Attack on youth commission misguided

Dear Mr. Backman,

The youth commission was originally formed sometime in the 1970s and revived in 2004. All of our funding has come from donations from groups such as the Forest Park Kiwanis Club and fundraisers that we, ourselves, have conducted. If the village has allocated $20,000 over the last eight years for youth activities, it has not been used by the youth commission. Perhaps you should contact the village and ask them where the money is being used, instead of making assumptions. I do know that $2,500 a year for youth activities isn’t exactly a “whopping” amount as you state in your letter.

Our money has been used for activities such as a joint program with the Forest Park police to provide basketball facilities for Forest Park youth two days a week for the last four summers and a Haunted Cemetery Tour. We have taken groups of kids to Fright Fest at Great America and to Lake Geneva. We have also put on well received anti-drug and anti-bullying programs at the Forest Park Middle School.

We stopped using agendas early last year because I found that in dealing with elementary school children the fastest way to lose their attention is to force them to sit through an agenda-driven meeting. We switched to a more activity based method of meeting and find that it works much better.

Lisa Whalen and Tom McNamara were original members of the youth commission along with my husband and myself. Lisa resigned several months later citing too many other commitments and Tom moved out of town a few years ago. Mary Hoffman, Kila Bell-Bey and Tim Ryan are still members but have not participated in over a year, most likely due to their children now being in high school. I have been running this group with only the help of Sheila Davis for about a year. Without an increase in adult volunteers, it is difficult to bring the youth commission to its full potential.

Mr. Backman, I realize your intent is to once again try to make Mayor Calderone look like the bad guy, but I am the one taking this personally. I have worked very hard, often alone, to try to keep this program alive. Mayor Calderone is the village official who oversees this group but he has given me full responsibility and is confident in my ability to run things. I just cannot do it alone. We need people willing to step up and donate their time to these programs.

What we do not need are people who criticize those of us putting forth an effort. We do not deserve to have a letter written about us and our programs filled with insinuation and unfounded scandal without ever receiving so much as a phone call seeking honest answers to your questions. Perhaps you would be willing to donate your time to help with much needed programs in Forest Park instead of pointing fingers and writing letters without fact or research.

Mary Win Connor
Forest Park Youth Commission

Back to basics

The SLANT program sounds similar to how I taught my primary special education classroom when I began my teaching career 30 years ago (“Learning to teach all over again,” Hometown, Oct. 10). Only I called the words nonsense words instead of Martian words. Back then we had to be much more innovative and creative. I color-coded beginning consonants in green, medial positioned vowels in yellow, and ending consonants in red (you got it, a traffic light!) in order for kids to know where to begin their decoding … yellow to be cautious and watch for that vowel, and red to end it. There were more things done to incorporate auditory, visual and kinesthetic channels, but the kids did learn how to read.

It is interesting that best practices in special education 30 years ago are now becoming best practices in general education now. (I currently teach third-grade and continue to use special education techniques and strategies every day in my general education classroom.)

Vickie Wahl
Birmingham, Iowa

Green cabs, at last

Finally, an idea whose time has come! I’d love to see our 10,000 cabs in New York City convert to green.

Bonnie Corso
New York

Thanks for the art

The Forest Park Main Street’s first annual Arts Fest sponsored by Boulevard Fine Art and Custom Framing held on Sept. 29 and 30 was a huge success. Over 3,500 art lovers and curiosity seekers browsed the artist’s booths as well as Madison Street merchants. Kids and adults were entertained and educated with performances and crafts in the children’s area.

Sponsored by Forest Park National Bank & Trust Co., the children’s area included fun entertainment with a mask performance by Jeff Semmerling, Flex and Pointe interactive dancing, Dennis Watkins with wonderful magic and storytelling by Kucha Browniee Baba and Tony Brown. Crafts included painting “Art” the Arts Fest Elephant (donated by David Manola of Boulevard Fine Art), a mask workshop with Jeff Semmerling, and Make a Bookmark. The Forest Park Public Library was also present for the weekend to allow residents to sign up or renew their library cards.

Throughout the fest participants were treated to the musical entertainment of local artists and entertainers: Gasse School of Music, Scottie Long, and Dadabeat.

Transportation for the artists was provided by Windy City Trolley and sponsored by Todd & Holland Tea Merchants.

This event could not have come to pass without the huge support of our fine village. Many thanks to Mayor Anthony Calderone, our commissioners, and police and fire departments. The public works department deserves special thanks as well for their super clean up.

The Forest Park Main Street Association would also like to thank Platinum sponsors, Anderson Windows, Regency Development (The Roos) and Gold Sponsors, Chris Guillen Studios, caffe De Luca, Joseph J. Locke & Co, O’Sullivan’s Public House and The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce.

Arts Fest sponsors also included The Altenheim, Byron’s Hot Dogs, Centuries & Sleuths Book Store, DNA General Contracting, Forest Park Foot Care, Famous Liquors, Flavour Cooking School, Park District of Forest Park, Gasse School of Music, Healy’s Westside, Heels, House Red, LaMaison de Bon Bon, Forest Park Public Library, Louie’s Grill, McAdam Landscaping, The Old School Records, Painted Board Studio, Pure Organization, Rush Oak Park Hospital, Shanahan’s, Spotless Carwash, The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, Trage Bros., and Two Fish Art Glass.

Also a special thank you to all our volunteers for their hard work.

Thank you to our Arts Fest Jury who set the standard for the event by choosing the artists. Thank you to our Arts Fest consultants, Roz Long and David Boylan, graphic designer Lynda Van Duerm, photographer Chris Guillen, Jeanine A Guncheon for her illustrations and caffe De Luca for the artists’ breakfast.

Special thanks to the talented artists who made this event a success.

Kathleen A. Hanrahan, director
Forest Park Main Street