I don't know if they have them in the Chicago area, but our high schools in Tennessee have continuing education courses at night for around $75. The local community college also allows you to audit classes for less than full price. There's no way to give enough tips in this forum but here's one - stand two pieces of light gauge metal to form an "A" then tack each end. Practice welding the ridge without filler metal till you get a smooth bead with about 1/32" penetration.

Good Luck!