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Teen spends summer volunteering with kids at Arlington Park
By Lyn J. Kearns | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 9/16/2007 6:05 AM

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Sleeping late, afternoons at the beach, sports and hanging out with friends at the mall are all typical activities for teens during summer. Summer school or a part-time job also can add to the schedule for many young people.

Jordan Wohlner of Arlington Heights, however, chose to spend a good portion of her summer volunteering, working with the children of Arlington Park employees.

Wohlner's sponsor from her Spanish Honor Society class at Buffalo Grove High School told her about the program, and working with the Spanish-speaking children at the racetrack seemed to be a perfect match for her.

"My parents encourage me to volunteer; I enjoy volunteering; I love kids, and I am seriously considering doing this again next year," she said. "I receive a tremendous sense of satisfaction from helping others."

Wohlner volunteered every day, Monday through Friday. She worked most days from 9 a.m. until noon, but on Wednesdays she stayed until 2 p.m. Her duties included helping 30 3- and 4-year-old boys and girls with puzzles and games. She also distributed morning snacks and read to them.

On Wednesdays, she helped with lunch, the afternoon snack and assisted with supervising the older children during trips to the swimming pool.

"Jordan is one of the most helpful and cheerful girls we had. She came in every morning and the kids just loved her," said Marilyn Tantillo, family education coordinator for Northwest Suburban High School District 214's Community Education program.

"I am totally impressed by all the high school students, and all the time they gave to our program. We truly appreciate all the help we received from the kids, and of course, from our wonderful senior volunteers."

District 214's Community Education Program coordinated the summer camp that operated seven days a week in partnership with the Arlington Heights racetrack. Support is also provided by other organizations including the Master Gardeners of the University of Illinois Extension program, CEDA Northwest (which provided food for breakfasts, snacks and lunches), the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and the Arlington Heights branch of the Junior Achievement program.

There were 190 children in the program -- boys and girls ages 3 to 13, children of the racetrack's backstretch employees and trainers.

Most of the families are at the Arlington track for the summer only and the children attend schools in other locations during the winter months.

The children were divided into five groups, and supervised by group leaders, group assistants and volunteers. There were more than 40 youth and adult volunteers in the program, with nine or 10 on duty daily.

Tutoring in math and reading was provided, as well as arts and crafts classes, computers, soccer tournaments and a wide variety of other opportunities for growth and development. The children even received help in planting and tending a garden.

Wohlner, a junior at Buffalo Grove High School, serves as student council president. She runs track and cross country, and tutors kindergarten through fifth-grade students at a local elementary school. Math and science are her favorite subjects, and she plans a career in foreign affairs and economics. Her family includes her older brother, Michael; her sister, Jennifer, and her parents, Roger and Kyung.

Hundreds of opportunities are available for people of all ages, including teens, families, seniors and groups, for on-going, as well as one-time volunteer assignments. Call The Volunteer Center, (847)228-1320, or the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, (847) 228-1006 for mroe information, or visit www.volunteerinfo.net.