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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.

Organization Thinking 'Outside The Walk' For Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and walking has been a big way for supporters to help raise money. COVID-19 has stopped the physical strides, but one cancer organization is stepping out in another way.  

Jodi Beasley is a senior community development manager at the American Cancer Society.

She said the Rockford community will do a pinwheel tribute garden in lieu of an annual walk.

“Where our participants can still register, raise some funds,"she explains, "but then also purchase a pinwheel in support of, in memory of or in honor of, a cancer survivor.” 

She said the pinwheels will display messages that supporters share.  

“They will be in a big grassy area just kind of spread out," she said. "And people can come and take pictures, pay tribute, and then bring their pinwheels home and put them in their own garden.” 

The Making Strides of Rockford tribute garden is displaying Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. through the 11th at 3 p.m. 

Similar Illinois events are taking place throughout the month.

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 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.