The graduation ceremony was at 10
a.m. on June 28 at Heartland’s Raab Road campus. Dr. Diana McCauley, a
well-known local volunteer, independent educational consultant and advocate for
education and equity for all women and girls, delivered the commencement speech.
The Business Essentials program
was designed to help economically disadvantaged community members overcome
educational, social and economic barriers to employment.
"I had no idea it would be so
difficult and stressful, or so rewarding," said Eleisha Whitney-Olson about the
16-week, 17-credit-hour program.
Pam Westerdahl, Heartland’s
director of workforce services, formed a partnership between the college, the
McLean County Chamber of Commerce, the University of Illinois Extension Service
and Mid-Central Community Action to develop and launch the project.
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are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified staff for
entry and midlevel positions. At the same time, many community
members face multiple barriers to employment due to a lack in
technical and life skills required for careers offering wages and
benefits that will support a family and promise opportunities for
advancement. This program brings these needs together for a positive
solution," explains Westerdahl.
Graduate Nessa Sacry says she now feels
qualified to compete for a living-wage position. "This was more than
I had expected. It was a lot of work in a short time period, but now
I know I can accomplish the goals I set for myself."
Community College news release]
teaching and gardening ideas began with a butterfly garden put
together by her 1999-2000 class. In 2001 her dream of an 1850s-style
garden with book-themed plots landed the school a $6,800 grant from
Barnes and Noble through the Illinois Literacy Foundation.
Now the garden,
across Sixth Street from Jefferson School, boasts several
book-themed plots, such as the "Petunia Goose" and the "Charlotte’s
Web" plots, as well as a sunflower house where classes gather for
special outdoor book-readings, a prairie garden, a butterfly bush, a
rainbow garden and several raised gardens surrounded by even more
flower beds. Also in the garden, a log cabin built by Pete
Fredericks houses the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" and gardening
tools. For the supplies, Hawkinson found many generous donors within
the Lincoln community.
She approached the
Lincoln Public Library about bringing their summer reading program
to the Jefferson School Children’s Garden. As a result, children and
parents gather on Wednesday mornings to sit and read for an hour in
the shade of the garden.
[Photo by Trisha Youngquist]
[Debby Simpson takes time out of her day to
sit and read with her daughter Katie. Katie has read more than 400
books this summer!]
librarian Linda Harmon brings a box full of books from the library
and spreads them out on the grass. Kids glance over the books and
hurriedly find a square of carpet to sit on and read. And when they
have finished one book, they quickly find and devour another. The
entire hour is spent reading one book after another. Parents who
accompany their children sit while their children read aloud to
State Farm Insurance
sponsors a midhour drink break. Agent Rick Hamm also brings safety
programs to the school during the year.
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The library program
extension allows children who live in the neighborhoods near
Jefferson to participate in the reading program, since the school
lies within walking distance. Already this summer 15 kids have
participated at the location and filled out reading logs.
Kids write down in
their reading logs all the books that they read and use it to keep
track of their reading goals. Children set their own reading goals
in this program that has over 500 participants.
[Linda Harmon awards Amanda McCray a "Reading Rocks"
T-shirt for meeting her reading goal.]
them toward their personal goals. When a child reaches his or her
reading goal, the reward is a red "Reading Rocks" T-shirt. Weekly
prizes for children who have read the most during the week are also
given out. Area merchants have donated hundreds of prizes for the
weekly honors. An anonymous donor supplied the prizes for the
summer’s top readers.
At the library,
charts on the walls reflect individual progress as well as progress
by school. Schools compete in most books read for a trophy.
Jefferson has never won the trophy, but this year they appear to be
strong competitors, vying closely with Washington-Monroe for first
As Linda Harmon was quick to point out,
though, it would not be possible without Cathy Hawkinson. "She’s the
impetus behind the whole thing. I just bring the books."