News Release
December 21, 2006
Contact: Joanna Zoltay
Number: 312-886-2597

DEA Mentor Program Benefits Children in Englewood

DEC 21 -- (Chicago, IL) -- Santa and his elves brought Christmas early to students at the Altgeld Elementary School in the Englewood neighborhood. On December 8, 2006, a combined federal law enforcement program called “Operation Shining Star,” brought toys and good cheer to over 300 students at the school. This year, Operation Shining Star, headed by the U. S. Secret Service (USSS), was comprised of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Chicago Police Department, and the Des Plaines Police Department.

This is the seventh year for Operation Shining Star. The program this year picked the Altgeld School at the request of the Chicago DEA, who has had a mentoring program at the school since 2003. “This was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community,” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division. “The DEA is grateful to our partners in law enforcement for joining us in helping out at the Altgeld School.”

DEA’s mentoring program is an ongoing program that works with the fifth through eighth graders at Altgeld. When budget cuts forced Principal Vera Willis to choose between a music program and an art program for the students, the school chose to keep the music program. The DEA mentor’s have been instrumental in helping Altgeld continue to provide art classes by going to the school twice a month and working with the students in the program. Approximately 20 DEA employees, comprised of special agents, support and laboratory personnel, participate in the program. “In addition to mentoring these students, we are proud to have helped out with providing books for the Altgeld Library, which the school has dedicated to the memory of Special Agent Terry Loftus, who died in the line of duty,” stated Olenkiewicz. The DEA has also started a partnership with IBM to provide approximately 18 computer laptops to the school.

Principal Willis came to Altgeld in 2002. Since the program began, Ms. Willis said she has noticed a change in the demeanor of the children in the school. “It has made a difference in the lives of these kids to have the mentors as positive role models come in and work with our teachers in the classroom.” Ms. Willis went on to say that the test scores are up and the kids always look forward to the time when the DEA is at the school.