Working Local & Giving Back
From growing up spending summers playing in the parks and pools, going to summer camp, and attending their annual community events and programs, the park district has etched itself into the lives of many, and some students have chosen to deepen their involvement through employment. Operating nearly 60 parks and facilities, the Des Plaines Park District has consistently catered to the needs of the people for over a century, and numerous Maine West students help it run smoothly. “It’s a really good first job experience. You get to work with a lot of different people, so I really enjoyed it,” senior and Prairie Lakes employee Anna Cengal said.
The decision to organize a park district came back in 1919. Early citizens of Des Plaines recognized the need for community spaces catered to recreational activities. The citizens voted and in a 76-6 ruling, the park district was created. In the early years, parks were just small plots of land purchased from the city or directly from Des Plaines residents.
One of the first major projects of the park district was the creation of Rand Park which still remains in its original location on Miner Street. Opening in stages in the 1930s, Rand Park originally consisted of just a softball field and tennis court. Trying to stir the national economy out of the Great Depression, the Rand Park Fieldhouse and Pool were constructed in 1940 via funds from the Works Progress Administration as part of the Second New Deal under the Roosevelt Administration. After over 50 years of operation, the Rand Pool and Fieldhouse were torn down and replaced with Mystic Waters Aquatic Center in 1996.
Many jobs through the park district, such as working at Mystic Waters, provide an enticing benefit for high school students: the work is seasonal. Seasonal work is helpful for students who want to work, but are consumed by school, sports, and other extracurricular activities during the remainder of the year. “A bunch of people from school work there. I’d work with
them during the summer and have no idea they went to Maine West and then see them in the hall and be like ‘oh I know you!’” an anonymous student said in a Westerner survey. With the familiar social environment, the jobs often leave students with positive work experiences. “It’s always fun. You have a lot of friends to talk to and chill with during breaks and after work. When we work the closing shift, we always stay to watch the sunset,” senior and Mystic Waters lifeguard Haven Wallgrenlemmerman said. Jobs also allow students to expand on their skills. “I gained a higher sense of independence and responsibility, especially as a lifeguard since you have someone else’s life in your hands,” sophomore and Chippewa Pool lifeguard Taylor Ramirez said. While seasonal work at the pool is popular, it is not the only opportunity for students. During the summer, the park district offers four summer camps that run throughout the summer as well as community pro- grams throughout. “I am a camp counselor for the Arndt Park summer camp. The kids there always have the most energy I have ever seen. A lot of the conflicts they would have were hilarious,” another student said in the Westerner survey. Through working at the Des Plaines Park District, students are able to give back to an organization that many grew up in and help expand the community outreach. “I’ve already worked there for two years and I’m definitely returning this summer,” Wallgrenlemmerman said.