ARCOLA, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) – As we continue through Hispanic Heritage Month, the city of Arcola is continuing to grow in its own diversity.
“When we moved in years ago from Mexico, [it was for] only one reason, to bring family and get a better life and we make it, we [made] it happen,” Jesus Garza, Mayor of Arcola, said.
Garza has been the Mayor of Arcola for 2 1/2 years and is the first immigrant to lead the city.
“When I [was] elected Mayor, one of my goals is to bring the community together because I feel at that time, they started kind of splitting a little bit,” Garza said.
He explained this means everything to the Hispanic families that live in Arcola now, and it can serve as a blueprint for other communities to accept everyone.
“It means a lot now because everybody started helping. They start introducing themselves more with the school, [the] city, opening businesses, helping with the parks, more soccer, more Hispanic students playing football. It is great and everything drastically changed in the past few years,” Garza said.
A big change in the Arcola School District is its bilingual population.
In just a few years, the school district went from 8% of its students being bilingual to 25%.
“When I came here 10 years ago, I was a little nervous. We didn’t have a large bilingual population where I came from,” Tom Mulligan, Superintendent of the Arcola School District said.
Mulligan said everything they do now within the district has to be bilingual, but the atmosphere made for the kids has been incredible.
“It’s not just teaching English. It’s respecting and teaching in Spanish too and blending together. Our district and our community embraces it, it’s not something we have to do it’s something we love to do,” Mulligan said.
He said you don’t always get this amount of diversity in a small community like Arcola, so he feels very fortunate to be a part of it.
“If we are going to really grow as a community we have to embrace all parts. The power [and] growth. Where would we be without these Hispanic businesses? We’d really be struggling. We got to the point where we realize how important that is to embrace that piece of our community,” Mulligan said.