Photo: Arturo Pedraza
As the nation’s schools struggle to thrive and the need for high quality teachers goes unmet there is National Louis University (NLU) who is answering the call one teaching student at a time with its 125 year history producing outstanding educators. Recently it developed a program in Chicago, the Harrison Fellowship, to identify potential educators that can serve their community and who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend college.
And within the confines of this program there is a Hispanic standout, Arturo Pedraza, who is a teacher extraordinaire in the making.
Arturo, inspired by his older sister who is a teacher and the desire to provide a college-educated role model for his daughter, decided to leave the music business and go to school at the ripe old age of 33. Of course like a lot of aspiring Latino college students there were the realities to contend with, like paying for school and providing for family while going to school full-time. This did not deter Arturo and the community that came together to support his dream to get an education so he could come back and educate them.
Harrison Fellowships are awarded to full-time students at NLU interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in elementary education. In order to qualify, an applicant must be sponsored and recommended by a community leader, who in turns agrees to provide encouragement and leadership opportunities and use their education to serve and advance their communities - and that was Pedraza. This very generous $50,000 scholarship is given to those students who exhibit strong promise in their communities and NLU saw in Pedraza what many others saw - a Hispanic standout.
Arturo was sponsored for the program by a community organization serving the Mexican-American community in Pilsen, a predominately Latino neighborhood in southwest Chicago. Pedraza worked for the National Able organization and they saw him as a giver and a wise investment for the community.
Arturo, who is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in elementary education with a concentration in science and math, will focus on middle school and bi-lingual eduation after he graduates. He also plans to give back to the Pilsen community with plans to develop after school arts and math inspired music programs. In addition, Pedraza is an outspoken advocate of bilingual education and its benefits.
He juggles his full-time studies, with full-time work all while parenting 9 year-old Grey Marie. This work ethic was inherited from his Mexican immigrant parents, who came to the U.S. some 40 years ago. He says “I see myself as a role model who wants to give back” and Arturo we also see you as a role model who already is giving back by setting an example to many.