Why we love field trips!

This coming Tuesday, our ESL/Family Literacy programs will be heading out to the Planetarium for a day of excitement to learn about the planets and our solar system! We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to enjoy the day with our school-age children who have the day off from school.

Here on the Tolton Center blog, we talk quite a bit about all the field trips we take throughout the year. Just in the past four months alone, we have gone to:
  • the Museum of Science and Industry
  • the Children's Museum at Navy Pier
  • Shedd Aquarium, Brookfield Zoo
  • a UIC basketball game 
  • the Book-a-mania event at the Harold Washington Library
  • the Christmas trees downtown at Macy's and at Daley Plaza
  • and, this coming week, the Planetarium.
During class yesterday, students listed out reasons why they continue to attend field trip after field trip. They came up with some beautiful reasons and I wanted to share them with all who might wonder why they continuously see Tolton Center all over the city.
These are the reasons we came up with:
  • To spend time together as a family
  • To learn together
  • To practice our English
  • To expose our children to experiences and interests
  • To go new places
  • and to play and have fun!

For Tolton Center staff, the most excitement comes in the weeks and months after a trip. We love hearing about families independently returning to places we have taken field trips to!

We'll be sure to share photos from the Planetarium on our facebook page. Make sure you've liked us on Facebook to receive all our updates. (Click the  Facebook link below and then click "like".)


ESL: Visiting the Doctor's Office

As part of our ESL curriculum, Tolton staff includes a unit focused on health. In class, students participate in discussions of all types of health. In the past, specialists have visited us to present and answer questions about physical and mental health. Students have always reported enjoying this unit due in large part to the practicality of the lessons. Tolton Center staff focuses on real-life learning, meaning that students practice in the classroom the skills they will need to communicate outside of the classroom.

MaryEllen Lesniak's class at Tepeyac has been doing just that. In this video, students practice visiting a doctor's office. Armed with information and practice, students always return to class sharing their positive experiences in real-life doctors offices!


A most sincere thank you.


We at Tolton Center have been working in the immigrant communities of Chicago's Little Village and Pilsen for the past eight years. In those eight years, we teachers and volunteers have formed strong friendships and partnerships with students, libraries, educational organizations, churches, non-violence movements, and community activists. These people and organizations have shared their spaces, their stories, their lives with us. With each of those relationships in mind, it is with great joy that we extend our gratitude to the Illinois State Senate, House of Representatives, Governor Pat Quinn and the Highway Safety Coalition for their role in the passage of the Highway Safety Legislation, SB 957.
SB 957 provides an opportunity for undocumented immigrants to obtain a Temporary Visitor Driver's License. In order to obtain the license, drivers will have to pass vision screening as well as the written and road tests. They will also need to provide documentation of name, date of birth and proof of their IL address. In addition, they will have to submit proof of insurance. (For more information on SB 957, please visit Latino Policy Forum and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.)
At Tolton Center, we have long believed and taught in our classrooms that every single person is important. That everyone has a voice and that that voice must be utilized for the common good. We have taught EL/Civics through the years and encouraged our students to get involved in the community and in government. Regardless of whether students were able to vote or not, we encouraged them to educate themselves so that they would be able to educate others. Students and teachers alike have written countless letters to local and national politicians, imploring them to act justly and to keep in mind our immigrant community.
We have witnessed first hand the devastation that can accompany a minor traffic violation for a family of undocumented immigrants. We look forward to the day when spouses no longer worry about each other on their way to work and children no longer wonder if their parents will make it home this evening. 
Martin Luther King Jr. said that "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
To the bill's sponsors and the organizations that work tirelessly to ensure a brighter future for our families, Tolton Center staff and volunteers sincerely thank you.


The ESL Programs Venture Out!

Tolton Center's ESL/Family Literacy Program often extends beyond the walls of a classroom. Tolton staff believe that a vital part of education is taking what we've learned in the classroom and putting it to the test in the "real world." Adult ESL classes study public transportation, including important vocabulary and phrases, how to read maps and use google maps to plan routes, and understanding fare charts. Students have opportunities throughout the year to take trips to various locations on CTA buses and trains to put their knowledge to the test!

A few weeks back, ESL families rode the Pink Line from Pilsen to Harold Washington Library for the annual Book-a-mania event. Families from our program at Tepeyac Head Start took the bus to the Aquarium back in October.  This week, students had the opportunity to take the bus or the train to the Loop. Families checked out the windows decorated for Christmas at Macy's, visited the tree in Macy's and walked over to Daley Plaza for the Christkindlmarket.

Often when students first come to Tolton ESL programs, they share how fearful they are to ride public transportation, not understanding the costs, the process of buying a farecard or the routes of the buses and trains. By offering them an opportunity to venture out as group, students feel comfortable trying out public transportation. Once they see how easy it is, they report going back to various locations with their families! We, the Tolton staff, are so thrilled and celebrate every time someone shares their experience of venturing out! We encourage families to take advantage of all the wonderful events and learning opportunities that this great city provides.

To you, our readers, thank you so much for your continued interest in and support of Tolton Center! You have made these trips possible. Our staff and students cannot thank you enough!

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One Heart, Many Voices: A Success!

A few days before Thanksgiving, Tolton Center held our fall fundraiser, "One Heart, Many Voices." To say the night was a success is an understatement. All in attendance were amazed and thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to such incredibly talented musicians. The audience was wowed by Gavin Coyle, Alexis Ochoa and Rodrick Dixon.
The beautifully lit Holy Family Church in Chicago provided the stage for this moving evening. Gavin Coyle, an Irish singer-songwriter, kicked off the evening. 
Next on stage was Alexis Ochoa, a student from the Lourdes Campus of De La Salle Institute. Alexis sang two beautiful songs in Italian.

After Alexis came Rodrick Dixon, accompanied by Matt Long on the piano.

To finish out the evening, Alexis Ochoa joined Rodrick Dixon for one last song, America the Beautiful.   I think I speak for everyone in attendance when I say that the evening and the talent displayed was absolutely astounding. I left with shivers and the distinct feeling that I had witnessed something truly amazing.

We wholeheartedly thank Gavin Coyle, Rodrick Dixon and Alexis Ochoa as well as all of our supporters who were able to attend!

If you were unable to attend this beautiful event but would like to make a donation to Tolton Center, you may do so by clicking here!



Support Tolton Center @ Ten Thousand Villages

First and foremost, we at Tolton Center would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone who came out for our fundraiser, "One Heart, Many Voices." A blog post about the event (with photos!) is set to publish tomorrow so be looking for that!

For those of you who weren't able to make it and for those who did but would like to further support Tolton's work, we have quite the opportunity for you!
We hope to see you there! 


Preview: One Heart, Many Voices

 Leading up to our fall concert, we will be sharing with you little previews of the incredible talents that will be performing at "One Heart, Many Voices."

First is Rodrick Dixon, who "possesses a tenor voice of extraordinary range and versatility that has earned him the respect and attention of leading conductors, orchestras, and opera companies throughout North America" (http://www.tenorroddixon.com/). 

We are so very honored to have Rodrick Dixon performing for us!

The event will be held November 18th at 6pm at Holy Family Church in Chicago.

We look forward to enjoying the evening with all of you!