Rockford

Peter Medlin

In 2016, more than 10 percent of all 16-24 year olds in Illinois were both jobless and out of school.

State Sen. Dave Syverson is part of the state task force working to identify the barriers of employment holding back young adults. They met with community leaders in Rockford this week. Syverson says it's an issue far more complex than simply sending state money.

There are also a disproportionate number of black and Latino teens (16-19) and young adults (20-24) who are jobless and not in school.

SLIDESHOW: Rockford Area Celebrates 815 Day

Aug 15, 2018
Victoria Lunacek

Rockford hosted the annual 815 Day on Aug. 15 offering live performances and activities around the city. The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau handed out local favorites like Mrs. Fisher's chips and gelato from Franchesco's.

www.facebook.com/pg/NicholasConservatory

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens in Rockford is expecting a rare sight. Their Titan Arum, or corpse flower, will bloom soon. 

Dan Erwin is the horticulture supervisor at the conservatory. He says the plant is unique because it only blooms every 10 to 20 years and because of its unusual smell.

Erwin says, "they’ve actually broken the compounds down in it, and there’s some of the same things that you would smell if you were smelling dead fish, if you were smelling burnt sugar, if you were smelling rotten meat, and if you were smelling smelly gym socks.” 

https://www.facebook.com/HononegahCommunityHighSchool

A northern Illinois high school student and her father are suing a school district and several administrators alleging her civil rights were violated when she showed support for gun rights during an anti-school violence walkout.

 

Winnebago County State's Attorney's office

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato says a former Rockford police officer is one of two people facing charges for an armed robbery.

 

Former officer Yuliya Kuznets and former Rockford Metro Enforcement officer James Akerman are accused of committing armed robbery at the Van Galder bus depot July 22. Kuznets also worked for Rockford Metro Enforcement, which is a private security company. The two quit the company earlier this year.

 

Sarah Jesmer

Protests nationwide this past weekend drew attention to immigrant rights and showed support for families separated from their children at the southern border. The city of Rockford hosted one of these demonstrations.

Nearly one thousand people marched in high temperatures Saturday morning. Participants drew attention to a number of issues, including children in detention centers and voter registration, but some also shared their own stories of immigration.

Photo provided by RACVB

A baker's dozen of monumental sculptures will be coming to Rockford later in June. 

John Groh, President and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a public display of sculptures in 2015 proved to be very popular, and there seems to be an appetite for more. Groh said the Bureau and its partners had hoped to bring ten sculptures to the city – up from nine by two artists that were on display a couple of years ago. But Groh says fundraising exceeded expectations, and thirteen works by nine artists will make Rockford their home for the next two years.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Birds are a common sight throughout Northern Illinois, with many species coming through the area as part of seasonal migration. Some are just stopping by, but others have become more permanent residents. WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh takes a look at ways to deal with them.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

75 years ago this week, the women of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League put on their skirts and cleats and trotted out onto four Midwestern ball fields for the first time. Now some of those players are in Rockford to celebrate their history and help push women’s baseball into the future. 

Back in 1943, chewing-gum magnate P.K. Wrigley decided that America needed more baseball to keep spirits up during World War II. Since the "boys" were away fighting, he called on the "girls" to do the patriotic thing and entertain the Home Front. And, boy, did they!

The Rockford Public Schools Board will vote on several changes to next year's Student Code of Conduct at Tuesday night's regular meeting.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The Winnebago County Local Emergency Planning Committee holds an annual conference on disaster preparedness. Normally, the group focuses on hazardous materials. This year, the issue of mass shootings was added to the agenda. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh highlights two speakers who talk about responding to these incidents.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford plans to close three schools in the city due to lack of enrollment at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

St. Edward, St. Bernadette, and Cathedral of St. Peter schools will be merged into the St. James School on First Street. The associated academic programs will be folded into this new institution, along with the students from the parishes affected by the closings. Communication Director Penny Wiegert says the closures will be the end result of a strategic plan meant to deal with a decline in student enrollment.

"Mortgage" by Flickr User Investment Zen / (CC x 2.0)

The Illinois Housing Development Authority is working with BMO Harris Bank on a mortgage relief program for Rockford homeowners.

 

The state’s I-Refi program allows homeowners who owe more on a mortgage than their home is worth to refinance their loans based on a house’s current appraised value.

 

commons.wikimedia.org

Three Illinois cities rank among the worst 25 cities in the country for violent crime rates.

Rockford is the most dangerous of the three, according to a report by CBS News based on FBI data for 2016, the most recent year available.

Demolition Begins On Iconic Rockford Resort

Apr 16, 2018
Victor Yehling/WNIJ

At the end of the first day of demolition, what used to be the entrance to the Clock Tower Convention Center is no more. Countless numbers of prom-goers and wedding celebrants and conventioneers passed through those doors over the decades.

Contractors started leveling the former landmark on East State Street at the entrance to Interstate 90 where, for decades, the Clock Tower was a sign that travelers had arrived in Rockford.

photo provided by Rockford Police Dept

The man accused of shooting three people in a party bus in Rockford last weekend has turned himself in. Police say 22-year-old Raheem D. King of Rockford turned himself in Wednesday afternoon around  5:00. His girlfriend, Lakeacia Kizart, 21, surrendered to police an hour later.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

More than 20 students at a Rockford high school won’t have to leave the school to get paid as local credit union workers this fall.

What’s now a classroom next to the cafeteria soon will become a credit union within Guilford High School, according to Chris Magee, the college and career academy coach at GHS.

Magee says students also will help design the space and determine what type of work environment they want for this branch. She says the goal is to teach students financial literacy before they leave high school and to help them establish a relationship with a bank.

Google Maps

Rockford police say three people were fatally shot early Saturday on a private adult-themed charter bus. The suspect has not been located after fleeing the bus after the shooting.

 

The shooting took place near the intersection of Auburn St. and Johnston Av. Police Chief Dan O'Shea says the driver of the "Distinguished Gentleman" bus called police about 3:30 a.m. The driver had driven a distance from the shooting site and parked at a gas stations where he met police.

Cirque Du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil returns to Rockford this weekend with a show called "Corteo." We spoke with the artistic director about the story behind the show.

Like many of Cirque’s shows, “Corteo” features larger-than-life performances and a variety of acts. But artistic director Mark Schaub says they’re centered on the story of Mauro, a clown approaching the end of his life.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Gun violence was the subject of a large Town Hall gathering at Rockford’s East High School Wednesday.  

The event was organized by students from several local high schools to discuss  gun violence in schools and the Rockford area.  Panelists included members of the Rockford Police Department, city officials, and members of the General Assembly.  Megan Larson is a Senior from Lutheran. She was pleased with the conversation but said this isn’t the end of her group’s activism.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Saturday, March 31st was a pretty magical day for Chuck Jefferson -- dozens of his friends and colleagues gathered to honor the former state representative from Rockford, a library was named after him,  and it was his birthday.

Jefferson, a Democrat, represented the 67th district from 2001 until his retirement in 2014. Before that, he was a long-time member of the Winnebago County Board.  

He's also been a strong supporter of the  Booker Washington Center, a historic African-American community center on Rockford's southwest side. 

Jessie Schlacks/WNIJ

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he’s not seeing enough statewide progress in addressing the opioid addiction crisis.  

The Democratic senator visited Mercyhealth in Rockford Wednesday for a roundtable conversation with doctors, first responders, treatment specialists and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. 

Participants echoed a similar theme: they're strapped when it comes to finances to provide adequate services. 

RSYO

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra announced that the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra has been named “Youth Orchestra of the Year” for 2018 by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

The judging was based on programming, community involvement/outreach, opportunities for youth, growth of audience, fiscal responsibility, and community support.

"Am I Next? Student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws" by Flickr user Lorie Shaull / (CC x 2.0) /

Students and supporters plan to gather in downtown Rockford for their March For Our Lives event Saturday.

Event organizers say the march, which is a sister event to the national march held by Parkland shooting survivors, begins at 1 p.m. at the city parking lot next to Beattie Park and ends at Davis Park. A rally afterwards will include student activists, a spoken word artist, and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

Just Breathe 815

A conversation with his daughter about a year ago led one Rockford resident to create an organization helping hundreds of homeless teenagers in the area.

Kevin Ware says Just Breathe 815 started with a clothes-donation box after his daughter asked if there were any area groups that helped homeless teens specifically. Now, Ware says, the organization has helped about 500 teens and young adults in less than a year.

“And it’s crazy,” Ware said. “Like, from April to where we are today, it’s just crazy.”

"Am I Next? Student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws" by Flickr user Lorie Shaull / (CC x 2.0) /

Students from several high schools in northern Illinois are preparing for the national school walk-out on Wednesday.

In Rockford, Jefferson High School senior Roberto Vargas says he is one of several students who are organizing a walk-out at the school to protest gun violence and to call for gun-law reform in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 14 students and three school staff members.

Vargas says he hopes all 1,700 students at Jefferson walk out in solidarity Wednesday. He and his friends planned this so students can make their voices heard.

Winnebago County Board Chair Defends Administrator Settlement Agreement

Mar 1, 2018

Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney has hit back at a series of reports on a settlement agreement with a former county administrator.

Amanda Hamaker left her post at the beginning of November in what the chairman called a “mutual agreement” at the time. In an Oct. 30 report from the Register Star, Haney said that details of a separation were being worked out, but no details were provided at the time.

Last week, the Illinois governor’s budget address outlined several proposals to reduce state spending. One focuses on K-12 schools.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants public school districts to begin “cost sharing” their employees’ state pensions over the next few years. Districts would be responsible for 25 percent of their pension cost during the first year, then an additional 25 percent each of the following three years. He said this overhaul is a fiscal necessity.

Jenna Dooley

On Thursday, students at the Spectrum Progressive School of Rockford held selfie sticks with cell phones while they roamed around capturing the normal sights of their classroom. Then, 3D creatures seemingly popped out of thin air right onto their screens-- from dinosaurs to spiders. It’s part of Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program. Google associates train local teachers who then take their students on the virtual adventures.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

More Rockford organizations are expressing their positions on a proposal to give city leaders more local control over finances.  

Quick recap: Home rule is available to Illinois communities interested in deciding, among other things, whether to levy local taxes and fees beyond those imposed by state government. Rockford voters got rid of home rule in 1983. This spring, voters will consider whether to bring it back.

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