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Prairie State candidates focus on job skills

The Candidates

Name: Larry Bledsoe

Address: Chicago Heights

Age: 59

Education: Associate’s degree, Prairie State College; bachelor’s degree, Governors State University; masters of public administration

Occupation: Part-time H&R Block professional

Elected offices held: None

Issues: Quality and affordable education, help students reach their goals

Name: Anthony De La Pena

Address: Richton Park

Age: 46

Education: Master’s degree, political and justice studies, Governors State University; associates degree, Prairie State College.

Occupation: Full-time student at Walden University, seeking PhD, public policy/administration

Elected offices held: None

Issues: Uncertainty and money.

Name: Charles Dieringer Jr.

Address: Chicago Heights

Age: 68

Education: Ed.D., Northern Illinois University

Occupation: Retired

Elected offices held: Bloom Township Highway commissioner

Issues: Job training, transparency in automotive repairs.

Name: Tawanna Carr-Easter

Address: Homewood

Age: 38

Education: Master’s degree in education

Occupation: Adult educator, YMCA Alliance of Chicago

Elected offices held: None.

Issues: Lack of employment opportunities, job readiness skills

Name: Brunetta Hill-Corley

Address: Olympia Fields

Age: 52

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Spelman College; master’s in public administration, Roosevelt University; master’s in education leadership, Concordia University.

Occupation: Unemployed

Elected offices held: Appointed to Prairie State College Board in November 2009.

Issues: State of economy, government accountability

Name: David Maine

Address: Chicago Heights

Age: 55

Education: Attended Prairie State College

Occupation: Public relations for H&H Associates; retired Laborer’s Local 5 business representative.

Elected offices held: None.

Issues: Affordable tuition, retraining for displaced job seekers.

Name: Wendell Mosby

Address: Chicago Heights

Age: 33

Education: Associate’s degree, Illinois Institute of Art; bachelor’s degree, Iowa State University

Occupation: Community liaison, Aunt Martha’s Health Centers

Elected offices held: None.

Issues: Unemployment and taxes.

Name: Marc A. Wiley

Did not respond to interview requests or return questionnaire

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



With Illinois’ unemployment rate at 9 percent, the majority of candidates vying for the Prairie State College Board say offering quality and affordable education that provides skills needed for today’s jobs is the most pressing issue facing the district.

Eight people, including one incumbent, are on the ballot for the three available seats on the board in the April 5 election.

A ninth choice, incumbent Peg Donohue, a retired Governors State University administrator and a resident of Park Forest, is running as an independent write-in candidate.

Although the election is non-partisan, Brunetta Hill-Corley, of Olympia Fields, and Wendell Mosby and Marc A. Wiley, both of Chicago Heights, are running as part of the Unity Party team, aligned with Chicago Heights mayoral candidate David Gonzalez.

Tawanna Carr-Easter, of Homewood, and Anthony De La Pena, of Richton Park, are running as part of the Integrity Party team, which is associated with Chicago Heights mayoral candidate Joe Faso.

Running independently are Larry Bledsoe, David Maine and Charles Dieringer, all of Chicago Heights.

Prairie State College, based in Chicago Heights, serves residents in all or parts of Beecher, Chicago Heights, Crete, Flossmoor, Ford Heights, Glenwood, Homewood, Matteson, Monee, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, Steger, University Park, Country Club Hills, Hazel Crest, Lynwood, Tinley Park and adjacent unincorporated areas of Cook and Will counties.

“The major issue is jobs. When students graduate, they are looking to go to work,” said Bledsoe, who is disabled and is employed as a part-time tax professional.

Bledsoe and Mosby, who works for Aunt Martha’s Health Centers, call for a curriculum that encourages entrepreneurship and leads to modern job training.

“We should ensure that there is a correlation between the vocational training programs and the fields of employment that show the potential for growth as reported by the ‘Occupational Outlook’ handbook,” Mosby said.

Bledsoe wants the Prairie State curriculum to lead to “green” jobs, which he said would have more opportunities than the industrial manufacturing that the Chicago Heights area now relies on heavily. He also wants to ensure a smooth transformation of credits from Prairie State to any four-year school.

Maine, a public relations specialist who claims he would provide an independent voice, said he would address the employment issue by developing partnerships with and specific training for local businesses.

Carr-Easter, an adult educator, said she would establish relationships with local businesses and encourage hiring from within the college district. Easter said she would ensure the staff of the college’s Illinois workNet Center receives continuous training to keep abreast of workforce trends. To keep school affordable, she is proposing a one-year tuition freeze.

De La Pena, a full-time student at Walden University, said uncertainty and money are the two main issues facing his constituents. He said he is not sure how he would address those issues at this point, but if his constituents share their fears and concerns, together they could develop solutions for their well-being. He also calls for the development of educational programs needed to fill the gap between demand and supply.

Hill-Corley, an incumbent, said the economy and government accountability are the two most pressing issues. If re-elected, she said she would continue to be accountable for the budget and make sure the college’s courses lead to employment upon graduation.

In addition to job training, Dieringer wants to highlight the college’s impact on the Thorn Creek Watershed. He said he discovered a wetland was destroyed several years ago to build the south campus parking lot.

“Years later, we now understand the value of a wetland to clean the pollutants off the college’s parking lots before they enter Thorn Creek,” Dieringer said.

An eighth candidate, Marc A. Wiley, did not respond to several phone requests and a request by mail for an interview.



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