Moraine Valley Community College celebrates 50 years

  • Written by Kelly White

(smoriane valley in 1967 photo 3-2moraine valley now photo 3-2

Submitted photos

Moraine Valley Community College, as it was at the beginning, and  now, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Enrollment at the Palos Hills college has grown from 1,200 students in 1967, to 34,000 currently.



The Moraine Valley Board of Trustees recognized the 50th anniversary of the college during a board meeting on Feb. 21

The college, 9000 College Parkway, Palos Hills, was founded by the Oak Lawn Rotary and opened its doors on Feb. 18, 1967. Members of the Oak Lawn Rotary were responsible for initiating efforts to bring a ballot item asking residents if they would support the establishment of a community college district. The ballot received overwhelming support from the local community.

Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College, presented a letter of recognition Monday to the Oak Lawn Rotary for establishing the college.

"A total of 290 acres of land were originally purchased in 1967 by the Oak Lawn Rotary," said Joseph Murphy, the board chair. "We would like to thank them for their constant support of the college. Because of them, Moraine Valley went from a sod farm to having 14 state-of-the-art buildings and continues to be rock solid since 1967. Moraine Valley focuses on job building and career building and still continues to promote student success in the southwest suburbs."

Since 1967, Moraine Valley Community College has been one of the nation’s leading community colleges. Offering nearly 150 associate degree and certificate programs, Moraine Valley has built a reputation for preparing the finest graduates and employees, board members said.

"Out of the different schools I've attended throughout my life, Moraine Valley has been the one that stood out the most for me,” said student Reem Motan, 20. “I've always admired how the school has been a place where diversity is not only accepted, but where it is celebrated. It's an environment that has offered me endless opportunities to thrive as a student and as a leader.”

When Moraine Valley began, the enrollment was 1,200 students. Most of those students came from Oak Lawn due in large part because of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. Today it is the second largest community college in Illinois and enrolls about 34,000 students annually, according to Moraine Valley officials.

“The biggest difference is size of our student body,” said Jessica Crotty, director of marketing and communications at Moraine. “Early estimates were that the college would never exceed 6,000 students.”

In the college’s early days, the school subscribed to an open-learning concept, where classrooms didn’t have permanent walls. Students could walk through the hallways and stop to listen to any instructor that sounded interesting to them.

“It was a trend in higher education at that time, but wasn’t the most practical,” Crotty said.

Now the college has smart classrooms designed around the concepts being taught and hands-on learning approaches, including math labs, nursing simulation labs and a massage clinic.

The first college building in 1967 was a temporary office in Oak Lawn. Later, college officials leased two warehouses in Alsip, where the first classes were held. The college then acquired a sod farm in Palos Hills, which is where the main campus stands today. In its infancy, it had a number of temporary buildings that over time were replaced with the 14 buildings that exist at the college right now. The addition of the college’s off-campus sites in Blue Island and Tinley Park serve the students at the far ends of the district’s footprint.

With the size and student enrollment being the college’s main change since its beginning, college officials believe the thing that has remained a constant over the past 50 years is the school’s sense of community.

“The faculty and staff at Moraine Valley have always worked together for the benefit of the students. The people at Moraine Valley have created and sustained a family-feel on the campus for generations,” Crotty said. “Moraine Valley is one of the most well-respected community colleges in the nation because of its excellent programs, innovative spirit and engaged leadership. It’s a college that all our district residents can be proud of.”

Students feel the same way.

“I'm very blessed to attend a school that aims to make every student feel like they belong here and for accepting everyone for who they are,” Motan said.

Boy who helped save mom's life is honored

  • Written by Kelly White

  hollands and staff photo 2-23

                                                                           Photo by Kelly White

Romeo Holland, 7, and his mother Sherece Holland, 55 discuss Romeo’s quick actions by calling 911 after his mother suffered a stroke. Joining the Hollands at the press conference are Dr. Melvin Wichter chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center, and Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center (at right)

The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn marked its one-year anniversary Monday by moving to a new location within the hospital and getting reacquainted with a woman whose life they helped save with the help of her son.

During the anniversary event, physicians, nurses and care team members were able to be reunited with some of the patients and families they’ve treated since moving to the new unit, including former patient and Chicago Police Officer Sherece Holland, who suffered a stroke in December. It was the quick thinking of her 7-year-old son, Romeo, which led her into the care of the Neurocritical Care Unit at the hospital.

Holland, 55, of Chicago, said she was in good health at the time of the stroke. She has been working for the Chicago Lawn (8th) District for over 21 years.

“I have no health issues,” she said. “I am a non-smoker who exercises regularly. I also have no history of strokes in my family.”

She was in the middle of brushing her teeth alongside her son when the incident occurred.

“I was just standing there holding his toothbrush that day instead of helping him brush his teeth as I normally do,” Holland said. “Romeo noticed something was very wrong because I almost fell, so he ran to get my mother, who lives with us.”

Holland said her mother, Barbara Hegwood, 77, began to panic after seeing her daughter displaying some signs of a stroke — having trouble speaking and moving her arms. That’s when Romeo stepped in, telling his grandmother to calm down and leading her to their emergency call button.

“She was wobbly, I just thought she was sleepy at first but she was actually having a stroke,” Romeo said. “My grandma was crying. I told her to stay calm and that everything will be fine.”

Romeo used her hand to call for help, but it was the boy who spoke with the dispatchers on the line.

“I had taught Romeo what to do in case of a health emergency with my mother,” Holland said. “He knew to call for help, but I never would have imagined he’d use those skills to take care of me. I am very proud of my son. He acted quickly and saved my life.”

EMS arrived to Holland’s home and transported Holland to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where it was discovered that she had suffered a blood clot that blocked the artery leading to the left side of the brain. Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Christ Medical Center, performed a thrombectomy, removing the clot in her artery and allowing blood to flow to the brain.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Holland was unable to speak and the right side of her face was completely paralyzed, according to Geraghty.

“If Romeo had suggested his mother go lay down on the couch and rest when he noticed her feeling dizzy, instead of calling 911, there’s a good chance she would have never woken up,” Geraghty said. “In this case, his actions saved his mother’s life.”

Dr. Melvin Wichter, chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute agreed it was Romeo’s fast response that prevented Holland from suffering brain damage or death.

“We can do amazing things if people get to the hospital quick enough,” Wichter said. “In Romeo’s situation, this was the best Christmas gift he will ever receive, having his mother still here with him today thanks to his actions.”

Wichter said children should be educated both at home and in the classroom setting on recognizing signs of stroke in order to help family members in need.

Holland’s recovery is going so well that she has been discharged from therapy and is back at home with Romeo. She is experiencing slight slurred speech and a minor stutter, but otherwise feels back to normal. She has not yet returned to work.

“When I found out my son saved my life, I didn’t know what to feel,” Holland said. “He is just such a smart boy.”

Romeo is happy to have his mother with him today.

“I’m happy she is here,” he said. “I love my mom.”

Neurocritical care or neurointensive care is a branch of medicine that emerged in the 1980s and deals with life-threatening diseases of the nervous system, which are those that involve the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Common diseases treated in neurointensive care units include strokes, ruptured aneurysms, brain and spinal cord injury from trauma and seizures.

The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by a team of neurointensivists, consulting neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-endovascular radiologists, trauma surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses and technologists specially trained in the care of the nervous system disorders and acute injury. At Advocate Christ Medical Neurosciences Institute, these specialists provide the highest level of neurological care in an environment where patients receive the individualized and appropriate care needed. The hospital integrates a full array of treatments and expertise to address the many dimensions of neurologic care for adults and children, according to Advocate Christ Medical Center officials.

Romeo is in the second grade at Stevenson Elementary School in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood and plans to continue his love for knowledge as he grows older.

“When I grow up, I want to become a scientist because I’m smart,” he said.

“That he is,” his mother agreed.

District 218 cheers achievements of students

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

shepard cheerleaders photo 2-23

Submitted photo

The Shepard High School varsity cheerleaders hold up their trophy after placing first in the Co-Ed Division at the Andrew High School Invitational.


On a night where local schools were honored for athletic and personal achievements, District 218 Board members were reminded that the state budget impasse continues.

With commendations aside, school board member Larry Harris spoke up about the state budget issue in Illinois — the fact that there is still no state budget or spending plans for 2017. The stopgap budget plan that was passed in June of last year expired on Dec. 31, leaving Illinois in a budgetary limbo.

Harris said that the board should draft a memo expressing their frustration with the lack of activity and motion of the state legislature about the ongoing state budget uncertainty.

Harris urged that the state legislature should hear from the school district from a local level.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve gone this long without a budget, lack of support, and leadership,” Harris said.”

School board member Robert Stokas was absent from the meeting.

On a more positive note, it was a night of commendations as Eisenhower and Shepard high schools were honored for athletic and personal triumphs at the District 218 School Board meeting on Feb. 15.

First to be recognized was Taylor Burmeister, English teacher assistant and swim coach at Eisenhower High School, who was selected as the South Suburban Conference Boys Swimming Coach of the Year for the 2016 and 2017 seasons by his colleagues for reviving the Eisenhower Area Swim Club and leading the Cardinals to their most successful season.

“This is a big honor, but I couldn’t have done anything without Coach Campione and Coach Belskis, the world’s greatest assistant coaches, especially Coach Belskis who volunteers her time several times a week to help our divers,” said Burmeister. “There are remarkable things happening within the conference, especially in swimming. The teams we compete against are run by some amazing and thoughtful coaches, who are dedicated to their athletes and their programs. To be recognized by them is an honor.”

Head Cheer Coach Nicole Staehlin and the Shepard varsity cheerleaders were also recognized for their season full of success and achievement in competition this winter.

“The Astros won first place in the Co-Ed Division at the Andrew High School Invitational,” said Bob McParland, public Information specialist. “They won second place at the South Suburban Conference meet, qualified for the IHSA state finals, but took fourth in their section, and finally, among all the teams that qualified for state, the Astros took 12th place in the Co-Ed Division earlier this month at Illinois State University.”

Staehlin was not able to attend the meeting.

The board also honored Varsity Dance Coach Marion Castillo and JV Head Coach Crystal Castillo, choreographer Lindsey Lococo and the Eisenhower Cardinal Dance Team for taking the title of National Champions at Universal Studios Florida. It was a passionate dance routine to John Legend’s “Glory” that made the historic win — the first one in 30 years for Eisenhower at the major state and national team title level.

The Cardinal Dance Team traveled to Universal Studios on Florida for the Dance Team Union national finals on Feb. 5, where they won Best Choreography, Best Hip Hop Group among all divisions and Champions in the Small Varsity Hip Hop division.

Castillo was also congratulated for being selected as the 2016 Coach of the Year for the state of Illinois by the Illinois High School Association.

A video of the team’s dance routine at Universal Studios Florida that won them the national title was shown.

Our Lady of the Ridge fundraiser is successful

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Perhaps it was the unusually warm weather, or maybe it was just the community responding to the future fate of Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge.

Whatever the reason, alumni, business and community leaders, and parents of students who currently attend the school came out in droves Sunday afternoon for a fundraiser at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park In an effort to keep Our Lady of the Ridge open.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar, a 1967 graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, has been working with a committee to keep Our Lady of the Ridge from closing. The Chicago Archdiocese informed the school administration on Jan. 11 that Our Lady of the Ridge was in danger of closing if not enough money could be raised and enrollment figures remained stagnant at the end of this month.

Tokar said a committee has been getting the word out and the fundraiser held Sunday was going to be important in reaching their goals. But even the mayor said the crowd that showed up exceeded expectations.

“This is just amazing,” Tokar said at the fundraiser. “”I know we would have a lot of support but this is incredible. There are just so many people here. I even saw my old fourth-grade teacher.”

Tokar said that school was required to raise over $250,000 at the end of February. He said he believes the goal has been reached.

Laurie Seweryn, who served as a volunteer at the fundraiser helping to organize the baskets of gifts being raffled off, also said the response from people was greater than expected. She said over 850 tickets were sold by late in the afternoon.

“This is so overwhelming, the community has really come together,” said Seweryn, whose husband, Steve, is on the school board.

Musical entertainment was provided by a band performing as the Blues Brothers, who also happen to be alums of Our Lady of the Ridge. The Lavin-Cassidy Irish Dancers, who are based out of Chicago Ridge, also entertained the crowd. The Chicago Police Department’s The Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society also performed at the benefit, along with the Rico Quinn Band.

Eleven restaurants and bakeries provided food for the large crowd. The basket raffle included 102 different prizes at the event.

Mary Grisolano, media relations volunteer and graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, said the large crowd that attended the fundraiser on Sunday is reason for optimism.

“The turnout on Sunday was tremendous,” said Grisolano. “This is really great, for sure.”

Grisolano added that the enrollment had to be at least 114 by the end of the month, according to the archdiocese. She said they currently have 117 students enrolled and expects those numbers to rise. 

Some volunteers said during the event that at least $300,000 has been raised this past month, which is more than the required $250,000. And Grisolano confirmed later in the week that at least $321,000 was raised, far surpassing the goal.

“Some people are waiting to see what will happen with the school,” Grisolano said. “What usually occurs is there is always a surge in enrollment during the spring. I expect more families will enroll their children at Our Lady of the Ridge.”

Tokar said the local business community has assisted in keeping Our Lady of the Ride open. A phone-a-thon has been held to inform residents of the importance of Our Lady of the Ridge. The mayor conveyed not only to alumni but also residents and community leaders who may not have attended the school of how important it is to Chicago Ridge.

Our Lady of the Ridge has served 12 school districts and draws pupils from Alsip and Worth. If the school were to close, it would have a negative effect on businesses in the area, the mayor said.

But Tokar was in great spirits at the fundraiser and is confident about Our Lady of the Ridge’s chances.

“I can’t believe how many people came out today,” Tokar said. “It just shows you how many people care for this school.”

Temperatures in the 60s may have encouraged more people to come out. But Grisolano said it was more than that.

“People love our little school,” she said.

Development plans for former Sabre Room property will be reviewed

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley told city council members at last Thursday’s board meeting that proposed development plans for the former Sabre Room property will be discussed later this month.

Howley informed the board the old Sabre Room property as 8900 W. 95th St. will be the topic of discussion at the Feb. 23 council meeting.

In early January, Howley had announced that the proposed development plan, known as Sabre Woods Plaza, had been deferred indefinitely because there were still a lot of unanswered questions.

At that time, the mayor explained that the plans which had been presented at the Nov. 10 council meeting by Jim Louthen, development project manager, and Charles Cornelius, Jr., of Chicagoland Realty Service, did not fit the expectation of the city’s zoning board.

Plans presented at that meeting in November for the 30-acre property called for six single-family homes on the west side of the property, a Senior Village, for ages 55 and over, an assisted living campus, including a memory unit, possibly two five-story apartment units and retail/commercial fronting on 95th Street along the eastern edge of the property. Also proposed was an open civic area, green space and retention ponds.

Louthen had stated that the best use for a large portion of the property on the northwest corner could be a park-like location with walking trails, benches, etc., because it is in a wetlands, floodplain area.

Many questions were raised by council members at that meeting regarding retention ponds, apartments units and who would be responsible for the suggested park-like area.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Howley said new information had been presented by the developer so the council will review it on Feb. 23. There is also a committee of the whole meeting at 6:30 p.m., just prior to the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m.

The council also approved a request from the Hickory Hills Park District to conduct a carnival at the Kasey Meadow Park, located at 8047 W. 91st Place, beginning May 11 and continuing through May 14.

Presenting the request was Dan Maier, recreation director, who said this will be the first carnival for the park district.

“We are planning to hold it at the bottom of the hill in the park. We thought that would be a good place for it. It will be very family-oriented, with rides and games for the kids. It is a medium-size carnival. We wanted to start small and see how things go,” he said.

Maier listed the hours as 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 11; 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, May 12; noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 13; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 14.

He added that on May 12, the carnival will also be open from 3 to 5 p.m., for people with special needs and their families. “It will be free to them for those two hours,” Maier said.

Howley told Maier that he did not have any concerns regarding the carnival.

“I have seen how you and your crew have run many successful events. You are professionals. I have no worries about how this event will go,” he said.

Also approved was a $200 donation made annually to the Hills Baseball/Softball Association.