HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — As Highland Park continues to mourn and move forward as a community, officials say making bilingual resources available to those in need is paramount.
Pablo Alvarez, a trustee with the Moraine Township who also works as a counselor at Highland Park High School, recalled the events of Monday, July 4.
“I was marching with Moraine Township, carrying a banner with one hand and my phone in my other hand, taking pictures of all the families that I know — neighbors, students, former students — and wow, there was a lot of energy that day,” Alvarez said.
Positivity was soon replaced with panic when a gunman opened fire, killing seven people and injuring many more, including an 8-year-old boy who remains in critical condition.
“I know how this impacted me and immediately, I think at one time I looked and I had over 150 texts and almost daily, I get phone calls from residents and parents, students and individuals in the community asking for help,” Alvarez said.
Nearby community Highwood aims to help with the coping process.
“Highwood is just one street away from Highland Park, so we always consider ourselves one in the same community,” said Carmen Patlan, the director of Highwood Library & Community Center.
Regardless of where people live, officials want to ensure that individuals know the help available to them in their language.
“In the last two weeks, we have seen over 400 families that were from Highwood that were also impacted by this tragedy,” Paltan said.
Officials announced four goals Monday:
- Inform the Spanish-speaking communities of the resources available
- Emphasize that their citizenship status does not matter
- Raise awareness of possible scams and frauds
- Encourage the community to follow updates posted by the city of Highland Park
“We’ve already gotten notifications that there are fraudulent individuals seeking out immigrants, particular immigrants, who might have been in the scenario that we’ve been talking about,” Paltan said.
Officials say the partnership will include free legal counsel, therapy, mental health services and many other bilingual resources.
“Fortunately, we live in a place that welcomes immigrants, celebrates diversity and helps neighbors in need,” said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. “I’m honored to join Latino leaders of Highland Park and Highwood to discuss services available for Spanish speakers impacted by this tragedy.”
Organizers say offering services is a small step, they hope, will significantly impact mourning communities.
“My heart pains for the community and everyone who was there,” Alvarez said. “For the victims, those who were injured and those scared, even if they weren’t there that day, because it was tough.”