ELGIN — Adult education has been “kind of wrong all along” in its traditional approach to learning, according to Peggy Heinrich, dean of adult education at Elgin Community College.
Historically, the idea behind adult education was to ”go through the levels” — earning a GED (that is, passing the General Education Development test) or gaining English as a Second Language proficiency before moving on to higher-level courses, Heinrich said.
As a result, she said, only 3 percent of adult students ever complete a degree.
That could change at ECC, thanks to some outside funding help.
ECC is one of eight community colleges in Illinois to receive grant money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other leading philanthropies to help adult students complete post-secondary education and training.
That money is part of a $1.6 million grant from Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative, supported by the Gates, Joyce, W.K. Kellogg, Kresge and Open Society foundations. That’s according to the Illinois Community College Board, which was awarded the three-year grant earlier this month by Jobs for the Future.
Breaking Through initiatives are co-managed by Jobs for the Future and the National Council for Workforce Education.
ECC officials are not sure exactly how much money the college will see over the next three years, Heinrich said. Whatever is received will be used to expand a program to help adult students earn vocational certificates in a program ECC piloted last spring.
“For me, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen in adult education since I’ve been here,” she said.
ELGIN — When North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s death was announced Dec. 19, the Elgin-headquartered Church of the Brethren was worried.
That’s because the church supports Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea’s capital and largest city, the only private university in the country. And that includes supporting several volunteer teachers at the university, who were set to return to the United States at the end of the semester last week.
“We were a little worried whether there would be a mass exodus at the airport,” said Howard Royer, manager of the church’s Global Food Crisis Fund.
But, he added, “They got out without a hassle. They came out on the normal schedule.”
And those volunteers, Church of the Brethren members Robert and Linda Shank, came with little insight into what will become of North Korea after the death of its “dear leader.”
“The main thing they observed was a lot of tearful eyes,” Royer said.
“That’s about all they observed. Everybody looked tearful — eyes red. From what I’ve read, that’s almost a requirement. You’ve got to be mournful of the dear leader’s passing.”
ELGIN — Warren Krup of Elgin was inspired to donate blood by a co-worker who, despite a disability, reached the 10-gallon donation mark.
That was more than 21 years and, for Krup, exactly 200 blood donations ago.
Krup was recognized for his 200th blood donation when he gave platelets Wednesday afternoon at the Heartland Blood Center at 1140 N. McLean Blvd.
“I get to sit and take a break, and it saves a life. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?” he said.
Heartland Blood Centers CEO Dennis Mestrich and COO Kevin Konrad presented the 52-year-old donor with a Golden Heart Award certificate recognizing the donation, along with a new gold plate to add to a wooden plaque in his honor: “25 gallons.” He pried off the “20 gallon” plate with a pocket knife and taped it to the back of his plaque with the other milestones: three, four, five, six, 10 and 15 gallons.
And about a dozen family members and friends from Grace Evangelical Church in Elgin turned out to support Krup — some, even to donate themselves.
“We’re proud of him,” Grace Pastor Dan Bohyer said. “He does a lot of really generous things for people, and this is really just another example of that.”
WEST DUNDEE — Brandon Rohlwing was Googling “ways to end it all” when he stumbled across ReachOut.com.
The 17-year-old was “feeling really low and had suicidal thoughts,” he said. Figuring out who you are, fitting into high school cliques — it’s “a lot to go through, and it’s something nobody should have to go through alone,” he said.
“That’s when you’ll start feeling down.”
ReachOut offered help to “get through the tough times,” according to the website’s home page. He spent hours reading the advice and the real stories from other teenagers and young adults on the site.
And, Brandon said, “It really helped me get the courage to tell my parents what I’d been feeling so I could get help.”
Once he got that help from a doctor and counselor and was “back on my own two feet,” he said, he contacted the Inspire USA Foundation, which runs ReachOut, to thank them and ask if there was any way he could give back.
In March, he was invited to be one of about 15 students on the foundation’s ReachOut Council, he said. Since then, he has worked more than 250 hours as a volunteer creating material for the website, its blog and its social media profiles to help others struggling through tough times.
That work with ReachOut is why Brandon’s fellow Dundee-Crown High School senior Edyta Pietrowska nominated him in the second Good Deed Dollars contest, sponsored by Community Unit School District 300, Inland Real Estate Corp. and the Algonquin Commons shopping center.
The contest rewards middle and high school students in the Carpentersville-area school district for their “exceptionally selfless good deeds,” according to a statement from District 300.
Brandon was out sick the day the six contest winners were announced earlier this month in Community District 300. The Dundee-Crown senior found the half-deflated balloons and oversized $500 check in Principal Lynn McCarthy’s office the next day at the Carpentersville school, he said.
“I’m perfectly satisfied just getting an email saying, ‘You saved my life tonight,’” Brandon said. “To know that my friends recognize it and they’re proud of me, too — it’s awesome.”
Doing good deeds
Good Deed Dollars contest winners are nominated in letters or videos from their peers. The top three finishers in both middle and high school were recognized at the December school board meeting and received $500 gift cards to Algonquin Commons.
“It was tremendously inspiring to read all of the nominations and learn about all the wonderful and inspiring things D300 students are doing to help the community and make the world a better place,” said Beth Hicks, assistant vice president and director of marketing for Inland, in a written statement.
“We’re happy that we are able to give a little bit back to these amazing students through the Good Deed Dollars contest.”
True to form, Brandon said he plans to use his $500 gift card to give back as well: He plans to buy a digital SLR camera “to work on stuff for ReachOut.”
That drive to give back is something he said he picked up from his parents, Todd and Susan Rohlwing.
“My dad is a state police officer. He’s always enforcing service before self. We’ve always done stuff around Christmastime, giving gifts and ringing the bells,” Brandon said.
“It’s a value my family instilled in me, and I got very passionate about — I do it all the time now.”
Susan Rohlwing began volunteering in District 300 about 13 years ago and now is a special education administrator at Dundee-Crown, she said. Todd Rohlwing is a lieutenant in Illinois State Police District 2, Elgin.
The two brought the state police toy giveaway — something the troopers have done for years in Chicago with a grant from Walmart — to District 300 last year, Todd Rohlwing said. This year, 38 state troopers brought 997 toys to students at Meadowdale Elementary School in Carpentersville, according to an email the lieutenant sent to the troopers who participated.
“As cops, we see so much bad,” Todd Rohlwing said. “This reinvigorates your faith in the world. That’s the bottom line in volunteering.”
And, he said, that volunteerism isn’t “just at the holidays — it’s year-round.”
Finding your passion
Todd and Susan Rohlwing also have helped coach their children’s sports teams and lead the youth group at Living Waters Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake. They’re passionate about helping kids, Todd Rohlwing said.
“You’ve got to find your passion. Maybe it’s helping elderly people or at the hospitals with the sick,” he said. “If you don’t find your passion, the volunteering thing will go quick.”
Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, just graduated in May from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago.
The 21-year-old filmed a public service announcement in District 300 schools about bullying, Susan Rohlwing said.
Brandon found his passion in working with teenagers going through tough times. In addition to ReachOut, he also is involved with National Honor Society, Rotary Interact and Big Brothers Big Sisters through Dundee-Crown.
In an average high school class of 30 students, he said, an Inspire USA study found eight have experienced depression, and two have attempted suicide — “a silent holocaust.”
In his posts on the ReachOut Blog, Brandon has encouraged others “it’s never too late to rid yourself of regrets” after the death of a classmate. He’s written about feeling different at a very young age, “inverting” his personality to fit in and finally realizing “you can be gay and still be accepted by people that matter and be happy.”
And he’s found his passion, he said.
“I wanted to help teens get through what I did and let them know things will get better and it’ll make them a stronger person,” Brandon said.
For more information about the Inspire USA Foundation, or for help getting through tough times, visit ReachOut.com.
Copyright 2011, Sun-Times Media. All rights reserved.
For the original story, and a photo gallery of the Rohlwing family and Meadowdale giveaway, visit The Courier-News.
ELGIN — The third time was the charm for Angelica Lemus Hendrickson of Gilberts — the third time she was laid off, that is.
Hendrickson had more than 20 years of office experience — in insurance, in banking and in mortgages — when she was laid off for the third time in April last year, she said.
Honestly, though, she said, “Working in the corporate world was so stressful. I was not happy.”
One of the bright spots in Hendrickson’s work day was helping out co-workers who looked unhappy or who, she noticed, rubbed their necks in pain. She’d offer to rub their shoulders, she said.
People never complained, she said. In fact, they often asked to meet up on lunch breaks for back rubs — or hinted she had missed her calling, she said.
So, she said, “Third time’s a charm. After the third time I got laid off, it’s time for me to be me. It’s time for me to be happy and so something I’m passionate about.”
Hendrickson now is one of 705 students who were candidates for commencement at the end of the fall semester from Elgin Community College — she with a certificate in massage therapy, naturally. The semester ended Friday.
That’s a slight dip from last fall, when 275 students graduated from the college with university transfer degrees and 539 with certificates, according to Kristophere’ Owens, a spokesman for Elgin Community College. A total 1,320 graduated from the college in May: 568 with university transfer degrees and 751 with certificates, he said.
The community college does not yet have official graduate numbers for the just-ended fall semester, as final grades are not due until Monday, Owens said.
After three months of discussion since the veto session started in October and three different bills (with seemingly countless amendments), legislation to extend the economic development area around Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters in Hoffman Estates passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate this week. It goes now to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign, which he has indicated he plans to do.
Except that Community Unit School District 300 said yesterday it isn’t over.
You can read more of the Carpentersville-area school district’s reaction to the legislation’s passage in my article, “Sears EDA bill passes, heads to Quinn to sign.” Or watch District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy’s reaction to its passage first in the House in the video below:
I also got a number of reactions yesterday from our readers on both my personal Twitter profile and The Courier-News’ Twitter and Facebook profiles. Here’s what you had to say:
@MaryFioretti (Mary Fioretti of Algonquin): while our leadership had to compromise, it still is regrettable that D300’s portion of the property taxes pay … $5 million and $350,000 for a legal defense fund. H.E. takes on obligations that they must pay for then runs to the State to … extend their free ride. Government MUST CHANGE. If D300 had not intervened, this would have been worse. And Em you’ve … written about all those things. Very dissappointed (sic) in State leadership allowing property taxes to be stripped from 21K kids posted Tuesday on Twitter
@AliGoebbert (Ali Goebbert of “Chicago area”): A loathsome precedent was just set by the state of IL in the passing of SB397. D300 carries the burden of keeping Sears here. posted Tuesday on Twitter
@katzmeow66 (Kathleen Burley of Algonquin): sad day in Illinois taking education property tax money from children to keep a failing company in Illinois. … Hoffman Estates will now receive close to $2 million more than they would get if there were NO EDA in place! posted Tuesday on TwitterMore reader reactions, after the jump.
Sears Holdings Corp. Chief Executive Officer and President Lou D’Ambrosio called Tuesday “an important day in our company’s history.”
That’s because the Illinois Senate passed legislation Tuesday to extend the economic development area around Sears corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates. That came the day after the Illinois House of Representatives approved the same legislation, part of a two-bill package aimed at keeping Sears and other companies in Illinois, as well as aiding the state’s working poor.
And that “will allow Sears to maintain its headquarters in the state it has called home for nearly 125 years,” according to a written statement Tuesday from the company.
“Clearly state leaders recognize our impact on the state of Illinois and have taken the step necessary to keep Sears Holdings an Illinois company,” D’Ambrosio said in that statement.
“Sears Holdings employs 20,000 people in Illinois alone, we work with 9,100 local vendors, contractors and businesses that provide services and goods to the company and we are a significant taxpayer to the state — over $213 million last year and billions over the last 20 years.”
The company has said relocation offers from Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas, would look more attractive if those incentives, set to expire at the end of next year, were not extended. It also has said it would decide by the end of this year whether to leave Illinois.
In an email to Sears associates obtained by The Courier-News, D’Ambrosio said, “While the legislation still needs to be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, he has been a strong supporter of ours throughout this process and I believe he will do so. When he does, it is our intention to cease the review of alternative locations and remain in Illinois.”
Community Unit School District 300, which includes part of the EDA, has opposed any legislation to extend incentives for Sears since that first was proposed in Senate Bill 540 this spring. That’s because that bill would have sent about $14 million in property taxes from the district instead to the EDA.
The Carpentersville-area school district “reluctantly agreed” late last month to the language about the EDA in the legislation passed this week after negotiating with Sears, Hoffman Estates and lawmakers.
Senate Bill 397, which passed with 44 yes votes and 9 no, will double the amount of money District 300 will receive from the EDA — from about $3 million each year to $6 million.
The bill is a plan to grant tax breaks to CME Group Inc., owner of the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange; the Chicago Board Options Exchange; and Sears Holdings Corp. It also will extend tax breaks for research and development, as well as for net operating losses to other businesses; grant more-generous estate-tax breaks; and include a $2 million tax incentive designed to draw pre-Broadway shows to Chicago’s theater district.
Its companion legislation, Senate Bill 400, passed by a more lopsided margin of 48-4. That is a measure to double the earned income tax credit available to the working poor and increase the standard exemption for all taxpayers by tying it to the rate to inflation.
District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy said just after the vote Tuesday, “It’s difficult to put into words because even though I knew it was very predictable that both the House and Senate would be voting yes, it still feels like a kick in the gut. You know, it’s hard. It’s been a lot. There’s been so much work done by our community.”
District 300 reacts
Just before he voted against Senate Bill 397, State Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, thanked District 300.
District staff, students, parents and residents have made phone calls, sent emails and signed petitions against legislation to extend the EDA over the past three months. About 1,000 traveled to Springfield to protest at the Illinois State Capitol when the general assembly took up that legislation in its veto session, which started in October.
Noland thanked them all “for not being satisfied simply standing outside with their noses to the glass, looking at the party and being left out. They kicked down the door and asked to be at the table and they’re taking home something.”
The night before, District 300 had thanked its community at a recognition ceremony, part of the regular District 300 Board of Education meeting in the gym at Westfield Community School in Algonquin.
There was no indication at all the Illinois General Assembly would reconvene Monday in Springfield when the Carpentersville-area school district planned its recognition ceremony for that day, Bregy said.
That sent the superintendent, along with several school board members and district administrators, to Springfield the same night they had planned to recognize the community for its involvement.
in the legislative process. But, he said during that ceremony via teleconference, they had to “see this issue through to the end.”
And it was at the end, when Bregy was walking out of the Senate after the vote Tuesday afternoon, when one senator stopped to thank him for all the trips he made to Springfield, he said.
“I shook his hand, and I said, ‘We’ll be back.’ There’s no doubt. We will be back,’ he said.
“It’s difficult to think that many people will think that is over, but it’s really not. It’s just the beginning. We must advocate for ourselves. We must become more legislatively active. Otherwise Springfield will continue to do what they’ve done to us this time.”
The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011, The Courier-News. All rights reserved.
ST. CHARLES — Nick McCullough doesn’t really remember what happened.
It was September, and the St. Charles North Stars were playing their homecoming game against the Geneva Vikings.
From the video he has seen, and from what his coaches and fellow football players at St. Charles North High School tell him, the 17-year-old McCullough does know he caught a pass during the first quarter of the game. That’s when his head connected with a Viking’s knee.
“It didn’t really knock me out. I just didn’t know where I was,” McCullough said. “I kept asking the same question over and over again. I was really confused.”
He sat out the rest of the game and woke up the next morning feeling like he was in a dream, he said.
The last thing he could remember was the homecoming parade the day before. The parade had been at 1 p.m. The football game started at 7:30 p.m.
McCullough, like an increasing number of student athletes nationwide, had suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head during the game.
The number of athletic children going to hospitals with concussions is up 60 percent in the past decade, according to a study this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And that has led about 20 states to pass youth concussion laws in 2011, according to data collected by Education Week. That includes Illinois, which passed the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act in July.
Last week, Elgin School District U46 approved a new concussion management policy required by that act, as did Burlington-based Central Community Unit School District 301 at the start of the school year. St. Charles School District 303 was expected to pass a similar measure Monday night at its school board meeting.
The Community Unit School District 300 board policy manual online does not include a concussion policy. The Carpentersville-area school district did not immediately respond to a call from The Courier-News.
Concussions result from “a blow or motion to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull,” according to the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act. They can “disrupt the way the brain normally works,” ranging from mild to severe.
Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports, according to the act. The CDC estimates as many as 3.9 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year in the United States.
The state of Illinois reported 10,011 traumatic brain injuries, which include concussions, according to the latest data provided by the CDC in 2006. Of those, nearly twice as many were male (6,234) as female (3,777), and the biggest number (1,600) were between the ages of 15 and 24, according to CDC data.
Neither the Kane County Health Department, Sherman Hospital in Elgin nor area school districts U46 or 303 track that data locally. But Dr. Matthew Stilson, medical director of Sherman’s Emergency Department/Immediate Care Centers, said anecdotally, “We do see more people come in with concussions.”
Many of those, he added, are mild concussions that hospitals may not have seen a decade ago.
“I think a lot of it is there’s more awareness about the symptoms,” Stilson said.
Those symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, fuzzy vision, sensitivity to light or noise, amnesia, irritability and memory problems, according to a concussion information sheet approved by U46. Teammates, coaches and parents may notice the student athlete is confused, forgets plays and can’t recall events before or after he or she was hit, the sheet said.
St. Charles North head football coach Mark Gould said students now “are hitting with more force. They’re stronger. But the helmets are better.”
About four North Stars sustained concussions this football season, Gould said, which is “about typical.”
But, the coach agreed with Stilson, teams are watching for symptoms of concussions more than in the past. Also, he said, “I think in the past a kid may be less apt to say he was dizzy, less apt to say they have a headache.”
“I think kids know it’s better to say something in the long run,” Gould said. “There’s not a stigma with it. It’s a real injury. It’s something everybody believes is there.”
That awareness of symptoms and lack of stigma are at least partly because in December 2009, the National Football League acknowledged for the first time that concussions can have lasting consequences, the coach said. That can include persistent memory problems, changes in personality and an inability to learn, according to Stilson.
An NFL player now must be cleared by a doctor not affiliated with his team before returning to a game or practice after showing signs of a concussion.
The Protecting Our Student Athletes Act requires the same for all student athletes in Illinois.
Getting checked out, even for a mild concussion, is a good thing, Stilson said.
The “risk of catastrophic injuries or death are significant” when a concussion is not properly evaluated, as the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act noted. Moderately severe concussions can carry with them a risk of bleeding inside the brain, something only a CAT scan would catch, the doctor said.
And, Stilson said, “There’s definitely research showing that a second impact in a very short time after the first one can lead to more serious complications.”
All Illinois school districts also must use education materials provided by the Illinois High School Association to educate student athletes and their parents, as well as coaches, about concussions and head injuries, according to the act. Student athletes and their parents must sign off on the concussion information sheet approved by U46 before students can play sports.
In District 303, Gould said, “We just want to err on the side of caution. Things haven’t changed too much.”
This school year, the St. Charles school district introduced a computerized test that measures a student athlete’s cognitive ability at the start of their season, the coach said. In addition to being cleared by a physician, he or she must pass that test again before returning to practice after a concussion, he said.
That’s the procedure McCullough followed after his hit during the North Stars’ homecoming game this fall, he said.
He went to the hospital to get checked out after the game, he said. The next day, he stopped by his junior homecoming dance “for like an hour, and I couldn’t handle the music so we left,” he said. He had headaches for a few days after that and finally was cleared by his doctor about three weeks later, he said.
Even after his concussion, McCullough said he’s not too worried about his safety playing sports. The other players may be “bigger, stronger and faster,” but he knows his teammates are working hard, he said, and he’s working hard so they can hold up next to anybody else.
But, he said, his mom isn’t quite so at ease.
“She was really scared. She says if I get another one, I can’t play football anymore,” McCullough said. “Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”
“None of this was supposed to happen today,” Community Unit School District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy said.
There was no way, no indication at all, that the Illinois General Assembly would reconvene Monday in Springfield when the Carpentersville-area school district planned its recognition ceremony for that day.
“But we learned we needed to expect the unexpected in Springfield,” Bregy said Monday.
The superintendent addressed about 300 district residents at a ceremony Monday evening — part of the regular District 300 Board of Education meeting in the gym at Westfield Community School — by teleconference. Bregy was in Springfield.
The Illinois House had voted that afternoon to pass legislation to extend the controversial economic development area around Sears Holdings Corp.
That sent Bregy, along with several school board members and district administrators, to Springfield the same night they had planned to recognize the community for its involvement in the legislative process. But, he said, they had to “see this issue through to the end.”
“If I could, I would put my arms around the entire school district and give you a huge hug — all of you,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
The school board recognized staff, students, parents, individual district residents, village leaders within the district, legislators, vendors, unions, Elgin Community College and more at its recognition ceremony.
That’s because those people had made phone calls, sent emails, signed petitions and passed resolutions in support of District 300, which opposed several bills to extend the EDA since they first were introduced this spring.
They did so because those incentives would have sent about $14 million in property taxes each year to the EDA instead of to District 300, the district has said.
About 1,000 people traveled to Springfield to protest at the Illinois State Capitol when the General Assembly took up those bills in its veto session, which started in October.
“There’s no way we can possibly name every person who assisted in this campaign,” Associate Superintendent Sarah Kedroski said.
“People everywhere, both seen and unseen, helped in some way — whether it was a phone call, email or a trip to Springfield. Everything mattered.”
Legislation affecting Community Unit School District 300 by extending the economic development area around Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters in Hoffman Estates passed the Illinois House Monday afternoon.
The legislation — an amendment to Senate Bill 397 — was part of a two-bill package aimed at keeping Sears and Chicago futures trading from leaving the state, as well as aiding the working poor. It was expected to go to a vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
“We thank the House of Representatives for passing legislation today aimed at keeping Sears an Illinois company. This is a major step in the process,” said spokesman Chris Brathwaite in a written statement Monday from Sears.
“We appreciate the House’s efforts and are hopeful that when the Senate returns tomorrow, it will follow suit.”
I know saying things like, “The Chicago Metro Presbytery put together a Christmas album, and it is so great!” makes me sound incredibly lame, but I promise you: I’m not. You’re the lame one if you don’t give it a listen.
The day after former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentencing to 14 years in prison, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka told The Courier-News, “I just want him to go away.”
Topinka had been the Republican candidate for governor against Blagojevich in the 2006 elections, making her the last person to run against him for office. She was elected comptroller this year.
On Thursday, she was at Elgin Community College to host an employment expo. (Read The Courier-News’ coverage of that event: “<a href=”http://couriernews.suntimes.com/9326943-417/elgin-college-expo-attracts-hundreds-of-jobseekers.html”>Elgin college expo attracts hundreds of jobseekers</a>.”)
"This man (Blagojevich) already has impacted my life way too long, and the lives of the people of the state of Illinois too long, and what’s sad is because of what he’s done and how he has conducted business, or lack thereof, in the state of Illinois, we’re going to be paying for this guy’s bills for another generation. It’s going to be costing everyone," she said.
The comptroller called many of the programs pushed by the former governor “at best, a photo op” and said, “They never were paid for. We never had the money to begin with.”
In June, Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption convictions that included attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. He accepted responsibility for his crimes Wednesday and apologized in court, saying, “I am just so incredibly sorry.”
Afterward, he made a brief statement, quoting Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”: “”If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
Topinka said she didn’t feel his apology was “for real,” though she said, “I feel very badly for his children — but you know what? — he should have taken them into consideration on the front end. Maybe he should have spent less time memorizing English literature, and more time really governing.”
"It’s still all about him. He said, ‘We’re going to fight this adversity.’ He’s still defiant. The hubris and the arrogance is still there, and so it goes."
ELGIN — Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka compared it to speed dating.
“Right now, you’re on a date,” Topinka told about 400 jobseekers Thursday morning at her Elgin Employment Expo.
“Hopefully, it will lead to marriage.”
The Elgin Employment Expo in the Spartan Events Center at Elgin Community College was the comptroller’s second in a series of employment expos, following an event in Rockford last month.
It featured 40 employers and five service providers, including representatives from Elgin Sweeper, the Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley ReStore, Walgreens, TCF Bank and several temporary work agencies. The community college’s Career Services Department also offered free resume reviews and workshops on networking, interviewing and WorkKeys.
Topinka said the idea for the employment expos came from the fact that the comptroller’s office “know(s) who the vendors are because we deal with all of them.”
“We know what the economic situation is and feel just awful so many people are out of work — especially in this area, which is higher than average,” she said.
Statewide, the unemployment rate is just over 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That’s hovered closer to 11 percent (currently, 10.8) in Elgin, Topinka noted. It’s at 13 percent in Rockford where, she said, about 700 people turned out for her first expo.
“We got all sorts of people hired there,” she said. “I don’t see why we can do that here as well.”
Elgin Community College President David Sam echoed the comptroller in his opening remarks to jobseekers Thursday: “I know some of you, several of you, many of you are going to get jobs today.”
Just want work
Gretchen Rothenbach and her brother Matt Melchior, both of Elgin, hoped to be two of “the some, the several, the many.”
Rothenbach has been unemployed since she left a job at a self-storage company after a change in management four years ago, she said. Melchior was laid off about three months ago, he said.
More work has gotten done around the house the two share with their mother and Rothenbach’s husband in those past three months than in the past three years, Melchior joked.
And Rothenbach agreed: “The boredom is a big thing — where your next paycheck will come from. I’m not a money person. I don’t need a huge paycheck. I just like to work. That’s my thing.”
In the last four years, that’s meant a lot of odd jobs — watching friends’ pets, a few assignments through a temp agency — and applying for permanent work. By her estimate, she’s applied for more than 700 jobs. She’s tried applying with the same companies more than once, even opening her search further outside her comfort zone, she said.
Her “strong family” has been her greatest support through her unemployment, Rothenbach said — especially her father, who recently passed away.
“We’re hoping out of tragedy will come triumph and make this easier for my mom, get the economy back to the way it should be,” she said.
Topinka said the employment expos hosted by her office also were a little “self-seeking.”
“If they’re employed, they’re going to go out and pay their taxes. If they pay their taxes, it goes to the comptroller’s office eventually, and I can pay bills. I won’t have 160,000 bills facing me and an $8 billion waiting list of monies we owe,” she said.
That’s where the comptroller’s office currently stands, she said.
And she figured, she said, “If we can get our companies together with folks who need jobs, and create the atmosphere of people getting together and talking, something’s going to happen.”
The comptroller’s office chose Elgin because it wants to get to as many parts of the state to reach as many people as possible, according to spokesman Brad Hahn. The next expo will be Jan. 10 in Edwardsville, he said, and more are planned, including an expo for veterans.
It approached Elgin Community College because the school has hosted similar events in the past, Hahn said. Not to mention, he said, the college’s president recently joined the comptroller’s African-American Advisory Committee.
Sam said hosting the expo was “a no-brainer” because “ECC is committed to helping people get jobs.”
That’s something Jamile Clasberry of Elgin can back up. The first-year student at ECC said he got a call from the school inviting him to the event.
He came with his brother Clyde, who lives in Chicago, because he was laid off from his job as a forklift operator in April when “things got slow.” He’d like to find something local and maybe part-time, he said, so he can continue his studies in criminal justice.
“I’m just doing my best, trying to stay focused,” Clasberry said. “Hopefully, God will bless me with something.”
And, Topinka told jobseekers Thursday that she hopes the employment expos will help.
“We’re really going to turn you out, make you so beautiful, when a potential employer meets you, they’ll go crazy to have you,” she said.
Copyright 2011, The Courier-News. All rights reserved.
When, as a reporter, you hear the words “Stress-Free Zone,” you have but one response. And that response is, “Yes.”
"Yes, I will go to there and cover that — and maybe never come back."
This is how I found myself in a chair massaging my back and legs, my hands wrapped in paraffin wax, in the Jobe Lounge at Elgin Community College. Or, as it was dubbed this morning, the Stress-Free Zone.
ELGIN — Holly Grimm of South Elgin said she only was stressed “a little” about her final exams coming up next week at Elgin Community College.
But then, Grimm already has a few early finals behind her, she said.
She also was sitting back in a cushioned seat massaging her legs and back, her hands wrapped in moisturizing paraffin wax, with a steady stream of cheery citrus-scented oxygen directed at her nose.
“I’m going to be so relaxed, I’m not going to be ready for class!” Grimm said.
The spa treatments were just one of many stress relievers in the Stress-Free Zone marked off Wednesday in the Jobe Lounge at Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Drive.
The Stress-Free Zone also included back massages, cotton candy and popcorn, tea and hot chocolate, a coloring corner and a Play-Doh table.
It’s a free event that the College Programming Board organizes every year just before finals, according to board adviser Gabe Lara.
“Finals are next week, so we wanted to give students the chance to relax,” he said.
Students stress so much over finals, the adviser said, the school won’t host any events or club meetings next week. And they may be stressing more than ever, he added, because — in the current economy — “they’ve got a lot going on.”
“A lot of my students have full-time jobs, they go to school, they’re doing other things,” Lara said.
STREAMWOOD — “Hear ye,” the hand-lettered poster on the wall read. It was accompanied by a series of royal proclamations by the Kingdom of Zeus.
One, by Sofia Alfaro, proclaimed she would “not give up on my dreams.” Another proclaimed A.J. Santori would “determine what’s best for me.”
Those posters lined the hallway at Tefft Middle School where Zeus, one of the school’s six “houses of learning,” meets for classes. Yellow construction paper lightning bolts dangled from the ceiling, cotton ball clouds clung thick to the walls above lockers, and near-life-size drawings of the Greek thunder god and his wife, Hera, stood guard at the doorway.
The students deck the halls during the first few weeks of the school year at Tefft, after they’ve been sorted into their houses, differentiated by grade level, according Principal Lavonne Smiley.
“This stays up all year,” Smiley said. “They really take this seriously. What it does is it builds their whole sense of belonging.”
“I know it impacts learning when kids feel that,” she said. “I think our test scores — we’re one of only two schools that made (Adequate Yearly Progress under federal guidelines in Elgin School District U46). I think that speaks to all the work we do on their social/emotional development.”
And that’s something that a study of middle school students, released in mid-September, suggests is important to the continued academic success of those students.
ELGIN — The Fox River Country Day School campus that has sat along Route 25 north of Interstate 90 since 1923 is for sale.
The sale of the campus — set on about 62 wooded acres along the Fox River — follows the school’s announcement in June it would close after 98 years because of economic difficulties. It declared bankruptcy in November.
The school had been founded in 1913 as Chicago Junior School, an active farm in St. Joseph, Mich.
“It was a tough decision,” said Alan Neil, president of the Fox River Country Day School Board of Trustees.
“It’s really hard to be on campus right now. Normally you hear lots of screaming, giggling kids having fun and learning, and now it’s quiet. It’s a shame.”