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Hanover Park, local colleges to build adult education center

HANOVER PARK – In a novel partnership, Hanover Park has teamed up with two area community colleges to build and operate a facility focused on adult education in the community.

The end result of the $700,000 construction project will be the Education and Work Center, a more than 10,000-square-foot space located in the Hanover Square Shopping Center on Barrington Road.

The roots of the project stem back to a conversation three years ago. At that time, Hanover Park Village President Rod Craig reached out to three community colleges that serve the Hanover Park area: Elgin Community College, Harper College and College of DuPage.

“We had a great conversation about the needs of Hanover Park,” Craig said.

Essentially, Craig was looking for a way to offer adult education programming within the village in a cost-effective manner.

In looking at demographics in Hanover Park and the surrounding area, officials found there are many first-generation families that have a difficult time accessing community college services because of transportation issues, Harper College spokesman Phil Burdick said.

“It made sense for us to go in there and offer programs,” Burdick said. “But those programs are expensive.”

College of DuPage dropped out of the project early, Craig said, but Elgin Community College and Harper College continued to work with the village to make the center a reality.

“The idea was that while no one college could afford to come out and create a site on their own, perhaps by combining our efforts and getting creative, we could be able to do something to serve the community,” said Peggy Heinrich, dean of adult education at Elgin Community College.

Hanover Park agreed to foot the bill for the construction of the space through tax-increment financing funds. The village also agreed to install the center in Hanover Square, a failing shopping center that Hanover Park purchased for $2.8 million in 2010.

Both Elgin Community and Harper colleges agreed to kick in $250,000 annually – which includes $120,000 for the cost of the lease – for three years to cover the operating costs of the center.

The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, a nonprofit organization that oversees federal, public and private funding for workforce development programs, also agreed to provide an Illinois workNet station in the center with services targeted at job seekers.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, successfully lobbied for a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development to fund the purchase of furniture for the new center as well, Burdick said.

A total of five classrooms, including one computerized classroom, will be included in the completed project, Heinrich said.

A senior director and both a full-time and part-time transitions coordinator will be hired to operate the center on a day-to-day basis, she said. Faculty from both colleges will teach classes at the center.

The village hopes to complete construction of the center by June, with classes scheduled to start this coming fall, Craig said.

The programming offered will cover a vast range of needs including adult basic and secondary education, English as a second language, and GED programs in both English and Spanish, Heinrich said.

“The idea is to help people transition to head-of-household type of jobs,” Craig said.

Officials also hope the center will encourage students to enroll in Harper College, Elgin Community College or College of DuPage, if that’s where they live, Burdick said.

But whether or not the center continues to operate beyond the three-year pilot program depends on its success.

The village hopes to one day sell the shopping center, and Craig believes the presence of the two colleges will be a big draw for business in the area.

“I’m going to do everything I can to see it’s successful, to bring people out to make sure people utilize this opportunity,” Craig said. “I don’t expect it to sit there with nothing going on.”

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