries have not been welcomed with such open arms in Europe or here in the U.S.

Chicago Program Gets Girls Revved Up for STEM Careers

local nonprofit Girls 4 Science is offering a free program called Saturday STEM Academy for girls ages 10 to 18. (Courtesy: Jackie Lomax)

In recent years, educators have made extra efforts to encourage children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Especially girls. To help with this, the local nonprofit Girls 4 Science is offering a free program called Saturday STEM Academy for girls ages 10 to 18.

Start It Up – Advice from Latino Entrepreneurs on Striking Out for Yourself

Procurement and business development manager for Big Mich, Xavier Mondujano. (WTTW News)

According to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative’s 2021 report, Latino entrepreneurs continue to outpace the rest of the startup population. So, why take the risk of starting your own business? We spoke with some local entrepreneurs about how they got their starts.

She Can Do It: La Ultima Palabra on Women in Skilled Trades

Like Rosie the Riveter, ironworker Jennifer Ortiz wants women to know they can do it.  (WTTW News)

Like Rosie the Riveter, ironworker Jennifer Ortiz wants women to know they can do it. Here, she gives La Ultima Palabra on how the spark that ignited her career in the trades can work for other women, too.

Masks Off (Again) – Looking Ahead to Living with COVID-19

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

This week seems to have marked a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic with the lifting of masking mandates and vaccine checks in Chicago. But as spring approaches, it’s also a reminder that we’ve been here before. 

Little Village Mural Depicts Chicago’s Labor Legacy

“Que La Libertad Nos Bese En Los Labios Siempre” is a new mural in Little Village by Yollocalli Arts Reach artists. (WTTW News)

A new mural near 30th and Ridgeway in Little Village depicts the figures behind a pivotal moment in Chicago’s labor history: the Haymarket Affair.

Where Industry, Environment and Community Meet: Rethinking Chicago’s Manufacturing Future

(stevepb / Pixabay)

In the wake of the decision to reject a permit for a metal shredding and recycling operation on the city’s Southeast Side, environmental justice advocates say now is the time for the city and industrial leaders to work together and find ways to meet the needs of both the community and corporations.

Where Can You Get Tropical Paczki? Only in Polombia

Peanut butter and jelly paczki from Polombia. (WTTW News)

The last day before Lent has many names: Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. It's also known as Paczki Day when Chicagoans prepare for Lent by indulging in as many of the traditional Polish jam-filled doughnuts as they can eat.

Scholarship News Brings Excitement, Joy to Benito Juarez Community Academy

Benito Juarez Community Academy Principal JuanCarlos Ocon appears on “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” via Zoom. Feb. 25, 2022. (WTTW News)

Nonprofit organization Hope Chicago told students at Benito Juarez Community Academy they were recipients of fully-funded scholarships at their choice of 20 colleges, universities, and other education programs across Illinois.

‘Making Mexican Chicago’ Traces History of Mexican Communities in Chicago

In “Making Mexican Chicago: From Postwar Settlement to the Age of Gentrification,” Mike Amezcua explores how the Windy City became a Latinx metropolis in the second half of the twentieth century, offering a powerful multiracial history of Chicago that sheds new light on the origins and endurance of urban inequality.

The story of how La Villita and Chicago’s other Mexican enclaves developed is the subject of “Making Mexican Chicago: From Postwar Settlement to the Age of Gentrification.” The book walks the streets of the city’s Mexican communities and explores the history of the forces that shaped them.

Latino Families Feeling the Pinch of Inflation

(WTTW News)

As record-high inflation impacts every American’s wallet, Latino spending patterns mean they could be feeling the pinch even more.

Kids First Chicago CEO on What’s Behind the Drop in Enrollment at CPS

(WTTW News)

In the last 20 years, the Chicago public school system has lost more than 100,000 students, with 40,000 leaving the system in the last five years. An education advocacy group digging into the root causes of the enrollment drop found some factors unique to Chicago, and some trends that are nationwide.

Pilsen Fixture Alvarez Hardware Plans to Keep Old-Fashioned Business in the Family

Rodolfo Alvarez’s jam-packed 18th Street store has been the place to go for Pilsen residents looking for a new shovel or pipe fitting since he bought the business from his father-in-law in the 1980s. (WTTW News)

Competition from big-box stores and a lack of successors has forced many small family-run businesses in Chicago to close their doors. But the owner of a longtime fixture on 18th Street is nailing down plans to ensure his store has a different fate.

Mr. Bocanegra Goes to Washington: Chicago Anti-Violence Pioneer Joins DOJ

(WTTW News)

Eddie Bocanegra began his work in Chicago as an outreach worker at CeaseFire. He later started the Urban Warriors program with the YMCA, connecting youth with military veteran mentors and began the READI program offering intensive resources for people at high risk for violence. 

Chicago Parents on the Use of Masks in Schools

(WTTW News)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the statewide mask mandate for most indoor public spaces will be lifted at the end of February. Despite the ongoing court challenge to the school mask mandate, it will remain in place for now.