Teaching Intentionally Through Black History Month

Some of our programs have been intentionally learning during this Black History Month and have spent time learning more about trailblazers in the Black community. Our Sluggers program reflected and dialogued after watching the movie "42: The True Story Of A Sports Legend", a biographical sports film about baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play in MLB.


The Vine after school program intentionally took time to learn about black artists, inventors, and creators during #BlackHistoryMonth like George Crum, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Mae Jemison. Middle school youth spent time finding their favorite songs by black artists and explaining why they appreciated each of the song lyrics. Elementary school students watched videos and read books.

The students then applied their knowledge through art and science by making their own potato chip bags and flavors, creating their own color field picture, and built their own rocket ship. We are looking forward to learning more in the next few months.

La Semilla after-school participants have been learning and reading about Ruby Bridges. In 1960, she became the first Black student to integrate an elementary school in the South. Despite U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas ending racial segregation in public schools, some in the South resisted integration.

Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to the school every day her first year. This is a great example of how young people can be history-makers.

First and only indoor batting cage in Little Village opens at New Life Centers 

We recently inaugurated the first and only indoor batting cage in Little Village! This asset will help better prepare our Sluggers program as Coach Tony helps them work on their pitching, catching, critical thinking and game strategy. The young players were very excited to hear they would have an indoor batting cage in our building.

“This gives kids in the neighborhood a safe space to develop athletic skills for free,” said Coach Tony, “They were super excited, their jaws dropped, they said they can get better now”.

Previously, the team would pay over $100 at an indoor batting cage, which made it difficult for some parents who could not afford it. This was made possible thanks to Cub's Charities' Diamond Project.

The goal of the Diamond Project is to expand opportunities for children to play baseball and softball, create or preserve green space in under-resourced neighborhoods and foster a love for the game.Through the Diamond Project, Cubs Charities provides funds and equipment to nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations that support baseball and softball leagues and capital improvement projects that improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local baseball fields or indoor training facilities.

At this moment, the batting cage is not open to the public but will potentially have free lessons in the future.

Maria Joins New Life Centers after Waiting 22 Years for U.S. Residency

22 years. That's how long our 10-year food pantry volunteer, Maria Delgado, waited to finally be granted U.S. Residency status this year. Maria has gifted her time to our Pan de Vida food pantry for many years, from the early days as a ministry of New Life Community Church-Little Village until now, as it became a larger operation under New Life Centers at the beginning of the pandemic.

As soon as Abelardo Colin, Director of Food Distribution, found out the great news, he encouraged Maria to apply for a job at New Life Centers. Maria Delgado is officially joining our team as paid staff!

"I am so happy! This is home for me. They loved and cared for me. I am very excited to have this opportunity," said Maria.

New Life Centers is so happy to have Maria on our team as she offers our community her beautiful smile and contagious positivity every week.

Maria Delgado first arrived at New Life Community Church in Little Village, which shares building space with New Life Centers, as an Aerobics instructor for community members. She quickly became popular among mothers in the Little Village community. Her love for neighbors motivated her to use her free time to serve them and share the love of Jesus.

Providing a Safe Space for CPS Students amid COVID surge

We are so happy to be back in our buildings as most of our staff took a two-week break over the holidays. However, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, we have asked office personnel to work from home as much as possible to prevent the spread. We have also asked mentors who work closely with youth, to find creative ways to cultivate relationships while hanging out in smaller groups. Please pray for our team as we navigate serving during this new COVID-19 surge.

Our Humboldt Park location opened its doors from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM to CPS students and parents while classes have been canceled since last week. Some students spent time playing sports, socializing with other peers and even practicing their musical talents! The proper sanitary protocols were taken to keep them safe from the virus and provide a safe space.

On Monday morning, New Life Centers along with other community stakeholders, held a press conference to call on CTU and CPS to come to an agreement about student learning.

Students have been the most affected during this time as they have been left with no option of going to class remotely or in person. Later that evening, we learned that CPS students will be returning to in-person instruction as soon as Wednesday. Please join us as we pray for continued resources in schools to help keep them safe from this virus. We also pray they are able to focus on their learning in the midst of loss and constant changes.

Giving, Celebrating and Breaking Bread with Families for Christmas

In the last few weeks, our programs held Christmas parties before break! The young women from the GEMS program had a chance to dress up and have a beautiful dinner at Carnivale.

La Semilla after-school participants went to Navy Pier's "Light up the Lake" event where they got to take countless photos with beautiful lights, ice skate and even go on the Centennial Ferris Wheel!

At our Humboldt Park location, staff held a Christmas party for participants' families. It was a time of joy and full of the holiday spirit. The Arise Creations and YEP programs also held another Christmas party for the youth, where they got to create their own ugly sweaters!

Last Tuesday we held our last food pantry distribution for 2021. Of course, we had to make is special! Thousands of people were able to take home turkeys, hams, and chickens. Later that day, thousands of children were given Christmas gifts. It was an evening full of celebration with a live mariachi band sharing the joy of Christmas. We are very thankful to every volunteer, staff and partner that made this day possible. Our food pantry will resume operations January 5, 2022!

Choose to Change Mentor to Start Skateboarding Classes

Esteban Caldero is a new mentor under our Choose to Change program implemented in CPS schools. He will be sharing his love for skateboarding with the young people he encounters. Thanks to the donation of 7 skateboards from our local skate shop Prosper, he will be able to use these to teach them basics and even new tricks. This will be a great and unique way to connect with them and build life-on-life relationships.

The Vine Focuses on Student Voice and Ownership

This month we heavily focused on student ownership and student's voice during our classes. This means that during our group times we intentionally spent the class asking for student feedback, ideas, and activities the students were interested in completing together. This is important to us as we desire to model how we value each individual child by hearing directly from them and want them to learn how to do this with their peers as well. It is one of our core values in our middle school class.

After having much back and forth discussions about ideas and student input we decided to add in a cooking class weekly as well as some video game time as an incentive for completing homework and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) project.

We’ve enjoyed seeing the students build community through video games as they compete side by side instead of zoning out on their phones. We had our first cooking class this month where we made open-faced sandwiches with chocolate chip peanut butter and apple slices. We are looking forward to seeing more student engagement as we continue empower them.

Giving and Building Community Thanksgiving Weekend

Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day, Pan de Vida gave out over 6,000 turkeys, 2,000 hams, 2,000 chickens, and all the sides for Thanksgiving-on top of the regular 90 pounds of food they give families every week! We are thankful for all of our volunteers and staff who spent hours distributing food. We couldn't have done it without them!



The week of Thanksgiving, our Street Outreach team held three Turkey Bowls including the 1st Annual Turkey Bowl in Brighton Park's Kelly Park. They were able to give out free turkeys, tamales and champurrado all while youth competed in a game of flag football. Despite the cold temperatures and a little bit of snow, we enjoyed this time creating the beloved community.

Conquering Fears Through Rock Climbing

Youth from our YEP program in Humboldt Park got a chance to go rock climbing and bouldering in collaboration with Chicago Adventure Therapy! For some of the students, it was their first time and some even expressed being afraid of heights. Despite that, all of them ventured out and climbed up the walls thanks to their peers' encouragement.

We concluded the session with a debrief and a deep talk with questions such as: What words do you use to describe yourself? How do other people describe you? How would you like to be described in the future? How do you get to that place where people describe you like that?

YEP is a safe space for youth to experience life through a different lens. Youth learn to develop soft skills and are opened up to opportunities outside of what they are used to. This program is designed for 7th-12th grade young women and men.

New Life Centers joins Choose to Change

We are currently hiring and putting a team together who will be in-school mentors at different CPS schools in Little Village. Our goal is to have a total of 8 mentors. This effort comes in collaboration with CPS who expanded their Choose to Change program and will implement a new, hyperlocal pilot version of it with New Life Centers in Little Village, Lifeline to Hope in West Garfield Park, and BUILD Chicago in Humboldt Park. Together we will reach 300 students.

The program will serve a total of 1,000 students who may have school attendance challenges, involvement with the justice system, and/or have been exposed to violence and trauma. The program provides intensive youth and family support and weekly behavioral health sessions.

“The impressive results of the Choose to Change program demonstrate that it will be an important strategy to safeguard our students from the harmful effects of trauma,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “While we are overjoyed to have returned to in-person learning, we know that our students are coping with issues beyond the classroom and it is imperative that we look to programs like Choose to Change to help ensure that we are supporting all of our students, especially in the area of promoting their emotional well-being.”