With Hanover Park carved into multiple school districts, library districts, townships and counties, identifying and navigating various bureaucracies can be daunting.
That's true even more so for Hanover Park's sizable population of first-generation families, many of whom haven't been exposed to higher education.
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Officials hope to better serve that particular community by opening an extension site in collaboration with the village, Harper College, Elgin Community College and workNet.
"The boundaries are confusing to me and I'm the mayor," Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig said. "We want to make (access to community college) as easy as possible, which in turn will help our economic base and help people become part of the American way."
Depending on their location, residents could be in either the Harper, ECC or College of DuPage district and live up to 20 miles from their respective main campus. The new extension site, which officials hope to open in spring 2014, would be located on a Pace bus route in the Hanover Square shopping center on Barrington Road.
Though Craig said COD declined to participate due to its extension site in Carol Stream, Harper and ECC each have committed $250,000 per year for three years to pay for staffing and operating expenses. WorkNet personnel will assist with comprehensive employment, business and support resources.
The village will pay construction costs at the 10,000-square-foot storefront that formerly housed Norbert Pools. Hanover Park bought the aging, 113,000-square-foot shopping center in 2011 for $2.8 million.
Though much of it remains vacant, the village tore down the dilapidated restaurant in the parking lot, is redoing much of the roof and planning to revamp the facade. Craig said two small restaurants are close to signing leases.
Harper College spokesman Phil Burdick said the idea for an extension site came out of a summit of business and community leaders Craig held nearly three years ago to address the disproportionately high unemployment rate in Hanover Park.
Extension sites are nothing new; Harper alone operates four, in Palatine, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows and Schaumburg. But the partnership between multiple taxing bodies is innovative, officials said.
"This is kind of a new model of how government entities can make education go further, and in a more cost-effective manner, through a partnership," Burdick said.
Harper staff will provide daytime classes and ECC the nighttime classes. Burdick said curriculum will focus on college readiness classes such as English as a Second Language, computer skills and basic math and English.
The extension site remains in a bit of a holding pattern pending more funding. State Rep. Fred Crespo has been working to get $200,000 in state money, a piece Burdick said is critical.
The Hoffman Estates Democrat and other lawmakers currently are in Springfield for the final week of the session. Crespo said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the state will come through, and said it will become clearer in the next few days as the budget takes shape.
"The community has been underserved for quite some time, and I'm committed to doing whatever I can on my end to close that gap," Crespo said.