Spotlight On: Nuestro Center

Nuestro Center

It’s the end of August, which means it is time to go back to school…At 3:30 pm on any school day, the Highwood-based Family Service of Lake County (FSLC) Nuestro Center becomes instantly energized. Forty Latino students from Oak Terrace Elementary School hop off a bus and bound through the center’s front door. They are ready for a warm welcome, excited for a snack and thankful for the tutoring and homework help that’s soon to come at the After-School Homework Club.

This same scene has been on repeat for many years. In 1997, FSLC opened Nuestro Center to meet the needs of the low-income Latino immigrant population in Highland Park and Highwood. And the After-School Homework Club is just one of the many ways Nuestro Center is accomplishing that goal.

The benefits of the After-School Homework Club go beyond improved academic performance. The center’s staff and volunteers also focus on social-emotional wellness and growth; bridging the educational-achievement gap between Latino students and their peers; strengthening connections with teachers at school; empowering parents to be involved in their student’s education; and providing field trips and other enrichment opportunities to the students both inside and outside of the center.

During the summer, Nuestro Center holds its annual Nuestro Verano Summer Camp at Oak Terrace Elementary School. The five-week camp is a direct extension of the After-School Homework Club’s educational pursuits, as well as a chance for the students to explore opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible to them. Highlights from this summer’s camp included: a STEM-based field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry; making pizza with fresh ingredients at Apple Holler; reading aloud to the K9 Reading Buddies of the North Shore (the dogs also make appearances at Nuestro Center during the school year); and a visit to the Liberty Prairie Foundation, where the campers toured a farm and were able to pick produce.
Nuestro Center is a whole family resource center. In addition to the After-School Homework Club and  Nuestro Verano Summer Camp, it also has programs that provide support and comprehensive holistic services to the entire local Latino community, including the students (and their families) enrolled in FSLC’s middle school and high school educational support programs. The center offers English as a Second Language classes in collaboration with School District 113; senior programs; youth and family counseling services (including bilingual/bicultural therapy for those who need mental health support); referrals for legal assistance; financial seminars; food pantries in partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank; and health and wellness educational programs and services that connect community members with valuable information, resources and physician referrals.

More than 1,900 individual community members are served at Nuestro Center each year. Over the 20 plus years it has been open, the center has become an anchor for local Latino children, families and adults; empowering them to overcome the barriers they face and facilitating learning, growth and strengthening of the community.

Nuestro Center Success Story: Luis, a fourth grader from a first-generation Latino immigrant family, was falling behind in math. During Nuestro Center’s After-School Homework Club, he struggled to complete his math homework. The center’s staff and Luis’ teacher at school helped get him into the school’s morning academic enrichment program. Luis continued to attend Nuestro Center’s After-School Homework Club in the afternoon, doubling up on math and tutoring. His skills quickly improved. Luis went from not knowing basic math to understanding multiplication and word problems in a few weeks. He also gained confidence and fluency in English and began writing wonderful stories in his daily After-School Homework Club journal. Luis is obtaining the skills necessary for a successful transition to middle school.

Nuestro Center By the Numbers: 

Nuestro Center
has been serving Highland Park’s
and Highwood’s
low-income Latino immigrant population for
20 plus years                                                   
More than 1,900 people are
impacted by
Nuestro Center’s programs and services each year                                                  
40 students attend Nuestro Center’s After-School HomeworkClub;
60 students participated in
the 2019 Nuestro Verano Summer Camp                   
In addition to After-School Homework Club, 4 programs are held at Nuestro Center each week                                                More than 200 volunteers, from teens to retirees, serve as tutors, teachers, mentors, camp counselors and chaperones for Family Service Lake County and Nuestro Center programs .

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