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Lourdes Jaramillo Sews Orozco's Fabric

Lourdes Jaramillo displays her felt Christmas tree calendar.

Eric Young Smith

It’s early December, and Orozco Elementary’s Elev8 parent program is holding a holiday fiesta to celebrate the end of a semester of classes.

Lourdes Jaramillo, sewing instructor and event coordinator, busies herself welcoming guests and organizing potluck dishes – chicken in chocolate mole, pork ribs in green salsa, guisado (stew), pozole, and other traditional Mexican favorites.

The room is bursting with holiday décor, including a recent sewing class project: felt Christmas tree calendars counting down December 1 through 25.

Jaramillo, a petite, stylish woman with dark, wavy hair and an easy smile, is from the Mexican state of Michoacan, but she has lived in Pilsen for more than 20 years.

Her oldest daughter recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; her middle daughter is studying graphic design at DePaul University, and her youngest is a fourth-grader at Orozco.

Jaramillo enjoys helping others learn a creative skill. “I like to help the moms learn to make their own things,” she said.

“I feel happy when they can use their imagination and creativity to make their own projects. At first, the moms were afraid to use the (sewing) machines, but now they’re excited because they can make their own things. They’re becoming more independent.”

That experience translates into more confidence being part of the school, she added. “There’s been a lot of moms who’ve opened up and begun volunteering” since they started sewing class, Jaramillo observed. “They come in with fear, then get excited.”

Parents chow down during the Orozco holiday celebration.

Eric Young Smith

They also find other resources to help themselves and their families, noted Cesar Chavez of Instituto del Progreso Latino’s Center for Working Families. “I’ve met with some sewing students.”

Most important, they build community. “We talk together about the children, home, cooking. We learn a lot from each other,” said Jaramillo. Home-school coordinator Teresa Fraga said a number of sewing students are also enrolled in a leadership class called Calidad de Vida (Quality of Life).

“The parents have really gotten to know each other,” observed Dora Rodriguez, a children and family benefits liaison for the Chicago Public Schools, who is based at Orozco. “Sometimes you see parents sitting at the same table with nothing to say to each other. Not here. Everybody is talking. Everybody takes care of everybody else.”

Jaramillo’s students praise her for her eye for design.

“I learned a lot,” said Monica Ramirez, a sewing student and new member of Orozco’s Local School Council. “She has great ideas for the home,” like the Christmas-themed set of table linens Ramirez sewed in class.

Ramirez was so inspired she bought a sewing machine and is practicing on her own.

Teresa Fraga, Orozco's school-home coordinator.

Eric Young Smith

And they appreciate her patience and warm personality. “She’s fun. I like the way she teaches the class,” said Noemi Monroy. “She understands we have questions. She’ll take her time. When you get stuck she’ll come and help you.”

During the party, Jaramillo pointed to Monroy as an example of someone who was shy at first, but opened up. Now, said Jaramillo, “She’s talking a lot more.” Both women smiled.

Posted in Education, Pilsen

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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