By Laura Rodriguez, chicagotribune.com
Read the original article here in Spanish, or the below translation
September 21, 2017
CHICAGO—Petra Jaime was left in charge of her 11 children in 1974 when her husband
suffered a “terrible” illness that prevented him from working, said the grandmother of 62
grandchildren, who immigrated to this city in 1954.
For 25 years, Jaime dedicated herself to taking care of her husband and children. She was able to push them forward with much effort, she recalls. In spite of “the economic and emotional difficulties,” she kept all her children in school, and most of them graduated from college. Her perseverance as a mother and her faith in God led her to become a guide for other parents, “no matter their race or language,” said Jaime, now 83 years old. In 1985 she became involved in Metro Achievement Center for girls, 310 S. Peoria St., part of Midtown Educational Foundation, and founded its program for parents.
Metro focuses on helping Chicago area students develop academically, socially, and humanly and to develop skills through education, sports, and good moral character, at a very low cost.
For 20 years, Jaime has dedicated herself to promoting “the importance of the family and moral values” among hundreds of parents. “My only goal is that families, whether they have many or few resources, know that they can provide their children with love and a moral education that will bring them beyond just being good students; it will help them to be good persons,” she added.
After enrolling her sons at Midtown Center for boys, 1819 N. Wood St., her daughters enrolled at Metro, and they were in fact among the first students in the girls’ program. Her granddaughters followed in their footsteps, and now her great-granddaughters are involved in the program.
“I admire her persistence and her faith, because all that she has done since she has arrived in this country was based on her faith in humanity,” said her grandson, Mariano Gomez. “All that my grandmother has experienced and her work with other families has taught me that the American Dream is not to rise from a low position to a high position, but to live in harmony in this country," he added.
Jaime commented that most her grandchildren, if not all, have been involved at Midtown or Metro as mentors, teachers, or volunteers.
“I am very proud of my children. All have a moral education that has guided them to be good persons, and they motivate others to be good persons,” said Jaime. “My focus is not to teach parents that their children should earn money. My focus is that they know that with a good education, good heart, and moral values, they can live in harmony with their family and neighbor,” said Jaime.
She has become the nucleus of the center, said Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro, the girls’ center. “Her dedication to promoting harmony, education, and the unity of the family is more than just seeing her work as a job, it is her life,” added Glenn Wilke, who also was a mentor in the Midtown program.
Despite walking slowly and having some health problems, Jaime refuses to leave her position. “I will stay while I can, with my family, it is my vocation,” said Jaime.
Her small office is adorned with photographs she has collected over the past 20 years. Some are of her children and grandchildren, others are of parents that have gone through her program. For Maria Orozco, Jaime has been like a mother for the past 6 years, when she enrolled her daughter in the program.
“Her character is strong and at the same time compassionate. She can enter the hearts of the families whether they are Latinos, African Americans, or any other race,” she added.
With some difficulty, the grandmother explained how she arrived at Metro without speaking English, “but I knew how to type, I was a secretary in Mexico,” she said, “and the girls had a lot of patience for teaching me.”
The difficulties that life presented her led her to take refuge in her vocation.
“Instead of crying over my problems, I knew that I could move ahead, but not only that, I could inspire other persons to do the same,” she added.
“Petra is the reflection of immigrants. She came and never gave up on her desire to pull her children along, and not only did she achieve that but she also dedicated herself to helping other parents do the same thing,” said Orozco.