Helping More Women, Ageless Learning

When 33-year-old Aisha Sheppard decided to return to college, the single mom and domestic survivor signed on for Harper College's Women's Program. The Streamwood resident is fiercely determined to get her degree, and she says the Program - which provides career planning, tuition help, life skills and education support to single parents, domestic violence victims, displaced homemakers and others - will offer an extra layer of support as she heads back to class.

 

Helping More Women 

When 33-year-old Aisha Sheppard decided to return to college, the single mom and domestic survivor signed on for Harper College's Women's Program. The Streamwood resident is fiercely determined to get her degree, and she says the Program - which provides career planning, tuition help, life skills and education support to single parents, domestic violence victims, displaced homemakers and others - will offer an extra layer of support as she heads back to class. "It makes it a lot easier to get through college with resources and help like this," Sheppard says. "It really helps to know I have this after the things I have been through." Her story is not unusual. Enrollment in Harper's Rita and John Canning Women's Program has soared in the last two years, climbing from about 350 students in the 2007-2008 academic year to 440 students in 2008-2009 and 550 students in 2009-2010. Director Kathleen Canfield says the cumulative 60 percent participation gain is a byproduct of the poor economy. "Unfortunately, in difficult times, the number of women who need help increases," Canfield says. "They see us as the hope and help that they need to get through all of this." Some women, after years at home, may be seeking an education to help with a new job search, she says; studies also have shown domestic violence increases amid financially stressful times. A state grant that helped pay for the Program for more than 15 years was cut in 2008. Today, Harper's Women's Program is one of the last of its kind still operating in Illinois, and relies heavily on donations to move forward. "Those donations are absolutely critical to our survival at this point. Without it, many women simply will not be able to receive the help that they so desperately need," Canfield says. For graduate Henya Pappas,

the Women's Program brought needed support in the wake of a rough divorce, helping her secure scholarships, determine her academic path and regain her self-esteem. She's since earned her Nursing degree and landed a job. "I definitely would still be curled up in a ball, not knowing how to make ends meet, without the Women's Program," says Pappas, 49, of Mount Prospect. "It's huge to have that support and direction and guidance - and someone telling you that, yes, you can do it. If it wasn't for the Women's Program, I never would be where I am right now." A "100 Influential Women" campaign was launched in 2009 with a goal of raising $100,000 for Harper's Women's Program. To donate, or for more information on the Women's Program or other support opportunities, call 847.925.6490 or visit www.harpercollege.edu/giving.

 

Media Note: A Computer JumpStart program teaching word processing and web basics to Women's Program participants runs through July 29 at the Harper Professional Center, 650 E. Higgins Road in Schaumburg. The class is at capacity, with 18 participants. Photographers and reporters are welcome. Women's Program participants also are available for interviews. Contact Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.

 

Ageless Learning

Shirley Garrison is an 82-year-old retiree. She's also a Harper College student. The Arlington Heights resident eagerly signed up for eight classes this spring and has happily worked her way through a cornucopia of courses through the years, including a recent favorite that addressed the differences in cultures across the world. Her vehicle: Harper's Lifelong Learning Institute, a just-for-seniors program dedicated to exposing those over 55 to the joy of continued learning. Launched in 2003, the Institute now boasts more than 500 non-credit courses in a host of subjects - from history and art to science, philosophy and music - and also offers regional trips and tours and one-session lectures. Harper will offer a Program Preview of the Lifelong Learning Institute from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, August 4 in the Performing Arts Center on the main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. Attendees will be able to visit classes and meet instructors; enjoy free refreshments; sign up for courses; and learn more about the Institute's offerings. Garrison, who teaches a class on "Writing Your Life Story" in addition to taking courses herself, says she appreciates the Institute as much for what it provides - camaraderie and fun-filled learning - as for what it leaves out: no tests, no textbooks, no papers and no grades. "You just go in there and enjoy it. It thrills me," Garrison says. "I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to keep their mind going like this." Lifelong Learning Institute courses are held in a variety of locations around the suburbs, including on Harper's main campus; most run during daytime hours Monday through Thursday. Among the fall options: a Civil War series focused on the war that helped shape America; exercise classes; a course on Chicago mob history; a how-to session on downsizing your home; a seminar - complete with pictures and artifacts - looking back on the 1950s; field trips to the Art Institute and the Mayslake Peabody Estate in DuPage County; and a collection of "Pizza with the Professor" lectures allowing participants to lunch and learn with Harper instructors. "We truly do offer something for everyone," says Kathy Swan of Harper's Continuing Education Department. "Our program encourages people to get out there and learn something new and maybe make some new friends in the process." Call 847.925.6300 or visit www.harpercollege.edu/ce to reserve a spot at the annual Program Preview.

 

Media Note: Many Lifelong Learning Institute participants are in their 80s. For interviews with those students and tips on staying young through learning, contact Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159.

 

Teaching the Oil Spill

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has devastated local wildlife, changed the face of the Gulf economy and created mass concern over America's environmental future. One more thing it's now affecting: college classes. The disaster is being incorporated into the curriculum of several Harper College courses this summer, with faculty and students in biology, economics and beyond examining the environmental implications and the wide-reaching impact the spill is having on the Gulf's - and America's - way of life. "One of our first topics of discussion is going to be this spill," says Assistant Professor Craig Stettner, whose environmental biology course will take up the topic in classes this month. "This disaster will be a cornerstone of discussion for so many topics we're covering." Among other things, he'll talk to students about fossil fuel use and the spill's effect on critical, lesser-known small organisms well below the ocean's surface - whose demise can affect the entire ecosystem. Since the late April explosion that triggered the sinking of the BP offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, images from the spill - oil-covered wildlife and fishermen now out of jobs - have remained front-page news. In his economics courses this summer and again this fall, Associate Professor Getachew Begashaw will focus on both those issues, addressing with students the ramifications of the destruction of natural resources and the economic impact of sunken local industries. Students already are engaged in the conversation, Begashaw says, because of the timeliness of the topic and the limitless opportunities for applying it to the fields of economics, science and sociology. "As far as the impacts this has had and will have - it's simply too large to predict now, and it therefore will likely remain a viable discussion topic moving forward," Begashaw says.

Media Note: Reporters are welcome to sit in on a class during discussion of the spill. Contact Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.

 

Press Contact: Craig Stettner, Assistant Professor, cstettne@harpercollege.edu, 847-925-6214.


The Sky, Up Close

When Mars, Venus and Saturn uniquely align near the moon this summer, Harper College will offer a front-row seat. In July and August, the College will host free close-up viewings of the night sky at the Karl G. Henize Observatory on the main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. The viewings, from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on select Fridays, allow visitors to stargaze through Harper's large main telescope in the observatory dome or view the cosmos through other telescopes arranged by observatory staff and astronomy club volunteers nearby. Viewings are scheduled for July 23 and August 13. The alignment of Mars, Venus and Saturn should be easily viewable August 13; the Perseids Meteor Shower, which will launch dozens of meteors through the night sky in mid-August, may also be visible on that night. The public can call the observatory at 847.925.6990 to check viewing visibility in advance. For more information, visit http://goforward.harpercollege.edu/academics/areas/science/astronomy.php.

Media Note: Harper's free community viewings have long been a hit for suburban stargazers, drawing hundreds - including a host of regulars and families with small children - to the College's campus on clear summer nights. Reporters and photographers are welcome.

 

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.

 

Photo Opportunities

Event: InZone summer kids camp. Courses include fishing, cooking, film, fashion and more.

Date: Mondays-Thursdays through August 12 (call for best days/times)

Location: Campus-wide

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.

 

Event: New Student Orientation. About 4,000 students will visit Harper's campus for the College's required summer orientation, which includes testing, advising and registration.

Date: Tuesdays and Thursdays

Location: Campus-wide

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.

 

Event: Astronomical Viewings. These free viewings can draw more than 100 suburbanites, who gaze through Harper's main observatory telescope or through others set out on the lawn.

Date: 8:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays, July 23 and August 13

Location: Karl G. Henize Observatory on the main campus (use Euclid Avenue entrance)

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159, kpohl@harpercollege.edu.