A community organization in Chicago has unveiled La Casa, a housing development near the city's leading universities that seeks to provide Latino college students with a place to live and study at affordable rates.

"We want to change the community dynamics, to motivate our young people to go to college and take a degree. The message is clear and very strong," La Casa director Maria Bucio told Efe.

The Chicago-born daughter of Mexican immigrants said there are many Latino collegians who live at home without ever experiencing what life on campus is like, sometimes out of habit but mostly for economic reasons.

"An hour to get there, another to return home. Then the work of helping the family and all the things that need doing around the house. It's a great effort to stay the course, and everything conspires against reaching the final goal" of graduation, she said.

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At the presentation of La Casa this week, The Resurrection Project CEO Raul Raymundo said that in the United States there are more than 12 million Latinos going to college.

Yet they continue to be the least-educated group when it comes to getting a degree. In 2010 there were only 13 percent of Latinos between 25 and 29 with a college degree, he said.

"We founded La Casa with Chicago's Latinos in mind - to help them find success with a safe, quiet and affordable place to live and study while pursuing their dream," he said.

In Latino communities that Resurrection has served for 22 years with neighborhood revitalization projects, the proportion of individuals with degrees is between 10 percent and 13 percent, according to Raymundo.

"That's an unacceptable statistic for us - we want to help young people with strategies like La Casa to become the leaders and professionals of tomorrow," he said.

La Casa hopes to welcome young people from Latino neighborhoods like Pilsen and La Villita/Little Village who are usually the first in their families to attend college.

Jessenia Martinez, a senior at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, said she'd like to live in La Casa because her current two-bedroom accommodations are too small.

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"I live with my mother, my brother, my little sister and my dad. There's a lot of noise and I just can't think when I'm trying to study. In La Casa I'd have my own space and still be near my family," she said.

La Casa is a six-story building in the heart of Pilsen.

The location is ideal, with access to an elevated railroad line and several bus routes, as well as being just minutes away from the city's leading universities and community colleges.

The ground floor will have recreation and reception areas and a cafeteria.

The other floors will provide accomodation for 100 students, a gymnasium, laundry room, conference room and kitchens. All expenses for gas, electricity, water and Internet Wi-Fi will be included.

Each floor will have a resident adviser, most of them graduate students.

"Everything a university dorm has to offer but even less expensive than living off campus," Bucio said.

The $11.6 million invested in La Casa were contributed by the state of Illinois, private foundations and charitable donations.

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