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Pilot program helps students
overcome barriers to success

[JULY 9, 2002]  NORMAL — Nine students recently graduated from Heartland Community College’s pilot program called Business Essentials. These dedicated individuals now have a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities that may not have existed before enrolling at Heartland.

The graduation ceremony was at 10 a.m. on June 28 at Heartland’s Raab Road campus. Dr. Diana McCauley, a well-known local volunteer, independent educational consultant and advocate for education and equity for all women and girls, delivered the commencement speech.

The Business Essentials program was designed to help economically disadvantaged community members overcome educational, social and economic barriers to employment.

"I had no idea it would be so difficult and stressful, or so rewarding," said Eleisha Whitney-Olson about the 16-week, 17-credit-hour program.

Pam Westerdahl, Heartland’s director of workforce services, formed a partnership between the college, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, the University of Illinois Extension Service and Mid-Central Community Action to develop and launch the project.


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"Regional employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified staff for entry and midlevel positions. At the same time, many community members face multiple barriers to employment due to a lack in technical and life skills required for careers offering wages and benefits that will support a family and promise opportunities for advancement. This program brings these needs together for a positive solution," explains Westerdahl.

Graduate Nessa Sacry says she now feels qualified to compete for a living-wage position. "This was more than I had expected. It was a lot of work in a short time period, but now I know I can accomplish the goals I set for myself."

[Heartland Community College news release]

Kids discover fun new summer activity

[JULY 8, 2002]  Cathy Hawkinson, a third-grade teacher at Jefferson, has once again tapped into her passion for gardening to promote children’s excitement over reading.

Her integrated teaching and gardening ideas began with a butterfly garden put together by her 1999-2000 class. In 2001 her dream of an 1850s-style garden with book-themed plots landed the school a $6,800 grant from Barnes and Noble through the Illinois Literacy Foundation.

Now the garden, across Sixth Street from Jefferson School, boasts several book-themed plots, such as the "Petunia Goose" and the "Charlotte’s Web" plots, as well as a sunflower house where classes gather for special outdoor book-readings, a prairie garden, a butterfly bush, a rainbow garden and several raised gardens surrounded by even more flower beds. Also in the garden, a log cabin built by Pete Fredericks houses the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" and gardening tools. For the supplies, Hawkinson found many generous donors within the Lincoln community.

She approached the Lincoln Public Library about bringing their summer reading program to the Jefferson School Children’s Garden. As a result, children and parents gather on Wednesday mornings to sit and read for an hour in the shade of the garden.


[Photo by Trisha Youngquist]
[Debby Simpson takes time out of her day to sit and read with her daughter Katie. Katie has read more than 400 books this summer!]

Assistant children’s librarian Linda Harmon brings a box full of books from the library and spreads them out on the grass. Kids glance over the books and hurriedly find a square of carpet to sit on and read. And when they have finished one book, they quickly find and devour another. The entire hour is spent reading one book after another. Parents who accompany their children sit while their children read aloud to them.

State Farm Insurance sponsors a midhour drink break. Agent Rick Hamm also brings safety programs to the school during the year.


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The library program extension allows children who live in the neighborhoods near Jefferson to participate in the reading program, since the school lies within walking distance. Already this summer 15 kids have participated at the location and filled out reading logs.

Kids write down in their reading logs all the books that they read and use it to keep track of their reading goals. Children set their own reading goals in this program that has over 500 participants.


[Linda Harmon awards Amanda McCray a "Reading Rocks" T-shirt for meeting her reading goal.]

Rewards encourage them toward their personal goals. When a child reaches his or her reading goal, the reward is a red "Reading Rocks" T-shirt. Weekly prizes for children who have read the most during the week are also given out. Area merchants have donated hundreds of prizes for the weekly honors. An anonymous donor supplied the prizes for the summer’s top readers.

At the library, charts on the walls reflect individual progress as well as progress by school. Schools compete in most books read for a trophy. Jefferson has never won the trophy, but this year they appear to be strong competitors, vying closely with Washington-Monroe for first place.

As Linda Harmon was quick to point out, though, it would not be possible without Cathy Hawkinson. "She’s the impetus behind the whole thing. I just bring the books."

[Trisha Youngquist]


Honors & Awards

New 40 & 8 scholarship helps
nursing students at Lincoln College

[JULY 25, 2002]  Lincoln College students who are pursuing a nursing degree will have financial help available with a new "Nurses in Training" scholarship. The assistance is made possible through the generosity of the members of the Logan County Voiture 985 of the Forty et Eight.

The $1,000 endowed scholarship will be awarded annually to a student from the Logan County area and will help defray tuition costs for students who have an interest in nursing. The scholarship will be offered beginning with the fall 2002 semester.

Forty et Eight members Bernard E. Behrends and Paul Aper indicated the group decided to establish the scholarship at Lincoln College to provide aid to local students in need: "This ensures that our organization is helping young people of the Lincoln/Logan County area and has left its heritage at Lincoln College."


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Paul Aper is the current president of the program and Bernard E. Behrends is secretary. Both have been Chef deGare of the Voiture 985 and have long been active in the Nurse in Training program, helping some130 young people to fulfill their dream of becoming registered nurses.

Forty et Eight, established in 1920, is recognized for service to the American Legion and its programs. Since 1955 the national organization has encouraged young students to become registered nurses.

[Lincoln College news release]

Celebrating American Theatre

Lincoln Community Theatre


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for the Performing Arts

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Lincoln Community Theatre scholarship awarded

[JULY 24, 2002]  Lincoln Community Theatre’s 2002 scholarship has been awarded to Kelly Dowling, daughter of Ed and Marcia Dowling of Lincoln. Kelly plans to attend Lincoln College for two years, majoring in the performing arts.

Washington-Monroe named a Golden Spike school

[JULY 18, 2002]  District 27’s Washington-Monroe School was one of only 59 out of 920 schools in Illinois to receive the honor of being named a Golden Spike school, one which shows that students from low-income families can close the "achievement gap."

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Superintendent Robert Kidd read the following letter from former State Superintendent of Schools Glenn "Max" McGee commending the school for its achievement.

Rebecca Cecil, principal of Washington-Monroe, said 75 percent of the students there met or exceeded the state standards in reading and mathematics.

"I didn’t have much to do with it," Kidd said. "The achievement rests on the shoulders of the principal, teachers and the support staff."


Dr. Robert Kidd, Superintendent

Lincoln District 27

100 S. Maple Street

Lincoln, IL 62656

Dear Robert:

With profound and enthusiastic admiration, I am writing to commend you, your staff and, your community for your truly remarkable accomplishments at Washington-Monroe Elementary. The sterling record of improvement the past three years has distinguished Washington-Monroe Elementary as a "Golden Spike" school — a school which has shown that the "achievement gap" can be closed!

During the last six months I have been conducting comprehensive research on elementary schools that educate children from low-income families. Of the approximately 920 schools in Illinois whose enrollment is comprised of more than half of their students from low-income families, only 59 met the rigorous criteria of achievement and/or improvement the past three years, and your school is one of that elite group. In other words, Washington-Monroe Elementary is in the top 6.5 percent of high-poverty schools in the state and, in my opinion, among the very best of all schools in the country. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that Washington-Monroe Elementary is truly an exemplary model for all schools, and many lessons can be learned from your success in providing the highest quality education for ALL children, regardless of family income or background.

Please extend my highest commendation to the principal and staff. They work exceptionally hard, have a shared commitment to each and every child, and fervently believe that ALL children can learn and succeed in school. The many "extras" they provide truly matter, as evidenced by the children's achievements. Also, I want to let you know how much I appreciate and admire your leadership. The vision, work ethic, energy level and passion you bring to the position are inspirational. You are making a lasting difference to children and to families. Knowing that you probably have some long and tiring days, I hope that you find some reward in remembering the profound impact you do have.

Once again, congratulations on your "Golden Spike" school!

God bless,

Glenn "Max" McGee

Senior Research Associate

NIU Center for Governmental Studies

Balloon association awards scholarships

[JULY 12, 2002]  CHAMPAIGN — The Balloon Association of Greater Illinois recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to Michael Kinner of New Berlin and Kent D. Leesman of Atlanta.

A committee of Farm Bureau managers from three central Illinois counties selected this year’s recipients. The recipients are selected on the basis of scholastic achievement and honors, participation in activities, community involvement and professional goals.

Kinner, son of Tim and Cynde Kinner, graduated in May from Lincoln Land Community College and will continue his education at Western Illinois University in Macomb this fall. His major is in agricultural science and agronomy.

Leesman, son of Kevin and Joyce Leesman, recently graduated from Hartsburg-Emden High School and will attend the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana this fall. He is majoring in agronomy and agribusiness.


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Following graduation, both Michael and Kevin plan to return to their family farms, continuing with operation and production improvements, as well as involvement in their respective communities.

The scholarship was established in 1996 in appreciation to the farming community for allowing hot-air balloons to launch from or land on their property. Applications for next year’s scholarship will be available after Jan. 1, 2003, at Farm Bureaus, high schools and colleges in 20 counties throughout central Illinois.

[Press release]


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