Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Army vet, ‘DWTS’ winner J.R. Martinez to speak at UIS

A University of Illinois Springfield spokesman said the school has been trying to “up its game” regarding its Veterans Day events.

Wounded U.S. Army veteran J.R. Martinez, who has carved out a career as an actor, author and speaker, will speak at a public event at the UIS Student Union Ballroom at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Earlier that day, there will be a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Public Affairs Center.

Martinez’s message, said Mark Dochterman, assistant vice chancellor for student engagement, will focus on overcoming adversity and facing life’s challenges. “That’s a message that certainly applies to our student veterans,” Dochterman said, adding that UIS has 275 “military-connected” students and about 50 faculty and staff members who are veterans.

In 2003, Martinez, then 19 years old, was providing an escort to a convoy in Karbala, Iraq, when his Humvee ran over a roadside bomb. Martinez was trapped inside the vehicle when it was engulfed in flames. He sustained burns over 34 percent of his body as well as smoke inhalation.

His story is recounted in the 2012 memoir “Full of My Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit.”

At the Veterans Day event, Dochterman said, a new UIS Veterans Emergency Grant will be launched. It will help student veterans cover bills, food, medical expenses and travel in emergency situations.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 23, 2019.

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Women's Volleyball: Nicolaisen, Prairie Stars make quick work on the road

University of Illinois Springfield beat Purdue Northwest 25-16, 25-11, 25-8 in a nonconferenc match on Tuesday.

Hannah Nicolaisen led UIS with 10 kills and had two digs. Jailyn Borum led the Prairie Stars with 15 digs. Rachel Cobert added 12 digs and three blocks, while Becca Blakely had 28 assists. Alli Splitt had eight kills and a .467 hitting percentage.

UIS is 15-10 and will travel to Lebanon on Friday to face in-state GLVC conference rival McKendree.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 29, 2019.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Women's Volleyball: Stars sweep Lindenwood in straight sets

Jailyn Borum had 13 digs and 10 kills for the University of Illinois Springfield volleyball team in a Great Lakes Valley Conference sweep over Lindenwood, 25-12, 25-21, 25-18 at The Recreation and Athletic Complex on Friday.

UIS had a .284 hitting percentage while holding the Lions to just .043. Alli Splitt led the Stars with 12 kills. Jenny Rush had 12 digs, and Brianna Bush had three blocks to help UIS improve to 14-9 overall and 5-3 in the GLVC.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 26, 2019.

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Men's Soccer: UIS men’s soccer climbs back to .500

Javier Milla and Daniel Kemp delivered a couple of early goals and the University of Illinois Springfield men’s soccer team defeated Rockhurst 2-1 at Bourke Field on Sunday.

Milla scored on a free kick during the 6th minute while Kemp converted on passes from Thiago Fernandes and Mario Falsone in the 18th minute.

UIS goalkeeper Pijus Petkevicius had two saves and gave up the only goal with about 12 minutes left in regulation.

The Stars improved to 7-7-2 overall and 5-6-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 27, 2019.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

A block away, Child Advocacy Center gets new home

Years ago, Betsy Goulet stood in a courtroom with her husband, Joe, as advocates trying to deal with a small child who had been sexually abused. As they were trying to get the child ready to testify, the girl crawled under the prosecutor’s table, curled up and wouldn’t come out, Goulet recalled. “We used every skill we had, which, at the time, wasn’t much,” Goulet said. “We didn’t have a clue whether she would be able to testify to what happened to her.”

Goulet said she thinks about the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center when she recalls that little girl. At the time, the center didn’t exist. Goulet was then the rape victim advocate at the Rape Crisis Center in Springfield and her husband, Joseph, was then the sexual assault detective with the Springfield Police Department.

“We were trying to use an adult-centered agency to deal with these kids, and we were making stuff up as we could,” Goulet said. “But the door kept opening and children were coming through because there were no other services for kids.”

That eventually prompted “a nervous phone call” from Goulet to then-Sangamon County State’s Attorney Don Cadagin and led to two years of meetings before the Child Advocacy Center was set up in 1989.

Marking its 30th anniversary, the center held its official opening Thursday at its new location at 1101 E. Monroe St. It was previously located in a building on Monroe Street across the 10th Street railroad tracks from the county complex for 27 years after initially starting out in the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery.

The CAC coordinates the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child sexual abuse cases, but it also deals with children who are physically abused, witnesses to violent crimes, caught up in sex trafficking or were involved in child pornography, said current executive director Denise Johnson

The goal is to sensitize the system to the needs of young victims by reducing the number of interviews they have to go through, limiting the number of professionals with whom a child has contact and expedite the cases through the judicial system.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 24, 2019.

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UIS Alumni Teresa Haley is 2019 First Citizen

The local and state leader of a national civil rights organization is The State Journal-Register’s 2019 First Citizen.

Civil rights leader Teresa Haley, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Illinois State Conference, was named First Citizen during a breakfast presentation Thursday at Erin’s Pavilion at Southwind Park.

The 57th annual First Citizen Award recognizes the unselfish service an individual gives to the community.

Haley’s fight for justice impacts Springfield, the state and beyond. Haley has worked with Springfield School District 186 to ensure fair and equitable treatment for minority students. She is working to have the site of the Springfield 1908 Race Riot designated a National Monument site. Haley, 54, has been involved for more than 25 years with NAACP, which has a vision of ensuring a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.

“The NAACP was founded because of the 1908 Race Riot here in Springfield,” Haley said. “I love my community. I love telling them about the rich history. I love telling them where we’ve been, and I’m excited about telling them where we’re going, so thank you, Springfield. I love you all.”

Haley is an alumni of the University of Illinois Springfield.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 24, 2019.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Witter mentors under the dome, in broader Springfield community

During a career that has spanned more than 40 years, lobbyist Randy Witter has come to be known as the “go-to” guy under the Illinois Capitol dome, building a reputation for honesty and integrity among clients and lawmakers while helping shepherd along the next generation through his firm’s internship program.

Though he jokes about how his wife and colleagues younger than him have started to retire, Witter, 70, said the draw of helping people keeps him in the game.

“There have been days where I have left the Capitol and I think, ‘Wow, something that we just did and some law that we’ve been working on will truly make a difference in the lives of a lot of people in Illinois,’”

Witter said, pointing to examples like the initial Illinois Indoor Clean Air Act in the late-80s and clarifying what constitutes a service animal. This desire to help others is reflected outside Witter’s professional life in the time he gives volunteering for a plethora of community organizations and by serving in various capacities at his alma mater, the University of Illinois Springfield.

Witter’s community service includes several roles with the University of Illinois system, including representing UIS on the U of I Alumni Alliance from 2015 to 2019 and chairing the UIS Campus Alumni Advisory Board.

He uses his background as a lobbyist to help with advocacy efforts, most recently participating in U of I’s trip to Washington, D.C.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said she “wholeheartedly support[s]” Witter’s First Citizen nomination, noting that Witter has always answered the call, whether it is a request for help from university administration or “a simple call from a student organization to be a guest speaker.” “As Chancellor, I could not ask for a better community-minded partner to help grow the university’s relationships with the Springfield community,” Koch said.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 20, 2019.

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Indiana exoneree to speak at UIS

An Indiana woman who was convicted in 1996 of murder and arson for allegedly setting a fire that killed her three-year-old, but later had her case overturned, will speak at the University of Illinois Springfield this week.

Kristine Bunch will speak at the UIS Student Ballroom as a guest of the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) at noon on Wednesday. Bunch spent 17 years in prison until her conviction was reversed in 2012.

Two arson investigators concluded that the fire in the trailer had started in two places and that a liquid accelerant had been used to start the fire at both locations. Bunch was ultimately sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 60 years for murder and 50 years for arson. Attorneys from the Center on Wrongful Convictions later discovered that evidence about the fire being intentionally set had been fabricated.

The IIP has played a significant role in 12 exonerations since its founding as the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at the university in 2001.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 20, 2019.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Illinois State Police changes education requirements for applicants

Right now, the Illinois State Police is changing its policies to draw in more potential new hires. 

Starting next year, you will no longer need a bachelor's degree to apply to be a state trooper.
Applicants will now only need an associate’s degree or 60 credits of course work.

The reason? A shortage of state police in Illinois.

In 2009, the state police had approximately 2,119 troopers. Today, they only have about 1,767. "We don't have enough troopers out there in my opinion, We need to be out there patrolling the interstates," said Hector Alejandre, a master sergeant with the Illinois State Police.

University of Illinois Springfield political science professor Ryan Williams believes that this will open doors to lower-income applicants. "A two-year degree might be more affordable for the population that can't afford a four-year degree,” said Williams.

Williams said a bachelor's degree does help in certain areas. "An education helps them be more empathetic,” said Williams. “It helps them write better when they have to write reports." Overall, he said lowering academic requirements won't make a big difference in everyday police work.

ISP officials said they also offer tuition reimbursements if troopers want to go back to college after they're hired. They are actively recruiting for their 2020 state trooper class.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on October 8, 2019.

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Illinois Innocence Project case gets clemency hearing

A Chicago woman whose 1992 double murder conviction was taken up by the Springfield-based Illinois Innocence Project will have a clemency hearing before the Prisoner Review Board at the Thompson Center on Wednesday.

Marilyn Mulero’s co-defendant in the case has repeatedly confessed to being the sole murderer of Jimmy Cruz and Hector Reyes, both members of the Latin Kings gang.

Mulero originally was sentenced to death, though that sentence was later reduced to life without parole.

There have been 19 exonerations to date involving the two Chicago police detectives, Reynaldo Guevara and Ernest Halvorsen, who arrested Mulero.

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP), which is based at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been joined by The Exoneration Project and the California Innocence Project in representing Mulero.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 8, 2019.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Men's Soccer: Falsone powers UIS to second straight win

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s soccer team cruised to a 5-1 victory over Truman State at Kiwanis Stadium for its second straight win Sunday.

Mario Falsone scored both of his goals in the first half for a 3-1 halftime advantage. He converted a penalty kick during the 6th minute and struck again midway through the half for his fourth goal of the season.

Dan Mahoney made it 2-0 with his second goal of the season, assisted by Harry Hiscock. Mario Gonzalez and Drew Keller each tacked on a goal in the second half to lift UIS to 5-4-1 overall and 3-3-1 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 6, 2019.

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Women's Volleyball: UIS volleyball wins seventh straight

The University of Illinois Springfield volleyball team pushed its winning streak to seven matches following Saturday’s four-set victory over Maryville at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

Brianna Bush was a defensive juggernaut, totaling 11 blocks on top of nine kills.

The Stars (12-4 overall, 4-0 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference) recorded 17.5 blocks while Maryville had four. Becca Blakeley tallied 46 assists while Rachel Cobert had a team-high 15 kills. Hannah Nicolaisen added 11 kills for UIS.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 5, 2019.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

As UIS marks wrongful convictions, exoneree says the fight continues

On Wednesday morning, students involved with the Illinois Innocence Project planted 2,492 small flags on the University of Illinois Springfield quad representing the number of men and women who have been exonerated of crimes since 1989.

In the middle of the display were 304 “UIS blue flags,” signifying the number of Illinois exonerees from that time.

“For me (this day) is a reminder of where I was years ago,” said Angel Gonzalez of Waukegan, who gained his freedom with the help of the Illinois Innocence Project after spending nearly 21 years in prison.

“It’s also a reminder that there are still a lot of men and women fighting to prove their innocence. It’s a joyful day, but at the same time it keeps me connected to what’s going on.”

The Illinois Innocence Project, which was founded at UIS in 2001, was one of about 50 or so innocence organizations marking International Wrongful Conviction Day, first started in 2014. 

Gonzalez, who was convicted of sexual assault 25 years ago before gaining the help of the New York-based Innocence Project and the IIP, spent Tuesday and Wednesday on campus speaking to students and staff members.

“Talking to the students is always great,” said Gonzalez. “I feel like they’re the ones who will eventually take over and make the system work and be a benefit for everybody. It brings me to meet face-to-face with those who have helped me and those who are continuing to help me.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 2, 2019.

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