Rachel Otwell

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

Rachel Otwell / WUIS

Muslims in Illinois are coping with increased scrutiny and incendiary rhetoric. This first segment of a two-part Illinois Public Radio report visits a Springfield mosque.

The mosque of the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield is in a fairly nondescript building, save for its copper-colored dome. It's tucked away from a main road, nestled in a cluster of small businesses. The local Imam leads a Friday afternoon call to prayer.

EDWARDSPLACE.ORG

One of the nation's most historical instruments -- a piano that was played for the wedding of the 16th President of the United States -- will be restored to working order.

Edwards Place is the oldest surviving home in Springfield. Family members of Mary Todd Lincoln owned the home, and Abraham Lincoln himself spent time there courting Mary and socializing.

Now, Edwards Place wants to restore its piano -- one of only two surviving instruments that Lincoln is known to have listened to.

Human rights groups in Illinois say they'll continue programs for Syrian refugees. That’s despite the governor's calls to suspend accepting them.

As of 2010, Illinois has welcomed about 170 Syrian refugees. That's according to Sam Tuttle, policy director for Heartland Alliance.

"We hope that the governor and his staff and the people of Illinois will learn more about the resettlement program and that we can all be welcoming refugees who have oftentimes witnessed some great horrors, so that they can start their lives again," Tuttle said.

Flickr user Celeste Lindell / "Art supplies" (CC BY 2.0)

Teachers and administrators are working on new guidelines for art education in Illinois. Some schools have no art programs, while others have limited time to teach it.

New federal standards were released last year, though they came with no mandate. The State Board of Education has been organizing meetings for teachers to make the guidelines fit for them.

Jonathan VanderBrug is with Arts Alliance Illinois, an advocacy group that is also helping plan meetings. He says the process is meant to show schools why education in the arts is important.

WUIS

A civil rights icon made a stop in Springfield this week to talk about activism and his new books. 

John Lewis, a Congressman from Georgia, is the last living member of a group of civil rights leaders known as the "Big Six." Martin Luther King Jr. was also in that group, and mentored Lewis.

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