The third installment in our ongoing series, this month’s Partner Spotlight features a short Q&A between PE’s Director of Programs Syda Segovia Taylor and Elias “Tat” Corral, a Resource Coordinator for Enlace Chicago. Part of their Community Schools Team, Tat has been instrumental in the success of the Explore Engineering: Ten80 program at Infinity High School and World Languages High School.

An important resource in Chicago’s Little Village community, Enlace works to improve conditions “through a preventative and proactive approach that strengthens our families, our neighborhood, and thereby, our city.” Please visit their website, www.enlacechicago.org to learn more about their work.

Syda Segovia Taylor: What can you tell us about the community you work in?

“Tat” Corral: It is young and vibrant! Little Village has the highest percent of 4-18 year-olds in the city, with 30% being under 18. We also have the smallest park space in the city, with that many youths living in it. It’s also very rich in cultural arts and so much talent overall. We have the bad reputation of always being spotlighted in the media as a gang-filled, dangerous neighborhood, and yet all the talent is never spotlighted anywhere near the amount it deserves.

SST: How would you describe your organization’s work with youth?

TC: Enlace Chicago’s role as a community center is key to the neighborhood’s growth and positive development. We try to ensure that we complement the schools and the homes that our youth belong to.

Having as many opportunities for them is the focal point. With the lack of green space, we want to ensure that the youth have other positive spaces and activities to be a part of. Being part of a network of community schools allows us to give space and resources that otherwise might not have been available. It has allowed for after-school, weekend, and summer programming that guarantees the youth a focus on educational and enrichment programs.

Education – not only for youth, but adults as well – is the main road of Little Village’s future. Having programming for parents and the whole family allows for the schools we are based out of to become true community centers all day and night. We believe that the most important buildings in the neighborhood don’t shut down at 3pm.

SST: How does partnering with Project Exploration help your organization advance your mission and/or goals?

TC: Partnering up with PE and their network of partners has helped with our mission of ensuring that STEAM programming is readily available to all youth, of any and all ages and genders.  Partnerships are truly needed! With PE we have had a chance to have our programming grow and flourish much faster and better than if we had tried it alone. We share a vision and mission. Partnering with such organizations can only bring more and more opportunities for our neighborhoods.

SST: What role do you see science playing in the development of your community?

TC: With Little Village being full of youth who are craving more and more technology everyday, we can’t help but lead the path to the future. Let’s be honest, its the young ones that teach us “adults” how to use our computers, phones, and apps. They are born with technology built in and they are the minds that will mold and make the new tech that we are constantly craving and evolving with. I really appreciate PE’s views and push to ensure that our young ladies are not left behind and prove to the world that they are the ones that will really lead the technology to a whole new place.

SST: Can you tell us an interesting, funny, and/or touching story about a young person (or group of young people) who is involved in our program?

TC: I remember something heart warming that happened recently. At this year’s White Flag Invitational, we had teams competing from both the World Language High School and Infinity High School. The “Phoenix Racers” team from World Language was brand new. On the morning of the competition they were gracious and lent their chargers and other equipment to the Infinity team,  who had been racing longer, to ensure that they would be able to race. Even though it’s a competition, it’s awesome to see youth put some of that aside to show compassion and make sure that ALL teams are able to compete. That kind of leadership cannot be taught with a book, but only by example.

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