Arts Celebration, Harper Novelist

Students and instructors from a selection of Harper College arts courses will take the stage this week for a free semester's-end variety-style show that puts fencing and calligraphy onstage alongside guitar, comedy and drama.


Arts Celebration

Students and instructors from a selection of Harper College arts courses will take the stage this week for a free semester's-end variety-style show that puts fencing and calligraphy onstage alongside guitar, comedy and drama. The performers all are part of Harper's Continuing Education department, which offers an eclectic blend of non-credit courses for community members of all ages. The "Celebration of the Arts" show, in its third year, will feature instructors and students from a comedy course and an improv class; Harper's En Garde fencing team; the College's Guitar Ensemble and guitarist Edgar Huerta; students from a non-fiction workshop; a one-man play; a magic act; and a calligraphy demonstration - set to music - from an instructor and her students. "This event showcases a sampling of the extremely varied learning opportunities that Harper's Continuing Education department offers," Continuing Education Manager Scott Cashman says. "It also allows our hardworking students and their instructors to show off the fruits of their labor - and offers the community an evening of free entertainment." The Continuing Education Celebration of the Arts runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, December 15 in the Building J Theatre on the College's main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. The event is open to the public, and no advance registration is necessary. Harper's Continuing Education department provides a wide variety of classes in music and art, foreign language, computers, cooking, career training and more every semester. Certifications in a wide range of subjects - including event planning, sustainable living and office administration - also are available through Harper's Continuing Education Department. For more information or a complete schedule of spring courses, call 847.925.6300 or visit

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,


Harper Novelist

Like his first novel, Michael Bellito's second book is steeped in childhood memories of his youth in Arlington Heights. And like his first novel, he promises this one will bring back many of your own memories, too. "This book allows readers to travel back to a time when life moved more slowly," says Bellito, a Harper speech instructor. "It's a reminder of youthful innocence, and of that feeling you had the first time you fell in love." His newly published novel, "First Time Around," is a snapshot of a bygone suburban Chicago era. It tells the story of John Belson, a confused and lonely eighth-grader looking for a good buddy and - above all - a girlfriend. Set in the early 1960s, when John F. Kennedy is president and the Beatles are making their American debut, Bellito says the book also serves as a reminder that real-life miracles can happen. Bellito published his first novel, "Ten Again," in 2009; that book, likened to the TV show "The Wonder Years" and the 1980s film "A Christmas Story" - both hits that featured adult men narrating scenes from their own childhood - told of a 10-year-old boy growing up in 1960s suburban Chicago. Bellito, an Arlington Heights native who taught English and speech for more than 30 years at John Hersey High School before coming to Harper, now lives in Wheeling. The book is available at, or via online booksellers and

Media Note: Bellito will read from and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 12 at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and 7 p.m. February 3 at the Prospect Heights Public Library.

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,


The Lighter Side of Unemployment

He's been on the job for centuries, but what if St. Nick was laid off now? How might he rebrand himself to ensure he had a leg up in today's competitive market? Award-winning humorist Conor Cunneen will offer job search advice for Santa this week in an hour-long Harper College session focused on the lighter side of the unemployment process. His conversation, part of the December edition of the College's popular "Career Stimulus" career-boosting support program, is at 11 a.m. Friday, December 17 in the Wojcik Conference Center on Harper's main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. Cunneen - a Job Talk co-host on WJJG 1530 AM who authored "SHEIFGAB the World: 8 Building Blocks to Successful Job Transition," a book built around a self-developed acronym focused on self-motivation - has titled his Harper program "A SHEIFGAB Christmas," with a guarantee of injecting a little laughter into the typically disheartening topics of the economy, job loss and the recession. The entire Career Stimulus program runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.; it will include appetizers, dessert, musical entertainment and the program's trademark breakout sessions, focused on an array of job-hunting and job-nabbing topics. All are welcome. "We've tackled many tough topics in this program, and we thought laughter would be the best way to finish off the year," Adult Learning Special Assistant Nancy Wajler says. "Many of our participants have been weathering the unemployment saga for months. They deserve a break." Career Stimulus, launched in 2009, features a monthly menu of information on everything from acing interviews and negotiating salaries to managing stress amid hard times, as well as a "NetWorthing" program focused on making networking work. The sessions have drawn hundreds of area residents, many of whom say it helped them find new jobs. Career Stimulus is free for first-timers. Subsequent sessions are $10. Memberships also are available for $85; they include a year of meetings, one-on-one sessions with a Harper career coach, workshops, and materials for and admission to an intensive NetWorthing session. For more information and upcoming dates, call 847.925.6438 or visit

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,

High School Art Show Winners

Two student artists from Conant and Palatine high schools earned top honors at the 27th annual Harper College Area High School Art Show, beating out several hundred other entries from nearly a dozen local schools. Conant's Marissa Gray earned the award for best 3D work for her sculpture, in which she re-stitched and reshaped a used softball to resemble an anatomical heart; Palatine's Cassie Rogala earned the honor for best 2D work for her digital print of a body suspended in a smoky cloud. The show's roughly 500 entries - representing 11 schools from high school Districts 211, 214 and 220 - were chosen by high school art teachers and judged by Harper art faculty. The works were on display in Harper's halls, and winners were honored with cash prizes at a reception this month. "This contest helps gets local high school students - who may wish to pursue their studies at the college level later - even more engaged in art," Harper Assistant Art Professor Stephany Rimland says. Students from Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Conant, Elk Grove, Fremd, Hersey, Palatine, Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling and Schaumburg high schools participated. High school art teachers said the show fosters a sense of community by offering students the rare opportunity to see the works created by their peers and display their own pieces, too. "It gives them a real-world application for their studies," Palatine High School art teacher Russ Horvath says, "and provides an arena for them to receive the accolades that they deserve."

Media Note: For photos of the winning works and students, contact Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159 or


Clothing Drive

Harper College's Student Senate is collecting gently worn clothing for the Palatine-based WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) organization through the end of the semester - Friday, December 17. The community is welcome to contribute by bringing items to the Student Senate Office, Room A330 on the third floor of Building A on the main campus, 1200 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine. Student Senator Joel Tornquist of Mount Prospect, who is helping head up the drive, says children's clothing is particularly needed this winter season. WINGS helps area homeless and abused women and children by providing transitional housing, emergency shelter and other support and services - typically fielding about 300 calls for help each month. "This drive doesn't cost anyone anything, and it's helping people around the community who are in need," Tornquist says. For more information, call 847.925.6242.

Press Contact: Terry Karow, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist, 847.925.6627,

Alternative Energy Classes

When he returned to Harper College this fall, Garrett Brucato already had an Associate in Applied Science degree in Electronics Engineering Technology under his belt and was happily working as an electronics installer. His new goal: an additional certification in alternative energy - a new College offering that he says is a sure way to make himself more marketable in a go-green era. "It's good for companies to see that you've had your hands in this type of technology," says Brucato of Carpentersville, a member of Harper's inaugural solar energy class. "You're going to need technicians to maintain this kind of solar and wind energy equipment. It's a great way to get your feet wet." The College's solar energy course - a first step toward the new Alternative Electrical Energy Certificate - drew 16 students for the fall term. Buoyed by a recently announced $63,000 Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation grant, which helped with the purchase of new lab equipment, Harper will add a wind energy course to the curriculum this spring. The entire Alternative Energy Certificate program, geared to those already in the industrial electronics industry and those just starting out, requires credits in solar and wind energy and a variety of other electronics courses. "There's new work coming in to various industrial electronics areas that specifically is alternative energy-related," says Associate Professor George Hoeltje, who heads the Electronics Engineering Technology Department. "Solar energy, in particular, is a big deal. This new certificate taps into that trend, and helps people learn the skills they need to compete for these jobs." The formation of Harper's new Alternative Electrical Energy certificate comes amid a national push to be more environmentally friendly. An American Solar Energy Society report suggests the number of U.S. jobs in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries could grow to as many as 40 million by 2030. For more on the certificate, contact Hoeltje at 847.925.6528 or

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,

Santa Claus for Paws

Last year, Jennifer Pitek's annual effort to help the homeless yielded nearly 700 canned food items - and 180 pet toys, 64 leashes and collars and 111 pounds of dog treats. This year, she's hoping for even grander results for her Harper College-based "Santa Claus for Paws" campaign - an annual drive to benefit the four-legged residents of Illinois animal shelters. With many shelters bustling with pets but also strapped for cash amid the down economy, Pitek, an administrative secretary in Harper's Center for New Students, says this year's donations are important. "In the recession, many shelters are taking in more animals, but donations aren't increasing. They're finding themselves in need of basic supplies, including food," Pitek says. "I want to do all I can to help." Pitek launched the cats-and-dogs-specific drive eight years ago, after watching donations from Harper faculty and staff pile up during routine campus food drives. The drive, which she coordinates with mathematics instructor Jamie Leinss, has seen significant results - with Harper employees, students and area residents donating everything from pet beds to monetary gifts in memory of a beloved dog or cat. Last year's tallies included more than 350 pounds of dry food, nearly 150 blankets and towels, 16 carriers and an assortment of pet clothes and other items. Needed items this year include dry and canned foods; sturdy dog toys; bedding; treats; and collars and leashes. Pet supply gift cards also are welcome. Donated items will be sent to Cinderella's Hope Cat Rescue in the Carpentersville/Dundee area, Crittergal Rescue in downstate Carterville, the downstate Perry County Humane Society, and an assortment of other local and downstate shelters. Donations will be accepted through Thursday, December 23, and again after Harper's campus reopens on Monday, January 3 following winter break. Drop boxes are located at the Center for New Students, Room C104 in Building C; the Building A main entrance; the Career Center, Room A347 in Building A; the Liberal Arts Office on the main floor of Building L; the Building L south entrance; the Math Lab, Room D105 in Building D; the first floor of the Harper Library; the Tutoring Center, Room F315 in Building F; outside the Access and Disabilities Office, Room D119 in Building D; the Math and Science Division Office, Room Y103 in the Avanté Center; and other locations on the main floor of Avanté.

Press Contact: Jennifer Pitek, Administrative Secretary, 847.925.6208,, or Jamie Leinss, Instructor,

Photo Opportunities

Event: Continuing Education Celebration of the Arts

Date: 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 15

Location: Building J Theatre

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,


Event: Career Stimulus event featuring humorist Conor Cunneen

Date: 11 a.m. Friday, December 17

Location: Wojcik Conference Center (main campus)

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, Media Relations Specialist, 847.925.6159,