Survey says Spanish-speaking influx feels safe in Rantoul

Rantoul has seen a large influx of Spanish-speaking people come into the district.


The reason, according to the Rev. Nelson Cuevas, director of the Cultivators Mission Center in Rantoul — a center that caters to the needs of Spanish- and English-speaking people — largely is because they feel safe in Rantoul.


And that's from the mouths of the people.


Those who come to Cultivators for assistance are asked what brought them to the community.


"The reason (the) families are moving to Rantoul is because it's a safe community to raise their children," Cuevas said. "That's based on a survey we've done when we submit our data for any type of funds."


Cuevas said most of those who have moved to this community "come from either states or countries where safety is not guaranteed for their families."


Cuevas said most of the children — and many of the adults — were born in this country but grew up speaking Spanish.


"I'm noticing the Latino community that's growing in Rantoul are U.S. citizens," Cuevas said.


Another reason for moving to Rantoul, he said, is jobs.


"There's blue-collar jobs," Cuevas said. "They work multiple jobs, low-, minimum-wage jobs, fast food and those types of jobs."


Nicole Haegele, the bilingual coordinator at Eastlawn Grade School, which has seen the number of bilingual students climb to 99 this school year, said families she has spoken with indicate there are several reasons why "the families are moving around."


In addition to jobs — not just in Rantoul but in the area — "Some people just appreciate the people around here. They've had a better experience," Haegele said.


She also said the schools have done a better job identifying the number of Spanish-speaking people and getting them services "when they need it."


Eastlawn Principal Jason Wallace said 94 percent of the children attending RCS schools are U.S.-born.


Haegele said there are also students from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Guatemala attending Eastlawn, but the majority were born in this country.


Wallace said having bilingual students present has helped staff and students learn about other countries and cultures as well.


"Some of the things I've learned, a lot of the things like their culture and holidays I've never heard of before," Wallace said.


It's not just Rantoul or Champaign County as a whole, though, that are seeing higher numbers of Spanish-speaking people.


"It's basically the whole state," Haegele said.


Cuevas said according to the Cultivators survey, about 10 percent of the population of Rantoul is Hispanic.


"They're Latino U.S. citizens," he said.


He said because of the growth in the Spanish-speaking population, the Fuentes de Agua church that has been meeting in the Rantoul Plaza shopping center has run out of room, so Cultivators has agreed to let the church hold multiple services in its facility on South Maplewood Drive. Cuevas said the number attending the church had climbed from 10-15 to about 200 at times.

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