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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.

Rock Valley College ATC Financing Approved

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
Rock Valley College Board of Trustees Meeting

The Rock Valley College Board of Trustees approved an increase in the budget for its new Belvidere campus amid opposition from several Rockford community leaders. 




Opponents of the Belvidere location of Rock Valley College’s new Advanced Technology Center are calling on the Board of Trustees to postpone any budget increases until more studies can be done. 




Patrick Murphy, a chairperson on the board, read a letter from Women’s March Rockford stating that the Belvidere location only contributes to inequity in the region.




“WMR respectfully asks for a comprehensive study on the cost savings of the Belvidere location inclusive of student transportation costs and increased build out costs,” said Murphy. 




Murphy commented that public concerns about the project going over budget were unwarranted. He said it was still below budget. The project for the new center was originally billed at $3.3 million. The vote increased the available funds to close to $8 million. However, that’s still only half of the total amount allocated by the board for the project altogether. 




In an email to residents Paul Gorski, another member of the board, said they understood the disappointment around the Belvidere site but that, “we are better off as a community with the ATC in Boone County than with no ATC at all.”





  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 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.