In Chicago, an uncommon dorm meets a common need

La Casa in Chicago is probably the only college dorm in the country that offers a safe haven and support services to disadvantaged students no matter what area school they go to. And it does it at half the price of a regular campus dorm room. It's the latest and most innovative project yet in a long collaboration between a Chicago nonprofit, the Resurrection Project, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which provided start-up money and connections with national donors.

A Dorm for All Colleges

5 Nov 2012 - Michael Winerip, New York Times

La Casa
Photo Credit: Nathan Weber for The New York Times


ON that August morning, when the new college dormitory was scheduled to open here in the Pilsen section of Chicago, Martha Elena Nieto and her son, Teohua Villalobos, were first to arrive. It was 7 a.m. Move-in time wasn’t for several hours — the dorm director wasn’t even there yet — but Ms. Nieto was anxious to get on with it. She and Teohua hadn’t slept the night before, they were so excited. That this dormitory even existed felt like a small miracle, almost as if someone had built it specifically with Teohua and his mother in mind.

It was not for students from any particular college. It was for any commuter student from the South Side who needed a safe, quiet place to eat, sleep and study.

That was Teohua. He and his mother lived in a house with bars on the front door, in Chicago Lawn, one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. More than once, while watching TV, they had heard gunfire and dived to the floor for safety. Teohua, who is 20, is an A student with a bedroom full of books, attending Harold Washington, a community college. His mother feels sure he will be successful if she can just keep him alive long enough to graduate. Last year, traveling home from school at night, she would not let him walk from the bus stop, either picking him up or having him take a taxi.

Exactly one week after he moved into the new dorm, a young man named Darryl Manns was killed on the corner of their street in Chicago Lawn. “He wasn’t in a gang, he was just a random kid,” said Ms. Nieto. “It was right in front of the computer store where we used to get Teohua’s papers printed for school.” Continued[+]...

> Read the entire New York Times article.

> Visit the Chicago LISC website.

Article Type: News