On Religion, The Media and Life as a 20-something in Chicago


These articles are some of my favorites. Some even were the judges’ favorites in those annual newspaper contests.

Secrets of Munger Road
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Oct. 41, 2011

This is the third article I’ve written with the Elgin Paranormal Investigators. This time, we investigated the urban legends that inspired the locally-filmed, surprisingly successful independent film “Munger Road.” And my article appeared on a full color page in the Chicago Sun-Times on Halloween.

The Elgin Paranormal Investigators had been at the railroad crossing on Munger Road here no more than a half-hour on a recent Saturday night when they experienced what investigator Krystiena Kurtz called the stuff of “our worst nightmares.” There were screams from the railroad tracks, all kinds of activity, flashing lights, and then … “OK, everybody get in the car and leave. This place isn’t haunted. It hasn’t been haunted for 40 years.” … there were the Bartlett police. (Read more.)

‘Not Just A Sears Issue’
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

It’s “not just a Sears issue.” The continuing issue whether to renew tax breaks for the economic development area surrounding Sears’ corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago will impact business in the entire state of Illinois. It also will impact Carpentersville-area Community School District 300, the state’s sixth-largest school district. And by “impact,” I mean “cost $217 million.”

But for all District 300’s opposition to extending tax incentives for the EDA surrounding the company’s 200-acre Prairie Stone headquarters, Superintendent Michael Bregy said, “It isn’t just a Sears issue.” (Read more.)

‘Fantastic’ Tale
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011

Did you know there is one private university in North Korea, largely supported by Christian groups like the Church of the Brethren? Or that the Church of the Brethren is headquartered in the Chicago suburbs? Neither did I. 

Howard Royer admits the story sounds “fantastic”: A Korean-American, imprisoned as a suspected spy while helping with famine relief in North Korea in the 1990s, later is asked by its government to create the country’s first private university. And yet the Church of the Brethren, headquartered in Elgin, now supports that university, which is in itself fantastic — “very strange and phenomenal for North Korea because it’s so closed,” Royer said. (Read more.) 

Head Of The Classes
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My invitation to be Principal for a Day in Elgin School District U46 turned into a column, which turned into a cover story. It also turned out to be a lot of fun! 

Leslie had won a raffle earlier in the school year to be principal for an hour. And since I was at Sunnydale to shadow Principal Denise Lockwald as part of Elgin School District U46’s third Principal for a Day program, I was looking for advice. (Read more.)

ECC, teachers reach tentative pact
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Friday, April 15, 2011

Covering union negotiations is part of the job as an education reporter. This was one time Facebook really helped to do that, when negotiations between Elgin Community College and its faculty union ran from 4:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Elgin Community College and its faculty union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract after more than 12 hours straight of negotiations that ended at about 5 a.m. Thursday. The agreement averts a potential walkout by teachers, who had filed a required 10-day strike notice last week. (Read more.)

Bush Talk Earns Applause And A Portrait
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Thursday, April 14, 2011

It’s not every day former President George W. Bush comes to your university to inaugurate your entrepreneurship program. It’s also not every day a university puts a media blackout on an event, which meant I had to get creative to cover Bush’s visit to Judson University in Elgin (i.e. connect with students attending the event ahead of time and have them text, tweet and email me reactions from inside).

“It was great to see him in a comfortable setting,” said Samuel Szobody, a junior in Judson’s architecture program. “He was laid back, funny, even eloquent at times — a grandpa figure.” (Read more.)

Pink Slips And Protests
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Friday, March 25, 2011

Cuts to education have been some of the deepest in the state budget, which, in turn, has led to some drastic budget cuts in the two K-12 school districts I primarily cover.

Four resolutions to lay off teachers narrowly passed 4-3 Wednesday and will clear the way for Community Unit School District 300 to restructure its middle and high schools. And students at the district’s three high schools made good on their vow to continue protesting those cuts Thursday as pink slips were handed out to teachers. (Read more.)

‘It Takes A Community’
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010

U46 is the second-largest school district in Illinois, following Chicago Public Schools, and many of the issues they face are very similar. This, about the issue of achievement gaps in U46, was one of the articles I submitted to win third place in the 2011 Robert M. Cole Award for school board coverage, sponsored by the Illinois School Board Association and the Illinois Press Association.

The summit was an acknowledgement of the sizeable achievement gap between white and black students in the Elgin area school district, according to U46 Superintendent Jose Torres. It also was a call for the community to get involved and to discuss ways everyone can work together to close that gap, he added. (Read more.) 

Choosing Among Limited Options
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010

Illinois State Report Cards come out every year. Boooring. So I planned ahead to come up with a new way to cover their results: Following several families trying to transfer their children out of failing schools.

Each (parent) had very different issues with the school district. Their children had very different struggles in school. And their journeys through the U.S. public education system ended in very different ways. (Read more.) 

Midwest ‘Fireball’ Lights Up Sky In Kane
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Friday, April 16, 2010

You know you’re a geek when you get more excited about your article appearing on the front page of Google News than on the front page of the newspaper…

Residents across the area reported a similar scene Wednesday night as a fireball — perhaps a very bright meteor — streaked east to west across the upper Midwest sky. (Read more.)

Elgin’s Most Haunted
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009

This article and the accompanying video and column are one of my all-time favorite packages. Come on: It was a dark and stormy night, and I spent it with the Elgin Paranormal Investigators.

It was a dark and stormy night in early October when Greg Stout drove his dark-colored GMC Suburban through Elgin’s southeast side. (Read more.)

Saving East Dundee
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Before I started covering education for The Courier-News, I covered five villages in Chicago’s western suburbs. This article, about how the economic downturn has affected the village of East Dundee, was awarded Second Place, Business, at the 2010 Editorial Excellence Contest by the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association.

As a village that draws at least a quarter of its operating budget directly from sales tax revenue, East Dundee is at a crossroads. (Read more.) 

3 Teens Drown During Retreat
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008

This article was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times and awarded First Place, News Reporting — Single Story at the 2009 Excellence in News Contest by the Illinois Press Association.

Three Chicago teenagers drowned in the Fox River early Friday morning after sneaking away on their last night at a youth camp and launching paddle boats into the dark, quickly-moving water. (Read more.) 

Can You Dig It?
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Friday, Aug. 1, 2008

This article has the distinction of being the first article of mine my husband read in its entirety. In fact, it may still be. It also may be the reason he is now my husband.

There is no theory of evolution, according to popular website ChuckNorrisFacts.com. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live. (Read more.)

No Strings Attached
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

Two words: Puppet opera.

That miniature opera, where lifelike puppets perform scenes from opera, operetta and musical recordings year-round, returned Feb. 13 for its 2008 season with Pops at the Puppet Opera, fifth edition. It’s an art form unique to the Chicago area and features the only puppets of its kind in the world. (Read more.)

Putt-Putt And A Funeral
The Courier-News/Sun-Times Media
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

Before I covered education, before I even covered the villages, I started at The Courier-News as a features reporter. This article, along with the puppet opera article, was part of a series I did on “weird and wacky” things within a day trip from our coverage area — and won Second Place for Best Single General Feature at the 2008 Journalism Excellence Awards by the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.

Screams and eerie sounds echoed in the basement of Ahlgrim’s Family Funeral Services in Palatine earlier this month, but funeral director Jeff Ahlgrim wasn’t scared. Neither was his 8-year-old son Matthew, who took turns holding up the broken guillotine with his 6-year-old brother, Joseph, and schoolmate James Kieliszewski, also 8. (Read more.)


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