MVCC student trustee gives last board report

  • Written by By Kelly White

Moraine Valley Community College Student Trustee Karim Awwad gave his final board meeting presentation on March 9

Awwad’s one-year term is coming to an end in April. Moraine officials have not yet decided on a new student trustee.

“I say this every year and it probably sounds like a broken record, but every year the student trustee gets better and better and better,” said Joseph Murphy, chair of the Moraine Valley Board. “The time flew by and it’s been a true pleasure having Karim on our board. His dedication, time and opinions have been very much valued.”

Awwad, an American citizen who grew up in Jordan, was determined to be different from his 10 cousins and brother. He wanted to attend school in the United States but not Moraine Valley Community College like they did. However, after several discussions, they influenced him to choose Moraine Valley. Nearly a year later, the Orland Park resident not only attends Moraine Valley but has been representing all of its students. He was sworn in on April 15 of last year as student trustee.

“This is just the beginning of my journey,” Awwad said. “Moraine has changed my perspective of community colleges in general. It is a playground of opportunities.”

Under his leadership, the student body has had a successful and involved academic and extracurricular year filled with activities, including several groups on camps experiencing the spirit of giving. The Women in Action, Action Social and Political Empowerment (ASPE), International Women and Phi Theta Kappa clubs participated in food drives. The Combat to College Club participated in a toy drive. The Asian Diversity Club participated in gathering and donating coats and winter accessories during the harsh winter months. The American Red Cross Club participated in Cards for Heroes. Student Government Association held a blood drive where more than 75 units of blood were collected. Student Life held its annual Thanksgiving dinner served by administrators and during which the hard work of students was recognized.

His guidance and leadership over Moraine Valley students doesn’t end there. The Model Illinois Government Club took a trip to Springfield to promote civic responsibility of the Democratic practice. In November, students had an opportunity to join an interactive dialogue with Palestinian students living under Israeli occupation to examine and discuss educational topics. And, a petition with 7,887 signatures of community college students – with 258 from Moraine Valley – was presented to Gov. Rauner regarding the state not funding MAP grants. The petition expressed how important higher education is to the students and how the issue is directly affecting them.

“Trustee comes from the word trust, and since students are putting their trust in me, as promised, I have offered my commitment, dedication and loyalty to the needs of my fellow students,” Awwad said.

Awwad will be leaving the college majoring in Economics/Finance with a minor in Political Science. After he completes his term in April, he has his eye on attending the University of Illinois to earn his bachelor’s degree and then pursue an MBA. After that. he may start his own business or work in the government sector either in the U.S. or Jordan — wherever the best opportunity arises.

“Karim has done an excellent job representing the students this year,” said Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College.

Dual-credit enrollment increases at Moraine Valley

  • Written by By Kelly White

Today’s students are entering the community college world sooner and going on to enter four-year universities quicker, according to Moraine Valley Community Dual-Credit Coordinator Alexandria Elvira.

Elvira said during the Moraine Valley Community College Board of Trustees meeting on March 9 that the popularity of dual-credit enrollment courses continues to increase each school year.

Dual Credit provides an opportunity for high school students to take college courses for credit at both the college and high school levels. The classes are taught by high school instructors qualified to teach college-level courses. Classes are held at the students' high school during the regular school day.

Benefits include: exposure to college-level rigors while still enrolled in high school, reduction of time and costs toward a college degree, introduction to and development of career pathways, and a jump-start on earning post-secondary credentials.

“With our dual-credit courses, we believe students are 20 percent more successful once they transfer to a four-year college or university,” Elvira said.

High school students can also earn college credit through dual enrollment, which involves students enrolling in on-campus courses at Moraine Valley while still in high school and requires high school authorization. Also, Moraine Valley does grant college credit for students who earn specified scores on Advanced Placement exams.

During the 2015 fall semester, Moraine received 38,000 hard copies of dual-credit enrollment forms. The college has since implemented an online application hoping to increase enrollment even more.

“The students who participate in the dual-credit program have quicker access to a college opportunity,” Elvira said.

The program began over 10 years ago and the partnership expanded to include private high schools, starting with Brother Rice, which has a growing dual-credit program that includes 80 students in its IT Essentials class.

Currently, there are 27 public and private in-district and out-of-district high schools involved in the dual-credit program, including Andrew, Brother Rice, Sandburg, Queen of Peace, Stagg, Evergreen Park, Reavis, Shepard, Eisenhower, Providence, Argo, Richards, Oak Lawn, Marist, Mount Carmel and Mother McAuley.

Morton College and St. Laurence, St. Rita and Nazareth Academy high schools are planning to be added during the 2016 school year.

Moraine Valley faculty teaches Orientation to IT Professions and Security Awareness. The high school teachers then instruct other selected Local Area Network classes at their respective schools while receiving support from Moraine Valley. Not only are these students earning college credit, but easing their future transition to college.

“We have high schools that have been reaching out to us that are further outside of our district as well,” said Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College.

The Basic Nursing Assistant Program is the most popular dual-credit program at the college, according to Elvira.

The college holds annual dual-credit articulation meetings to foster the relationship between Moraine and each individual high school.

“Through these meetings, we are able to identify high schools and their course offerings,” Elvira said.

New programs are on the horizon for the program’s future, including culinary arts, math and science.

Hickory Hills loses one proposed business, gains another

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Action taken at the Hickory Hills Council meeting last Thursday resulted in a “win one, lose one” business situation in the city, with one business opting out and a new one opening up.

Sonny’s Slots & Café was scheduled to open at 8841 W. 87th St., and had submitted a request for a Class E Liquor License, which was approved unanimously at the Jan. 14 council meeting. However, Ald. Joe Stachnik (3rd Ward) was not present at the meeting.

At the Jan. 28 council meeting, an ordinance amendment was approved, increasing the number of liquor licenses from nine to 10, which included the license for Sonny’s Slots & Café. The motion passed with a vote of 7 to 1. Casting the “no” vote was Stachnik.

Later in the Jan. 28 meeting, Stachnik expressed a need for the council to consider that a requirement be included in future business requests requiring that a new business select a name that reflects a more residential atmosphere.

At the March 10 meeting, Mayor Mike Howley cited the reason the ordinance was amended to reduce the number of licenses was because Sonny’s Slots & Café was no longer planning to open the business.

“We don’t want an open liquor license on the records. If we have another business requesting one, we will simply amend the ordinance to add an additional license,” Howley said.

Ald. Brian Waight (2nd Ward), who chairs the Laws and Ordinances committee, stated that Sonny’s owner had not given a reason for withdrawing the planned business.

However, a new business, MNM Signs, will be opening at 8719 W. 95th St., in the Hill Creek Shopping Center. Owned by Martin Orozco, the shop will specialize in signs, decals and promotional items such as pens, mugs and hats.

In other action, the council approved a $200 donation to the Hickory Hills Baseball team and a $100 donation to the Eagles Wing Walk, Run and Roll 5K Walk for Autism, scheduled for Saturday, May 7 at the Elim Christian School.

Also approved was a final payment to Len Cox & Sons Excavating in the amount of $21,630 for their storm sewer improvements at the 83rd Court and 89th Street Intersection.

Village Engineer Mike Spolar said total costs for the project had come in at $349,000, which was less than what the original bid had been.

On other matters, Village Treasurer Daniel Schramm announced that three draft budget meetings have been scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, May 4 and May 11. The meetings will be held at the City Hall at 6:30 p.m.

The council adjourned and went into executive session to discuss police personnel and a police collective bargaining update. No action was announced following the meeting.

Aldermen Brian Fonte and Tom McAvoy were absent from the meeting.

Legislators rip Rauner as House OKs revised bill

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Two local legislators whose districts include large portions of the southwest suburbs voted to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of a bill to provide funding for Monetary Award Programs, or MAP grants, for college students.

Rauner vetoed a bill on March 2 that would have allowed up to $271 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students. While the Senate voted to reject Rauner’s veto, the House came up two votes short. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) said he no longer has a supermajority and cannot count on automatically resisting the governor.

However, the House came back last Thursday with a bill that would fund state universities, community colleges and social service programs. The House bill was approved 70-43 and would not only help fund aid for college students, it would provide money for low-income seniors and children who have autism.

“This administration made promises to more than 125,000 students that they would receive the MAP grant,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) regarding Senate Bill 2043. “What we did over a month ago was give the governor the opportunity to keep those promises. But the governor’s veto concerns me. There seems to be no intention to keep those promises and that will only deal irreparable damage to our integrity as a state.”

The House approved two amendments to the bill. One amendment would pay back $454 million that Rauner used from special funds to help pay for public grammar and high school students.

Some Republicans were angry that they were not aware of the revised measure. Rauner referred to the revised bill as just more “phony budgeting.”

Legislators will not arrive back in Springfield until next month, well after the Tuesday primary. The March 3 bill includes $397 million to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for MAP. Processing the claims for MAP will take at least four weeks.

A spokesperson for Rauner said that the governor will most likely veto the revised bill.

Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Orland and Palos townships in the southwest suburbs, said the community colleges should not be lost in the shuffle.

“We also have to consider community colleges in this situation,” said Cunningham. “Many of them have approved or will be approving faculty layoffs. These are faculty members that have an impact in the classroom and yet this governor has once again said no to ensuring that the classrooms are properly staffed.”

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), who voted for the Senate override, said that the state has a responsibility to provide motivated students with genuine opportunities in which Illinois reaps the benefits.

“It is infuriatingly unnecessary that in order to improve their prospects and make the most of their talents, many of our state’s young people find they must leave Illinois – if they have the resources to do so,” said Collins, whose district takes in large portions of Oak Lawn. “Too many do not. They live with the disappointment of a dream deferred, and meanwhile, our economic vitality, our quest for equality and our struggle for stronger communities wither on the vine.”

Collins said that the House and Senate have repeatedly voted to release funds for MAP grants. She said that the governor has consistently opposed them despite the pleas of students.

“Already, more than a thousand MAP grant recipients have been forced to stop going to class,” said Collins. “They simply cannot afford to foot the bill while the state fails them.”

The co-sponsor of the revised bill is state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th), the House majority leader. She said the bill would provide students with the funds they need to complete their education.

Rauner replied in a prepared statement after the House approved the amendments to their bill.

“Instead of considering any one of the real solutions that have bipartisan support to fund MAP grants and higher education, House Democrats passed a plan that isn’t paid for,” stated Rauner, who prefers a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-5th) that he said would provide $160 million in emergency funds.

Dunkin has been at odds with local Democrats for siding with Rauner on several issues. Madigan and most Democrats support his opponent, Juliana Stratton, in the Tuesday primary. In an unusual move, President Obama publically supports Stratton in the primary.

Two teens die in car crash along Archer Avenue

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge resident Jonathan “Jon” Grabinski, 17, and his friend, Salvatore Melant, 18, of Chicago, were killed early Saturday morning when the SUV went off the road and struck a tree on Archer Avenue near 94th Street, in unincorporated Willow Springs.

According to information provided by the Cook County sheriff’s and medical examiner’s offices, the accident occurred just after 3:30 a.m., when their Ford Explorer lost control and crashed into a tree as they traveled east on Archer Avenue. Both were pronounced dead at the scene about 4:15 a.m.

In a written statement, District 218 Superintendent Ty Harting said, “We are shocked and saddened by this tragic accident and by the passing of Jonathan Grabinski. We will keep Jonathan and his family in our thoughts and prayers and we will offer any support we can to his family, his friends, and to the entire Richards High School community. Whenever we lose a student we lose a part of ourselves as well. Our hearts go out to the Grabinski family during this very difficult time.”

Melant, who went by “Sam,” lived in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood, and was a 2015 graduate of St. Laurence High School in Burbank. He was taking college courses, according to reports. Both teens aspired to become police officers, friends said.

The exact cause of the accident was still under investigation, but officials said the road conditions were icy.

Although there was no school on Monday because of Casimir Pulaski Day, a crisis team was availableat Richards High School, 10601 S. Central Ave., in Oak Lawn.

Harting said that more than 40 people came to the school to speak to the counselors and social workers who were there.

Services for Grabinski were held yesterday, Wednesday, at Curley Funeral Home, 6116 W. 111th St., in Chicago Ridge.

Survivors include his parents, Roger and Karrie Grabinski; brothers, Joshua and Jeffrey; and grandfather, John Grabinski.

Friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for expenses. On the website, friends said Grabinski’s nickname was “Smiley,” because his smile “lit up any room he walked into and his laughter was infectious.”

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