For Alma Sigala, “El Norte” was the place where her dreams would come true. Visitors who came to her hometown village in Zacatecas marveled at how wonderful life was in the United States. Like everyone else in her town, she wanted a better future for her family. “My husband was already living in the United States, and a family should always be together, in good times and in bad,” recalls Alma.
More than a decade ago, filled with fear and hope, Alma made the decision to come to the U.S. with her two children. The family settled in The Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. Like many immigrants, Alma began struggling to adjust to the American way of life. She missed her family in Mexico and didn’t have the support she needed.
To Alma, living in “El Norte” seemed to involve working endlessly and not much else. The hot summers and brutal Chicago winters made her feel trapped and alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood. She began to suffer from a depression that lasted four years.
However, Alma was determined to feel better again. She began enrolling in English classes and then by taking an interest in Seward Elementary School, where her children attended. She became a chaperone for school trips and volunteered to help teachers in the classrooms.
Eventually, Alma even became President of the Local School Board. Then, in 2012, Alma was introduced to The Resurrection Project (TRP). She enrolled in TRP’s Liderazgo 8-week program. “The program taught us how to step out of our comfort zones and strengthen our leadership skills,” notes Alma.
The program strengthens participants’ understanding of culture, self-esteem, and communication skills. The courses focused on understanding the local community and on using collective power for change. TRP’s Community Organizers and staff, were so impressed by Alma’s participation that she was asked to join the newly formed Parent Mentors group as a coordinator.
In a short period, Alma began to organize parents and community members outside of the classroom. “It was a lot of work, but I felt an obligation to the school because that’s where my children attend,” reflects Alma. “I knew the parents weren’t just leaders within the school, but also leaders within their community.”
The Parent Mentors group and community volunteers have traveled to Springfield to fight for state funds, spoken to legislators, participated in political reform movements, and shared personal stories of triumph and the ways their involvement with TRP initiatives have changed their lives for the better.
“I help my community because I don’t want my children to live in a neighborhood run by gangs and violence,” says Alma. “The work we do is beautiful and requires a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Alma. “TRP provides us with the tools and resources to do the work and grow as leaders.”
Today, Alma has recovered from depression and is now an inspiring community leader both in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and across Chicago.
TRP is proud to witness Alma’s journey, and is excited to continue supporting her and all individuals committed to building healthy communities. Alma is just one example proving that with determination and collective power, Si Se Puede!
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