Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn inaugurated here on Thursday the La Casa Student Housing and Resource Center, which offers a place to live and study at affordable prices and near the city's main universities.

The initiative - which is sponsored by the Resurrection Project, a community organization in Chicago's mainly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood - cost $12 million, of which the state government contributed $8.4 million.

"Higher education is the key to improving our economy and preparing our students for the workforce of tomorrow," Quinn said at the ceremony. "This new student housing development will provide more resources to students to help them as they pursue their degrees."

La Casa "was created because we want all children in our community to know that a bachelor's degree is not an option, but a requirement," said the CEO of the Resurrection Project, Raul Raymundo.

He pointed out that in the United States there are more than 12 million Latinos going to college, but they continue to be the least-accomplished group when it comes to completing a degree.

La Casa in June began to receive young people from Latino neighborhoods like Pilsen and Little Village/La Villita, most of them the first in their families to go to college.

The building has six floors and is located in the heart of Chicago's Mexican community.

The structure has easy access to one of the elevated train lines and several bus routes, and it is just a few minutes from the city's main universities and community colleges.

On the first floor of the building is a reception area, a space for recreation, a cafeteria, a meeting room and laundry.

On the other floors are dorm rooms for 100 students and kitchens. Utilities and wireless Internet are included in the lodging cost.

Each floor also has a residential assistant, most of them post-graduate students who act as permanent mentors.

Next to La Casa there is a Resource Center for students where there is access to computers and a multi-use room in which to hold workshops.

Funds for the project came not only from the Illinois government but also from private foundations and philanthropic contributions. 

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