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Frack Attack in Illinois

by Tyreshia Black 

Anti-fracking activists in Boulder, Colo., during a recent protest. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation. – See more at: http://wethepeoplemedia.org/#sthash.4O2DVbp7.dpuf

The Illinois legislature passed a bill the last week of May that would regulate fracking, the controversial practice for getting natural gas and oil by injecting water and chemicals into shale formations. The bill is being called the strictest package of fracking regulations in the nation. But many people disagree with it. That’s because they think there should be a moratorium or ban on fracking. The bill will become law if Gov. Pat Quinn signs it. Right now there is no fracking in Illinois. But if the bill passes, fracking is expected to start. The bill does have some safeguards but critics say that fracking can never be safe.

Industry, of course, is all for the fracking in Illinois. They say it will bring jobs and needed energy. But concerned activists like Annette McMichael and Beverly Walter disagree with the idea of fracking because they are worried it will cause serious pollution of our drinking water and air. They are backing a proposed bill that would put a moratorium on fracking, which would mean no fracking for the next two years, while more studies are done. That bill was introduced in the state General Assembly by state Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

McMichael is a member of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE). She has had personal encounters with industry representatives near her home.

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Making a college visit count

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood.

The student editor of Michigan State University's State News shows off recent editions of the publication during a visit this fall to the academic institution's campus. Photo by Tyreshia Black.


Every year, high school students across Chicago start preparing to attend a college or university. The effort is a big undertaking, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many different types of higher education institutions to choose from, and a lot of students don’t know what they’re looking for.

One important way that many students figure out what they want from a college is through a campus visit. During a visit, prospective students tour the campus, talk to professors, and learn about student life.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Tametrius Files, a 16-year-old Simeon High School student who has visited Eastern Illinois University, DePaul University and other schools.

Experts say it is important to make the most out of college visits.

Betty Weinberger, a college consultant at a Glencoe-based company called North Shore College Counseling Services, said in an e-mail interview that students must make realistic and appropriate plans in order to ensure their campus visits are worthwhile.

“You might begin by asking yourself the following questions,” she said. “Do you like a large school or small? Do you want to be in the city in an urban environment or do you prefer a suburban or even small town environment?”

Ms. Weinberger added that students should also think about college activities while on a campus tour as well as their fields of interest.
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A Weekend of Firsts

by Cornelius Jordan 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Eco Youth Reporters visit the studio of “Off The Record,” a student-produced television news program, on the campus of Michigan State University as part of a group trip to that academic institution. Photo by Micah Maidenberg

The second weekend of November, I traveled to Michigan State University. It was a weekend of firsts for me. I had never been on an Amtrak train before. I also had never stayed over in a hotel. And I had never visited a college campus before.

Our group left on Saturday, Nov. 12, from Union Station in Chicago. The train was gray on the outside. Inside, it had comfortable seats, with a button on the side allowing you to lean back. There was a food court where I bought a breakfast sandwich and an orange juice
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Shedd Aquarium Showcases Invasive Species

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

An Asian Carp. Photo by Tyreshia Black.

I got a chance to visit the legendary world of wonders at the Shedd Aquarium recently. The aquarium holds multiple exhibits of all types of fascinating animals. When my colleagues, journalism teacher and I arrived at the aquarium, we were introduced to Melissa Kruth, the public relations manager and Jillian Braun, a new intern. The two polite employees walked us through the huge crowds of busy people trying to view the beautiful creatures in each exhibit.

Braun and Kruth directed us to Kurt Hettiger, the senior aquarist at the Shedd Aquarium. He has worked there for approximately 19 years, two years as an intern and 17 years as a full-time employee. Hettiger has been working with mainly invasive species and endangered native animals including fish. Invasive species have been invading and intruding into large open areas of Lake Michigan. The most recent invasive fish categorized as an invasive species is the big head carp, which is a kind of Asian carp.

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The Health Effects of Pollution in Pilsen

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Parents gathered in Pilsen on May 11 at the Casa Aztlan Community Center, 1831 S. Racine, to get information on how to try to keep their children safe from lead poisoning and other sources of pollution in the Near Southwest Side neighborhood.

People at the meeting were extremely concerned about lead from the smelter H. Kramer and also about particles and other pollution from the Fisk coal burning power plant. Doctors and city health officials were also there.

Chicago public health department doctor Cortland J. Lohff informed the audience that lead is a dangerous compound that can cause poisoning depending on dosage. Children ages six months to six years old are most likely to get lead poisoning, according to Lohff. When they play in parks and playgrounds where there are high levels of lead in the soil, it can easily get into their systems and cause brain damage and behavioral problems.

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Lead and Coal Plants in Pilsen

by Cornelius Jordan 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

A coal-fired power plant in the Pilsen neighborhood. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

On May 11, angry and disappointed residents gathered at Casa Aztlan in Pilsen to hear about the risks from the Fisk coal plant and the H. Kramer brass smelter in their neighborhood.

Forty deaths a year and 550 emergency room visits are caused by Fisk and the city’s other coal plant in Little Village, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The coal plants were “grandfathered” in under the Clean Air Act that was signed in 1970. Grandfathered means it’s been there for a long time so it doesn’t have to equal up to the same standards as coal plants built these days.

Now a law is proposed that 25 aldermen are supporting which could force the power plants to shut down. The group Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) is trying to pass the ordinance.

At the meeting, residents said Ald. Danny Solis should stick to his promises since he won the run-off election in April after promising he would shut down the coal plants, or force them to clean up their emissions.

People at the meeting loudly questioned why Solis was not there personally and yelled at the representative he had sent, Steve Stults. They were treating him badly because they didn’t want him there, they wanted the alderman. Raker said Solis could not attend because of a scheduling conflict but is very committed to the issue.

Stacy Raker, a spokesperson for Solis, said the alderman will definitely keep his promise and that the ordinance will be reintroduced in City Council on July 28.

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Environmental Journalism Program Image Gallery

by Quintana Woodridge 

For the past few weeks, Chicago youth involved in the Eco Youth Reporters program, funded by the McCormick Foundation, have explored global environmental issues on a local level. They interviewed local experts on topics ranging from coal plants to the dangers of invasive fish species. Under the guidance of award-winning reporter Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, these journalists are learning to effectively cover the larger environmental issues and spread awareness within the Chicago community through print stories, photography and video documentation.

Tyreshia Black snags invasive zebra mussels. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

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