Lipinski nominates local students for admission to Naval Academy

  • Written by Janelle Frost


 Brian Conlisk had just gotten home from basketball practice when he saw an email notifying him that Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was nominating him for admission to the Naval Academy.

“I was ecstatic,” Conlisk, 17, told The Reporter about the nomination. He said he informed his parents soon after seeing the email. “It meant the world to me (being nominated). I always wanted to go to the Naval Academy. This is a huge step for me.”

Conlisk, of Oak Lawn and a Brother Rice High School student, is one of 16 students who Lipinski nominated for admission to the Air Force, West Point and the Naval Academy for the graduating class of 2020. The students were honored during a U.S. Military Nomination Ceremony on Saturday at the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post, 9514 S. 52nd Ave., Oak Lawn.

Lipinski said it was “great to see the room filled” right before he spoke to the parents of the nominees.

“You’ve instilled values of hard work and effort in our nominees. Thank you for doing that,” he said.

He continued by congratulating the nominees.

“I wish you the best moving forward,” Lipinski said. “If there’s anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m always here to help. I thank you again. It makes me proud to be an American and your representative that you are willing to represent your country.”

According to Lipinski’s office, the admissions departments of the service academies make the final decision on acceptance. Each of the nominees will be notified by the service academies if they have been accepted.

Conlisk, who dreamed about being a pilot since he was a young kid, wants to become a pilot with the Naval Academy.

“I think the Naval Academy has leadership qualities unmatched by any other college,” Conlisk told The Reporter following the ceremony. “I hope to be a pilot with them.”

Sydney Torres, 18, who also was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy, hopes to get a degree from there and do cyber security.

She said the nomination means a lot to her.

“It shows how hard work pays off in the end, and not to quit,” Torres, a Richards High School student, told The Reporter following the ceremony.

Michael Gurule Jr., 17, of Crest Hill, agreed.

“Doing all the hard work finally paid off,” Gurule told The Reporter. The Lockport Township High School student also was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy.

The nomination “meant everything,” Gurule said. “I wanted to go into the Marines forever. I hope to become a mechanical engineer.”


Mayors'frustration grows over budget impasse

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The budget impasse in Springfield has the Southwest Conference of Mayors taking a look at their options.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who serves as president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said that he is gratified that they are receiving their motor fuel tax funds, 911 funding and video gaming revenue. Gov. Rauner signed a bill in December that allowed for these funds to be distributed to municipalities throughout the state, which the mayors argued should never have been part of the budget deadlock.

However, while Bennett is pleased that those funds are coming, he sees mothing on the horizon for an end to the budget stalemate. Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) and state Sen. John Cullerton (D-6th), the majority leader of the Senate, are still far apart on budget talks.

“We got the impression from Mr. Cullerton that nothing is going to happen,” said a concerned Bennett during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting on Jan. 27 at the Chicago Ridge Village Hall. “It is the suburban mayors who balance the budget as we always do. Perhaps they can learn something from us.”

The meeting began with an update from Joan Knox, who serves at the executive director of External and Legislative Affairs at St. Xavier University. Knox, who also serves as a Palos Hills alderman, said the school is fine at this point and read off a series of accomplishments at the Catholic university.

But Knox did mention the importance of receiving Monetary Award Program funds, or MAP. Knox said that it would be beneficial if MAP funds and other education programs could be restored by the legislators in Springfield.

Knox and Bennett both applauded the efforts of state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), who is the chief sponsor of a bill that would restore MAP and other education programs. Burke’s bill has passed through the House and Senate as of last Thursday.

Burke is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 2043. The measure increases funding for MAP grants by more than $32 million compared to fiscal year 2015. Across the state, approximately 130,000 students utilize the MAP Grant program to seek higher education. Students at St. Xavier University were eligible to receive nearly $7 million in MAP grants while those studying at Moraine Valley Community College should have received $2.4 million.

The bill now rests on the governor’s desk. Knox and other college and university officials are hoping that he signs the bill.

“We are doing alright, we are in good shape” said Knox. “If you haven’t seen St. Xavier lately, then you haven’t seen St. Xavier. We have a lot to offer. A lot of people don’t realize that more students receive a private school education than at public schools. It is our hope that the assembly realizes that and the governor signs the bill for MAP and other education funds.”

While St. Xavier University, which has campuses on Chicago’s Southwest Side and Orland Park, had been able to weather the storm so far, other institutions are not that fortunate.

Officials at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston have announced that teacher cuts are a real possibility. The administration at Western Illinois University in Macomb has stated that at least 30 teachers will be laid off with more to come.

Officials at Chicago State University, at 95th and King Drive, have said that without funding from the state, they may have to cease operations on March 1. An official from Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills said that enrollment figures have dipped somewhat from previous years. The school official also said she would like to see the MAP funding restored.

If Rauner signs the bill, Burke’s measure could restore the operating budget for the City Colleges of Chicago, restore grants for technical education, adult education and adult literacy programs across the state. Legislators passed funding for each of these programs within the Higher Education budget in May of 2015. The governor later vetoed the support for these programs, and they have remained without state support as Illinois still remains without a permanent budget.

“A student’s place of birth or the success of their parents shouldn’t dictate their ability to receive a quality education,” said Burke. “MAP grants and other vital programs allow thousands of students an opportunity to better themselves through education that may otherwise not have been available. It’s unconscionable that these programs have remained unfunded for this long.”

Bennett and other mayors were sympathetic to the plight of local colleges and universities. The longer the state goes without a budget, problems like this are going to occur, the mayors acknowledged.

“All we can do is protect our revenues,” said Bennett. “We need to be proactive and the bottom line is the budget. Until we get a budget solved, we are hanging on by a thread.”

Evergreen Park Board gets fiscal house in order

  • Written by Janelle Frost

The Evergreen Park Village Board approved setting aside about $36 million for sewer and water, tax increment financing (TIF) and general fund expenses for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31.

Mayor James Sexton and the board of trustees unanimously approved an ordinance appropriating $35,573,836 for the fiscal year beginning Nov.1, 2015 and ending Oct.31, 2016 during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 19

The total budgeted expense for the fiscal year is $34,876,310.

Village officials said they expect to finish 2015 with surpluses.

In other business, the board approved services of Active Home Health Care Services at 2829 W. 87th St., and of medical use for Maya Medical, Southwest Urgent Careand Midwest Primary Care at 2955 W. 95th St.

“They did a very nice job on (that building),” Sexton said of 2955 W. 95th Street.

As for Active Home Health Care Services, he said the facility service people in their homes as well as within the facility will have a doctor on staff, and street parking on 87th Street.

The board also approved a change of Famous Dave’s liquor license from a Class E – beer and wine only table service to a Class B – sit down, small bar with liquor license. The restaurant at 2855 W. 95th St., which changed ownership, does have a sit down bar, which qualifies it for a Class B liquor license, Sexton said.

Upcoming events in the village include Family Flake Fest from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb.6 at Yukich Field. And the Senior Citizen Council received approval from the board to host a village wide garage sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at Yukich Field.

Also at Yukich Field, the ice rink is open for the season. Hours are posted weekly on the village’s website and on its e-blast. Individuals, however, should check with the Recreation Department at (708) 229-3373 as the times posted are tentative due to weather conditions and events, according to officials.

'Football addicts' help women understand the game's basics in a snap

  • Written by Kelly White

Blitz, touchdown, snap, holding and overtime.

If these words don’t mean anything to you, it may be time to visit self-professed football addicts Donna Terrell and Robin Beavers for a lesson on the game of football.

The two women presented at the Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 Raymond Ave., on Jan. 20 to prove football is far from being just a man’s sport.

“I have been a football fan since I was about 10 years old,” said Robin Beavers, a librarian at Grande Prairie Public Library in Hazel Crest.

Beavers met Terrell, a patron at Grande Prairie Public Library, and the two quickly learned they both shared a passion for football. After a few discussions, they decided to venture out and inform other women about the sport. In the past four years, they have visited numerous local area libraries teaching their one-day class, “Football in a Snap!”

“It’s called Football in a Snap because snap is a football term and it also means quick,” Terrell said. “We can teach all the key points of football in just one evening, and it’s the perfect time because it’s right before the Super Bowl.”

Casual local area football fans and beginners, made up of all women, listened as the two taught the concepts of the game, terminology, rules, player positions and more.

Oak Lawn Public Library Director of Adult Services, Mary Williams, introduced Terrell and Beavers and admitted her own football faults.

“If I was not working tonight, I would be sitting right in the audience to learn more about the game,” she said.

Terrell and Beavers taught their basics pro football class reminding women whether it’s the beginning of the season or the championship game, the object of football remains the same. There are 11 men on offense trying to throw, run and kick their way into their opponent’s end zone as often as possible, while 11 men on defense are trying to stop them.

The two also gave a football history lesson to the group. The first Super Bowl ever was played between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. The Super Bowl winning team earns the Lombardi Trophy, named for the famed Green Bay Packer’s coach, Vince Lombardi. And, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys have been to the Super Bowl more than any other teams.

Team loyalties vary between the two, as Terrell remains a Chicago Bears fan. Beavers has a different background story.

“I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, making me a Cleveland Browns fan, when I came to Chicago 27 years ago. I do watch the Chicago Bears. However, I am a Green Bay Packers fan, which I know is frowned upon here,” Beavers said.

Beavers’ interest in football stemmed from watching it with her father as a child and continued to grow over the years.

Like Beavers, Terrell’s interest also sparked watching football games at a young age with her father.

“I would ask him questions while watching Sunday games together, and then in high school, I used what I knew about football as a way to talk to boys,” Terrell said. “It is a great conversation starter.”

Terrell read books and continued to learn more about the game, permitting her to have more complicated conversations about the game with her father as she grew up.

“It wasn’t just about this team or that team anymore,” she said. “I was asking questions about pass interferences, false starts and incomplete passes. The more I learned, the more my love for football grew and it still continues to grow.”

Super Bowl 50, which will feature the AFC’s Denver Broncos against the NFC’s Carolina Panthers, is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7 at Levi’ Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Evergreen Park teacher saves life of student who was choking

  • Written by Claudia Parker


By Claudia Parker

Kristin Bilas is being called a hero for saving the life of a third-grade student at Northeast Elementary School in Evergreen Park who was choking during lunch.

“I was talking to my friends, one of them said something funny right when I ate a potato chip. I laughed and that’s when it got stuck,” said Anthony Gonzalez, 9.

Bilas is a fourth-year Speech and Language pathologist at Northeast School. She also serves as the school’s student council director and lunch room supervisor.

“On a typical day in the cafeteria, I’m chatting with students while helping them peel lids off their yogurt or opening up a juice box,” said Bilas. “On Thursday, Jan. 14, a typical day wasn’t so typical. I saw Anthony stand abruptly. The international sign for choking is this.” She put her hands to her throat.

“I’m not even sure if he realized that’s what he was doing because at that point he was losing color and his eyes were watery,” recalls Bilas. Reflecting back, she began to tear up. “I ran towards him. It felt like in slow motion, ‘Are you joking,’ I asked? I performed the Heimlich maneuver.”

The Heimlich maneuver is administered when a person cannot breathe, speak or cough. Gripping above the waist but below the ribs, with one thumb held inward, the other hand gives quick in and upward thrusts until the item is dislodged.

Bilas said it took four thrusts before Anthony was breathing again. “It felt like a long time without air,” said Anthony. “It was really scary.”

“Scared” was the look on some of the student’s faces as they observed. “Several of the girls nearby cheered once he started breathing but some of the guys stared in shock,” said Bilas. “When he breathed, we collapsed into a hug of relief.” Tears slipped off her cheeks. “I’m the mother of a third-grader myself.”

Two weekends each month, Bilas also works at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey where she helps recovering stroke patients relearn to swallow. The hospital mandates that all employees are certified in the Heimlich and CPR. “I’ve practiced on hundreds of manikins but never in a real life situation.” Bilas said, “The same muscle that helps you speak, helps you swallow. Sometime we take for granted how complicated that process can be.”

Anthony said he realized he was in trouble and tried to help himself by taking a drink of milk. “I kept trying to drink the milk but it wasn’t working. It wouldn’t go down.” Anthony said, “I looked around to see who could help me. I was trying to tap my friend next to me, he raised his hand to try to find someone. When I saw Mrs. Bilas, I knew she’d be able to help me.”

Anthony serves as the third grade student council representative.

Fabian and Ashley Gonzalez are Anthony’s parents. He’s the middle of their three children: Christian’s a seventh grader at Central Middle School and Mia’s in first grade at NE with Anthony. “I feel like I get calls from the nurse daily,” said Ashley Gonzalez. “Mia’s always bumping into something. She and the nurse are like BFF’s. When I heard the voicemail I thought it’d be about her.”

Ashley Gonzalez went on to say this isn’t the first time Anthony has choked; it’s happened once before at home. “We were having dinner one evening. I thought he was goofing around. I hit him on the back saying, ‘stop joking like that,’ but it wasn’t a joke. Once I hit him, food popped out and tears fell from his eyes,” said Ashley Gonzalez. “I was like, oh my God, I was terrified. You know, sometimes life moves fast and our mornings can be a little hectic. I don’t even remember what I said to him that Thursday. Things like this make me want to just slow down…hold my kids a little longer and a little tighter.”

To show their appreciation, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez showered Bilas with gifts: Fannie Mae chocolate, gift cards for dinner and a movie, and flowers. “I hand-picked the candy in that box,” Anthony said. “Me and Mrs. Bilas are going to be really good friends.”  

Northeast Principal Jackie Janicke was in an administrative meeting outside the building when the incident occurred. Anthony explained his account of her reaction. “I was in music class and Ms. Janicke ripped the door opened and grabbed me, giving me a big hug,” he said.

“Oh, I did,” asked a smiling Janicke? “I remember the hug. I guess I don’t realize how fast our doors swing open,” she said modestly. “I was just relieved he was OK. I got Mrs. Bilas flowers and