Waukegan Public Library is selected as an American Dream Library


The Waukegan Public Library has been selected as one of 44 public libraries in 21 states to receive a one-time grant of $15,000 for its “Promotoras Ambassador Program”. The American Dream Starts @ your library® grant is a literacy initiative for adult English language learners and their families. Funds will be used to help the library build its print and digital ESL collections, increase computer access and raise the visibility of library services for immigrant populations in Waukegan.

The Waukegan Public Library’s Promotoras Ambassador Engagement Program was founded in January, 2012. It sends specially trained volunteers directly into the Latino community to better understand the barriers keeping Latinos from succeeding. Based on the findings of the Promotoras, the Library has created new English Language Learner classes focused on literacy needs, such as Conversational ESL, Spanish Pre-GED, Citizenship study groups, and an online program helping students read in Spanish. After only a year, the Promotoras registered over 800 new Latino library patrons and more than half of those are now participating in programs and checking out materials on a regular basis.

Awarded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the American Library Association (ALA) and its Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS), the Waukegan Public Library’s Promotoras program joins a cohort of 100 previously funded programs in Dollar General communities. The award-winning American Dream libraries built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners. All American Dream libraries are located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center or corporate office. 

 “The American Dream will certainly start at our Library,” said Carmen Patlan, Community Engagement and Outreach Manager and creator of the Promotoras Ambassador Program. “With the support of this amazing grant we will be able to assist hundreds of Latino families increase their English speaking skills, connect them to our Spanish Pre-GED program and help with their overall literacy and educational needs to make their American Dream a reality.”

“I have witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm of the students as they walk into a Conversational ESL class. They often share how this program has improved their lives, and how grateful they are that we are able to offer culturally relevant programs where they feel welcomed and supported as they seek to make their dream of speaking English a reality,” said Patlan.

Last year, the Promotoras Ambassador Program also received the American Library Association’s Loleta D. Fyan grant for $5,000 and a $10,000 grant from the Church of the Holy Spirit to continue its outreach in the community.