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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.

DeKalb Students Are Performing Outside Of The Camera Lens

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https://www.facebook.com/The-DeKalb-High-School-Music-Department-53607492790/?ref=page_internal
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Many parents haven’t been able to watch their high school musical students perform live because of COVID-19 safety precautions. But one northern Illinois high school is making this possible thanks to the generosity of a local church.  

The DeKalb High School musical department continued performances throughout the pandemic, but some things could only be done virtually.

Angel Smith, the office associate in the school’s music department, said Hopkins Park was one option for performances, but Christ Community Church, next to the school, caught their attention.

“We saw the tent across the parking lot,” she explained. “And we went and looked at it and we were like, ‘Oh, this would be perfect.’ So, we contacted the church. And they've been amazing.”

Two concerts have taken place so far. Smith described the scene: “It was chilly. It was perfect. Some people stayed in their cars. People brought their own chairs, everybody had masks. It sounded beautiful. It really did.”

Smith said the concert brought the students together after being separate for the school year. This is because some are in-person learners while others are educated virtually.

The parents can experience three more concerts May 12, 14 and ending with a Spring Musical Tuesday May 18. All performances start at 6:30 p.m.

  • 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.