Work program gives District 207 students a ‘JumpStart’
Brittany Laskowski of Park Ridge receives help locating a college course from Patricia Kamienski, assistant director of Maine East High School's JumpStart program. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:16PM
PARK RIDGE — Brittany Laskowski has already graduated from Maine South High School, but she still visits her former school district a couple times a week — for assistance with college homework.
She is able to do so through the JumpStart Youth Employment Program offered at Maine East High School in Park Ridge. Funded by the Workforce Investment Act grant, the program provides academic and employment services to students who are economically challenged or face some type of barrier in their lives.
The services are provided to students attending all three Maine Township District 207 high schools as well as other teens in Maine Township and Cook County.
Laura Cook, director of the program at Maine East, said that some students struggle with basic math or reading, have a documented disability or have other personal challenges, such as legal problems or a child of their own. If a student has their own child, JumpStart helps them find resources to look for quality daycare.
“JumpStart has definitely gotten me on my feet,” said Laskowski, of Park Ridge. “They are such amazing people; they have helped me every step of the way.”
Laskowski said the program helped her with school and real-life job opportunities. She was given the chance to work with senior citizens in the community through a center associated with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
“It was great over there,” Laskowski said.
Laskowski visits Maine East to get assistance with the homework she gets from her classes at Oakton Community College.
Like many other students, Laskowski was referred to the program by one of her teachers.
The JumpStart Program can help about 100 students every year. The Maine East High School program started in 1998.
“It’s just grown every year,” said Cook.
Cook explained that the program teaches the students strategies to become more organized, how to interact with teachers in order to prepare them for interacting with their future bosses, provides academic scholarships to colleges or training sites, holds work readiness workshops, helps them apply for permanent job positions and more.
The program also has community members help out and conduct mock interviews to help prepare the students for real-life job interviews. They also help teach students skills like operating a cash register and filing papers prior to them getting to a work site.
“I love the program,” said Dan Pitu of Niles, a senior at Maine East High School who joined the program his junior year.
Pitu works at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, transporting trays to the employees who deliver them to patients. He said he would have never gotten this job if it wasn’t for JumpStart.
Pitu added that through JumpStart he has also been able to receive assistance with his science homework.
Students in Maine Township are from a variety of diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. According to the 2011 Maine East Report Card, 45 percent of families fall into the low-income range.