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Tag: Elgin

U46 hopes for ‘more of a normal’ school year (Sun-Times Media)

ELGIN — Bright and early Monday morning, Kitty Syavong of Elgin snapped a photo of her daughter Deja, 9, outside Channing Memorial Elementary School.

It was Deja’s first day of fourth grade and her first at the east-side school at 63 S. Channing St. Syavong also had attended Channing when she was growing up, but her family only recently returned to Elgin from Florida, she said.

That’s not why Deja was nervous, though, according to her mom.

“She’s scared because she knows it’s haunted,” Syavong said, referring to legends that grew from the school’s location on a former graveyard.

All around them, students threw their arms around each other as they reunited after the summer break. They pointed out classroom assignments posted in the front window of the building and dragged plastic bags of school supplies, complaining their arms were tired.

They lined up outside with their classes, and, finally, said goodbye to the parents and little siblings and puppies and Spider-Man toys that had come that far — as summer officially ended and students returned to class in Elgin School District U46. Students in Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301 returned to class the same day.

U46 Superintendent Jose Torres also had returned to Channing last week to record his 2012-13 welcome video. That’s appropriate, Torres said in the video, because he had introduced himself as superintendent to the Elgin community at the same place five years ago.

“I introduced myself by saying I have a quote on my desk that says, ‘Actions reflect beliefs,’ and those beliefs that I have I said would drive the actions that I would take in the district,” he said.

For the rest of the story (and some fun back-to-school stats to impress your friends with), read U46 hopes for ‘more of a normal’ school year (Sun-Times Media).

For more information about the Breakfast in the Classroom program that also started yesterday in Elgin School District U46, read U46 schools start year — and every day — with breakfast program grant (Sun-Times Media).

And, finally, for more photos of the first day of school in Elgin School District U46, view our photo gallery.

Photo credit: Katherine Peters for Sun-Times Media.


Biweekly Wrap-up: On the ice cream beat

I never imagined myself as an education reporter.

In fact, I thought I’d be a religion reporter. In college, I freelanced pieces about Christianity and Islam on campus for the Washington Square News. But as newspaper staffs have shrunk across the country, I doubt there are many dedicated religion reporters left. And as our staff shrunk at The Courier-News, I bounced around to fill in gaps, first as a features reporter; then as “Readers’ Reporter,” editing our community pages and getting reader-submitted content into the paper; then reporting again, first covering the villages around Elgin, then just Carpentersville and its school district and now Carpentersville-area Community Unit School District 300, Elgin School District U46, Elgin Community College and all the private schools within those districts.

Education has turned out to be the perfect beat for me, the perfect combination of hard news and fun features, for which I get to spend hours out of my day in schools, playing with kids. Even better, it’s a beat in which people really are interested, always, because the kids we are educating are our future, and especially now under the spotlight of No Child Left Behind and popular documentaries like “Waiting for Superman.”

But summer is pretty slow on the schools beat. That’s how I end up on the gardening beat. Or, it seems like this week, the ice cream beat.

And so what do I find myself doing this summer in all that free time that comes from not working hours and hours of overtime during the week? Religion reporting. My freelance work really is picking up, what with articles for RELEVANT two weeks in a row and an upcoming post for… wait for it… Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog. The irony.

Here are the other articles I’ve written over the past two weeks for Sun-Times Media:

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Archery hits the mark with young film fans (Sun-Times Media

ELGIN — It was, quite possibly, the coolest birthday present ever: The curve of the green plastic bow; the nearly instantaneous twang as Madeline Moeller’s fingers released the taught string, the whiz of the arrow through the air, the thud as it hit the grass in her Elgin backyard; the deadly point.

It was the bow and arrows for which Madeline had begged her dad for weeks after seeing the movie “Brave,” the bow and arrows Marc Moeller didn’t tell his wife, Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller, he had bought for the girl’s ninth birthday in late June.

Madeline’s eyes popped out of her head when she opened the present, she said. She, her 6-year-old sister Eleanor and her friends spent an hour straight shooting and chasing the arrows across the yard — “part of the game,” Anna Moeller said.

“Everyone thinks it’s cool. My friends have said, ‘I want a bow and arrow now,’” Madeline said.

And it’s not just Madeline and her friends.

USA Archery said it’s seen a “huge increase” in interest headed into the 2012 Summer Olympics, which begin next Friday in London. So have area stores that carry archery equipment, like Buck Stop in West Dundee, Dick’s Sporting Goods in Algonquin and Cabela’s in Hoffman Estates.

“Hunting around here has always been popular,” said Kaarin Mull, who owns Buck Stop with her husband, Pete Mull.

“But now that ‘The Hunger Games’ and that Pixar movie ‘Brave’ have come out, it has been nuts. We’re getting them in as little as 7 and 8 years old. They want to shoot because that little redhead in ‘Brave’ shoots.”

Both movies, released this year, feature female archers as their heroines.

In “The Hunger Games,” it’s Katniss Everdeen, hunting with a bow and arrow to provide for her family, then to survive the televised teenage fight-to-the-death that is the Hunger Games. In “Brave,” it’s Princess Merida, relying on her bravery and archery skills to undo a curse.

Madeline hasn’t read “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins or seen the movie, she said. But she saw “Brave” with her grandparents and said that’s what “inspired” her.

“I liked how she showed that even a girl can be so strong. She also showed how fun archery could be,” she said.

For the rest of the story (and a list of places to practice archery in the Chicago area), read Archery hits the mark with young film fans (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Biweekly Wrap-up: A human being, not a policy

“Look at it as a human being, not as a policy.”

That’s a quote from one of my articles last Sunday in The Courier-News. That’s also the theme of many of my articles that appeared in the newspaper over the past two weeks (admittedly, not many. I went to a beautiful wedding Friday evening, then spent Saturday through Wednesday with my family in Wisconsin.)

That’s the power of story. It’s easy to disagree, to become angry, to be negative about a policy. Those things become harder when you meet a human being impacted by that policy, when you hear his or her story.

“I wouldn’t mind if people were negative about it — as long as they understood. I don’t see how you could be negative about this after learning about this,” said David Miller, a student at Judson University in Elgin.

I interviewed Miller in April 2011 after he organized an experience at Judson called UN-Documented. That experience was meant to get students to think about “the way we interact with people who are immigrants and the way we show respect and love them,” according to UN-Documented creator Jesse Oxford.

Those words have stuck with me since then. They’re what come to mind when I write about, help people learn about new policies.

Like the cover story I wrote last week about the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act — and the people its measures already have impacted. And the cover story about the Obama administration’s decision not to deport young people brought illegally into the country by their parents — and the incredibly brave young people who may benefit from that.

Here are the other articles I’ve written over the past two weeks:

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media. (Non-blurry photo hopefully coming soon.)

Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media)

Happy Independence Day!

I’m just getting back from five days up at my family’s lake cabin in Wisconsin, doing all the things that make living in America great: getting baby licks from my nephew, cleaning a fish for the first time, roasting hot dogs and s’mores over a bonfire, melting in 100-degree heat. This article of mine ran in the meantime. And it reminded me how much I take for granted as an American citizen (and maybe you do, too).

Family is important to Leslie F.

That’s “where everything starts,” Leslie said. And without her family, she said, she wouldn’t be where she is today.


When she was 9, her father emigrated to the area from Mexico. She, her mom and her sister followed a year later.

All since have become U.S. citizens or legal residents with help from the Hispanic social service agency Centro de Informacion in Elgin, Leslie said. All except her.

It’s not that the 27-year-old Schaumburg woman doesn’t want to become a citizen — she “definitely” does, said Leslie, who asked that her last name not be used. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago with a degree in justice studies, took the L-SAT and planned to attend law school.

“I always wanted to help people. As soon as I started with my major, I started becoming more interested in the juvenile court system,” Leslie said.

“The perfect way to get more involved in it is to become a lawyer and eventually be there to help them out. I want to focus on family and in juvenile.”

But without citizenship, without a Social Security number, she can’t get a scholarship or loan, making paying for law school impossible. She has submitted her citizenship paperwork, but she has at least a 12-year wait to get that, she said.

That’s a situation in which “so many” young people in the Elgin area find themselves, according to Jaime Garcia, executive director of Centro de Informacion.

And that is what is so important about President Obama’s announcement in mid-June that his administration would no longer deport the children of immigrants who came to the country illegally, without documentation, Garcia said.

“It’s important for me because it would allow me to pretty much finish my dream,” Leslie said.

It’s difficult to tell how many undocumented young people in the Fox Valley will be affected by the nation’s newest immigration policy. They are, after all, undocumented.

“I would venture to say even thousands,” Dave Richmond said.

Richmond is an immigration attorney with an office in downtown Aurora. In the week after Obama’s announcement, he said his phone rang off the hook.

So did the phones at Centro de Informacion offices in Elgin, Carpentersville and Hanover Park, Garcia said.

The Obama administration’s new policy could allow an estimated 1 million young immigrants across the U.S. to apply for “deferred action” on deportation orders and gain temporary work visas. It allows those who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are still under age 30, have earned a high school diploma or GED or served in the military and who have no criminal record to stay in the U.S. and to apply for documentation that will allow them to work legally.

“A number of people facing deportation — they graduated high school, they’re going to college,” Richmond said. “Their crime is that they were brought here as children by their parents, and this announcement would allow those people to stay here not with legal status, not with a green card, just to stay here and obtain work authorization.”

For the rest of the story, read Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media).

For more information about Centro de Informacion, read Centro celebrates 40 years of giving help in Elgin area (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media. Antlers divider by IROCKSOWHAT.