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Forging New Partnerships in the Face of Uncertainty: ENL Program and Five Chicago Catholic Schools Begin New Latino Outreach Initiative

on Monday, 18 January 2021.

By: Erika Gallardo - Hispanic Engagement and Outreach Manager, Archdiocese of Chicago

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The ongoing and continually evolving pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to many Catholic schools throughout the country. For some, the economic toll was simply insurmountable, and for many others, the future remains rife with uncertainty. Still, Catholic schools have shown remarkable resilience in the face of innumerable challenges over this past year, continuing to respond to the call to make God known, loved, and served.

One such example can be found in the newly formed partnership between five Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Alliance for Catholic Education's English as a New Language (ENL) program. Even in the midst of the pandemic, these five schools bravely heeded the call to work with the ENL program and the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic School’s Marketing Department to serve Latino students boldly and purposefully in the inaugural Chicago English Learner and Latino Outreach initiative (CELLO). Four of the five schools in the program are located in Chicago—Our Lady of the Snows, St. Richard, St. Pius V, and Queen of the Universe—as well as one in Summit, Illinois—St. Joseph School.

CELLO called on these schools to look at their readiness to serve Latino students and asked them to commit to having teachers engage in professional development offered by ACE’s ENL program, demonstrate a good-faith effort to recruit Hispanics for open faculty and staff positions, and create a parent ambassador program. In addition, these schools agreed to work with grassroots community groups and larger organizations in their communities addressing the needs of families varying from literacy classes, student support services, youth outreach, employment training, cybersecurity, and more.

To date, the schools have participated in monthly meetings to discuss strategies for academic and marketing goals. These meetings offer CELLO schools insights and best practices from schools around the country that have experienced recruitment success through their work with the Latino Enrollment Institute at Notre Dame. The meetings also allow the school leaders to develop a supportive relationship with one another as they share their successes and challenges in reaching the Latino community. 

StPiusV CollageStudents at St. Pius V School celebrated their cultural heritage by wearing clothing representative of their families' home countries.Currently, the CELLO schools are working to establish an English Language Learners plan with the help of ENL faculty. Since the beginning of CELLO, these schools have also worked to make their communication efforts more culturally and linguistically inclusive. Principal Melissa Talaber notes that working with Notre Dame has expanded the tools and resources her teachers use to support their linguistically diverse students, observing that her teachers, “have incorporated strategies like personal dictionaries as a way to support language development and have reevaluated classroom library and book selections to ensure students see themselves in the books they read.”  

For Hispanic Heritage Month and in October, the month of the Bilingual Child, the schools incorporated culture as the focus for many school-wide projects. St. Richard School engaged families through a student poster project about family, culture, and language, which students proudly presented to their classmates.

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Students at St. Richard School proudly display their projects showcasing their family's culture and language.  

Another school, St. Pius V, located in the Pilsen community, invited students to showcase their culture by dressing in traditional clothing representing their heritage country and spotlighting the history of Mexican Independence Day (click here to see the video presentation).

In the months ahead, the CELLO schools will continue to work towards establishing a corps of volunteers to become part of a local Parent Ambassador initiative, utilizing virtual training to adapt to COVID-9 protocols. In this endeavor, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Marketing Department will support the school administration to prepare volunteers and parents, as well as recruit teachers to participate in the ENL Hernandez Fellows program in the coming year, which will expand ESL-trained teachers and leaders serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago. 

The CELLO program is gaining momentum and creating traction in the Archdiocese of Chicago to better recruit, retain, and effectively serve the Latino community through its Catholic schools. 


ErikaGallardo AOC

Erika Gallardo is the Hispanic Engagement and Outreach Manager for the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Hispanic Engagement and Outreach Office aims to bring awareness to the needs of Hispanics families in our schools so they are thoroughly served. We also assist with strategies to recruit and retain Hispanic families by targeting marketing efforts and providing best practices and tools for teaching English Language Learners that will benefit all students.

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