School offers safe haven for young minds

November 5, 2009 (CHICAGO) Welcome to Ortiz de Dominguez School in the city's Little Village neighborhood. This Chicago public school welcomes preschool children through second grade and currently has an enrollment of nearly 800 students. The moment you enter the foyer where the ceiling reaches for the sky, you can feel the love, hope and thirst for knowledge that these young ones possess.

Angelica Hererra-Vest, once a Chicago public school student herself, is now principal. She said her goals for the children are high and her passion for them runs deep.

"I want them to succeed. I want them to come back and tell us about the wonderful things they are doing," Hererra-Vest said.

And she worries about them as if they were her own, especially with such a hefty challenge that looms in that area.

"I think the challenge we face is the gang activity around the school," Hererra-Vest said.

Kindergarten teacher Philip Iem seems to agree with his principal.

"It's not the safest neighborhood, so they're kind of scared," he said. "So I have to build that sense of safety in them."

And not just safety, but there's another thing he wishes there was more of: time. Activities that include weather, music and student of the day!

Nurturing and encouragement come so easily to this former Chicago Public Schools student, who used to teach middle school science. He says to this day his mom thinks he was destined to be a kindergarten teacher.

"She says I sat at the little kids' table during Thanksgiving a little too much, so I got used to being with the kids," Iem said. "I like the interaction. It's pure, you know, it's fun loving, and they're always so excited, so I think that's why I chose kindergarten."

"I like that he gives us homework," said Crystal, one of Iem's students.

My teacher is a good teacher. I love him," said Ibana, one of Iem's students.

With a safe and secure environment along with these loving, caring personalities at the helm, , the multi-award winning Ortiz de Dominguez School truly is a school students say they love.

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