Tag: Barbara Cole

Loyola Students Help Cultivate Hardy Maywood Peace Garden

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The Maywood Peace Garden received some special attention from Loyola medical students on Saturday. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Olga Desio, a volunteer master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension program, stood in the middle of the Peace Garden at the corner of 17th Ave. and Madison St. on Saturday, surrounded by hardy native plants and engulfed in the scent of herbs—sage, oregano, lavender, thyme.

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Volunteers Spruce Up Maywood’s 17th Ave. Peace Garden

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Maywood firefighters water the 17th & Madison Peace Garden in Maywood on Saturday. | Photos provided 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

On Saturday, June 3, volunteers worked to spruce up the 17th & Madison Peace Garden in Maywood. The garden, the brainchild of Maywood Youth Mentoring founder and executive director Barbara Cole, said that she and her MYM participants planted flowers, pulled weeds, picked up trash, spread soil and mulch and painted cinder blocks, among other green tasks.

“We had a very productive day,” Cole said in a statement.  “Mother Nature cooperated with us up to 3 p.m. by not raining, but disappointed us by not producing thunderstorms after 3 p.m.!”

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Fortunately, Cole said, the Maywood Fire Department provided water and filled out the garden’s water barrels. A sudden emergency, however, called them away from the garden before the barrels were filled.

“They returned Sunday morning to complete the task,” Cole said. “We just ask the community to pray for non-severe thunderstorms throughout the week so that our new plants don’t die from thirst. Otherwise, the public is welcome to stop by the garden and dip some water from the barrels to give to our thirsty plants!”

Cole said that Tim Lucas and Alex Sanchez from Home Depot donated and delivered supplies. Proviso Partners for Health donated compost bins, the University of Illinois Extension Master Garden Program provided expertise, garden supplies and volunteers and the Maywood Environmental and Beautification Commission donated labor and supplies.

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Another phase of additional planting and sprucing up the garden will take place on June 24, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more info, call (708) 344-3577 or email barbaracole@maywoodyouthmentoring.org. VFP

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In Maywood, Community Leaders Lament President Barack Obama’s Departure

President Barack Obama delivers his Farewell Address on Jan. 10 in Chicago. | Getty Images/Bloomberg

Thursday, January 12, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

On Thursday afternoon, Maywood Park District Commissioner Bill Hampton was still basking in the reflected glow of President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address, delivered two days earlier on Jan. 10 before a crowd of around 18,000 people in Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Hampton had been given two tickets to the historic speech — one for himself and another for his mother, Iberia, who died last October at the age 94. Hampton took his sister in his late mother’s place.

“I thought the speech was really good,” Hampton said during a regular meeting of the Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club, held Jan. 12 inside of the Meal of the Day Cafe, located on the fourth floor of Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave.

“I thought it would be a little longer, but it was good. With all that’s going on in Chicago, I thought him being here would help us with our problems,” Hampton said. “I was glad to get invited.”

During the Rotary meeting — which featured a speech by Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, a former foreign minister for Liberia who is running for president of that country — numerous civic leaders shared their thoughts on the country Obama inherited and the one he’ll be leaving behind.

“I loved his presidency from beginning to end,” said former village trustee, former village clerk and Rotarian Gary Woll. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t think, at times, that he should’ve pushed harder or sooner on things. My wife and I cried a little bit when we were watching the speech in our home. It was like a campaign rally.”

Woll said that he was proud that his north Maywood neighborhood voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Obama’s preferred successor, by nearly 90 percent over Republican Donald Trump.

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Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club President-elect Talei Thompson interviews Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, whose running for president of Liberia, during a Rotary meeting Thursday afternoon. | Michael Romain/VFP

“That was the exact same percentage Obama received on the north side of Maywood four years ago,” Woll said.

Debra Vines, the executive director and founder of The Answer, Inc., the autism awareness nonprofit, was among many civic leaders who praised Obama’s performance over his two terms.

“He did a lot for people with disabilities,” Vines said, adding to the accomplishments voiced by others.

“He made so much progress,” said Rotarian Karen Thompson. “So much has improved over the last eight years. Unemployment went down and the economy has shown so much improvement.”

Barbara Cole, the founder and executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring, said that, although she was encouraged by the president’s passion for community involvement, she was also disappointed by his inaction on an issue close to her heart.

“I was disappointed that he didn’t create a commission to study the impact of slavery on African Americans,” Cole said. “I was hoping he would announce it in his farewell speech. Hopefully, he’ll still do it.”

If there were other areas where the nation’s first black president failed, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, said some leaders.

“The Republicans have not said a positive word about him,” said Maywood author Mary Morris, who recently published a new calendar book called “Kings and Queens of Ancient and Modern Africa.”

Morris said she’s currently working on an essay about how two Republican politicians, in particular, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — both of whom ran for president last year in the Republican Primary — have treated the outgoing Democratic president.

“Everything that comes out of their mouths about Obama is ugly,” Morris said. “They don’t know what they’re doing to their grandchildren. Obama’s presidency, I think, has been awesome. My dad worked for General Motors and Obama brought that company back from the brink and some people still can’t say a single good word about him.”

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Barbara Cole and Mary Morris during a Jan. 12 Rotary meeting. | Michael Romain/VFP

Leonor Sanchez, the deputy clerk for Broadview, reinforced Morris’s opinions about Republican efforts to block Obama’s agenda.

“He was the hope,” she said. “He tried his best to implement as many things as possible, but he was bombarded with people constantly trying to block his agenda.”

Alexander Gbayee, Liberia’s former Consul General in Chicago, said that he recalls Obama’s days on the South Side, when the future president was still just a rising community organizer. The years that have been marked by the president’s rise, Gbayee said, are ones that people of African descent all over can take pride in.

“We’re very, very proud of him,” Gbayee said. “While he was in office, he didn’t make us feel shame in any way. He’s a very brilliant person and he carried himself in a dignified way. All black people should be proud of him. It’s a loss, but I think we’ve made some progress. He brought us as blacks to the table. I hate to see him go. I don’t know what will happen once Trump takes over.”

Ngafuan touted Rotary International’s motto of “service above self” as a possible antidote to a world marred by self-interest, corruption and greed.

“Whether in public or private service,” Ngafuan said, “ I believe our world can be a better place for a critical mass of people. I move to light the candle wherever we see darkness; for as Martin Luther King once said, ‘The time is always right to do the right thing.’” VFP

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Op-Ed: Maywood Youth Summit Poor in Attendance, but Rich in Solutions

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Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, left, and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin listen to a young person share her opinions at a recent youth summit in Maywood. | Courtesy Barbara Cole

Op-EdSunday, August 7, 2016 || By Barbara Cole || OPINION 

Youth Takeover Maywood  was convened by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin at Maywood Park District on Aug. 6. Despite the low youth turnout, the parents and concerned citizens in the room offered some compelling testimony.

Unfortunately, only a handful of policymakers from the entities listed as sponsors on the event flyer attended. The following is a list of 10 issues and solutions that came out of the meeting:

Proviso Youths See Google, Tech World Close Up

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Nikyah Little, left , and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), experience Google Cardboard viewers, which take wearers on a wraparound 3-D trip of virtual reality. Davis hosted a youth tech summit on June 17 at Google’s new Chicago headquarters. Below, Brittany Orr, left, and Barbara Cole, during the summit. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal

Google summit_B Cole and OrrMonday, June 20, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || @village_free || Updated: 6:05 p.m.

It was Brittany Orr’s first time at Google’s chic new Chicago headquarters. The 19-year-old graduate of Proviso East High School wants to break into computer coding and network security, but could see herself checking in at the high-tech 10-story office building with wraparound views of the Chicago skyline.

“I like it here,” said Orr, who had come at the insistence of Barbara Cole, the executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring. “I wish I worked here, actually.”

Orr was one of at least 100 young people from the western suburbs and Chicago’s West Side who attended the June 17 Youth Technology Initiative hosted by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th).

Davis said the tech summits are designed to bring young people, particularly minorities and young women, face-to-face with leaders in business, technology and government. The summit at Google, his office noted, is the first in a series of others that will take place inside tech hotspots. Another will be held inside Microsoft’s Loop headquarters.

The congressman said he hopes to make stories like that of Kaitlyn Lee, a recent graduate of Barrington High School who’ll head to Harvard in the fall to study computer science math, routine in schools like Proviso.

The summit couldn’t come at a more pivotal time, according to Bernard Clay, the executive director of Introspect Youth Services who brought a small group of young people who participate in his organization along with him to Google.

“We’re in a race to get as many African-American kids involved in STEM as possible and we need to step up the pace,” Clay said.

Sabrina Chung, Lee’s best friend and co-presenter, fleshed out the opportunity ahead for the enterprising student of color who decides to forge a path in the STEM field.

“The number of computer science jobs will triple by 2020, so just the sheer number of computer engineers we need by this time is huge and we are not fulfilling the number of jobs that we need,” said Chung. “This still leaves 25 percent of the estimated 1.35 million jobs vacant, which is really, really scary. So we just need engineers to fill these jobs. The salaries of these computer scientists is twice the national average.”

But it could be difficult for minority and female students to realize the high pay and prestige of STEM careers, many of the summit’s attendees noted. Just responding to those challenges takes its own kind of innovation.

“You’ll have many, many, many challenges,” said summit presenter Dyani Cox. “But I encourage you today, while you’re here, to not focus on your challenges, but on your endless possibilities. You can do anything you want to do, because there are people to support you.”

Cox, who heads up Black Girls Code’s Chicago chapter, eventually overcame those high hurdles to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering.

Chung and Lee took matters into their own hands and started a computer coding club for girls in response to the intimidation, Lee said, of being one of two girls in her AP computer science class at Barrington High.

Proviso Township District 209 Board President Teresa McKelvy said she brought along around 24 district students to Google. McKelvy said the trip is one part of a more comprehensive plan to expose students in the district to career paths in the tech field.

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“Education is moving to blended environments,” McKelvy said. “Most of the children know way more than we did at their age, but technology is here to stay. So we have to keep investing in them and in their education, and provide them with the tools and career paths so they know that options are available We’re trying to put them in contact with organizations like Google and Microsoft to show them the way.”

In addition to networking with leading technology experts, the students also got hands on with one of Google’s newest ‘it’ gadgets — the Google Cardboard viewer, a pair of binocular-shaped cardboard eye pieces that are this century’s DIY equivalent to the View-Master — and a robot named Eragon.

Jackie Moore, the founder of Chicago Knights Robotics, an organization that promotes STEM learning among young people by, among other activities, taking them to robotics competitions, said technology is a metaphor for life in a modern society.

Eragon, Moore said, was built by one of her robotics teams for a competition in Australia, where it won awards for its resilient design. The robot, however, is merely the product of  a much more comprehensive process involving a team of different people with specialized skills, she noted.

“The team is much more than just the robot,” Moore said. “In addition to building the robot, we have to market the robot, recruit students, raise funds and develop an online presence via social media. The way we do robotics is really very holistic. There’s probably not a subject in a class you’ve taken that doesn’t get addressed.”

Davis reinforced Moore’s metaphor, before sharing a high-tech experience of his own.

“In this summit, we’re trying to teach young people not only about technology, but about life,” he said. “Society now is so data-driven that technology is the absolute wave of the future. I’ve seen people using robotics to perform surgery and it’s nothing unusual, you know. The doctors were getting ready to operate and rather than putting on rubber gloves they were pecking on the computer.” VFP

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With Good Food and Low Prices, Maywood Shrimp House Passes ‘First Year’ Test

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Atlantis ShrimpHouse owners Norvel “Dvonn” Smith, left, and Whitney Eichelberger in their Maywood seafood restaurant. The owners recently celebrated their first year in business in the village. | David Pollard/Village Free Press

Sunday, June 12, 2016 || By David Pollard || UPDATED: 6/28/16

When it comes to seafood, especially shrimp, Whitney Eichelberger cuts no corner when preparing it and believes that’s one of the reasons the doors of his business has remained open.

In May, Atlantis Shrimp House, 713 S. Fifth Ave., in Maywood, celebrated its’ one-year anniversary. Eichelberger, 38, says good food and good customer service is probably the reason the business he co-owns has passed the “first year” test of a business.

Barbara Wilson, 53, of Maywood agrees, adding that she now doesn’t have to travel far to get some good seafood like she used to.

“All the food is damn good,” she said. “It’s right down the street and I’m glad that this is closer.”

The carry-out business is small with the culinary magic taking place in the back. Eichelberger, who has worked at various restaurants over the years specializing in shrimp like Goose Island, said cooking shrimp has become something he loves doing.

“I just found a passion for it,” he said.

But instead of working for someone else, he wanted to build on his passion by starting his own business. His cousin and co-owner of the business, Norvel “Dvonn” Smith, 44, approached him about the idea of opening up a new business, specializing in shrimp.

Smith owns several businesses and was looking to set up a restaurant on the West Side of Chicago or in another village in Proviso Township, but Barbara Cole, head of the local nonprofit Maywood Youth Mentoring, suggested he give Maywood a try.

“Barbara Cole was very instrumental in putting this business in Maywood because I wasn’t going to come here,” he said, adding that his current location was enticed him to give the village a try despite neighboring locations that vied for his attention.

He said the food they serve is good with a good price to boot, which is the reason he believes the business has done so well.

Along with shrimp they offer scallops, oysters, frog legs, chicken strips and other items. Eichelberger said the most popular item on the menu is their catfish strips.

He said their secret seasoning they use on their fish and shrimp stands on its own during the frying process and gives it that special taste. They do not use any flour or corn meal.

Smith hopes to open up another Atlantis Shrimp House, as well as some other business, in the future. He loves being an entrepreneur, he noted.

“If you are confident with yourself, if you are confident with your product, why not do it for yourself,” he said.

Atlantis Shrimp House is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. The business can be reached by phone at (708) 223-8445. VFP

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BREAKING: D209 Board Hires New Superintendent As Some Residents Point To Language Barrier

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Dr. Jesse Rodriguez || Photo: Star Tribune

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 || By Michael Romain

The Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education, at a Feb. 23 special board meeting, voted unanimously to hire Dr. Jesse Rodriguez to replace outgoing superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, according multiple sources.

Rodriguez was one of two finalists for the position. The other finalist was Dr. Eric Gallien, a deputy superintendent with the Racine Unified School District in the greater Milwaukee area.

Both Gallien and Rodriguez, a regional superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools, toured Proviso schools and met with various community stakeholders on separate occasions earlier this month.

“Both [candidates] seem to be transformational,” Kelly told the Forest Park Review at the time both men were being considered for the job. “They are both saying they would be visible in the community and are up for the challenge.”

“This is a major decision for the Proviso community,” Kelly said of the board’s selection. “We need [the community] to be there and to share their voice. This is why I want the community to come out. I feel it’s very important [for the public] to hear from candidates and speak to them.”

But some residents have chafed at the news.

Soon after learning of Rodriguez’s hiring, Barbara Cole, the founder of area nonprofit Maywood Youth Mentoring and an outspoken youth advocate, sent out a statement, by way of email and social media, advising the board against hiring Rodriguez because of what she considers to be his heavy accent.

The statement was shared in various Facebook groups and included in multiple email chains. Before praising the board for exhibiting “good governance” by opening up the hiring process to community input and complimenting both finalists on their credentials, Cole said that Rodriguez’s accent presented a prohibitive barrier to his hiring.

“However, it is compelling that Dr. Jesse J. Rodriguez’s language accent is so heavy and dense that it places a number of factors at risk and therefore his hiring as the Superintendent would, in our judgement, not be a prudent choice for the 209 school district,” Cole wrote.

In a recent phone interview, Cole said she was at a public meeting during which Rodriguez presented to the community and couldn’t understand much of what he said, adding that he mispronounced “Proviso,” among other proper nouns.

“The majority of the people there, who I talked to, acknowledged that there was a heavy accent that might interfere with communication,” Cole said in the interview.

“Even the people who I sent the email to felt that it was a valid consideration,” she said. “Our concerns should be a priority in terms of him hitting the ground running.”

Cole insisted that the criticisms she and other community members have made about Rodriguez’s accent have nothing to do with his ethnicity.

District officials, including several board members, could not be contacted immediately for comment. VFP

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