About 75 people attended a ceremony Monday to mark the beginning of construction on the Hanover Park Education and Work Center, which will make education and job assistance more accessible to residents of the area.
Harper College and Elgin Community College will offer free adult education courses at the center, while the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership will provide job counseling and training.
The center, which will be operated jointly by the two community colleges, will offer classes in English as a Second Language, adult basic education (reading, math and writing) and GED courses in English and Spanish. The center will provide student advising and assistance with financial aid, scholarships and college applications. A workNet Center will offer job counseling, workshops and job training assistance. Services will be free.
The center was created through a partnership between multiple agencies.
Hanover Park will pay an estimated $715,000 to transform 10,900-square-feet of space in the Hanover Square Shopping Center at 6704 Barrington Road into classrooms.
ECC and Harper will each contribute $750,000 to operate the center for three years as a pilot program, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is contributing $200,000 for furniture and equipment under a grant obtained by state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates.
"This is going to improve the quality of life for the people who live here and the folks who need the most help," said Crespo, who addressed the group in both English and Spanish.
The center has been in the planning stages for three years and was created in response to an influx of minority and first-generation families in the region and the area's high unemployment rate.
Offering adult basic education programs is expensive for community colleges because students pay no tuition and state and federal grants cover only a portion of the costs. Pooling resources can cut expenses.
"We can't solve national problems ourselves, but we can bring local solutions to them, and that's what this center represents," Harper College President Ken Ender said. "It represents an opportunity for education, employment and economic development."
Swinging sledgehammers to begin construction were Elgin Community College President David Sam and Board Chair Donna Redmer, Harper College's Ender and Board Chair Diane Hill, Hanover Park Village President Rod Craig and Crespo, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates.
Construction is expected to take about two months. The center will include four classrooms, a computer lab, office space and space for the workNet office. Registration for classes begins in August with classes starting in September.