Illinois

Joe Tallman

A Rockford resident is one of 25 finalists in a beer can design contest.

Illustrator and graphic designer Joe Tallman said he grew up looking at imagery for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. 

“My grandpa, he had a little bar -- I want to say he had like some glassware and coasters and stuff like that,” Tallman said. “So even before I probably knew what exactly it was, I remember like seeing the logo.” 

Tallman said he normally doesn’t participate in design contests.

The Winnebago County Health Department says vaccination efforts against COVID-19 continue. Meanwhile, the area’s positivity rate for the coronavirus has shrunk.

The Department reported 69 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths. Furthermore, the area’s positivity rate is only 4.7%. At a press conference carried by WREX-TV, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara praised this milestone.

Spencer Tritt

Before the pandemic, Shelly Tranchita would walk around her packed, sweaty P.E. class shouting affirmations and helping students with their yoga poses. Now, for the first time during COVID-19, Sycamore High School is back in-person on a hybrid schedule. Her class looks a lot different now.

“The temperature today was 6 [degrees] and I have fans on in the indoor gyms that I'm in that don't have outside circulation. I wear two masks. I wear a microphone all day long so I can project my voice without yelling and spreading more aerosols, more germs,” she said.

Spencer Tritt

This school year, schools identified around 420,000 fewer homeless students than last year. That would normally be a hopeful sign, but not during the pandemic. Advocates say there aren’t fewer students experiencing homelessness. It’s just that schools can’t find them.

Last week a record number of women were sworn into leadership roles at Rockford United Labor. 

 

 

Sara Dorner, a local labor representative for AFSCME Council 31, made history by being elected the first female president of Rockford United Labor. But she says women aren’t new to the picket line. 

 

“We've always been here, this is nothing new. We're just happy you're seeing us now,” said Dorner. 

 

https://auroradowntown.org/

A recent gateway mural project in the city of Aurora sparked a lot of dialogue last year. The nonprofit organization that commissioned the mural used that experience to come up with the theme for another development.  

“Aurora Unity” is the title for an upcoming gateway mural that will be located on the near East Side of the city. The exact location will be shared at a later date. People will be able to view it as they approach downtown.    

Yvonne Boose

Some people may think of romantic love when it comes to Valentine’s Day. But a few local officials are coming together to show adoration to a group of individuals who are restricted from visiting with their nearest and dearest.   

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) and other local officials are collecting cards for a “Valentines for Seniors” program.   

Stellantis

 

Workers at the Belvidere Assembly Plant are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines beginning this week. 

In Boone County, workers at the Stellantis -- formerly Fiat-Chrysler -- assembly plant -- can now get their shots. Kevin Logan is the President of UAW 1268. He says the vaccines are a good sign. 

 

Pixabay user qimono

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected incidences of substance abuse, and how people struggling with addiction are treated. 

Social distancing and isolation have become everyday features of the pandemic. These stresses, along with factors like job loss, have resulted in more instances of substance abuse. That’s according to Northwestern Medicine Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marissa Kirch. She said more people are drinking greater amounts of alcohol, or taking up the habit if they haven’t before.

Woodstock 'Groundhog Days' Festival Begins Today

Jan 29, 2021
Woodstock Groundhog Days Committee

In the midst of a pandemic, where we’re stuck inside living the same day over and over again, residents of Woodstock, Illinois have a familiar feeling. Its town square served as the filming location for the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day.”

Spencer Tritt

How have Christian schools been doing during the pandemic? Well, it depends on when you ask. After the spring upended education along with the entire economy, parents often pulled their kids out of parochial schools. The tuition, often upwards of $10,000-per-year and sometimes beyond, was too expensive with many families furloughed or laid off.

Peter Medlin

Many colleges and universities saw student numbers plummet due to the pandemic. But community college enrollment is down more than any other higher-ed sector.

Lindsay Lamb

Lawyers representing some of the families who lost relatives after a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home are preparing to file a lawsuit.

Lindsay Lamb’s grandfather, Richard Cieski Sr., died in November. He was one of more than 30 residents at the home to contract COVID-19 and die from the outbreak there. Lamb says she was close to her grandfather.

“He was, we always laughed, he was a big schmoozer. He was a big flirt. He was a big family man, his family was everything to him. His wife was everything to him,” said Lamb. 

Winnebago County Ramps Up Vaccination Efforts

Jan 27, 2021

A northern Illinois county is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts as it moves to Phase 1B of the State’s plan.

Winnebago County has already administered the full vaccine course to at least 5,000 people. The first group consisted of health care personnel and those in long-term care facilities. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said health care providers will reach out directly to the next group. There won’t be walk-ins.

Paramount Theatre

A northern Illinois performance theater gives marginalized voices a chance to be heard with its new project.

 

The “Inception Project” presents virtual readings hosted by Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. It’s made possible with the help of a Healing Illinois grant. 

Paul-Jordan Jansen, the artistic associate for the project, said the grant helps put a spotlight on work done by artists of color.

Photo provided by Nature at the Confluence

A northern Illinois creek that's been hidden by woods and shrubs is about to see the light of day, thanks to a $30,000 grant and Nature at the Confluence.

The Confluence's executive director Therese Oldenburg said Kelly Creek in South Beloit is named after Mary Kelly.

"She was part of the Irish farming families that settled there," she said. "Mary Kelly had her home right there so 'Kelly Creek' it is," she said.

Spencer Tritt

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that all high school sports are now allowed to play in regions that are in Phase 4 of the State’s reopening plan. Regions 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 now meet the criteria for looser restrictions.

Most winter “lower-risk” sports like gymnastics, swimming and badminton are already practicing. The Illinois High School Sports Association is meeting on Wednesday to decide when they can begin competitions and when the only “higher-risk” winter sport, basketball, can start.

www.unsplash.com

Pandemic living has inspired the theme for an annual statewide art contest.

The student contest is sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  

Heather Nice is the library and museum's education director. She said the theme “Art Surrounds Us” encompasses how some people are using art as a relief during COVID-19.

Julia Kuroda

Every winter for the past 121 years, people across the country have fanned out to list the birds they see. This is the national Audubon Christmas Bird Count and it runs every year from Dec. 14-Jan. 05. There were fewer count circles this year because of the pandemic, but that didn't stop Sinnissippi Audubon Society President Jennifer Kuroda and her daughter Jackie Kuroda from participating.

https://www.ywcanwil.org/

An organization with the goal to empower women and eliminate racism has added new members to its board.

Nicole Radford and Tammie Stanley are the newest board members of the YWCA Northwestern Illinois

Karen Brown, board chairperson, said all members are leaders in their fields. 

“They are all volunteers in the community. They all have a desire to give back,” she said. “And they truly have a passion for the work and the mission that the YWCA Northwestern Illinois has.” 

David Artbook Johnson

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poets from northern Illinois but this week we are crossing the Wisconsin border. 

Charles Payne was born in Michigan but currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, he loved hearing the sound of Paul Harvey’s voice. Payne said Harvey’s innate ability to describe every intricate detail truly inspired him.

Payne’s works explore personal narrative and social commentary from his experience as a working poor Black male dying to live and living to die. 

https://www.newgenresartspace.com/drawing-as-sound

Some Rockford high school students were pushed out of their usual creative territories in efforts to design something unique.  

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Exploring the top education issues to watch in 2021 with Rockford teacher Erik Czerwin.

Teachers’ Lounge host Peter Medlin and Erik dive into topics like:

Photo provided by The Little White School Museum

After two months, museums across northern Illinois are reopening. This includes the Little White School Museum of Oswego. It is a small building and the color is white, but it represents 68 square miles and features an array of artifacts from that region.  

Tina Heidrich is the museum manager. She said their collection continues to grow, even during the pandemic.

Spencer Tritt

DeKalb Public Schools has hired a new superintendent. Her name is Minerva Garcia-Sanchez. She’s currently the Pilsen, Marshall Square and Little Village chief of schools in Chicago. WNIJ education reporter Peter Medlin talked to her about her expectations and goals as she starts at a new school district during the pandemic.

A group of U.S. lawmakers announced the reintroduction Tuesday of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

The bill was originally authored by Senator Dick Durbin. It passed in the House but failed in the Senate. In the wake of the recent attack on the Capitol, Durbin said addressing the hazards of domestic terrorism is a bipartisan issue.

Peter Medlin

Nearly half of Illinois high school grads who enroll full-time at a community college get placed in a developmental education course. That includes 70% of Black students and, of them, only 8% graduate compared to 26% of white students.

Those classes cost students tuition money and time, but don’t count for credit towards a degree. Emily Goldman, with the Partnership for College Completion, helped lawmakers craft the Developmental Education Reform Act to address the issue.

Illinois Residents Advised To Test Homes For Radon Gas

Jan 18, 2021
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced this January as Radon Action Month. 

  

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is urging all residents to test their home for radon. Radon has been found in nearly 40% of the homes tested in Illinois.

 

Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau attributes over 1,000 cases of lung cancer in Illinois to radon. 

She cites home tests as a simple and inexpensive way to detect it, specifically in older buildings and new constructions. 

Yvonne Boose

Like most cities across the country, Aurora's local businesses were hit hard by the pandemic. A nonprofit group is partnering with a social space to create revenue opportunities for area vendors.  

Art and Market Aurora is a new indoor market coming to the City.  

Local Nonprofit Aurora Downtown worked with community venue Society 57, 101 S. River Street, to make this possible. 

Spencer Tritt

Illinois K-12 teachers will soon get their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re in Phase1B of the state’s vaccine rollout, which starts on Monday.

Griff Powell is one of DeKalb Public Schools’ interim superintendents. He said they’ve been informed that teachers will start getting their first dose of the vaccine soon.

Pages