There's Talent In The 815

Feb 23, 2021

A volunteer organization that supports teachers in Winnebago and Boone counties came up with a unique way to raise money.

Jennifer Stark is executive director of the Golden Apple Foundation of Rockford. She said the foundation’s teachers came up with the idea of doing a talent show. The viewing is free but those interested in voting are asked to make a donation.  

“And the great thing is you can vote any amount. You can vote $1. You can be a big spender and vote $100,” she explained. “But we wanted it to be a free show because there's so many people who are at home struggling right now.” 

815 Rising Stars drew in over 120 submissions. The final contestant count was planned for 20. Stark explained what happened.

“We had a tie. And we just said, ‘You know what, we're going to break the rules,'" Stark said. "We don't usually break the rules but we said, ‘Darn it, we're going to add a 21st because we had a tie,’ and we thought ‘We're just not going to make the hard decisions.’” 

Individuals from the age of 10 up to their late 60s submitted 3-minute or less videos.

“We're pretty excited about that. We said zero to 100. Any ages and you know, the interesting thing is we didn't separate the categories. So, we just decided top talent is top talent,” Stark said.

The proceeds from the show will go toward programs that benefit teachers in the classroom and virtually.

Stark mentioned that the showing will include five teachers who made videos explaining what they did with grants from this year. One of the teachers bought plexiglass partitions that were placed between the students.

This first-time event takes place on the foundation’s website Feb. 27 after a 6:30 p.m. preshow. Rockford performers like Jodi Beach, Harlan Jefferson and Rockford’s poet laureate Christine Swanberg will take part in that.

Voting opens that same evening and runs until March 6. The winner will receive $500 dollars, a trophy and other prizes from sponsors. Results will be announced the week of March 8.

  • 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