Category Archives: Families Program

We are Learning to Succeed!

We are participants at Universidad Popular and we urge Governor Bruce Rauner to please sign Bill SB 2043.  We need to continue learning English. Thank you!

Our program participants took action into their own hands this week to urge Governor Bruce Rauner to please sign SB 2043. A bill that will appropriate State funding to adult education through the Illinois Community College Board.

On Twitter Tuesday, participants posted on UP’s twitter page getting over 320 impressions with followersCapture1On Website Wednesday, participants visited the Governor’s website to sign a petition for SB2043 and urge Rauner to sign the bill.

On Telephone Thursday, participants called the Governor’s Office at 217-782-0244  or 312-814-2121 and asked him to sign SB2043 see a video clip here 20160212_121629

On Facebook Friday we reached over 1000 people, please help us share this post!


Learning to Succeed (LETOS) provides English classes in the morning and evening for immigrant adults, with an emphasis on life skills, civic engagement, and community transformation. The curriculum and teaching method we use is based on popular education; there-fore, participants are encouraged to participate in class, curricula, and evaluation of the program. Classes take place at two different locations in Little Village and in Chicago Lawn.


At the community level the state budget crisis has rippled it’s outer rings and impacted direct services to workforce programs, computer training, after-school youth programs, adult education and family literacy. These programs provide educational training to hard working immigrants residing in the Chicagoland area.

Today, the State of Illinois continues to struggle as community centers fold and many others reduce services to less than 50% capacity. What should we tell people who knock on our doors at night who struggle to pay the rent and keep their homes warm in the cold winters? What should we tell people who are victims of violence due to a rise in crime and gun violence – “Do you want a job?”, “do you want to go to college?” if you don’t sorry we can not help you because you are not contributing to the States economy?

IMG_7296Little do you know these are hard working immigrants, they all have jobs, they all work long hours, they all want to get a better jobs, they all want to go to college or universities. But, they have other responsibilities and commit selfless acts, each person can not surrender thousands of dollars to institutions. Community centers provide a space where each learner gains confidence to build their communication skills to carry out conversations in English with their employers and at demanding times in the doctor’s office or with their children’s teachers. These types of programs must also be funded in order to equip those who can to continue in their educational paths and individual career pipelines even if the end result is a raise or a better position in a job they have committed their entire lives to.

How well do you know people committed to learn English?

“My name is Jose Diaz. I prefer to be called Jose. I was born in Puerto Rico. I am 49 years old. I came to Chicago on February 26th 2009. I am married.”

“My name is Betty Salguero. I prefer to be called Betty. I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I am 47 years old. I came to Chicago on January 2010. I am married. I am a nurse. I like to work at O’Hare airport, I clean.  On my free time I like to watch movies. I love to eat Ecuadorian food. My favorite place to visit is the mall. I like to learn at Universidad Popular. ”

“My name is Maria Elena Romano. I prefer to be called Maria Elena. I was born in Mexico City. I am 61 years old. I came to Chicago on May 26th, 1994. I am married. I like to dance everything. On my free time I like to sing. My favorite food is American food. I am a participant at Universidad Popular since September 2015.”

“My name is Maria Barraza. I prefer to be called Mary. I was born in Durango, Mexico. I am 43 years old. I came to Chicago on October 1989. I am married. I am a first communion catechism teacher. I like to dance and I like to exercise with Zumba.  On my free time I like to watch TV, go to my mother’s house, walk and study English. I love to eat Mexican food. My favorite place to visit is Durango, Mexico. Every day I take my children to school.  I have four children. I work a lot at home and I take care of my mom.”


10th Annual Feria Del Mole – RESULTS


Universidad Popular (UP) celebrated its tenth annual “La Feria del Mole” on September 26 and “El Mercado del Mole” September 27, 2015.

Over 3,000 people from all over Chicago and the tri-state area came to taste, buy and take home mole in these events where 20 women and their families competed with their home-made recipes to be awarded the “Best Mole in Chicago.”


This year’s winners by majority vote included:

$500 for “First Best Mole,” to Table #11 Ma. Carmen Flores, a Chicago Lawn resident, from Cerro del Campo, Amatepec, México
$350 for “Second Best Mole,” to Table # 6 Maria Gonzalez, a Gurnee, IL resident, from Michoacán, Mexico
$250 for “Third Best Mole,” to Table #9 Rocio Aguilar, a Chicago Lawn resident, from Mexico City, Mexico

Special cash awards for best table and dress:winner11
$150 for “Best Table Decoration,” to Table #12 Julia Garcia
$150 for “Best Traditional Dress,” to Table #27 Griselda Baez

This year Universidad Popular helped ( La Feria del Mole has certified)  15 moleras obtain  their Food Hand Sanitation Certificate from the National Restaurant Association  through the ServSafe Food Handler Program (a complete solution that delivers consistent food safety training to employees) which  covers five key areas:

● Basic Food Safety
● Personal Hygiene
● Cross-contamination & Allergens
● GTime & Temperature
● Cleaning & Sanitation.

winner2Our annual event Feria del Mole was presented as a play at Goodman Theater through a partnership with Albany Park Theater Project (APTP), a multi-ethnic youth-led theater who is dedicated to do performance art, and a vision of social justice. Miguel Alvelo, Little Village resident and UP program facilitator who knew Rossana Rodriguez’s work at APTP, thought that this event would be a good opportunity to bridge our efforts and this was how this mole play came into being. Rossana jumped on the bandwagon with a group of youth and came to La Villita back in the Summer to conduct a series of field interviews, the basic ingredients of FEAST.
winner8The idea behind these interviews was to create an original play
based on the life experiences of the moleras, whose stories might otherwise go untold. The performance FEAST 2015 was based on those moleras’ stories and other ethnic groups. Albany Park Theater Project had a success with this performance and the play was available for a month and a half at the Goodman Theater plus a special presentation at UP’s assembly hall.

winner3This year’s 2-day event was a great success in celebrating our culture with Mole at the spotlight of traditional Mexican Cuisine. Most importantly, this family event had moleras working together with their sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even in-laws to contribute to an amazing day full of Mole tasting, performances and entertainment for all. Carmen Celio from table #18 said, “next year I’m going to have one of my sons cook the mole and compete for me, this year my grandchildren helped me, and I was delighted to pass down this traditional recipe of a combined taste from Guanajuato and Veracruz.”

A little history of the winners of La Feria Del Mole 2015:
Lilia segoviano

Maria del Carmen Flores 1st Place:winner1
Maria del Carmen is a native of the state of Mexico, Cerro del Campo, Amatepec, Mexico. Carmen came to UP looking for adult education. During the lessons she learned about La Feria del Mole and decided to participate. Last year she won 2nd place and now took first place. She brought the whole family, daughters, sons and grandchild Karina. All were very supportive during the event. Carmen said the mole recipe is from her mother but modified to your taste and the taste of the public. She dedicates her time to cooking and covering orders from family and friends for the family business. She works making food to sustain the family. She was very happy to have participated during these two years. Her Mole was prepared using more than 10 pounds of a mixture of chile peppers. It took a day to prepare the mole for the event and cooked for more than two hours. Carmen shared, “I have 21 years living in Chicago. My dream is to have a restaurant to own and work out of. I worked in a bakery and I learned to bake cookies and cakes. After this year’s Feria I went to celebrate. Thank God.”

Maria González 2nd Place:
winner9Originally from Michoacán Maria participated in the fair last year obtaining 3rd place. She participated again and this time won 2nd place. Coincidentally the day of La Feria was her husband’s birthday therefore celebrated here with the mole festivities and her entire family to support. Married with 5 children, all living in Chicago for 26 years Maria lives near Gurnee Mall. She traveled more than an hour away with the family by car. She was made aware of La Feria del Mole by her daughter and signed up for the contest. Maria shared, “My mole is a family recipe and my daughters know how to make it and give it the same traditional flavor. We bought 4 pounds of chile guajillo and chile ancho. My family helped me to prepare the mole; it took like 5 hours of teamwork. I added all the seasonings. This opportunity was very emotional for us because we put a lot of time and heart together to share this recipe of ours. I was very nervous during the event. I made the mole last me the entire event, sometimes I gave a lot and sometimes I gave less but I always measured mole to distribute. As a result my sisters have shared that I need to make mole for their parties and family events. During the fair many asked me where they could buy my paste. The whole event was great.

Rocio Aguilar 3rd Place.
winner12From the State of Mexico Rocio brings her great-aunt’s recipe, but her mom’s seasoning claims a flavor of queens of Mole recipes, Rocio is matching its great taste with its distinctive flavor. All participated in the family. Originally from Mexico City, parents born in Guanajuato, Tlalnepantla the mole was a tradition of the grandmother. Rocio’s great-aunt usually makes for family parties and Rocio helps. Rocio would take her great-aunt to the market to buy chiles. “Winning 2nd place was great for us.  We were all nervous at the beginning while standing on stage to begin the competition especially since the nieces of one of the Ambassadors were participating,” Rocio shared. Rocio felt nervous because he had not participated in this type of family event and the stage caused some nerve. “It’s not the same before and during the competition, we worked hard for two days to get everything ready. I like to make mole, for me this process can last one week. The peppers are ground, toasted and everything in-between, this is a long process. My husband said I should of done it myself but we all know food tastes better when my aunts, sister-in-laws, two nephews, four nieces got involved. A good teamwork for sure! My sister-in-law & child’s godmother and their children, including Sandra helped to decorate the table front. The event made me feel very good, and less pressured, we saw a very familiar atmosphere. Each table had its season of flavor, it was amazing.

About El Mercado Del Mole :
Olivia Flores-Godinez

El Mercado del Mole is the outcome of Universidad Popular’s micro-business initiative not only to promote our moleras but also to plant the business seed in their mind for them to sell their mole sauce and eventually start building their (family?!) business using their (delicious?!) family/ancestors mole recipe.

The Mole winners by popular vote, shared their mole cuisine on the following day. At this time we had the opportunity to sit and eat this delicious mole; Doña Chevia (89 years old) tried all of them! Josefina came to buy mole to prepare her dinner at home, “I am cooking the chicken at home as we speak, I just need the mole” she said. The Guangorena’s family heard about el Mercado del Mole on the TV news and decided to come to visit us at UP, Mr. Rangel drove all the way from Streator Illinois to come and eat mole! One of the Moleras created a good variety of dishes using mole, such as Tortas de mole, nachos de mole, and enchiladas de mole at her table.

What I noticed during El Mercado del Mole was that most of the people were seniors that wanted to come sit and enjoy the mole either with their family, relatives or friends. We had the Chinelos, a Morelos dance group that brought plenty of joy on the audience; people stood up and danced with them, many smiles were seen from those that enjoyed watching them perform– the ambient was great to create abundant memories for all of us!

About El Mercado del Mole:
Rocio Aguilar

winner13“It was another great experience, something new and a lot of work to participate in the Mole Market. My whole family joined this hard working activity including my husband, my godmother (sister in-law), my aunts and my parents. From a week earlier we plan to sell. We came up with the idea of presenting the mole as traditionally sold in the city of Mexico. We offered mole in “tortas” (mexican sandwiches), enchiladas (tortillas with mole), nachos with mole, mole hojaldras (burgers).

The nachos we invented here in Chicago because it was something simple for kids to eat and provided the taste of mole. We also think that many people are vegetarian and nachos is something that can be attractive. Some do not eat meat so the idea of nachos was a good choice. It was impressive to see the people who tasted the mole we cook, it was worth all the work. There is no better judge than the people who eat my mole and say “good!, I like this! or it is delicious!”

winner10We would also like to give a special thanks to all of our volunteers and sponsors who helped and contributed to this successful cultural family gathering. See you next year!

UP’s Knitting Group – Now on THURSDAYS!

IMG_1758Last year for International Women’s Day, the English classes put on an IMG_1765exhibition of women’s talents to highlight the women that are part of the program.

Maria Serrato brought many knit items to show and shared a little bit of her history, how she learned to knit, and her micro-business of selling hats and scarves that she makes herself.
From there, Maria decided to form a group to share her skills with others. Since then, the group has been
meeting once a week after the morning English classes. Some people have come to learn knitting for the first time, and many come to knit new projects, learn a few new stitches, and enjoy spending time and sharing stories with other women in the IMG_1757neighborhood.IMG_1755

This year, the group meetings have been moved to Thursdays from 12:00-1:00. We are trying to do more projects together, and are starting with a simple hat. All are welcome to join!



Finger Painting and Adult Literacy?

On November 12, 2014, Universidad Popular embarked on a new adventure  called the  Learning TO Succeed Family Program, which now takes place Tuesdays through Thursdays at 9AM. Universidad Popular has always been a place for youth, adults and the elderly. Now it has become the second home to ten children between the ages of two and five.


The first day was used for the kids, alongside their parents, to explore the classroom and everything that it had to offer. Through donations, hard work and a dedicated staff, what was once an art room is now a place for children to develop and reinforce the values first taught at home while building social skills.


This program allows parents to come to the morning English classes while their kids enjoy interacting with children their own age. Through various activities including  arts, crafts, and trips to the library, parents will have the opportunity to bond with their children. Universidad Popular has big plans for the future of this program and the participants involved. We currently have limited space for children but we are planning to expand the program as soon as more funding becomes available.