Category Archive 'Omar Torres'

18 Sep 2011

Choosing a Polish War Hero

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Pfc. Omar E. Torres, 20, of Chicago; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, US Army, died Aug. 22, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations.


David Feith
, in the Wall Street Journal, describes a Hispanic organization with the right perspective, and recounts a heart-warming anecdote of ethnic interaction between older and newer American immigrant communities.

According to [Juan] Rangel—CEO of Chicago’s United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and co-chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent election campaign—the central question for Hispanics to answer as they grow in number and potential political influence is: “Do we want to be the next victimized minority group in America, or do we want to be the next successful immigrant group?” …

UNO’s main operation is an 11-school charter network serving 5,500 students, 98% of whom are Hispanic (mostly immigrant families from Mexico) and 93% of whom are at or below the poverty line. The schools—which the Chicago Tribune says outperform city averages—include many staples of effective charters: strict uniforms, an extended school day and year, and a contract laying out parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities to students and vice versa, which may soon be the model for a contract distributed city-wide.

At UNO’s schools there’s no controversy over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily or singing the Star-Spangled Banner before every public event. On Flag Day every June, roughly 100 immigrants swear oaths of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony held in an UNO gymnasium. …

One of the UNO network’s newest outposts is Veterans Memorial Campus, which has three schools, each named in honor of a Hispanic-American war hero. The campus is in the traditionally Polish Archer Heights neighborhood, and when Mr. Rangel initially proposed it, the neighbors were suspicious. Having met with the neighborhood association and earned its trust, Mr. Rangel invited the Poles to name one of the school buildings after a war hero of theirs. After several days of deliberation they responded, to Mr. Rangel’s surprise, by naming Omar Torres, a Hispanic son of Archer Heights who had recently died in Iraq.


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