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Monthly Archives: May 2017

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Education: Rockford Christian celebrates 20th commencement

ROCKFORD — Rockford Christian High School celebrated its 20th annual commencement ceremony Tuesday with 103 graduates.

More than 900 family and friends packed Heartland Community Church to see the class of 2017 walk across the stage. Rockford Christian Schools Superintendent Randy Taylor urged the graduates to remember that life is about choices.

Rockford Christian Schools Superintendent Randy Taylor (left) moves graduating senior Meaghan Heimbach’s tassel from right to left on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, during the Rockford Christian High School graduation ceremony at Heartland Community Church. [KAYLI PLOTNER/RRSTAR.COM]

“It is my hope that you will be the generation that makes a difference in the world,” he said.

The ceremony also included speeches from international student Pakone Bouaphanh, Salutatorian Luke Joiner and Co-Valedictorians Elise Schleicher and William Mecklenburg.

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Leadership & Youth: Coalition seeks nominees for Rockford’s Peace Builder Youth Awards

ROCKFORD — With the end of the traditional school year upon us, schools and organizations around Winnebago County are celebrating young athletes, performers and scholars for various achievements.

The winners of the 2016 Peace Builder Youth Awards was a group of refugee students at Rock Valley College who created a mural for their new community. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

But the Peace Coalition of Rock River Valley wants to honor groups of children and young adults it believes don’t receive enough recognition — those who work hard to help cultivate and enhance peace in our community.

The coalition started the Peace Builder Youth Awards a year ago, celebrating a combined 11 individuals and organizations last fall. This year, organizers hope to highlight an even larger number of inspiring children and young adults, and are looking for nominations.

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T-Map Project: Blue Zones: Little Things Can Make A Big Difference In Health And Life Expectancy

The issue of health is everywhere today, from national policy all the way down to what we do as individuals.

In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Victor Yehling talks with Dr. Thomas Schiller, medical director of BetterLife Wellness at SwedishAmerican Health Systems, about what individuals can do to improve their health – and what support and encouragement is available.

The idea of a “better life” sounds very appealing, and Schiller makes it very clear that each person can have a profound effect on his or her own health.

“So much of health, so much of disease in the world today is really self-inflicted,” he said. “Certainly in our community, in a developed country, lifestyle choices have resulted in an epidemic of a number of things.”

We hear often and a lot, he says, about the increasing number of our citizens who are overweight, suffering from chronic diseases, taking multiple medications, and make frequent trips for medical care and treatment.

“The World Health Organization would say that probably 70 percent of deaths in the United States are affected by, really, four lifestyle choices: smoking, inactivity, nutritional choices – what we eat and the resulting obesity, and excessive alcohol use,” Schiller said. “So that’s a little sobering, but also I think a little hopeful, because those are all modifiable behaviors.”

Dr. Thomas Schiller

He cites these positive factors in the “science for hope:”

  • Since the mid- ’40s or ’50s the rate of smoking among adults has been going down.
  • Since the mid-’90s the rate of smoking among teenagers has been going down.
  • Our epidemic of obesity has kind of plateaued around the year 2000 and flattened out a little bit.
  • The rates of our children who are obese and overweight, although much higher than it was 10 to 20 years ago, has leveled off in the last few years and started going down.

“But then, those are all modifiable behaviors,” he noted. “What makes life better is personal choices that impact any of those and result in healthier employees, healthier citizens, healthier people.”

What can people do to deal with any or all of those issues?

“I’m a firm believer that you want to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do,” Schiller explained, “and a lot of that has to do with availability and access to healthy choices rather than less healthy ones.”

He also says that incentives can play an important role – even if you have to create them yourself.

“Certainly on a personal level you can say, ‘Well, if I do A, the result might be B and I like the result B,’” Schiller says.

He also notes that employers can provide incentives to entice their workers to do things that make them healthier – things like promoting additional activities, offering or encouraging smoking-cessation classes, providing programs on buying and preparing healthier foods, and more.

There can be a double benefit for employers who encourage their workers to be healthy, Schiller says, in terms of productivity and insurance costs. His own employer has some 3,000 people under its umbrella, so it’s self-insured: It pays all health-care costs for its workers rather than buying an outside policy to cover them.

“For years (SwedishAmerican) has incentivized employee behaviors,” he said. “To have a lower premium for my health insurance, I’m incentivized to participate in activities, to exercise, to know my (blood-pressure and cholesterol) numbers.”

Employees can opt into or opt out of those programs, Schiller explained, but “with cost savings to me, I’m incentivized to participate.”

He notes that not all companies are large enough to insure themselves, but even small companies might win lower rates on the health policies they buy if their employees take part in healthy activities.

“The system certainly saves money,” he said, “the individuals’ out-of-pocket costs would go down, and supplies or other health-care costs would be less.”

Healthy people also feel better and are able to enjoy the things they do more, Schiller adds, and employers benefit because healthier workers are more productive workers and they don’t miss work as much.

“Really, it is a win all around for those things,” he said.

Schiller says the community also can get involved to encourage healthier living, citing the Blue Zone Project that was discussed as part of the continuing Transform Rockford interaction.

“Although there’s a fair amount of work to be done for that,” he said, “societal infrastructure certainly plays a role in those healthy choices and doing the right thing.”

That “societal infrastructure,” he explains, would include certain factors within the community:

  • Easy and ready access to healthy foods – a problem for those who live in so-called food deserts
  • Effective public transportation – having the option to walk and/or take the bus to work rather than drive
  • Available recreational activities — like walking and bicycle paths, parks, and participatory athletic or sporting events

“If they’re not there,” he said, “it’s hard to make that choice. The more available they are, the easier it is to opt to participate in those things and make the healthy choices.”

Schiller also is a strong supporter of physical education in the schools and “would not want to see that diminished in any way.”

Although many factors – including genetics – can affect any given individual, Schiller said, “For any individual, the benefits of specific interventions or very specific changes are undeniable.”

And, he says, you don’t necessarily have to make massive changes to see positive results. “Everybody doesn’t have to have a marathon runner’s body, but five pounds of weight loss can have a very significant impact on quality of life, length of life,” Schiller said.

“It’s not that somebody who’s 50 pounds overweight needs to lose 50 pounds; they can lose five pounds and start reaping benefits,” he summarized, “which is why even little interventions – walking even a little bit more, being a little more mindful of what you’re eating, quitting smoking – small steps toward a healthier life can make huge differences.”

News Source:

T-Map Project: Blue Zones click here

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Unity, Pride, Culture: Rockford City Market

Rockford City Market (located in downtown Rockford at the intersection of Water Street and Market Street) features local growers and vendors who sell natural products and unique retail items, live music, demonstrations and kids’ activities.

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T-Map Project: Community Mentoring Program; Fred VanVleet returns to Rockford to host youth summer camp

ROCKFORD — Fresh off his first season in the NBA, Fred VanVleet has returned to his hometown to host a basketball camp this summer for area youth.

VanVleet — a Toronto Raptors guard, Auburn High School alum and Rockford’s first sports tourism ambassador — will host the first-ever FVV Summer Camp. The program is designed for boys and girls from kindergarten through high school.

VanVleet, who is spending the next several weeks in Rockford until he heads to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League in July, promises his camp will be an intense workout for budding athletes to prove to themselves they have the drive to excel on the court. If they don’t, he said, they can get on a different track to find their calling.

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Visit T-Map Project Dashboard: click here

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T-Map Project: Downtown Development; BUSINESSFirst helps redevelopment projects in the community.

Rockford Community Partners is proud to announce “BUSINESSFirst”, a joint venture with the City of Rockford, Winnebago County, Winnebago County Health Department, Small Business Development Center and Rock River Water Reclamation District to assist individuals in redeveloping an existing property or open a new business in an existing property.

BUSINESSFirst starts by making available a team of partners to any individual with a redevelopment project in the community.  An individual can make an appointment to meet with the team for 30 minutes to discuss their project.  The team meets:

  • the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, from 2:30pm – 4:30pm
  • at the Regional Center for Planning & Design, 315 North Main Street, Rockford, IL  61101
  • beginning June 23, 2015

By having all of these partners in one place at one time, face to face with the customer, we are able to facilitate the most efficient and effective process for the customer.

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Visit T-MAP Parent Strategy: Downtown Development


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T-Map Project: Community Safety Engagement; Domestic Violence Help

Remedies provides critical and often times lifesaving services to adults struggling with substance abuse and to victims of domestic violence and their children, and works to end the cycle of abuse and addiction through education and community involvement.

We are the only domestic violence shelter and advocacy agency in Winnebago and Boone counties. Each year Remedies serves over 1,500 victims of domestic violence, roughly 20% of which are children. Remedies substance abuse programs serve an additional 1,800 adults each year. We provide a safe, supportive environment and critical, client-centered services designed to promote the healing of individuals and families.

Remedies is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization governed by a voluntary board of directors.

Visit website:

Visit T-Map Projects on Community Safety Engagement: click here

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T-MAP Project: RVC-NIU Engineering Partnership

RVC-NIU Engineering PartnershipRock Valley College and Northern Illinois are now offering a program where students can earn their associate degree in engineering from RVC and go on to earn a bachelor’s in engineering from NIU all on the RVC campus in Rockford.  NIU is also offering a master’s degree in engineering at RVC.

Engineering is an exciting field that will beckon talented people and provide fulfilling employment for decades.

Companies are keenly interested in finding the best and brightest talent. And Rock Valley College and Northern Illinois University are committed to filling the void.

We’re joining forces with industry leaders to offer three bachelors degrees and one masters degree in engineering right here at RVC in Rockford beginning in 2016.

Students can now study close to home for the degrees of the future. They can play key roles in helping dynamic, successful companies in our world class aerospace and manufacturing clusters by becoming a home-grown pipeline of talent. Together, we will meet the needs of our region’s thriving manufacturing and innovation economy.

Visit T-Map Project page!

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Unity, Pride, Culture: Rockford City Market enters 8th season — with a bit of poetry

ROCKFORD — City Market starts its eighth season Friday, and the woman who makes the market go is expecting the weekly event to draw around 100,000 visits to downtown this year.

By the end of the 2016 season, the market had drawn 97,030 visits, said Cathy McDermott, market manager, who predicts a similar number this year, primarily because of the market’s commitment to “quality local vendors.” There are 72 vendors — 13 of them new — listed on the Rockford City Market website.

“We also pay attention to the many details and evaluate what works and what doesn’t after every weekly market,” McDermott said. “In 2017, we expect that our revised layout will be an improvement as we’ve tried to spread it out a bit and alleviate some congestion under the pavilion.”

Read more—with-bit-of-poetry