CHICAGO (CBS) – It's an organization that has been making an impact for immigrants in Chicago for 25 years. Poder, which means "you can" in Spanish, entered a new chapter on Friday by opening a brand new headquarters in Gage Park.
Poder has already changed thousands of lives in Chicago, helping Spanish-speaking immigrants learn English and help the land jobs. The new facility in Gage Park is already being called a gamechanger.
City leaders, alongside over 100 program leaders and community members attended Friday's grand opening of the new building , which will help Poder expand their resources even further.
"Poder has uplifted over 15,000 adult immigrants, and helped them build successful and fulfilling new lives in the United States, by placing 83% of graduates with employer partners – including banks and insurance providers – where Poder graduates experience 34% increase in wages," City Clerk Anna Valencia said.
In 2017, Jose Acebedo had just arrived with his family from their native Honduras to begin a new life in Chicago.
Aside from the many opportunities waiting for them in the U.S., the driving force that brought Acebedo's family here was to get treatment for their son Jose Andres who had a brain tumor.
"He needed something," Acebedo said referring to his son. "He needed to look for a hospital for his health."
They found that hospital, but the language barrier quickly proved to be another obstacle.
"It was hard," he said. "I was looking for a place where I could study and improve my English and that one place that I found was Poder."
Six years later, it turned out to be the best decision he made in his newly-adopted city. Now fluent in English, Acebedo works for the very organization that changed his life.
Poder is an immigrant integration center that for nearly 25 years has helped roughly 14,500 immigrants seize opportunities with tuition-free English as a second language courses, job training and placement programs.
The organization is entering a new chapter with the opening of its new regional headquarters in Gage Park, near 55th and Homan, which will become Chicago's first immigrant integration and job center, taking up residency in a building that previously had been abandoned for over 25 years.
It will give Poder an opportunity to make an even bigger impact.
"[We help them in] understanding financial and digital literacy to navigate this 21st century society is like that in basic need of that," said Brian Kopinski, program coordinator for Poder's integrated English services.
Ahead of its official opening on Friday, the team at Poder held a resource fair in an effort to bring out new faces, some of who are taken aback by the free services entirely funded by grants and donors.
"When we open, we want to make sure that they feel that it is a place they could trust, a place where feel welcome," said Griselda Piedra, Poder's community relations manager.
For Acebedo, his new role is already proving to be a full circle moment.
"When I see those people when they open the door, I can see myself six years ago," he said. "And I know si se puede, we can do this."
The group at Poder will be kicking things off on Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. where Mayor Lori Lightfoot is expected to be on hand. That will be followed with a day of services and family activities included an open house and self-guided tours from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
For more information on Poder and the new headquarters, visit poderworks.org.
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