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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

Aurora Is Gearing Up For National Poetry Month

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Aurora’s poet laureate is making sure that poetry is in clear view in the city’s downtown.  

Karen-Fullett Christensen was at the starting line ready to take off after her appointment. But before she could get into a stride the pandemic swooped in like a whirlwind.  

“So, all the great plans that I had of things I wanted to do related to the poet laureate position really had to be put on hold with the exception of the Aurora Poet Laureate Facebook page,” she said, “and then everything that we're doing with A-Town Poetics.”  

With Poetry Month approaching she thought back to a past project.

“Back in the day, when we did this project with Cultural Creatives, one of the things we were trying to do was fill vacant storefront windows in downtown Aurora," she said.

She is working with Aurora Downtown to do something similar.  

Writers in the Fox Valley region are encouraged to submit work to Fullett-Christensen by March 1st  at 5 p.m.  Anything accepted after the required number will be posted on the Aurora Poet Laureate Facebook Page.  

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.