Sudan-born Frezar Mangeango first studied business and marketing in 2000 at the University of Uganda, and then came to the United States three years later. Currently, Mangeango works as a bellhop, but he wants to pursue a career in dentistry.
He is now pursuing that goal by taking classes to become a dental assistant at Skokie's newest school, the recently opened Sanford-Brown College at 4930 Oakton St.
"School is really great. We have wonderful teachers--all the employees for the college. They're really trying to do their best," Mangeango said.
After opening its doors to students on Sept. 13, the school offers a variety of programs such as health management and surgical technology. Besides being a place of study, many Skokie officials are looking at the new college as a way to revitalize downtown Skokie.
"We want to bring in foot traffic, and Sanford-Brown is a perfect complement to that," said Mayor George Van Dusen. "When it is fully occupied, it is projected [to] have 200-250 people in the building that will add to foot traffic in the downtown area."
Van Dusen also said Sanford-Brown "adds to what we're doing right now" in terms of growing the downtown area. He explained that the college is a "good match" for the future of the village, and the village is a "good match" for the college.
The mayor also outlined the growth process of the downtown area. "It's slow-going, but we have positive steps that are helping us push forward," he said.
Yet Van Dusen isn't the only elected official that's excited about Skokie's newest school.
Skokie's 16th District Rep., Lou Lang (D-IL), said the new CTA train stop will further fuel the downtown revitalization effort and "be the gateway to downtown Skokie."
"For many years--those of us who have lived in Skokie--elected officials have been trying to figure out a way to revitalize downtown Skokie," Lang said. "I think putting a college in the middle of downtown is a great way to help do that. It's going to bring a lot of people downtown, and they will need businesses, restaurants … to take care of their needs."
According to the village's website, the stop at Oakton Street will open in the fall of 2011.
"I think it's [going to] be excellent for our community and help dramatically with economic development," said Lang, referring to these new projects.
Some of the other developments Lang is referring to include the Illinois Science & Technology Park, which will be located just off the new addition to the Skokie Swift train stop near Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard. A chain of ethnic restaurants already exists as well in downtown Skokie, including a new kosher pizza business the village approved last week.
Leslie Murphy, economic development specialist for the Village of Skokie, said the college "lends stability to the [downtown] area."
"We refer to [the downtown area] as Sector A, which includes property north and south of Oakton Street up to Main Street and down to Oakton Community College. For the food services, general retailers and personal services … approximately 67 businesses [are] operating right now."
Murphy then went on to explain that more than 2,400 businesses exist in the village.
Scott Lesht, campus president of Sanford-Brown College-Skokie, said he has received a "warm welcome" from downtown businesses.
"These programs are being offered to help provide quality allied health professionals into the ever growing health care field," said Lesht. "Skokie and the surrounding suburbs have a number of hospitals and health care provider offices, and we are very focused on meeting the needs of the community."