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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’s Community Expo Returns This Year But With A Twist


An annual DeKalb event that showcases local organizations will now mix business with pleasure.  

Virginia Filicetti is the marketing and events manager at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. She said past expos organized by the Chamber have allowed the community to connect with local businesses, but this year something else is tacked on.  

“So, if you are comfortable, you can come and stay for ‘Spring Fest,’" she said, "where you can get out of your car, and eat from local food trucks, listen to some live music that we're going to have. And then also drinks too.” 

Filicetti said many businesses are still closed due to the pandemic, and the Chamber’s drive-thru expo will allow patrons to come to them. 

“So, they can still interact with future customers or current customers that they just don't see very often,” she added, “and connect with those that are in the community in a very safe way.” 

Over 60 vendors will participate in the Local Showcase. The Spring Fest will include two local musical acts: Rich Sawyer and Mr. Myers Band.  

This free hybrid event takes place at 4 p.m. Friday, May 14, at the DeKalb Airport. The expo starts first, and the outdoor Spring Fest follows. This year’s experience is presented by Facebook with support from several local business sponsors. Masks are required. 

  • 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.