Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

Online edition –>

Many of us are grateful to have jobs this Thanksgiving. I just landed one for which I’m thankful. Imagine a trade that fits your talents, rewards you for your life experience and gives you credibility at your high school reunion. Tutoring students in English composition at St. Augustine College is that kind of a position.

St. Augustine has four campuses in Chicago and a student body that is mostly Latino. I work Saturdays at their South Side campus, assisting students with their English papers. I already had vast experience in this from helping four kids through high school and college.

Tutoring the St. Augustine students, though, presents a different challenge, as many of them grew up in Mexico. They often have a gift for getting their thoughts and feelings on paper but need help with structure and grammar.

I greatly admire these students, many of whom work full-time jobs and are raising children. They’re setting a wonderful example for their kids. Plus, like many adults who return to school, they are highly-motivated learners. They’ve taken on the tough job of tackling topics in what for many is their second language.

I wouldn’t have gotten the tutoring job if I hadn’t played Scrabble at the library and met Lee Maltby. Lee is the dean of instruction at St. Augustine. He’s also in charge of the tutoring program. He recommended me for the job based on my coverage of local stories. Laying down a seven-letter word may have also helped my cause.

When I applied, they requested my college transcripts. After explaining I didn’t have any, they double-checked with Lee before asking for my high school ones. I got to call my old alma mater and tell them, yes, I finally got a job! This made for a good story at my recent reunion.

I may not have become a captain of industry, wealthy trial lawyer, or Pulitzer Prize winner but I could regale classmates with tales of using the teacher’s lounge and the faculty washroom. I told them I planned to use my honorary credentials to seek more tutoring positions.

One of my classmates congratulated me on my creative response to the new economy. I’m only doing what many Forest Parkers have done. They’ve re-invented themselves to adapt to hard times. Some have had the courage to open restaurants and shops. Others have found that taking jobs in unfamiliar fields has become the new normal.

Meanwhile, I’m thankful to Lee for giving me the St. Augustine experience. I’ve had students who were so frustrated with English, they were in tears. Yet they hang in there, for hours sometimes, and we organize their thoughts. To see them improve their writing and get “Great job” written across their paper is its own reward.

Did I mention I also get paid?