Arlington Heights hosting listening sessions on inclusivity

  • Living with Hope founder Michael Panther, left, and Karen Roberts, pastor of disabilities at First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, pose with a truck at the church being packed with used wheelchairs bound for African people with disabilities.

    Living with Hope founder Michael Panther, left, and Karen Roberts, pastor of disabilities at First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, pose with a truck at the church being packed with used wheelchairs bound for African people with disabilities. Courtesy of Al Benson

  • Veronica Rodriguez, a dual language teacher at Juliette Low Elementary School in Arlington Heights, was named the state's first Bilingual Teacher of the Year. 

    Veronica Rodriguez, a dual language teacher at Juliette Low Elementary School in Arlington Heights, was named the state's first Bilingual Teacher of the Year.  Courtesy of Illinois State Board of Education

 
 
Updated 10/3/2020 6:42 PM

Responding to criticism over a lack of diversity within employee ranks, Arlington Heights is taking a major step toward revising village policies, including hiring more minorities and providing more equitable services.

For years, community groups, such as Bridging the Black and White Divide and Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations, have called on village leaders to hire more minority police candidates to be more reflective of the community they serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Nearly 82% of the village's 74,760 residents and 92% of its employees are white. The remaining population is 10% Asian, nearly 6% Latino, 1.5% Black, and 1.7% two or more races. Village employees are roughly 3% Latino and mixed-race, respectively, 1% Black and .5% Asian.

In the past few months, residents have urged officials to adopt a formal diversity, equity and inclusion statement and form a village committee to address those issues.

With that aim, the village will host two virtual community listening sessions this month as part of an initiative to gain a deeper understanding of residents' perceptions and experiences related to diversity, inclusivity and belonging.

"We're reviewing the village of Arlington Heights as an employer and as a service provider in our community," Village Manager Randy Recklaus said.

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Sessions are scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14 and Oct. 21. Register online at seam.ly/Qx5J3vmN. Each session is limited to 30 participants.

The village hired a diversity consultant, the Kaleidoscope Group, last month to conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion audit and deliver a plan with recommendations. It will run the listening sessions and a virtual town hall meeting in December to review findings with village leaders. Final recommendations will be released by the first quarter of 2021, Recklaus said.

Helping Africans

First Presbyterian Church in Aurora is collecting wheelchairs and accessories for persons with disabilities in Kenya and Ethiopia as part of the nonprofit Living With Hope's Wheels for Africa project through Oct. 25.

A truck will be parked at the church, 325 E. Downer Place, to receive donations of used wheelchairs, aluminum walkers, crutches, canes, wheelchair footrests, seat cushions, new crutch and armpit pads, hand grips and foot tips.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The equipment will be refurbished and delivered through CURE Hospitals.

"In Africa, about 85 million people live with disabilities. An estimated 35 million people who require wheelchairs do not have access to them simply because they are the poorest of the poor," said Karen Roberts, First Presbyterian pastor of disabilities. "Because of their lack of mobility, people with disabilities face exclusion from schools, workplaces and even from their own communities. A gift of a wheelchair brings new life and hope to them."

For information or to arrange pickups, call (630) 844-0050 or email kroberts@firstpresaurora.org.

MLK dinner

The Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations has rescheduled its 52nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Dinner and Concert to 7 p.m. April 17, at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg.

The event, originally planned for last April and rescheduled to Oct. 24, has been pushed back again due to concerns over COVID-19. It will feature a performance by musical artists, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

Ticket/table purchases/ads and donations for the original date will be honored and transferred to the new one. For more information, call the Rev. Clyde H. Brooks at (708) 772-8752, send email to cbrooks@icdhr.org or visit icdhr.com.

Bilingual teacher lauded

As the daughter of immigrants, Veronica Rodriguez learned how to keep going in the face of adversity.

Rodriguez, 37, of Hoffman Estates, a dual language teacher at Juliette Low Elementary in Arlington Heights, last week was named the state's inaugural Bilingual Teacher of the Year. She will serve as an ambassador for dual language and bilingual teachers statewide.

She said she is nervous, but excited about the opportunity to inspire others.

"I love to help," Rodriguez said. "I feel blessed to be able to show other young educators that it's not about where you come from or what happens to you, but how you can show resilience even through hard times. When I began my career, I would have never imagined being recognized like this. It shows that what you put out into the world comes back to you tenfold."

Rodriguez joined Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 in 2006 and has taught dual language students at Juliette Low ever since. She spent 10 years as a kindergarten teacher and now teaches third- and fourth-graders. She also is a teacher mentor and the district's English Language Learner liaison.

Racism series

Derek Rogers, pastor of Flowing Forth United Methodist Church in Aurora, will address racism at 10 a.m. today and white privilege at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, as part of a six-part "We Don't Talk About That In Church" sermon series.

The church's drive-in services at Aurora Christian Schools, 2255 Sullivan Road, are open to the public. Admission and parking are free. Tune in to services online at flowingforthumc.org.

"For far too long the church has remained silent on certain uncomfortable topics, choosing to ignore them entirely, cover them up, or even worse to reject the people who bring them up. We cannot let this go on," Rogers said.

Rogers said the May 25 killing of George Floyd -- an unarmed Black man -- by Minneapolis police officers set off nationwide protests and conversations about race and racism. "One thing was made abundantly clear in the weeks that followed, there are deep racial wounds in our society that have been largely swept under the rug," he said.

• Share stories, news and happenings from the suburban mosaic at mkrishnamurthy@dailyherald.com.

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