Immigrant Solidarity DuPage general coordinator Cristobal Cavazos leads a weekly peace circle for Latino community members struggling with the mental trauma of the pandemic. Courtesy of Cristobal Cavazos
Immigrant Solidarity DuPage general coordinator Cristobal Cavazos leads a weekly peace circle for Latino community members struggling with the mental trauma of the pandemic. Courtesy of Cristobal Cavazos

A DuPage County group is helping Latino workers heal from the mental trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately is affecting communities of color.

Wheaton-based Immigrant Solidarity DuPage is using $15,000 in state funding to organize peace circles where essential workers employed in DuPage County factories and warehouses can talk with their peers in Spanish about their challenges dealing with COVID-related deaths, poverty and hunger. Participants mostly are from Addison, Glendale Heights and West Chicago.

"We are using these peace circles to destroy the alienation of the Latino community and heal collectively," said Cristobal Cavazos, general coordinator. "There's really been a spirit of hopelessness and helplessness in the community. So we've stepped in. These peace circles are spaces that allow suffering to speak. It is to talk about our reality, reflect upon our obstacles, and actions that we could take together to remedy this."

Wilbur Dumas Jr., left, cuts the hair of Jose Gomez. Dumas, 37, of Elgin, started the barbershop because he wanted to give back to the community. - Courtesy of Wilbur Dumas
Wilbur Dumas Jr., left, cuts the hair of Jose Gomez. Dumas, 37, of Elgin, started the barbershop because he wanted to give back to the community. - Courtesy of Wilbur Dumas

Giving back

Wilbur Dumas Jr. opened a barbershop in Elgin because he wanted to give back to the community that gave him a sense of purpose.

Dumas, 37, is a product of the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin and a graduate of Larkin High School in Elgin. He started Lincoln Avenue Barbershop four years ago with little money in his pocket.

Today, it is a bustling operation with six barbers -- three Black, two Puerto Rican, and one Asian American -- who grew up in the community with Dumas. The shop moved into a new, larger downtown location Friday.

Dumas volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club and teaches part-time at the Cosmetology and Spa Academy in Elgin. He has been offering free haircuts to Boys and Girls Club members at the barber school throughout the pandemic.

"Even though these are trying times, the barbershop has always been a safe place for people to come vent and talk about their problems," Dumas said. "There's a lot of kids that need direction and I wanted to be a Big Brother, mentor. It's about making people feel good."

Wilbur Dumas Jr., center, started a barbershop in Elgin with friends wanting to give back to the community. From left are Jimmy Roby, James Jones, Dumas, Daniel Villanueva, Leysha Villanueva and Sam Phonlasouk. - Courtesy of Wilbur Dumas
Wilbur Dumas Jr., center, started a barbershop in Elgin with friends wanting to give back to the community. From left are Jimmy Roby, James Jones, Dumas, Daniel Villanueva, Leysha Villanueva and Sam Phonlasouk. - Courtesy of Wilbur Dumas

Hispanic students lauded

Several suburban Latino high school students are among 27 seniors from the Midwest region recognized by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for leadership in the classroom and community.

Three students received gold, silver or bronze awards in each of a variety of categories.

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Among the 2020 recipients are:

  • Business and finance: Mateo Hernández, of Huntley, gold; Ariana Pacheco, of Franklin Park, bronze.

  • Entrepreneurship: Elena Pauker, of Glenview, gold; Lidia Orta, of Arlington Heights, silver.

  • Health care and science: Erica Pulido, of Plainfield, gold.

They will receive grants for their education or to fund an idea or community project. They will be mentored by past youth awardees as they prepare for college and careers through the foundation's Latinos On Fast Track workforce development program.

"I'm grateful for winning the ($1,000) award," said Hernández, 18, a Huntley High School senior who will be studying finance at the University of Michigan.

Hernández, who is Mexican American, is president of the Future Business Leaders of America and an investing club at Huntley High. He also started a League of United Latin American Citizens council at the school focused on promoting higher education to underrepresented minorities.

Youth service

Bridgeview-based Zakat Foundation of America is offering $20,000 in scholarships to high school seniors nationwide for their volunteerism and community service. Scholarships are open to Muslim and non-Muslim high school seniors for all types of service.

"We love all youth who take time out from their busy class schedules and activities to give back to their communities," said Nayma Kose, foundation outreach and community engagement manager. "It takes a special kind of high school student to look beyond just themselves, and we would like to recognize and honor them."

Nine $500 scholarships are earmarked for Chicago-area students. Applicants must fill out an online form, provide a reference, summarize their service, and show acceptance into a two- or four-year college or university. Applications will be accepted through May 10. Fill out the form at bit.ly/39uQFLo.