Book highlights how Aurora literacy center helps immigrant women

A new book by Chicago-based author and freelance journalist Anna Marie Kukec Tomczyk tells stories of five Latina immigrant women who changed their lives after learning English at the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora.

"We Are Eagles: Inspiring Stories of Immigrant Women Who Took Bold Steps in Life Through Literacy" is available on Amazon. A free e-book version will be available for download Monday through Thursday on Amazon. A portion of proceeds from book sales will support the center's literacy mission.

Led by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, the center offers support for immigrants, especially women, escaping stressful and dangerous situations, such as domestic violence, abuse and stalking.

"The Dominican Sisters help people on the margins of society," said Tomczyk, a former Daily Herald business writer.

The book focuses on the center's 25 years of serving women from 30 countries. Women who have sought literacy help there include immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Columbia, Argentina, Venezuela, Poland, Russia and Vietnam. A majority of the students are Latina, according to the center's website.

"They are an inspiration to us all as they live out the immigrant story," said Sister Kathleen Ryan, the center's founder and director.

Temple vaccine drive

BAPS Charities is hosting a three-day COVID-19 vaccination drive this week at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (temple) in Bartlett.

It is open to eligible community members 16 years and older who will receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Vaccinations will be administered by Prism Health Lab employees from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

To register, visit Registration does not guarantee a dose will be available.

Bilingual resources

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Metro Suburban chapter is opening its first bilingual Living Room in Summit, offering a range of support services from peer counselors and clinicians in Spanish and English.

NAMI Metro Suburban provides free education, support and advocacy services for individuals, families and communities in the Western suburbs of Cook County. Its Living Rooms serve as an alternative to the emergency room for people 18 years and older experiencing elevated mental health distress.

The Summit site at 7602 63rd St. is geared toward addressing the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate impact on communities of color. Visitors can speak with trained peer support specialists about emotional distress from 1 to 9 p.m. seven days a week. An opening ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, followed by a community wellness celebration that includes tours, health screenings, and wellness demonstrations.

Helping immigrants

The Syrian Community Network is seeking donations during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to help refugee and immigrant families throughout the Chicago area who have been hard hit by the pandemic.

These families are experiencing disproportionately high rates of unemployment and social isolation due to the pandemic, according to the group.

So far, the Caring for Our Community campaign has raised nearly $45,000 of its $100,000 goal. To donate, visit

Teen mental health

DuPage County high school teens are hosting a virtual Teens Talk Mental Health Panel at 4 p.m. Tuesday to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teens.

Panelists include state Rep. Terra Costa Howard of Lombard; Dr. Jeff Money, a social worker at Glenbard North High School; Matt Quinn, community relations coordinator for Rosecrance Behavioral Health; Glenbard West student Gavin Schilling, and Naperville North student Jordan King. Justine Rozenich, a high school senior with Reality Illinois, will moderate the panel.

Reality Illinois is the teen advisory board to the DuPage County Health Department and the DuPage County Prevention Leadership Team.

Rozenich organized a two-day virtual health symposium for peers struggling with COVID-19 restrictions early on in the pandemic.

"We've missed regular activities, playing sports, going to dances, and being able to hang out together," she said. "We have also learned how resilient we can be, but the past year has taken a toll on many people's mental health."

Pre-COVID depression rates among DuPage County teens were double the national average, according to data collected through the 2020 Illinois Youth Survey.

The virtual panel is open to the public and teens especially are encouraged to attend and listen in. Register at

Anti-Semitism resources

The American Jewish Committee recently revised its Translate Hate interactive website providing resources to combat anti-Semitism.

It includes a page devoted to each of the anti-Semitic terms found in the glossary.

AJC's "State of Anti-Semitism in America 2020" report revealed 88% of American Jews believe anti-Semitism is a problem in the U.S. today, and 82% believe it has increased over the last five years. Meanwhile, 46% of U.S. adults are not familiar with the term "anti-Semitism," the report shows.

For more information, visit

Countering Islamophobia

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding recently released a tool kit for "Countering and Dismantling Islamophobia."

It's a comprehensive guide for individuals and organizations, providing strategies to challenge Islamophobia in their homes, neighborhoods and communities.

Forms of Islamophobia include anti-Muslim legislation, bias in policing, in the legal system and in media representation, and the use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by political candidates and elected or appointed officials.

Between 2016 and 2020, about 60% of American Muslims surveyed reported experiencing religious discrimination. In 2020, 51% of Muslim families with children in K-12 public schools reported being bullied for their faith by peers, teachers or school officials, according to a national poll.

To access the tool kit, visit

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"We Are Eagles: Inspiring Stories of Immigrant Women Who Took Bold Steps in Life Through Literacy" tells stories of Latinas who turned their lives around with help from the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora.
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