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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.

Governor Pritzker Encourages Rockford To Fill Out The Census

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Governor J.B. Pritzker at Rockford City Market Outdoor Pavilion

Governor J.B Pritzker was in Rockford Thursday to encourage everyone in northern Illinois to take the census.

 

He announced that Rockford is running a percentage point behind the rest of the state in its census response rate.

 

Rockford's average response rate is 65.5% compared to 66.9% for the state. And that number ranges within Rockford with some neighborhood neigborhood response rates below 35%.

 

Belvidere is currently well above the state's response rate with 73.1%.

 

The governor stressed that an accurate count can mean the difference of millions of dollars in federal funds.

 

"Just to give you an idea," Pritzker said, "1% undercount for the state of Illinois in 2020 could result in the state losing over $195 million per year. And that adds up over 10 years."

 

Mustafa Abdall is a local school teacher and census advocate. He said the process only takes six minutes online.

"These six minutes are worth enough to invest in our state and our city in our county," said Abdall.

The census form can be filled out online at 2020census.gov.

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for Americaan initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.