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Matt Achenbach, 36, stands with his cows just outside Eastman. He’s concerned about the dwindling number of family-operated farms in the area. “It costs too much money to go out and buy an operation,” Achenbach said. “Your debt load is going to be so big it’s ridiculous. You almost have to inherit it. And that’s where family farms are becoming extinct, becoming corporations, everything’s just getting bigger. I’d like to see a small farm, one family operation not have to hire anyone, be able to work by itself.” Achenbach said he’ll be voting for Trump. Photo by Caroline Kubzansky.
By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association
It was a rich sample of blue-collar Wisconsin: farmers markets and the farms stocking them, parks, ice cream shops, gas stations, and, when COVID-19 protocols were followed, local party offices.
From Aug. 13 to 29, Caroline Kubzansky (left) left no hay bale unturned as she navigated the virus and country roads to gauge and report the political temperature in the far reaches of the swing Badger State that flipped blue in the 2020 presidential election.
The 21-year-old University of Chicago fourth-year student and managing editor of the school’s newspaper, The Maroon, insisted one thing go on the record after she recounted the surreal experience during a phone interview Dec. 15.
“I want to underline three times that I would not have done it if I didn’t think I could keep 6 feet away, outside, and do it safely,” she said.
As part of her internship with WisPolitics, she scoured Kenosha County before driving to Winnebago County (now a Covid-19 hotbed southwest of Green Bay), where she covered a Trump rally in an airport hangar. Next she covered ultra-rural white Crawford and Adams counties near Madison, before making the 7-hour journey through mostly deep-red country to Sawyer County, a traditional bellwether in the Northwoods.
“It was very lonely,” Kubzansky said. “It wasn’t, ‘Reporter settles in with the community.’ It was ‘Reporter draws a 6-foot bubble.’ I got groceries once.”
She did some door-to-door canvassing, “attempted” meeting sources at local bars, “although that’s sort of cliched,” she said, and felt her skin crawl at some places where COVID-19 protocols were not being followed.
Kubzansky was grateful to the university’s Institute of Politics for footing the AirBNB bills so she could feel safe in single-person lodging.
But she still thought critically about the trip before hitting the road.
“I seriously considered the implications and the example it set for me to be traveling under these circumstances,” she said. “I’m someone who very strongly subscribes to social distancing. So I took a gallon of hand sanitizer and stood on a lot of sidewalks 6 feet away from people.”
A mannequin models a mask at the Adams Flea Market. Photo by Caroline Kubzansky.
Kubzansky spent 3 days in Kenosha County canvassing sidewalks and searching country homes and farms for locals she could talk to safely.
“Fortunately it was summer, so a lot of people were outside in their yards,” she said. “I’d just approach them and ask if they’d be willing to talk to me about politics and bills that affect them.”
Two days after she left the county, a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, and the national media swarmed the City of Kenosha.
“People were really eager to turn it into a political football,” Kubzansky said, with an edge in her voice. “It made me sad that so much of it was about how Kenosha would vote. I met a lot of people in the couple of days leading up to that, and I could guess how they were responding to the unrest there. Having gotten to know a lot of people pretty closely, I was really sad to see this happening, knowing they were really freaked out.”
Her report on the state of the county includes a half-dozen sources from various walks of life and political leanings, from the chairs of the county’s parties to a former columnist, a former Democratic
Senate candidate, and a writer and customer language analyst up in arms over “the left … condoning violence as an expression of emotion.”
“She knows the difference between parachuting in for a story, and having spent a little bit more time there,” said Melissa Navas (left), the IOP’s career development director and a mentor to Kubzansky. “In political journalism, you’ll have people fly in and go to a local diner. At her heart, she cares about communities. She knows she needs to immerse herself in a place and not make assertions.”
That’s the job, Kubzansky said. She said she read some national pubs “just as sanity checks,” but mostly stuck to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and, of course, WisPolitics.
“This is what the local media exists to do,” she said.
As polling in Kenosha County began to tilt toward Donald Trump, Kubzansky reached out to another mentor to further assuage her anxiety.
The previous summer, she’d interned for The Iowa Project, where she met David Yepsen, a veteran political reporter and a fixture in Iowa public TV.
“He provided a long-lens view on the whole thing. He’s known the Iowa political scene since 1976,” Kubzanky said. “He’s a lovely dude who’s invested in seeing younger folks come up in journalism.”
It’s immediately evident in a conversation with Kubzansky that she’s hard-wired for journalism. Over the past 2 years, she’s regularly surprised Navas in her first-floor office on campus.
“She’ll just pop into my office with this intensity,” Navas said. “I can tell in her eyes that she wants to talk about a story, or journalism ethics, or anything that isn’t sitting right with her.”
Kubzansky has been involved with The Maroon “since [she] stepped foot on campus as a freshman,” and since being voted in as managing editor days before the pandemic hit, has stepped up and become a mentor herself.
“She’s got this incredible mind for structure and organization, but also for encouragement,” Navas said.
Navas swelled with pride when The Maroon published a story on the campus shutting down the day before the announcement was made. The coverage during the pandemic in general was top-shelf.
But the relentless coverage also exposed the ironic weakness Kubzansky shares with most dogged journalists.
“Sometimes, I have to remind her to just take a deep breath,” Navas said. “I don’t want her to burn out on it early. She is hard-wired to be a journalist. She has this curiosity that will serve her well, and has served her well so far.”
Kubzansky did the interviews for this piece from her parents’ house in Washington, D.C. She said she chose to attend the University of Chicago, “because I’m a big nerd.”
“I got to Chicago and took one look at what I saw,” she said. “I saw a lot of other people who put a lot of stock into books.”
Because the university doesn’t have a J-school, she’s majoring in English and philosophy.
The novels she’s read over the years lend to morals and “say something about the best way to live,” she
said. Before arriving in Chicago, she mostly read long-form journalism in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and
Being assigned to the development beat - “which I kidded and called the gentrification beat,” she said - and covering emotionally charged topics like the proposed extension of the Green Line on Chicago’s South Side, her focus has become hyper-local.
Kubzansky is enamored with the public square-focused City Bureau, and she calls working for Block Club, which covers all aspects of the city’s underserved neighborhoods, “a dream of mine.”
She’s also moved by news that hits hardest in the rural Midwest: from the dairy crisis and the defund-the-police coming home to roost, to brain drain and indiginous people’s role in local civic machines.
So living and working in, say, St. Croix County along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border would work as well as staying in the city that’s captured her heart.
“It would be tough from a personal perspective, but I need work,” she said. “And I’d definitely go work in St. Croix County over CNN in a heartbeat.”
LEFT: Virgil Miller, models the masks he purchased on Main Street. He takes a dim view of President Trump. “[Trump] has no respect for people, no respect for women, no respect for anyone but himself,” Miller said. Photo by Caroline Kubzansky.
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Americans have been preparing
for the impact of a pandemic for over 75 years!
From home economics to the modern family and consumer sciences classes, the foundation of basic life skills helped bring families through 2020 and beyond.
Feb. 9, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Marissa Kunerth, communications & public relations manager
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America
RESTON, VA – For many, it has taken a global pandemic to motivate them to refine and reuse many basic life skills. With restaurants closed and stay-at-home mandates in place, a growing number of adults have turned to online tutorials, social media recipes, and family and friends to learn basic life skills. Admittedly, more than a fourth of Americans admit they cannot cook and claim this skill is something they now realize is an essential skill that should be taught in every school in the United States.
75 years ago, when Future Homemakers of America (FHA), presently known as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), was founded, no one thought the skills gained through Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) classes would get families through a pandemic. The country was digging out of the Great Depression and using skills taught at home and in Home Economics to rebuild the economy of our country. In education, Home Economics transitioned to Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994 and some felt these classes were no longer essential. Since 2012, there has been an estimated 40% decline in FCS classes, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to an outcry to bring “Home Ec” back and reinforced how important basic life skills are to not only be successful at home but holistically as humans impacting careers and communities.
Since its inception in 1945, FCCLA has promoted the need for FCS education for every student in every state in every school. FCCLA knows the importance of FCS education, which provides students with lifelong skills such as nutrition, menu planning, food preparation, clothing care and construction, money management, child development, and workforce readiness. Many students move from learning basic skills in an apron to preparing hopefully to someday wear a chef’s coat.
Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood shares, “The Illinois Association of FCCLA is proud to be a part of the long-standing legacy of helping students become great leaders. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing young people making a difference in their personal lives, their homes, schools, and communities!”
Through FCS education, FCCLA provides opportunities for members to develop 21st century skills that enhance students’ understanding of community, work, family, and their interpersonal relationships. This year, FCCLA celebrates its 75th anniversary by commemorating all 50 state associations who have contributed to student’s success through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge, and career preparation.
Since chartering with the national organization in January 1946, thousands upon thousands of Illinois students have taken advantage of this incredible organization and all it has to offer. As a youth led organization, Illinois FCCLA has teams of student officers who serve at every level of the organization from the local high schools to the state and national levels. These youth leaders plan and assist with all the community service projects, leadership training, and conferences that are held. Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood adds “one of the greatest things about FCCLA is that it has so many different programs and opportunities for the students to find success in. From community service projects to competitive events, FCCLA gives students the opportunity to combine their education and leadership skills to make a difference and receive recognition for their accomplishments”.
FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.
Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook
WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Illinois Principals Association to host first virtual Education Leaders Conference in February
Feb. 1, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Dr. Jason Leahy, executive director
Illinois Principals Association
SPRINGFIELD – In a first for the Illinois Principals Association, we are hosting our Annual Education Leaders Conference virtually. The 49th annual Education Leaders Conference and Exhibition, “L.E.A.D.” Conference (Learning – Equity – Advocacy – Diversity) will take place online February 22-23, 2021. The annual conference provides an opportunity for principals and other administrators to learn from leaders in the education field and participate in sessions to better serve their schools.
“School leaders have been there to support teachers, guide parents, and serve our students through the multitude of challenges this school year,” said Dr. Amy Dixon, IPA President. “With the aid of the Illinois Principals Association, principals have not only overcome the challenges, but shown tremendous personal growth and flexibility. Now it is time for school leaders to take time to recharge and renew their purpose, passion, and leadership. The IPA Education Leaders Conference is the premiere event of the year that will allow them to do that and so much more!”
The conference will include presentations from keynote speakers Adam Welcome, Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala, and Beth Houf. Monday’s first general session will feature Adam Welcome, a Principal and Director of Innovation for a large school district in the Bay Area of California, and his presentation “Kids Deserve It!” Mr. Welcome has been honored as Principal of the Year for his region, a “20 to Watch” for the National School Board Association, guest blogger for EdWeek, NAESP magazine, and other publications. His presentation is a simple, yet profound message to become more engaged with your school community.
Speakers at the second general session on Monday afternoon include Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Schools, and Dr. Amy Dixon, principal of Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools in Carmi, IL and IPA President. IPA Principal of the Year awards, the Reaching Out & Building Bridges Award, and the Mr. John Ourth & Dr. Fred W. Singleton Professional Development Scholarships will also be presented at this session.
Beth Houf will begin the conference Tuesday morning with her presentation “The Power of Appreciation,” including strategies to build rapport with students, staff, and parents. Beth Houf is the proud principal of Fulton Middle School in central Missouri. She is the Co-Author of “Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff.” Beth also serves as a facilitator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Leadership Academy, providing monthly training to state educational leaders. She has spoken at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference, the Association for Middle-Level Education National Conference, the National Principals Conference, and many other state and local educational venues.
The conference will include popular IGNITE sessions, presented by IPA Principal of the Year Award Winners and leaders including Mandy Ellis (Principal, Dunlap Grade School), Dan Kaiser (Retired Principal, Dwight Township High School), Hattie Llewellyn (Principal, New Berlin High School), Dr. Tron Young (Principal, Joseph Arthur Middle School), Dr. Marcus Belin (Principal, Huntley High School), and Abir Othman (Associate Principal, Victor J. Andrew High School). These innovative, fast-paced sessions provide a unique way to hear from dynamic speakers who will inspire fellow leaders.
Small group sessions at the conference include timely topics such as: Race Relations in Schools; Practical Steps for Transforming School Culture; Trauma Informed Care; Leading through the Lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Attendance, Chronic Absence, and Equity; Building Leadership Teams; and legislative and legal updates. Conference attendees can also explore the online exhibit hall for the latest in educational products and services, and resource materials from sponsors such as AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors), ECRA Group, Good for Schools, Horace Mann, Illinois Principals Foundation, Lifetouch School Portraits and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. For more information about the Education Leaders Conference, please visit ipafc20.zerista.com. For more information about IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.
The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 5,800 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders.
Ten $1,000 Scholarships Now Available for Midwest High School Seniors
High school seniors from states that surround Iowa have a chance to earn one of 10 $1,000 college scholarships
Jan. 13, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Christopher Weishaar
Digital Public Relations Specialist
Iowa Student Loan
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (Jan. 13, 2021) — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 30, 2021.
High school seniors may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. Iowa Student Loan® will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.
“We know 2020 has been a tough year on students and families mentally and financially. We want high school seniors to have the tools and resources they need to plan and pay for college,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “The information students receive during the program can help them make better decisions as they consider college finances, student loans and their future financial situations. We hope families also take this opportunity to explore all the free resources available on our website.”
The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2020–2021 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2021. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.
Additional Resources Available
Iowa Student Loan also has additional resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.
About Iowa Student Loan
Established in 1979 as a private, nonprofit organization, Iowa Student Loan helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. Iowa Student Loan has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information about Iowa Student Loan, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.
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