JAMIE PESOTINE/Staff Photographer The Hazleton One Community Center’s after-school enrichment program in conjunction with Penn State University recently held an end of the year celebration at the Center where students displayed a mural in honor of the places and people in the community that make a positive difference in their lives.
JAMIE PESOTINE/Staff Photographer Mia Cabrera, front center, a student of the Hazleton One Community Center’s after-school enrichment program, performs a song she wrote during an end of the year celebration at the Center.
A crowd sat in awe, smiling as their eyes widened.
Young Franklin Nolasco was the source of their amazement, thanks to his back flips and floor spins. He dropped to the floor and his body moved as if to make a squiggly line, or a living boiled noodle.
Nolasco’s dancing was the final act of the Maymester course, a two-week Penn State University class that has students serve as mentors to after-school students in kindergarten to 12th grade at Hazleton One Community Center.
The course was designed to give future teachers experience with English Language Learners (ELL) and other multicultural students.
Nolasco was one of the students being mentored.
The night began with a warm-up performance by Nolasco in dance-off-like atmosphere.
Then, the guests arrived one by one. First, it was Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi, then Police Chief Frank DeAndrea, then representatives from Hazleton Little League, CAN DO Inc., and others.
ELLEN F. O’CONNELL/Staff Photographer Joe Maddon mingles with the crowd during the grand opening of the Hazleton One Community Center, located in the former Most Precious Blood School on East Fourth Street in Hazleton, on June 17, 2013.
BRIAN CASSELLA/Chicago Tribune (TNS) Joe Maddon speaks during a press conference in Chicago on Nov. 3, 2014, after being named the 54th manager in Chicago Cubs’ history.
BY CHRIS HINE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Published: February 8, 2015
Cubs manager Joe Maddon often speaks of his hometown with a folksy flair.
Take his opening news conference as Cubs manager when he told the bartender at the Cubby Bear to get everyone “a shot and a beer, the Hazleton way.” It was a nod to the blue-collar town built by immigrants tucked away in the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania where coal miners would frequent neighborhood bars after their shifts. Maddon, 60, grew up there in an apartment over his father’s plumbing store.
His mom still works at the Third Base Luncheonette, a popular hoagie-haven that has been in the Maddon family since 1949.
But as Maddon will tell you, Hazleton was a town in distress.
“My city was dying,” Maddon said.
So he set out to save it.
The Hazleton of 2015 is much different from the town Maddon knew in his youth. It was a melting pot of families from different European countries that had arrived in waves around the turn of the 20th century.
Then the population began to shift. The 2000 census showed that 94.7 percent of Hazleton’s 23,329 people were white, only 4.9 percent claimed Hispanic heritage. In 2010, the total population increased to 25,340. The proportion of whites decreased to 69.4 while Hispanics rose to 37.3 percent.
The growth reflected what was happening around the country, though Hazleton’s Hispanic population surge outpaced that of the U.S. In 2010, the Hispanic population in the U.S. was 16 percent, up from 13 percent in 2000.
Some were Mexican, some were Puerto Rican but most were Dominican. They came looking for jobs.
At the juncture of interstates 80 and 81, Hazleton, once a mining town, had become attractive to manufacturing and warehousing companies in the 2000s because of the ease with which companies could ship goods into and out of the area. That meant low-paying blue-collar jobs were available.
The Hazleton Oral History Project is a joint effort between adult ESL learners taking adult ESL classes at the Hazleton One Community Center through the Concerned Parents of the Hazleton Area English as a second language program and first-year rhetoric and composition students at Penn State Hazleton Over the course of several weeks, adult ESL learners and Penn State Hazleton students met to co-author a story about the adult ESL learner coming to America and/or living in Hazleton.