The Village of Mundelein Human Relations Commission has announced the recipients of the fourth annual 2014 Diversity Awards.
Nominations were received in two categories: Community and Education. Fred Kliora, commander with the Mundelein Police Department, won in the Community Category and James Ongtengco, assistant principal at Mundelein High School, won in the Education Category.
The awards celebrate the actions of individuals and organizations for extraordinary efforts in recognizing and embracing diversity. Village of Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz presented the awards immediately preceding the Jan. 27 village board meeting.
Among a few of Kliora's accomplishments are his leadership in the creation of the Latino Citizen Police Academy; acting as Mundelein's representative in the Lake County Gang Task Force; serving as Mundelein High School's police liaison; and longtime devotion to the diversity of the Mundelein community.
The Latino Citizen Police Academy, which just successfully completed its first year, provides Latino citizens a better understanding of police functions, policies, laws, decision-making processes, and the day-to-day experiences of officers.
"We wanted to build a bridge between the Latino community and the police department," Kliora said, explaining many Latino immigrants did not have a good relationship with police in their home countries. They might be fearful or distrustful of police.
"We said, 'Why don't we do this and get their trust?'"
For 10 weeks, about 25 Latino residents learned how the police department functions by touring offices, riding in police cars and listening to seminars with police officers, immigration officials and coroners.
"It was about education. We wanted to show them we do more than just stand in the corner with a radar gun and write tickets," Kliora said.
A graduation ceremony followed. "It was a big party. They brought food and cake and their families," Kliora said.
Another 10-week session is expected to start in March.
Among a few of Ongtengco's accomplishments are his leadership in the creation of the Universidad de Padres program and his work with the Latino Citizens Police Academy.
The Universidad de Padres program offers six workshops per year on a variety of topics of concern to Latino parents, providing an outlet for members of the Latino community to interact and share ideas with members of both the school and the Mundelein community at large.
The program is now in its fifth year, with 60-100 parents taking part in each of the workshops.
About 120 families attended the workshops, where dinner was provided and parents learned about such topics as parenting skills, Internet usage, communicating with students, free and reduced lunch program and literacy.
Ongtengco moved to Mundelein from the Philippines when he was 6, so he said he understands how families might feel when they do not speak English or understand American culture.
"I think it's much more than diversity. With the demographics all over the country, particularly here in Mundelein, our Latino population might feel marginalized or not embraced," Ongtengco said.
"We want to make sure Latino parents feel like they're embraced and informed about topics in the American school program.
"It's a true honor receiving the award, but obviously it's not for the award, but it's about building a relationship with children. And part of that is figuring out where they came from," Ongtengco said. "I'm definitely happy and I'll continue to work hard. It's my passion that made me stand out in the community."
"We are fortunate to live in such a diverse community and among people like the award winners who add so much to our quality of life in Mundelein,"said the Commission Chair Gaylene Henry.
The village would like to thank those who submitted nominations on behalf of many worthy people and organizations. It is impressive to see the work that is being done in the community that encompasses acceptance and outreach to our community's diverse population.
The Human Relations Commission, a commission created by the Village of Mundelein Board of Trustees, was established to assure that all residents are afforded the opportunity for mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding and to acknowledge the value of diversity within the community.
The Mundelein Human Relations Commission is charged with specific functions:
• Developing a base of information on the demographics of the Village and serving as a resource to foster understanding on the value of diversity.
• Gathering information from the community, including consultation with public and nonprofit agencies, and disseminating information to further the purpose of the commission.
• Pursuing community education to encourage mutual understanding and hosting community-wide celebrations of diversity.