Giving back through track

By Jonathan Nonnie/For — A sports-related injury can be a devastating event in the life of an active young adult. But for Nealay Kalita, a sophomore student at the University of Illinois, a torn ACL lead to a leadership position. Kalita, a native of Champaign, attended University Laboratory High School. In his time there, he was an outstanding runner and a state competitor in track and field. During his senior year, he tore his ACL while playing basketball. The injury prevented him from participating in his final season of track and field, but he embraced the opportunity in front of him.

Growing up Asian in a white family; one adoptee’s struggle

By Earn Saenmuk/For — There was a girl in my Korean class. Well, there were more than one, but this particular one was special. She was very nice, and her Korean was so good that I felt a little intimidated. I noticed while the teacher was taking attendance that her last name did not sound like an Asian last name. Her name was Claire Hampton, though she told the teacher that she also has a Korean name, Hwaesuk.

Slices of Life: Jazz Professor Chip McNeill throws himself into his work

By Samantha Kiesel — Chip McNeill walks down the hall in his black sneakers as jazz music floods the basement of Smith Hall. He waves with his left hand to a couple of students and clutches a soprano saxophone in his right. He looks at his watch and picks up his pace, realizing he’s late. In Room 11, a small space with a set of drums, a piano and an old organ, he gently places his instrument on the organ bench as he greets the students preparing for the day’s jazz rehearsal. The drummer tunes his instruments, the guitarist adjusts the volume on his amplifier, the vocalist tinkers with her mic, the saxophonist fixes his reed, and the piano player sits patiently.

Slices of Life: Danville woman adores her flock of feathered friends

By Jessica Bourque — Cindy Eaglen — that’s eagle with an ‘n’ — sits in her computer chair, a bird in one hand, a mouse in the other. The mouse is of the computer variety, but the bird is an African grey, one of the smartest avian breeds in the animal kingdom. Cindy carefully holds the two, kissing one on the beak and using the other to scroll through YouTube videos; she is searching for one of her favorites. “It’s amazing!” she says.

“Letter to the residents of Monticello” ad lands city council in hot water

By Claire Everett/ —  An ongoing struggle between the Monticello City Council and a citizen’s group has led to the city council being cited for violating the Open Meetings Act. The attorney general’s office said the city council violated the act by holding a closed session in March that led to the creation of an advertisement criticizing four residents for questioning the city council’s actions and for filing numerous state Freedom of Information requests. Maureen Holtz waits with others during an executive session to discuss redactions on March 11 minutes of a Monticello city council meeting on June 23, 2014. Photo by Darrell Hoemann/

By privately approving the ad and taking action, the nine-member city council violated the Open Meeting’s Act, according to a Public Access Counselor report, released last month. The Public Access Counselor, Sarah Pratt, is a lawyer in the Attorney General’s office who works to ensure compliance by public bodies with Open Meetings Act and Illinois Freedom of Information Act regulations.

Slices of Life: Willie Summerville: “Somebody say ‘Amen'”

By Samantha Bakall — Willie T. Summerville sits behind the church organ, his fingers dancing on the keys and his lips slightly pursed at the microphone, ready to sing. He does not need his hands to conduct. His elbows, shoulders and upper body serve as the signaling baton. His close-cropped hair is sprinkled salt and pepper, showing his 67 years against his dark skin. His large, grandfather-esque bifocal glasses overshadow the rest of his face, but through the thick lenses, his eyes are smiling.

Slices of Life: Missing the music

By Sonia Kurniawan — If only. If only he were back in Bali. He would not have so many sleepless nights. His heart would not ache with sadness because of his inability to infuse the feeling of his beloved gamelan music into the hearts of his American students. “How am I to make my students one with the music?”

Slices of Life: Area families struggle to find life after a soldier’s death

By Jonathan Jacobson — Connie Bickers gave me simple directions to her house in St. Joseph, but the country roads in central Illinois all look the same and in the pitch black of a winter evening I get lost. I find her house when I see a memorial road sign labeled “Cory Hubbell Way.” The sign was dedicated last October (2007) by Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn in honor of Bickers’ son, who died while serving in Kuwait in 2003. He is the reason I’m here.

Slices of Life: Never give up: The constant message at Restoration Urban Ministries

By Candice Norwood — The Rev. Ervin Williams loves Sunday night, the rare time when he can stop, relax and listen. As the founder of Champaign’s Restoration Urban Ministries, his work week is long and often divided among preaching three church services, running staff meetings and teaching classes aimed at helping the 120 homeless residents the ministry has on average in its Transitional Housing Program. Yet each Sunday, he and a handful of congregants gather inside Restoration’s sanctuary for worship and testimony. During the morning service, the sanctuary’s 60 chairs might be full. Tonight, there are 14 people.