Category Archives: Community Engagement

12 Tips for Winter Driving

As we head into the winter months, conditions on the road can become more dangerous. We need to make a few adjustments to our driving habits to make sure we’re safely reaching our destinations.

As a reminder of those adjustments, we’ve republished our January 2017 post on winter driving, below, which includes tips from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation website. Please give it a read.

****

How can you keep safe on the road this winter? Here are the top 12 tips:

12. Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights—even the hood and roof—before driving.

11. Leave plenty of room for stopping.

10. Pay attention; don’t try to outdrive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.

9. Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.

8. Bridge decks freeze first. Due to the difference in the exposure to air, the surface condition can be worse on a bridge than on the approaching road.

7. Exit ramps are an even greater challenge during the winter, since they may have received less anti-icing material than the main line. Be aware of this when exiting the highway.

6. Don’t use the “cruise control” option when driving in wintry conditions. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the slightest touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

5. Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle’s traction. Driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle may help you get going quicker, but it won’t help you stop any quicker. Many 4x4s are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stopWinter Driving

4. Look further ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks will alert you quicker to problems and give you a split-second of extra time to react safely.

3. Remember that trucks are heavier than cars. Trucks take longer to safely respond and come to a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.

2. Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows! Stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.

1. Most importantly, please, remember to SLOW DOWN! Also, seat belts should be worn at all times; it’s the law.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

I’m a Cubs fan, and I’m glad they lost

Rattle the Stars Executive Director Kim Bryan has graciously shared with us her journey of suicide loss, below. She is one of many who have had to endure similar painful experiences. Join Kim and others Saturday, Nov. 18, as Parkland College recognizes International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day with a program and discussion, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room U140 of the Student Union.

***************

When the Cubs disappointingly dropped game five to the Dodgers, I breathed a small sigh of relief.  We’re a family of Cubs fans: my husband was sucked in at age 7 in 1984, I acquired fandom through 20 years of marriage to a die-hard, and my kids were all born into it.  We even named our youngest daughter after Ryne Sandberg (she has yet to decide whether she loves or hates it).  We made a regular pilgrimage to the Eden that is Wrigley Field, and even braved the cold to wish her a happy 100th birthday.  As much as I would have loved to see my beloved Cubbies repeat this year, I was glad to be spared the pain that comes with their success.

In April 2016, just as the magical season was getting underway, my 19-year-old son died of suicide.  Sam had battled depression for several years, and after the dreadful disease drained every ounce of his happiness, it moved on to those who loved him.  When Sam died, my world went dark.  For the entire regular season, the Cubs were the farthest thing from my mind.  Just getting up and functioning each day was exhausting, and every spare moment I had was spent questioning the last minutes, hours, days, years of Sam’s life trying to figure what I could have done differently, better, to save him.

By the time October rolled around, I was just beginning to pay attention to the rest of the world again, and the Cubbies were certainly demanding attention.  But with every win, I was secretly hoping they would lose.  The little voice in my head was begging them not to win, not now, not this year.  When they won Game 6 of the NLCS, I cried.  I cried, not out of happiness, but out of grief and loss.  It was really happening.  The Cubs were going to the Series, and he was missing it.  How could he miss this?  It was all he had wanted since Neifi Perez tossed his batting gloves over the dugout to him at his first Cubs game.  Despite my best efforts, they just insisted on winning.  When Rizzo made the final out, and the world erupted in celebration, I sat stone-face on my couch, not able to move.  I finally managed a hug to my husband, but no words would even come.  This was just adding insult to injury.  Six months after suicide stole my son from the world, his dream came true.

A few days later, my family made another pilgrimage to the Eden that is Wrigley Field.  I was determined that Sam was not going to miss this.  We put on all our Cubs gear and took the worn-out Cubs hat that Sam wore every day for years, and we joined countless others in writing our tributes in chalk on the brick.  Even though I know it was eventually washed away, it was comforting to know that his name was on that wall.  A piece of him was there at Wrigley celebrating his beloved Cubbies winning the World Series.  We hugged and cried and reminisced about the great times we had had there.  We stayed as long as we could, and then begrudgingly left for home, feeling the gaping hole in our lives that was left when Sam died.

The most difficult part of healing from the death of my son has been reconciling the simultaneous happiness and sadness that comes with times of joy.  When I first started to feel happiness again, I felt guilty for it.  I actually dreaded things that I would feel good about, things that would bring me joy, because I knew that they would also bring guilt and regret, and things that I knew Sam would enjoy were the absolute worst.  Before his death, Sam had written that he knew people would be sad when he died, but that they would get over it because they were better off without him.  Every time I felt happy, those words rang in my head.  Happiness meant I was getting over it, and how could I ever possibly get over losing my son?  If I was happy, did that mean I was better off without him?  How was I going to get through the rest of my life if I couldn’t find a way to experience happiness without being consumed by this turmoil?

Thankfully, I began to connect with other survivors of suicide loss.  Through AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk and Survivors of Suicide Loss Day I began to meet and talk with others who understood what I was going through.  I found a community of people that have both supported my personal healing and my new journey to prevent youth suicide with our organization, Rattle the Stars.

It’s now been over a year and half since suicide stole my son from me.  I’m still not great, but with the support of other survivors, I’m getting back to okay.  For me, okay is something to celebrate.

[Dennis Cockrum is a counselor with Parkland College’s Counseling Services department.]

In the Shadow of the Moon

I guess this is where I’m supposed to describe the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of August 21. The problem is, I can’t. I’ve been attempting to come up with words that would give the event its props and, I’ll admit, I’m coming up short.

Camp Ondessonk. Online photo from Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc.

I’ve been asked many times “How were things in Carbondale?” I didn’t go to Carbondale. That venue was a bit overcrowded for me. My and CU Astronomical Society colleagues and I descended on Camp Ondessonk, near Ozark, Illinois. The Catholic youth camp was previously directed by my brother-in-law, and my kids spent a lot of time there. We set up telescopes in an impressive row in a horse pasture, meaning you had to pay close attention to where you erected your tent! We had numerous telescopes from CUAS, the twin city group from Bloomington-Normal, and University of Illinois students. And my daughter made the trip from Chicago to go with us.

We arrived Saturday morning to avoid traffic, and my wife and daughter took part in some of the camp’s amenities like archery, hiking, and craft-making. Carl Wenning (ISU) and I did three workshops each on Sunday, and Carl did a keynote after dinner. The food was awesome! They treated us well! Stargazing was a bit disappointing as we were greeted with heavy dew and clouds both Saturday and Sunday night. But the main event was Monday.

The observing field (half of it anyway). Photo by Dave Leake.

We all smiled as we opened our tents Monday morning, greeted by blue skies with a few clouds. I did two radio interviews via cell phone before breakfast and then spent the rest of the morning setting up equipment. Our camp director said that with the influx of “Monday only” traffic (no overnight accommodations), he expected 800 people in the camp. I used my telescope to project an image of the Sun, about a foot in diameter, on a poster board. It was here that I shouted, “first contact” to the group right at 11:53 a.m.

The partial eclipse as projected by a colander. Photo by Dave Leake.

We watched as the Moon seemed to consume a wonderful sunspot group on the Sun’s face. People used pegboards, mailing tubes, and even colanders to project the partial eclipse.

As the Moon overtook the Sun, everything seemed “weird!” It is difficult to articulate! Shadows became sharper and the countryside took on a pale appearance as if it were twilight, but it was everywhere (not just one direction) and the Sun was high in the sky! It got darker and cooler. At the first diamond ring, a roar came from the crowd and there was applause as we bathed in the Moon’s shadow. The horizons stayed relatively bright, but the sky overhead darkened and Venus became brilliant. Jupiter was visible east of the Sun.

Eclipse totality at Ozark, Illinois. Photo by Saiko Rosenberger.

Some colleagues began snapping photos. I did not. This was my first total eclipse and I was advised just to watch. That was great advice. It was an emotional scene:

  • My daughter was there, with whom I had shared telescopic views of Saturn when she was just a tyke. She spent seven years as a camper here, so this was a homecoming for her.
  • Chuck Greenwood was there from Florida; he was Staerkel Planetarium’s show producer when I started. We presented shows together for 12 years. Frank Oriold was there from St. Charles. Frank and I were in the UI Astro Club together in 1981 and I had not seen him in years. Mike Rosenberger was there with his wife. Mike and I co-founded CUAS back in 1986—a lifelong friend.
  • And I was wearing my dad’s eclipse T-shirt. I lost him in 2015. The coronal streamers were nothing short of spectacular and the Moon’s perimeter took on a pearl white color. He would have loved this!

My wife kept a timer on her phone and, at 2.5 minutes, I yelled “have your glasses ready!” The second diamond ring was more dramatic than the first. The Sun’s brilliant light appeared as a point that grew in size. Given the high ice crystal clouds in the area, the point was surrounded by brilliant colors and the crowd gasped. Afterwards, club members gathered and either hugged or provided a “high five.” It was only 2.5 minutes but it will be etched in our memories forever!

The next eclipse in the area will be April 8, 2024. I hope I’m around for it. What an amazing experience! I didn’t even mind the 6.5-hour drive home!

[David Leake is director of the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College.]

PRECS Summer Research “Invaluable” to Students

Ten science-focused students from community colleges across Illinois and two other states came to Champaign recently to participate in the inaugural summer of PRECS (Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students), a research experience for undergraduates program (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation. PRECS provides community college students with authentic research experiences in the area of phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon in which a single genotype produces multiple phenotypes depending on environment.

Our summer program started with a two-week boot camp at Parkland College on May 24. The boot camp prepared participants for the eight-week research immersion portion of the program, where students became integrated into research laboratories at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The immersion portion ran through July 26.

PRECS is different from the NSF’s other REU programs in two ways. First, although most programs include research immersion experience, it is less common to have a boot camp. Second, many REU programs are designed for undergraduates in their junior and senior years, while PRECS is specially designed to meet the needs of community college students, who may not have had any research experience and relatively few college-level science courses. In fact, as far as we can tell, PRECS is the first NSF REU in the field of biology to be open exclusively to community college students and to have a community college faculty member as one of the creators and administrators of the program.

As our program wraps up, two PRECS participants,  Elliot Ping and Aaron West, share a bit about their experiences and what they are taking away from this excellent summer opportunity (below).

**********

“PRECS provided a platform for growth and learning, both academically and professionally, while also providing a candid look at what it’s like to be a part of a research lab. The program has been a whirlwind of learning opportunities (including the mistakes and frustrations that often come paired with them) from start to finish. These experiences, from the outright failures to the great successes, are all good preparation for what it means to be a person in research.

An average workday for me was 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes earlier or later depending on what we were doing. If we could only get a timeslot on the confocal microscope at 8 am or at 6 pm, for example, then the day would be adjusted differently. The specific project I was working on involved a lot of downtime between steps while things ran their course, so I had the opportunity to learn other skills (like R programming and other software skills), read papers, and shadow other members of the lab.

My favorite moment was when we finally got our antibodies to work. We were at the confocal microscope doing a continuous scan to get a look at the brain tissue, and we found real colocalized staining on the sample. It felt good to see my efforts come together and to get good images of something, especially after something like two weeks of repeated failure.

This summer, I have gained more perspective about science as an institution than I gathered through the entire course of my associate’s degree. Research is not the simple, straightforward thing many people think it to be. It is failing and trying again, or trying something else, until you get it right, and, like with most other things worth doing, it takes practice, patience, and outright stubbornness to gain the skills necessary to make success a possibility.

I will hold close to my heart for a very long time the relationships I have built and the education I have received, both formal and informal, from working and studying in the PRECS program. The opportunity to work, learn, and present, especially when coupled with the guidance of so many knowledgeable, experienced people, has been, and will likely continue to prove itself to be, utterly invaluable to my development as a student and as a professional-in-the-making in the sciences. I am so grateful to Parkland College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for working to make this opportunity for community college students possible. It has been a privilege to be involved with PRECS, and I would encourage any community college student who thinks research may be for them to look into this or other opportunities as something that can both broaden their horizons for the future and deepen their understanding and appreciation of the things they are learning in the classroom.”   — Elliot Ping

**********

“I am honored to have been picked to participate in PRECS (Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students). Coming from a community college located in the south suburbs of Chicago, I only had a vague sense of what being in a lab entailed. What PRECS would go on to teach me this summer is the community a lab has. Every lab is different, specializing in different fields, participating in different research.

PRECS has been a great program to participate in over the past 10 weeks. It has prepared a mindset geared toward graduate school. PRECS has exposed me to real-world scientific practices, and stresses. PRECS gave me a true experience, exposing me to what my life would be like after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. I feel more prepared moving forward with my education. Whether I go on to continue scientific research or not is not foreseen, but I know that it is a viable option.” — Aaron West

**********

For more information about PRECS, visit precs.igb.illinois.edu.

[C. Britt Carlson, PhD, is an associate professor of chemistry in the  Natural Sciences department at Parkland College.]

Art Rocks! at College For Kids

College for Kids has invited super-cool instructors to work with your kids this summer, like “Art Rocks!” instructor Kamila Glowacki. Kamila is pursuing her MA in Art Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her BFA in Art Education and Painting in 2013. Her drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures have been featured at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago and local venues such as the Indi Go Artist Co-Op, the Art Theater, Common Ground Food Co-Op, and the Women’s Resource Center. And she loves getting kids excited about art! Kamila describes a bit about her work and the class below.

*************

Above: Jay Ryan poster for Polyvinyl Records’ 4-track single series. Featured image: Poster by Jay Ryan.

Over these next few days, I will be preparing screenprinted T-shirts, enamel pins, and other merchandise for an upcoming tour of the East Coast that my band is about to embark on. As an artist and musician, it has always been a fun challenge for me to design something that represents my music and put it on a shirt or CD. It’s an exciting feeling to see someone wearing something I drew!

Through this creative process, I have learned many practical skills that can be applied to artmaking as well as design. I’m excited to explore these skills with students who will soon take the “Art Rocks!” class at Parkland’s College for Kids summer enrichment camp.

In this class, we’ll design and screenprint T-shirts, create buttons, and zines, and design large-scale posters as part of the “Art Rocks!” class. As students participate, they will develop their own art skills as well as the freedom to create objects that can be duplicated and shared. Whatever T-shirt, storybook, or poster they might imagine will become an attainable item they are capable of creating themselves.

While many K-12 students have a chance to paint, draw, and sculpt, the opportunity to learn about specific artmaking methods and careers within the music industry is not likely to be found in school curricula. Throughout “Art Rocks!” we will look at the work of contemporary artists such as Jay Ryan who have made careers around concert poster or album artwork design. These encounters with contemporary artists will introduce students to the possible careers in the arts as well as encourage their interest in art and music.

I am looking forward to sharing these skills with students this summer, and I can’t wait to see what fantastic designs they create!

*********

College for Kids registration is open now! Check out our classes by visiting www.parkland.edu/btceRegister. Classes will be held Monday–Thursday, June 19–29 and July 10–20. Class times are 12:45–2:45 p.m. and 3–5 p.m. Tuition for each class is $159 and includes all supplies. You can register online or in person at 1315 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign. CFK inspires students to develop a lifetime love of learning and exploration.

Questions? Call 217/353-2055.

[Terry Thies is program manager for youth education with Parkland College Business Training and Community Education.]