PODER Through the Years

PODER’s story began in January, 1997, in a rehabbed former boxing ring in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago as the Loyola Center, a small adult education center to serve the parents of children attending St. Procopius Elementary School and the first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. The center was founded by PODER’s CEO Daniel P. Loftus, who oversaw its gradual expansion to include computer training, four levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and Spanish literacy.

In 2013, PODER launched its Oprima-1, LLC Call Center as a pipeline from English language acquisition to customer service training leading to the mainstream workforce. Due to the gradual gentrification of the Pilsen area and the shift of Chicago’s Latino immigrant communities further southwest, PODER opened its satellite on the second floor of Marquette Bank in the West Lawn neighborhood in 2014. Shortly after, two additional sites in the vicinity were added, at Catholic Charities in Gage Park in 2015 and at Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago Lawn in 2017. By 2016, PODER had reached another milestone, having served 10,000 students. Since then, PODER has enhanced its programs to serve as an immigrant integration center, with five levels of Integrated English and Workforce Development programs that include Customer Service training tied to an industry-recognized credential, Bilingual Insurance Licensing and Latinos in Finance, and digital literacy and financial literacy are incorporated into all of PODER’s programs.

Check out our timeline below…

August, 1996

Founding

Hired by the Jesuits and the Archdiocese of Chicago to found an adult education center in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood of Chicago (see below).  As part of the Pilsen Project (St. Procopius Church, St. Procopius Elementary School and the first Cristo Rey Jesuit HS), the adult ed center was founded to meet the needs of the parents of the elementary and high school students.  I was the only full-time person working as admin and teacher until 10/00 when I became a full-time administrator. 

  • 50% of adults in community have less than 9th grade education
  • 17.1% are high school graduates
  • 3% have a bachelor’s degree
  • 30% of households have a combined income less than $15,000 annually
  • more than 15,000 do not speak English
  • 95% of adults enrolled have never used a computer
  • direct link of education poverty to material poverty and family structure suffers as parents grow dependent on their English speaking children
August, 1996

January, 1997

Loyola Center opened

Loyola Center opened in January ’97 after initial community needs assessment and the rehab of a former boxing ring and gym at 1637 S Allport St (Chicago). Numerous donations of time, money, and computer hardware allowed the Center to expand:

  • 6 students in AM only in first completed classroom
  • 1 volunteer
January, 1997

January, 1998

  • 45 students
  • Rehab complete (5 classrooms/comp lab/admin office)
  • 4 volunteers
  • 2 days a week at 9:30 AM and 6:30 PM only
  • computer program incorporated into ESL classes with 10-286 machines
  • 2 ESL levels
  • incorporated 3/98
January, 1998

January, 1999

  • 95 students 
  • 3 days/wk in AM & PM sections
  • 3 part-time teachers & 5 volunteers
  • 4 ESL levels/Spanish Literacy & computer training added
  • active 501(c)(3) not-for-profit/nonsectarian organization
January, 1999

January, 2000

  • 140 students
  • 4 days/wk at 8:15; 10:30 AM; 6:30 PM
  • 72 personal computers in 4 labs: 25 486s; 47 Pentium I
  • part-time teachers hired as volunteers move to assistant role
January, 2000

January, 2001

PODER Learning Center

  • PODER Learning Center (new name/identity)
  • 215 students
  • II lab opens (H.S. program; Bridge Program; citizenship);
  • 5 ESL levels open; Keyboarding added
  • 2 AM & 2 PM sections
  • 2 full-time & 6 part-time teachers; part-time development director
  • 8 volunteer teacher assistants
January, 2001

2002

Satellite site opens at Cristo Rey High School in Pilsen

2002

2004

Milestone: 5,000 individuals served

2004

2005

Satellite site opens at El Valor in South Chicago

2005

2010

Fiscal Years 1997-2010

2010

2011

Fiscal Years 1997-2011

2011

2013

Oprima-1, LLC Call Center launched

2013

2014

Satellite site opens at Marquette Bank in West Lawn

2014

2015

Satellite site opens at Catholic Charities in Gage Park

ESL curriculum updated and renamed English Works

2015

2016

Milestone: 10,000 Individuals served

2016

2017

Satellite site opens at Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago Lawn

2017

2018

PODER Team Grew by 100%

2018

2019

Pulaski Site Remodel- New Training Rooms Added

2019

2022

PODER HQ- Coming Soon!

Visit our Capital Campaign page for more information.

2022
Scroll to Top