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PostPosted: 19 Oct 2010, 21:46 
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by Carol Scott October 15, 2010 10:44 AM (PT) Topics: Education Reform, Literacy, School Administration, School Funding

Sometimes, it's not about waiting for Superman. It's about becoming one.

Things are looking good for the group of South Side Chicago moms who began a sit-in one month ago to demand a school library for their children. Parents in Pilsen, a largely Hispanic neighborhood on the South Side, began occupying an old field house at Whittier Elementary on September 15 that was slated for demolition by Chicago Public Schools. The moms wanted a library and a safe community gathering place for their children. The school district wanted an empty field (arguing that 160 of Chicago's public schools are without libraries).

Even after the district ordered the heat and hot water turned off in the field house, the moms held their ground. The City Council got involved, ordering the heat back on. As the moms' story spread, donations of books poured in. There are now over 1,000 titles being catalogued at 'La Casita,' the group's name for the field house.

After a month of occupying the field house, Medill News reports that Chicago Alderman Danny Solis met with Ron Huberman, who heads Chicago Public Schools, on Wednesday, to talk about a compromise. Solis told Medill that CPS would consider saving the field house, and the groups may now begin negotiating a solution.

Change.org caught up with Araceli Gonzalez-Mancilla, one of the moms in the group, and asked her about her experience so far:


What is your personal connection to the sit-in?

My daughter attends Whittier Elementary School. My son is a former student, and I saw his need for a library. All kids need to have resources to complete their work and improve their reading habits. I strongly believe that all schools should have the right to a library.

How did the sit-in start?

Mr. Huberman [the head of Chicago Public Schools] was ignoring us and not hearing our need for a library in our school. Chicago Public Schools wanted to demolish our field house to build a soccer field for a private school. The moms had a meeting and decided to do the sit-in. The beautiful thing is that we weren't friends, but now we are very close friends because we have been through a lot together.

In the month since you started the sit-in, have you ever felt discouraged?

I have never felt discouraged. I am a very positive person, especially with this fight. We are not asking for a luxury, we are just asking for a need for our kids.

The sit-in has gotten national coverage by news outlets and blogs. Why do you think people are so interested in your story?

People are interested in what we are doing because they are thinking, "Finally, somebody has the courage to stand up for the rights of their children and themselves."

What advice would you give to parents in other places who are working together to change their communities?

Get together and do what you need to do. Do not be afraid, because when we are fighting for our rights as citizens, people will listen and will support you. We are only moms. We are not politicians or anything else, and if we are doing it, then everybody can. It's hard work but I assure you, it's worth it and it will pay off in the long run.

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