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updated: 6/2/2016 5:36 AM

Lester: Lifeguard jobs go begging this summer

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  • Suburban pools are feeling the pinch with a shortage of lifeguards.

    Suburban pools are feeling the pinch with a shortage of lifeguards.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

Despite the lure of earning a paycheck while getting a poolside tan, high school- and college-aged students aren't lining up to fill suburban lifeguard jobs.

Local park districts are reporting difficulties filling openings for the summer.

Jennifer Boys, who's overseen aquatics in Des Plaines for nearly 20 years, tells me teens' busy lives account for some of the shortage.

"You need more bodies to do the same work, because everyone has other things going on along with lifeguarding -- summer school, sports, other jobs or family duties," Boys, the park district's assistant superintendent of recreation, says.

The workweek has been downsized from about 40 hours to about 25 per typical lifeguard on staff, she said. That means the park district needs about 120 lifeguards for the summer instead of the 80 it used to employ.

Recruiting efforts

Park officials are recruiting in schools, raising base pay from $8.50 to $9 an hour, cutting the cost of the required training course from $150 to $50 and offering several additional training sessions throughout the summer.

"We feel the job is an enticing position in and of itself," Boys says. "It's just trying to relay that out into the public."

Adult babies?

The recent opening of the Tykables store in Mount Prospect has stirred up some controversy on social media among residents who are upset that the business caters in part to adults who like to dress as babies ... for fun.

Huh? John Michael Williams, one of the owners, tells me the adult-diaper store near Northwest Highway and Central Road caters to people with medical needs as well as people who want to "re-connect with their inner child."

While the store's entry, Williams says, is "set up like an oversized nursery," that's just a display, he says. "I said this to the village when we were getting a business license. This is an office, and pants are required."

Village Manager Michael Cassady says officials have gotten complaints from residents, but he notes Tykables was "thoroughly vetted" when it applied for a business license. He says village officials will be conducting regular checks on the store to make sure it adheres to the business plan it submitted.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Harper College in Palatine last September.
  Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Harper College in Palatine last September. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Hats in the ring?

Political circles have been full of speculation whether Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin is considering a run for Illinois governor, but a top party operative this week tipped me off to another Democrat who might be weighing a bid: former U.S. Secretary of Education and President Barack Obama basketball buddy Arne Duncan. Also a former Chicago Public Schools chief, Duncan works with the philanthropic Emerson Collective to create job opportunities for young adults who are neither working nor in school.

Duncan recently joined the board of the Lucas Museum and has appeared with South Side activist the Rev. Michael Pfleger at several events -- all moves that could help him build political and fundraising support. Publicly, Durbin's said he's focused on the Senate. Duncan could not be reached for comment.

Shortlist

Other names frequently mentioned include former University of Illinois Board Chairman Chris Kennedy of Chicago, Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar of downstate Bunker Hill and former Gov. Pat Quinn, among others.

NIU's beloved mascot Diesel died last fall at age 12. Alumni are raising funds to have a statue in his memory placed on campus.
NIU's beloved mascot Diesel died last fall at age 12. Alumni are raising funds to have a statue in his memory placed on campus. - Courtesy of Tom Bonnevier
Diesel, immortalized

I'd heard rumblings of this a few months back, and now the effort is finally underway. Northern Illinois University alums have begun raising money for a statue of beloved mascot Diesel, a Siberian husky who died last fall.

"The Diesel Memorial Project," which is collecting donations on gofundme.com, had as of Wednesday raised about $5,300 of the $25,000 needed. Alum Bob Smith says the bronze statue by sculptor Renee Bemis will be of Diesel sitting with his left paw up, a pose he became famous for after giving an NIU cheerleader a high-five after a 2013 game against Ball State University.

Smith says NIU wants to dedicate the sculpture as part of the festivities for the 2017 home opener against Boston College.

Villanova's NCAA championship men's basketball team met with President Barack Obama this week.
Villanova's NCAA championship men's basketball team met with President Barack Obama this week. - courtesy of Villanova University
Today's snap

"We're in the house, the White House," the Villanova University men's basketball team's Twitter feed noted excitedly this week when the NCAA championship team met with President Barack Obama.

At least three members of the team (my alma mater) have suburban roots. Along with Jalen Brunson, a standout freshman guard and 2015 Stevenson High School graduate, sophomore Matt O'Neill of Barrington and senior Sean Catalano of Hinsdale served as managers of the team. Here's a snap of the team with the prez.

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