Pilsen community leaders say neighborhood college dorm will help more kids graduate

March 6, 2012

(WBEZ/LaCreshia Birts)
Jessenia Martinez, a student at Benito Juarez High School, says the new dormitory will give her a place to study.

A community organization in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood has introduced La Casa, a student housing development. The six-story building will house 100 students and five resident aides. It is also includes a resource center with computer lab, tutoring, mentoring and other resources for college students.

The Resurrection Project is the group behind the college residence. The Pilsen-based organization proposed the idea ten years ago.

Raul Raymundo, CEO of the Resurrection Project, describes La Casa as a community living-and-learning environment designed to help students succeed in college. 

Raymundo says he's been concerned about the low number of Latino students attending college and graduating from college. He says not much has changed over the past ten years.

“One of the challenges in the Hispanic community is that even though there is an increase for enrollment for Latino students, the retention rate and graduation rate for Latino students is very poor and La Casa is going to assist in the graduation rate and retention rate for those [students]," Raymundo said.

Maria Bucio is the director of La Casa. She says having the college residence in the Pilsen community sends an inspiring message to students who live in the area.

"The community is saying, we want you to go to college, we want you to succeed, you can do this and we are here to support you," said  Bucio.  

Jessenia Martinez is a senior at Benito Juarez high school. She got teary-eyed when she spoke at the opening of La Casa’s resource center.

“I want to live at La Casa because at home…it’s a two bedroom apartment and it’s really small. And I live with my mom, my brother, my little sister, my dad and it gets really loud in there…I need time to study,” said Martinez.

“If I live at La Casa I know it will help me so much in studying and branching out myself [while] being able to stay close to home and also be with my family.”

Organizers say La Casa is currently accepting applications from college students across the Chicago area, including community college students who intend to transfer to four-year institutions. The dormitory opens in the fall.