The Joys and Challenges of a Lifestyle Committed to Helping Others
Fostering community requires extraordinary dedication and salient leadership—Dr. Elias Alonzo embodies these qualities in his service as Principal of Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy in Chicago, IL.
Dr. Alonzo’s commitment to service extends far beyond the classroom to permeate the entire IHSCA and Instituto family with many ongoing community outreach initiatives. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic rattled this community in the spring of 2020, Alonzo led an outreach group composed of IHSCA students and other Instituto members to serve vulnerable populations in west Chicago. This group delivered more than six thousand boxes of food to recently unemployed and otherwise disadvantaged families and provided funding and support for hundreds of families to cover rent, utilities, and other bills during a critical time of profound job insecurity.
Dr. Alonzo has also organized other outreach initiatives, such as continuing education courses and special topics workshops for parents and family members—notably, IHSCA has sponsored a course to equip adults navigating the real estate market with information and resources for buying and renting houses, including all the peripheral processes—”Many families don’t really know how loans and credit work,” he mentions.
Other workshops cover a wide range of topics such as personal health, acquiring Medicaid, and navigating the health care systems; Dr. Alonzo notes, “Many of our families need government services,” and he is passionate about connecting them to the proper resources that will help them thrive in community.
Additionally, Dr. Alonzo coordinated a COVID-19 vaccination clinic with Instituto and Illinois Unidos which successfully inoculated over five hundred people—this initiative was most impressive due to the overwhelming display of humility and service of IHSCA students, who stepped up en masse to meet the needs of their community. Students facilitated distribution and provided translation services for the clinic’s participants, many of whom were non-native English speaking Hispanic community members. He says, “It is very important for us to serve our community not only during the pandemic but at all times because they need us there.” The IHSCA served as a buttress of hope and healing amid the uncertainty and strife caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Hispanic and recently immigrated populations benefit from continuing education courses on tailored topics such as ESL (English as a Second language), American citizenship, job acquisition, and career development.
Adult IHSCA family members welcome these programs with humility, perseverance, and courage, pursuing the goal of thriving in their respective fields—Dr. Alonzo sees the passion they display for this goal and says, “We help them in whatever is necessary to achieve it.” Extracurricular programs such as these empower all IHSCA community members not only in the classroom, but also in their homes and in the workforce.
Dr. Alonzo’s most involved project yet has been transitioning to remote learning during the pandemic, which required overcoming disparities in internet access among IHSCA students. This undertaking was a community-wide effort, involving the outstanding work and adaptability of students, faculty and staff, and supporters throughout Chicago. “We didn’t want our student s to fall behind,” he said, during a time when so many other facets of life were stunted. “We had to make sure we had the resources and programs to be able to support our students.” Dr. Alonzo approaches his role with tremendous gratitude for the IHSCA family and other supporters.
He stresses that he would not have accomplished these projects alone—he has built a strong network with various sectors of community life in Chicago “where everyone came together to support each other,” including city councilmen, non-profit organizations, and health care organizations. As a result of these concerted efforts, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy’s core values, holistic community educational approach, and hardworking student body, faculty and staff, and administrators enjoy a thriving community that will only continue to grow over time.