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Belmont Cragin community organizes for higher quality of life

In order to create a “quality of life plan,” more than 200 Belmont Cragin community members joined organizers from the Northwest side Housing Center to share their ideas.

“I want to applaud the organizers for assembling this group of concerned citizens,” said Gilbert Villegas, alderman of the 36th ward.

“I look forward to supporting this initiative and others like it. To have this buy in and participation from the community gives me hope that together we will make Belmont Cragin a better place for our businesses, families and more importantly our youth.”

In the above photo, Mr. Villegas is in the middle of the front row, with glasses. Also present were 29th Ward alderman Chris Taliaferro (far right) and a representative from Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo, Jr. and State Representative Luis Arroyo’s offices (left).

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Affordable housing, economic development, youth development, education, healthcare and senior issues were discussed at the meeting, first in a presentation of data then in break out sessions. The meeting, which included a free dinner of pizza, salad and drinks, was held at Steinmetz on June 17.

In the education session, led by Belmont Cragin elementary school principal Stacy Stewart, Steinmetz teacher and life-long Belmont Cragin resident Yuridia Espinoza raised concerns about CPS pushing new charter schools over investment in existing neighborhood schools.

“We have to fight for our neighborhood schools,” Ms. Espinosa said. “We are the ones who have to speak up.”

Vanessa Valentin, director of community organizing for the Northwest Side Housing Center (whose son will be a freshman at Steinmetz in September), encouraged participants at the meeting to join “working groups” for the Belmont Cragin quality of life plan.  The education committee is chaired by Jose Quiles, the Steinmetz LSC president.

Ms. Valentin may be contacted at Northwest Side Housing Center, 5233 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, 60639;; 773-283-3888, x 116.

In order to block any new CPS charter school plans, there must be strong community and neighborhood school administration opposition, such was just seen in the Lincoln Square community and in a coalition of Northside high school principals.

“We need to be stronger,” Ms. Valentin told the Star, regarding all the quality of life initiatives.

The Belmont Cragin neighborhood is bordered by Belmont Avenue on the north, Grand on the south, Cicero on the east, and Narraganset on the west.


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