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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.

Record Number Of Women In Local Labor Leadership

Meeting with some of Rockford United Labor's leadership.

Last week a record number of women were sworn into leadership roles at Rockford United Labor. 



Sara Dorner, a local labor representative for AFSCME Council 31, made history by being elected the first female president of Rockford United Labor. But she says women aren’t new to the picket line. 


“We've always been here, this is nothing new. We're just happy you're seeing us now,” said Dorner. 


Rockford United Labor is one of the AFL-CIO’s 500 central labor committees and many of the labor unions across the Rockford region are a part of the organization. Dorner is coming off her two-year term as the vice president of the organization. 


Alongside Dorner, Sandra Patlan and Christina Magee were also elected to trustee positions on Rockford United Labor’s executive board. Patlan is part of the Rockford paraprofessionals union, Local 692. She says she’s excited to see what she can accomplish with her colleagues. 


“Being part of this union is just like, it's a big door opening, not just for me but for others that can’t speak for themselves, whether it's in the workplace place or in the community,” Patlan said. 


This is the largest cohort of women to ever be elected to the organization's executive board in its 66-year history. And not only does this mark the first woman president, but Patlan is also the first Latina woman elected to a leadership position at RUL, which represents 20,000 union members in the Rockford region.


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