Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=209457
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Children play an educational game at Gads Hill Center in Pilsen.  The center offers after-school programs.


4th Congressional District’s GOP candidate highlights education reform

by Brina Monterroza
Oct 24, 2012


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Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Hector Concepcion, Republican candidate for Illinois' 4th Congressional District.

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Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

The boys are trying to decide what category to choose from to be able to gain the most points in the game.


Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Hector Concepcion talks about his experience combating crime as a community service officer in Waukegan, Ill.


Hector Conception, Republican challenger in the 4th Congressional District, says there is too much concern about immigration reform and not enough about education reform.

This reflects a top concern of Pilsen residents interviewed earlier this month.

“If you don’t focus on education what is our future going to look like?” Concepcion said.

Concepcion, 42, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) is an investment advisor who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago. His campaign’s main focus is on job creation and education reform.
 
He said the failed attempt to get his educational program off the ground is what pushed him to run for Congress.

“I’m going to run for U.S. Congress, because I don’t see anybody doing anything for education,” he said.

His program, Progressive Minds, was a computerized system that allowed teachers to track how children absorbed information and at what speed. Concepcion said he partnered with several universities throughout the city and Motorola engineers to create the curriculum but it was never adopted.

“My idea was to motivate children at an early age so when they get to fifth and sixth grade [they’re] so pumped up that they aren’t going to drop out of high school,” Concepcion said, “and they will continue that hunger for learning when they go to college.”

Maricela Garcia, a community leader in Pilsen, said she agrees there is not enough focus on education reform.

“Immigration is not the top issue,” said Garcia, CEO of the nonprofit Gads Hill Center. “Education is the main issue for Latinos.” The Gads Hill Center offers after-school programs and other community resources, such as health education

Another issue some Pilsen residents said they were worried about was crime and gangs.

Concepcion said his strategy for combating crime and gangs in Chicago would be to have the Police Department implementing a Community Service Officers program. A CSO is a civilian position that assists police officers in areas such as traffic and crime prevention, he said. The position is defined differently in each state – California and Pennsylvania are examples – and at times by local jurisdiction.

Concepcion worked as a CSO in the city of Waukegan, north of Chicago, and said the crime rate dropped.

He said employing CSOs would be a powerful way to bring down crime and help with the budget crunch in Chicago. “We need to create that in different sectors of Chicago, so we can bring public safety again,” he said.

With only 2 weeks until Election Day, Concepcion said he knows it will be a tough race against Gutierrez, who has been in Congress since 1993. But, Concepcion said that he will continue to reach out to constituents to vote for change.

“My work is in the community, getting my message out, talking to people, knowing what they need,” he said.