CHICAGO (CBS) — A new community center designed to help people on the South Side get job training and classes to advance in their careers celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday.
The Chatham Education and Workforce Center opened at 79th and Champlain. It’s an 11,000-square foot state-of-the-art building with three classrooms, office space, and a maker lab including 3-D printers.READ MORE: Feds Seize 65,000 Counterfeit N95 Masks At O'Hare International Airport
The center will offer courses in manufacturing training, blueprint reading, introduction to electrical circuitry, and computer-aided design.
The project took nearly seven years of collaboration between the city of Chicago, Cook County, and local philanthropists.
“This center will catalyze economic development for years to come,” said Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, which operates the public workforce system in the City of Chicago and Cook County.
The project was inspired by the murder of Chicago Public Schools special education teacher Betty Howard in 2014. Howard was gunned down not far from where the Chatham Education and Workforce Center now stands.
The building will house the Greater Chatham Initiative, an organization formed in the wake of Howard’s death in an effort to spur economic development on the South Side.
“We are humbled by what we see here,” said Howard’s brother, Roosevelt Long. “Let’s see if we can get the next Betty Howard to come out of this establishment.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle helped celebrate the grand opening of the center.READ MORE: Illinois Surpasses 3 Million COVID-19 Vaccinations; More Than 1 Million Residents Fully Vaccinated
“I’m grateful that we were able to turn this site – a site of tragic violence – into an opportunity for community support, and service, and development,” Preckwinkle said. “I’m certain that Dr. Howard will be proud of this effort, and I’m glad that her family is here today to honor her memory.”
In addition to the various job training courses offered at the center, people also will be able to get help preparing resumes, and assistance with job screening and placement programs.
“Our faith and our commitment must be manifest in our works, and when we invest in residents, we invest in the future success of the city,” Lightfoot said. “The center, with its programming, will be a beacon of light and hope.”
The center was funded in large part by billionaire couple Jessica and Steve Sarowitz.
Jessica Sarowitz said Black and Brown neighborhoods on South Side have been denied needed resources for too long.
“The center is an important step in changing that here in Chicago. It is the result of a dedicated and committed community, one that has been working hard for years, decades, and generations,” she said.
In addition to the classes and career counseling, the center also will have a gallery wall to showcase the work of neighborhood artists.MORE NEWS: 'I Feel Relieved': What People Are Saying And Doing After They Get Their COVID Vaccine
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