COVID-19 has reignited the conversation around student mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, crucially, the end of the pandemic-altered school year.

Library of Congress (LC-DIG-pga-03942)

On May 17, 1955, the Illinois General Assembly approved the official state slogan: Land of Lincoln. Before that, Illinois was known as the Prairie State. But Illinois had an older, unofficial slogan that dates back to the state’s earliest days: the Sucker State.

During the 1800s, Illinoisans were known far and wide as “suckers.” But this term predates the derogatory usage of “sucker” as someone who is easily deceived.

Perspective: When The Ideas Aren't Good Enough

20 hours ago
Jennifer Griffin / Unsplash

I’m reading The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President, by Noah Feldman, which takes a deep dive into Madison’s role in creating the Constitution, the tall task in getting it ratified, then figuring out how to take that plan and put it into governing practice. The process was messy, contentious and in great danger of failing to provide a stable replacement for the Articles of Confederation. 

photo provided by Paula Morhardt.

Paula Morhardt started writing when she was a child. She’s had poems published in various small magazines but in 2017, her life changed. 

On the morning of Nov. 14, Morhardt found her husband of 42 years dead in his chair. He died in his sleep. The next day, her mother passed away.

Morhardt blogged, “I have lost my two best friends. I cannot call mom and cry about losing my husband, and neither can I feel his arms around me and his voice rumble in his chest while I cry about mom.”

Northern Illinois University

Today on the show we have not just a teacher, but a teacher of teachers! Dr. Laurie Elish-Piper is the Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. We talked about what drives her to want to help mold the next generation of teachers, how today’s aspiring teachers are different than 10 years ago, her career-spanning literacy work and how COVID-19 has changed how student teachers prepare to go into the classroom.

Perspective: The Continuing Saga Of Monty And Rose

May 14, 2021
David Gunkel

Monty and Rose are back.

And, no, I am not talking about the next season of some Netflix romantic comedy series you've never heard of. I am talking about the two Great Lakes Piping Plovers that have now returned to Chicago's lakefront for a third time.

Sessions from Studio A - The Midnight Purchase

May 13, 2021

Indie/Americana band The Midnight Purchase joins us on this week's edition of Sessions from Studio A. Nominated for the "New Artist of the Year" award in Milwaukee in early 2020, the band was riding high but then had their world shifted by the pandemic. After finding inspiration while attending the Black Lives Matter protests, songwriter Orlando Peña assembled a new lineup and began writing some of the new songs we'll hear on this week's show. We'll also talk with members of The Midnight Purchase about their music, inspirations, and more.

Perspective: What Makes May Merry?

May 12, 2021
public domain

What images come to mind when you hear about May Day celebrations? May Day baskets with flowers or treats left on someone’s doorstep? May Pole dancing, an ancient fertility ritual? Or Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” connecting May Day with Midsummer rituals? Perhaps a Stephen Foster song, “The Merry, Merry Month of May.”

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.  

Failure Bites - Self Care with Chely Lopez-Zavala

May 12, 2021


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

It has been ten years since a six-year-old Aurora boy disappeared with his mother -- her body was found three days later in a Rockford motel with a suicide note saying he would be “well taken care of.”

May 11 was the tenth anniversary of Timmothy Pitzen's disappearance. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) marked the date by releasing a new age progression image showing what he might look like today – at age 16.

Perspective: Old Friends And Old Music

May 11, 2021
Immo Wegmann / Unsplash

Christmas 2019, my husband bought us a record player. In January, we traveled to Tacoma to see old friends I had not visited in 23 years.  In my mind, both things go together because old friends and old music offer a particular kind of comfort.

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.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Every year, Illinois spends more than 6 million dollars on litter pickup. 


Pat Fong is a volunteer with Rotary of Rockford East-Cherry Valley. She says that the group comes out four times a year to pick up trash alongside East State Street near I-90 via the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program. Fong said that the area has seen significant improvement.


Perspective: The Church And COVID-19

May 11, 2021

Last week, at a press conference Governor Pritzker shared his plan to re-open the state of Illinois. This plan was developed with the help of Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of Illinois Department of Public Health. Two major milestones of the plan are that 50 percent of adult state residents are vaccinated, and a steady decline in hospitalizations, mortality, and infection rates for a 28-day monitoring period. After almost 18 months, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

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On May 15, 1903, Illinois established the nation’s first eight-hour workday … for children. The new law also established that children could not work more than 48 hours a week.

Before this, factories worked children 12 to 14 hours a day and used them to crawl into hazardous machinery because of their small size. Labor unions, progressive politicians, school officials, the press, even some business leaders tried to change the laws to protect children, but they were up against wealthy, powerful business leaders and politicians who profited off child labor.

Perspective: A Hidden Gift

May 10, 2021

Many have lost loved ones, jobs, health, and freedom during this pandemic. I’ve lived some of these misfortunes over the past year. It’s hard to generalize about the ways so many lives have been disrupted because they vary.

I’ve been trying to see some personal positives from the experience. As a professor, I use technology better and have improved my delivery. Writing and publishing continue despite the difficulty of on-site research due to travel restrictions. Web conferences lack personal connection, but they enjoy greater attendance.

NIU Basketball Coach Prepares for Next Season

May 7, 2021
Northern Illinois University

After the first full season of basketball amidst the pandemic, NIU’s new men’s basketball coach is reflecting on a year like no other. 



Rashon Burno is the new head coach for NIU’s men’s basketball team. He says that he felt overwhelmed during the last season amidst the pandemic. 


Picture provided by FourPoets OneMic

Welcome to Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s segment features Aliya Bailey from the poetry group FourPoets, OneMic.

On this episode, we sit down with the top Democrat and Republican in the Illinois House to hear their thoughts on the state's budget picture and what they think needs to happen.

Malls were struggling before the pandemic.  We hear how some are trying to attract new shoppers and why others say fewer retail spaces may be the answer.

We also track down a statue off the beaten path in northern Illinois.  

Listen to this week's Statewide.

Our lineup:

Perspective: The Best Movie Line Ever Written

May 7, 2021

Everybody knows that movies are moving pictures. And people go see them in order to see, well, moving pictures. The dialogue generally exists just to advance the plot.

Sessions from Studio A - Mirabilia

May 6, 2021

Indie/Alternative band Mirabilia is our guest on this week's show! You wouldn't believe it from their set, but this is the band's first ever performance outside of the practice space. Mirabilia formed right at the start of the current pandemic, but has used the time to tighten their sound and record an EP. You can find that debut EP streaming everywhere now and keep an eye out for a new single "Kind Lion" coming from the band this weekend.

Susan Stephens

Rockford Public Schools and Alignment Rockford are partnering to expand summer programming for students after COVID derailed the school year.

The new “Live, Learn, Play” initiative encompasses everything from academic prep and recovery courses to activities like Dungeons & Dragons.

RPS Chief of Curriculum Heidi Dettman says the big difference this year isn’t just more offerings but placing them at community center sites across Rockford.

Perspective: A Lesson From The Pandemic

May 6, 2021
Raymond Zhu / Unsplash

A rogue wheel, loosened from a truck, bounced madly across the tollway in front of us as we headed east on I-88. Had we been a little closer, it might have slammed into our car. It was a vivid reminder, as though we needed another one, that we are not really in control of our fate.


Control is an illusion that has been shattered over the past year as the virus flashed through the world’s population, morphing, striking, strengthening. No one could feel entirely safe. No one was entirely safe.

About 9.5 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state of Illinois and a little over 4 million individuals are fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But the numbers show a huge discrepancy between whites and Blacks.

Spencer Tritt

There is a network of state-run support for Illinois K-12 students who experience homelessness and housing instability. School districts and liaisons work together to offer them support mandated by state and federal legislation. That support often disappears once they graduate.

Perspective: Despite COVID, I Had High Hopes

May 4, 2021
Ulrike Draper / Pixabay

High hopes! I had high hopes -- high apple pie in the sky hopes! I was going to go line dancing, learn how to play the ukulele, visit my granddaughter in California a couple of times (Toddlers grow so fast!), take a sailing cruise in Italy with a friend. After all, COVID-19 was little more than an annual flu -- from far, far away and would disappear, almost like a miracle. What? Me worry?

This has been a year of evolving information--a year replete with misinformation and disinformation. Our lifestyle will never be the same. There is no “normal” to return to.

Perspective: Send More Positivity, Please!

May 3, 2021

Occasionally, our regular Perspectives contributor Elsa Glover decides to share the voices and opinions of other teachers or students with WNIJ's listeners. Today, Elsa brings us the wisdom of Kaneland 6th graders Chloe Sullivan and Katilyn Schuhler. 

During this pandemic, it’s hard to find positivity. More often we see people reach out to help. The thing is, we have to keep sending positivity to others. If we don’t, returning to normalcy will be harder. This is because positivity is what keeps people going.

While most performance groups refrained from gathering due to the pandemic, one northern Illinois orchestra let the music play within the walls -- with precautions.  

The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra continued their 2020-21 rehearsals without any interruption. 

Matthew Sheppard is the artistic director of the orchestra. He said in-person meetings were able to continue because the group incorporated scientific research.