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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 Joins Aurora Mayor And Others To Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations For Blacks

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Yvonne Boose
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Governor J.B. Pritzker joined an Aurora coalition and VNA Health Care in an effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations for Blacks in Kane and DuPage counties.  

Black Vax Aurora was put in place to ensure that Blacks in the area have equal access to the vaccine.  

Blacks in both Kane and DuPage counties have significantly less vaccination rates than whites according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Pritzker says outreach to those who aren’t comfortable with getting the vaccine is important. 

“People are more likely to get vaccinated when they hear about it from people that they trust,” the governor explained. “By working with pastors and other community leaders, Aurora is recognizing and respecting that reality.”

DuPage County resident Janene Marshall-Gatling was in line with her elderly mother.   

“This will actually save your life. Versus taking the chance or rolling dice to say whether or not to say you would get it or not,” she said.

Over 700 individuals signed up for vaccinations. The event took place at Aurora’s Cathedral of Grace St. John AME Church.  

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin says a similar event for the Latinx community will happen March 19. 

  • 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.