The Forest Park Park District is looking for SWATs”seniors with available time, that is”to volunteer for a new program to share their technical and knowledge-based skills with teenagers in the area.

The program is the brainchild of park board President Joseph Byrnes and was announced during last Thursday’s park board meeting.

The goal of the program, Byrnes said, is to have “retired teachers, carpenters, auto mechanics and computer experts teach the teens. I don’t see too many trade schools in the area, and we want to have the kids come in and sit down. They can use the garage or this building to put together a program that will keep the kids occupied,” Byrnes said.

“Not all kids are going to go to college; this is something that could be offered as a starting point to teach them basic skills and give them a chance in life,” he said.

Someday, he said, the program could bring kids up to a level where they can link up with unions and work in technical fields.

In addition, the program could potentially link retired teachers with students who need extra help with schoolwork.

“We have kids coming in from everywhere; they may not be at the level our kids are in the district,” Byrnes said.

The program, as he envisions it, would bring in tutoring services, technical skills and utilize a valuable resource the village already has: retired people who always have something to teach.

Byrnes added that the program is still in its beginning stages and asked for all persons interested in participating to contact the park district at 366-7500 and to attend an informational meeting on March 17 at 6 p.m. at building number four, behind the tennis courts.

In the future, he said, The Park will be contacting local government agencies, and approaching politicians in Springfield and in Washington, D.C. to set up the pilot program, look for federal funding and potentially seek out ways to compensate seniors for their time.

“If I retire on a pension, I still have to make co-payments,” Byrnes said. “Sometimes retirement doesn’t allow seniors to do everything they need to do. This could pay for deductibles on insurance or provide extra money for our seniors.

“We are going to win on this. Kids say when they turn 13, there is nothing to do in Forest Park,” Byrnes said. This, he hopes, will be a good solution to man problems and provide teenagers who may not be college-bound with the opportunity to amass skills that will keep them from the lowest paying jobs in the market.

During the meeting, members also discussed obtaining a new 60-foot flag pole from the local VFW for the soccer field by the existing scoreboard and announced that the Tony Hawk Grant paperwork is ready to go out.

The $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, if awarded, would go toward the proposed skate park and could be used to help pay for resurfacing the facility, the largest expense associated with the project.