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Field Dispatches: Elev8 youth-led immigration forum

Resource type: News

The Federation for Community Schools |

On Saturday, August 7th at Orozco Academy in Chicago, more than 400 youth, parents, and community members came together to support comprehensive immigration reform. Let by teams of youth from each of the five Elev8-Chicago sites (Ames/Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Marquette/SouthWest Organizing Project, Orozco/The Resurrection Project, Perspectives-Calumet/Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp, and Reavis/Quad Communities Development Corp) and featuring United States Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-04), the immigration forum raised awareness about comprehensive immigration reform. The Elev8-Chicago youth and Congressman Gutierrez also led the crowd in a call to action demanding movement on comprehensive immigration reform.


                                                           Photo courtesy of Congressman Gutierrez’s office

The five middle schools spearheading the efforts around the immigration forum are part of the Elev8 community schools initiative funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, aimed specifically at meeting the needs of middle schoolers and establishing strong foundations for their transition to high school and beyond. They are all full-service community schools, which develop partnerships with community organizations to provide comprehensive services and supports for children and young adults, a concept embraced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when he was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. LISC/Chicago supports and oversees the Elev8 work in Chicago, and the advocacy work is also supported by the Federation for Community Schools.

Elev8-Chicago students and site teams worked closely with the Federation for Community Schools, LISC/Chicago and Congressman Gutierrez’s office to plan and implement the event, but the entire Forum was convened by and led by youth. As a part of their efforts, students from each school shared personal stories about how the lack of comprehensive immigration reform has impacted their families. African-American students from Reavis and Perspectives spoke for their peers who have been silenced by the lack of immigration reform. The youth felt it important to make their voices heard around the issue of immigration and to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, and rightly believed that leading the forum themselves and sharing their stories would have a strong impact.

“This was important to me because I don’t think families should be split up, and that what happens a lot” said Sara, an Ames Middle School student and one of the forum’s youth leaders, “I was glad that Rep. Gutierrez listened to us.”

Congressman Gutierrez commended the Elev8-Chicago youth for raising their voices on an issue of such importance to them, their communities, and the country, and re-avowed both the need for and his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.

                                                            Photo courtesy of Congressman Gutierrez’s office

Congressman Gutierrez also addressed the hallmarks of comprehensive immigration reform and outlined actions that people can take to move the country towards enacting immigration reform. The immigration forum also included a resource fair of community-based organizations that provide supports for individuals and families struggling to access services they need and to understand their rights.

The event was also closely linked to Congressman Gutierrez’s series of Families United/Familias Unidas rallies, held around the country to illuminate the impacts that the lack of comprehensive immigration reform have on families and communities. The event is being co-convened by The Federation for Community Schools, which works to bring together a diverse group of individuals and organizations who support community schools throughout Illinois, and serves as a clearinghouse for community school best practices and facilitate the professional networking of community school practitioners. LISC/Chicago organizes capital and other resources to support initiatives that will stimulate the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods and foster their connection to the socioeconomic mainstream of the metropolitan region. In addition to its Elev8 work, LISC/Chicago also created and manages the New Communities Program, which links families and community members to the supports and opportunities necessary to build strong communities.

Elev8 is an Atlantic grantee.

For more information on Elev8 visit