Día del Niño, or Day of the Child, is a traditional holiday that is celebrated annually on April 30 in Mexico and across Latin America. Children are celebrated through gifts, games, and foods that are dedicated specifically to them. To commemorate this holiday in Chicago, many parents of Latin American decent bring the holiday into the classrooms.

This year, thirteen parents at Orozco Fine Arts and Science Elementary School in Pilsen organized Dia del Niño events and games to celebrate the holiday on Friday, April 26. Schools across the Pilsen neighborhood also joined in the celebration.  Parents allocated funds through The Resurrection Project, State Representative Theresa Mah, the Alderman’s office and other efforts in order to provide healthy snacks, piñatas, inflatable games, and other activities and prizes for the day.

Carlos Millán, Education Coordinator at The Resurrection Project and liaison to the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) at National Center for Urban Education connected Illinois State students to the school’s event planning committee to secure volunteers for the morning’s events.

Each semester, approximately twenty courses take a Course Redesign Development Grant (CDG) visit to Chicago, Peoria, or Decatur with students from the College of Education to complete clinical hours and immerse themselves in partner communities and schools. On Friday, April 26, Ellis Hurd brought twenty students who have shown an interest in urban education to the community of Pilsen, in Chicago through the National Center for Urban Education. While in Chicago, they visit schools and community-based organizations to learn of their work and complete a service-learning project.

Orozco serves approximately 542 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, with 336 of the population in middle school. Additionally, 97 percent of the student population is of Latin American origin.

Students enjoyed games outside for the celebration

Every year, Guadalupe Carreon, Parent Mentor Coordinator for Orozco, searches for ways to improve this day of celebration. “When I asked her how we can bring a spirit of solidarity and reciprocity into the event with Illinois State University students, she explained that the students need to just be present in the moment and to celebrate with the students on their day”, Millán said.

“One of the reasons why Guadalupe was excited to have ISU students at Orozco was because she wanted others to know about the exciting things happening at our schools,” further explains Millán. Guadalupe gave a school tour before delegating roles to students. The roles assigned were activities such as face painting, piñata duty, inflatable bouncing house patrol, and movie chaperone.

Ellie Schimmel, James Fuller, and Logan Bennison were three of the six ISU volunteers at Orozco. “I’ve never seen anything like that, with so many parents involved,” Schimmel said. “They provided the stencils, the paints, and the kids would just come up to us and they were excited to get their faces done. It was just really cool to see the parents take care of everything.”

She goes on to explain the importance of seeing the parents at the event.

“I think it’s just the importance of getting parents involved with their children and how it makes a difference because it helps to form relationships between other students and teachers,” she said. “It helps the parents become comfortable talking to teachers and volunteering and it helps students feel more comfortable in the school they’re in.”

“The parents were happy to be there. They were fully and heavily involved and you could tell they were having a blast doing it. It was really cool to see the community come together and have a fun day,” Fuller said.

CDG visits can also have an impact on students’ views of urban education. “Coming into CPS I always heard all the negative stereotypes and how it’s so bad. Seeing what I saw today with the parents involved, and the kids having fun in school, it was nice to see,” expresses Bennison.

In addition to helping with the day’s festivities, the twenty students who made the trip also completed a service-learning project by helping the group ELLAS.

ELLAS, In the Fight to Survive, is a breast cancer support group that is planning on opening pop-up stores throughout the summer. Throughout the spring the group has been receiving donations, and during the CDG visit, students assisted in taking an inventory of new donations, exchanging winter clothing for spring and summer clothes, and storing bulky items to make way for the store.

“At the end of the day, when it was time to leave we were all hugging each other and we didn’t want to leave. You can build really great relationships talking to two strangers and you get your viewpoint changed about the school system,” finalizes Schimmel.

This semester, twenty-two CDG visits took place altogether between Chicago, Decatur, and Peoria. The visit to Pilsen was the last CDG visit of the semester.