Reaching Stellar: Stories of The Public Good

2018 Service-A-Thon ends Welcome Week.


Rachel OtwellRachel Otwell | NPR Investigative Project

Rachel Otwell, a reporter for NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS, has been awarded a grant from ProPublica for a year-long investigative project that focuses on issues related to sexual harassment and abuse on college and university campuses in Illinois. The grant provides funding, research, editorial and engagement support. ProPublica has provided similar grants to 13 other newsrooms across the nation “to execute accountability stories that would not otherwise have been possible.”

“The issue of sexual violence on college campuses is one I’ve been interested in reporting on for a long time,” Otwell said. “I look forward to doing my small part in helping survivors and others have their voices heard, in hopes of change.” (Based on a news article from NPR Illinois.)

Wrongful Conviction Day 2018Illinois Innocence Project | Wrongful Conviction Day

UIS students interning and volunteering with the Illinois Innocence Project have created a flag display to celebrate the 2018 Wrongful Conviction Day. The display recognizes the 2,271 innocent men and women who were convicted of crimes they did not commit and have been exonerated since 1989. “UIS blue” flags in the display represent 237 Illinois exonerees. The Illinois Innocence Project has contributed to 11 of those exonerations. Jayde Schlesinger, master’s student in Public Administration and volunteer with the Project, said, “I am excited to go in to the Project every single day. It’s such a long process from someone first writing the Project to possibly being exonerated, but every day is a step closer to the outcome that we all want.” Learn more about the Illinois Innocence Project here.

Ben Paoletti | Leadership for Life Service Program

At UIS, new students can choose to live on the Leadership for Life Service Wing, or L4L. As part of this service and leadership community, students take a class together and commit to 40 hours of service each semester.

Ben Paoletti is one such student. A sophomore political science and philosophy major, Ben says, “My experience at UIS has really sparked my passion for volunteerism and civic engagement.” This year Ben is a resident assistant on the Leadership for Life Service Wing. He’s looking  forward to helping students get involved on campus, with community events, as well promote school spirit and civic engagement.

Read more about Ben Paoletti and about funds that support the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center.

Michelle NorrisMichelle Norris | Fighting Against Human Trafficking

A class assignment led Michelle Norris to Grounds of Grace, a Springfield organization that helps victims of human trafficking involved in forced labor, sexual slavery or commercial exploitation. This is a practice that happens throughout the country, not just in big cities. Soon after getting involved, Michelle heard about a task force on human trafficking. She thought she might sit in on the meetings just to learn more, but once there, she began taking on more and more tasks. Now she is leading meetings, recruiting members and handling other administrative duties. “UIS pushed me to want to make a difference in my community,” she says. “I am deeply grateful to everyone who has invested in my education.”

Michelle plans to become a victim specialist after earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work from UIS.