Carmel High to open multicultural center promoting inclusivity

  • Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein.

    Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Posted4/25/2021 5:30 AM

Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein this Friday will open a new multicultural center to educate students about diversity, equity and inclusion.

The center will provide a space where all students can congregate, socialize, learn and feel valued. It is modeled after collegiate multicultural centers.


Officials plan to create new educational and social programs to introduce students to different cultures, ethnicities and religions. To do that, they will bring in speakers to talk about how to be an ally of marginalized groups, promote advocacy for certain needs and incorporate community service opportunities.

Andrea Fitzpatrick
Andrea Fitzpatrick

"The need for our center is now more than ever," said Director Andrea Fitzpatrick, who is African American and a Carmel parent. "It should have happened 20 years ago. It's an opportunity for students to really engage and talk about issues and give them a safe space to do that."

Naperville's DEI manager

Geneace Williams, Naperville's new diversity, equity and inclusion manager, talked about her role during a virtual town hall Wednesday with Mayor Steve Chirico.

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"The diversity part is really about respecting the difference ... respecting the uniqueness in all of us," said Williams, an attorney. "The equity part is about access and opportunity especially for those who have ... historically been left behind. The inclusion portion is about inviting more people to the table. Are we listening to those diverse voices and including them in the decision-making processes? ... Are we giving them opportunities to know what we are doing and then to have their say?"

Among Williams' goals is helping increase the diversity on city boards and commissions. She will serve as the city's liaison to the newly formed Human Rights and Fair Housing Commission, addressing housing discrimination complaints and educating residents about the need for more affordable housing in town.

Naperville's changing demographics highlight the impetus for hiring Williams. Census data show the city's population is 67% white, 19% Asian, 6% Latino and 5% Black. Students of color make up nearly 60% of the population of Indian Prairie Unit District 204, according to the Illinois Report Card.

Watch the interview at

Police reform

The Illinois Education Association is seeking public support to pressure federal lawmakers to adopt police reform legislation.


It comes on the heels of Tuesday's jury verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on all charges in the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act aims to address police brutality, protect civil rights and change law enforcement culture. It requires the use of dashboard and body cameras; mandatory de-escalation training; training on racial, religious and discriminatory profiling; bans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and potentially fatal maneuvers, such as chokeholds and carotid holds.

"It is our responsibility to look out for the safety of our students -- all our students. And, we believe changes such as these will help," IEA President Kathi Griffin said.

Food pantry app

An application created by two seniors at James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates aims to modernize how small food pantries keep records.

Rayaan Siddiqi and Ashay Parikh created the EZ Pantry app in six months as part of a mobile apps development course with the goal of helping Conant's food pantry move from a paper-and-pencil inventory system to a digital platform.

"That seemed like a very inefficient system to us," said Rayaan, 17, of Schaumburg.

Rayaan Siddiqi
Rayaan Siddiqi

With the app, students could check out food items by scanning bar codes and search through the pantry's inventory. Staff can make grocery runs to restock the pantry using the list of items scanned by students.

It earned Rayaan and Ashay first place in the Illinois Congressional App Challenge for the 8th Congressional District. More than 6,500 students created and submitted 3,088 functioning apps for the 2020 nationwide challenge hosted by 308 members of Congress in their districts.

Ashay Parikh
Ashay Parikh

The duo planned to launch the app last May, but it was derailed by the pandemic. Now, they hope to release it before heading off to college to study computer science.

"We are planning sometime in the summer to reconnect with the (District 211) administration and Conant to see if they can use this app in each of the food pantries," said Ashay, 17, of Schaumburg. "Our whole goal was to use our skills to help others."

Watch a three-minute video about the app at

Food initiative

Batavia-based Just Food Initiative of the Fox Valley recently launched a program to teach Black middle school students about food and nutrition.

Ten at-risk Black youth were chosen by the African American Men of Unity of Aurora to be part of the agriculture education program.

Four of those boys will learn to be entrepreneurs in this year's JFI food growing project. They will learn about how food plants are grown, how soil works and why clean and green foods are vital for nutrition. They also will grow their own food to support their families' nutritional needs and be able to sell what they grow at the new JFI Southeast Aurora farmers market at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery this summer.

Ricky Rodgers
Ricky Rodgers

"Each kid has their own earth box at their home that they are going to be responsible for cultivating," said Ricky Rodgers, executive director of the African American Men of Unity. "It gives them a sense of responsibility. Nutrition and health is definitely a core component of it, learning how to grow your own food and how to market it."

Rodgers runs a mentoring program for roughly 40 at-risk youth of different ethnicities, mostly from single-parent families from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. He aims to double the number of youth participating in the agriculture program next year.

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