Category Archives: General

Buckle Up: The Benefits of Regular Seat Belt Use

Now that we’re well into road trip season, this week’s post is going to discuss the importance of seat belt use. From a young age, we have had it drilled into us how crucial it is to wear a seat belt when we’re in a vehicle, but many people still decide not to buckle up before they hit the road.

The good news is that the CDC reports that Illinois is above the national average when it comes to regular seat belt use: 94% of Illinois drivers wear their seat belts as opposed to 86% nationwide. The bad news is that this still leaves over 750,000 drivers in the state who don’t regularly buckle up. Here’s what you should be aware of:

  • People between the ages of 21 and 34, particularly men,  are the most likely to be killed or seriously injured in a car accident, and many of those casualties are due to a lack of proper seat belt use.
  • On top of a mountain of statistics that show seat belt use saves lives is the fact that Illinois is a “Primary Enforcement” state. This means that you can get pulled over and given a citation just for not wearing your seat belt, as opposed to needing to observe a separate violation to initiate a traffic stop.

I think it’s safe to say that police officers would much rather everyone just wore their seat belt in the first place, however Primary Enforcement has been shown to be an effective tool to increase the rates of regular seat belt use. The Parkland College Police Department asks that you join us in committing to wear your seat belt, every time.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with 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).

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“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

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“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

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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.]

Personal Safety Reminders

Our campus and local community continue to feel the impact of missing UIUC visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and loved ones.

This week’s post serves as a reminder of personal safety tips and habits that can help keep you from becoming a victim. We would like to note that you are not to blame if someone commits a crime against you; however, there are several steps you can take to safeguard against being victimized. Today’s set of tips is broken into two categories, communication and awareness. Both are important elements that work together to keep you safe.

Communication

Make sure someone knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and when you’re supposed to get there. This is particularly important if you’re going out to a bar or a party for the night, but can also be a good practice to generally incorporate. This person can be a roommate, friend, significant other, or relative.

Call the police. Police officers get paid to investigate suspicious circumstances. If something happens to you, or you see something that seems out of the ordinary or suspicious, pick up the phone and call. You’re not inconveniencing anyone. It’s our job, and it’s what we get paid to do.

Awareness

Recognize when you’re in a situation where someone is more likely to target you. This can be when you’re standing at an ATM, walking alone on a dark sidewalk/path at night, or fumbling with your keys before you get into your vehicle or enter your apartment. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and if something doesn’t look or feel right, consider choosing a different route, finding a public area, or possibly calling the police.

It’s also important to think critically about situations you’re presented with. When you’re at a party or a bar, be cautious about accepting drinks that you haven’t seen prepared. If someone asks you for help that requires you to get into a vehicle or enter a house or apartment, that should definitely set off some red flags in your mind.

No one wants to live their lives dominated by fear, and that’s not what we’re suggesting. Despite the sense that social media and the daily headlines may give you, it’s ultimately not very likely that you’re going to be the victim of a serious crime. Nevertheless, there are simple, relatively unobtrusive steps you can take to further drive those odds down. If we all work together to take a little better care of ourselves and each other, hopefully we can avoid the next tragedy.

 

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

Safety in the Summer Heat

Parkland College’s summer session has begun, and the regular public safety messages will also be returning.

This week, we’re going to talk about dealing with the warmer summer temperatures, particularly as they relate to vehicles. If you’re going to be making long road trips in the summer, be sure to bring along extra bottles of water. In case of a breakdown, you don’t want to get dehydrated on the interstate.

Also, don’t ever leave children or pets inside an unattended car, even if you think you’re going to be quickly running in and out of the store. Temperatures inside a car quickly skyrocket, and the risk of serious injury or death is too high. Monitoring website kidsandcars.org estimates that 16% of nontraffic fatalities involving children are due to heat stroke when kids are left alone in vehicles.

Check out this story posted by WJBC Radio with advice from Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Jason Bradley on what to do if you come across a vehicle with a pet that’s been left alone inside: bit.ly/2tSmB5O.

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

 

3 Reasons Your Child Should Try Blogging

This summer, I will have the opportunity to teach a blogging class for middle school students at Parkland’s College for Kids. I am so excited to share my own hobby with students in the Champaign-Urbana area. Since beginning my teaching blog in 2014, it has undergone lots of changes. Some of those changes were productive, and some were merely a reflection of my indecisiveness. However, it was all part of a creative journey that I had begun, which now serves as the basis for my top three reasons your child should try blogging.

1. Cultivate Creativity
As a middle school teacher, one of the biggest hurdles I face when beginning a new school year with my students is that they lack creativity. It is hard to teach kids to be creative because it requires that they start something of their own accord—a project, an essay, a presentation, a website, a design, etc. When they don’t have any initial inspiration, it quickly becomes a game of monkey-see, monkey-do.

A blog is your child’s body of work. It is a space for them to take creative risks and test out their ideas for design, writing, and photography, all under one domain that allows for pretty immediate change whenever your young blogger sees fit. In short, it gets the creative juices flowin’, and that’s never a bad thing!

2. Reflect on the Self
Kids (and adults, if we’re all being honest) who routinely narrate their thought processes are more prone to self-reflection and self-awareness. Blogging is an avenue that kids can use to explore their perspectives. Each post is an opportunity to identify a new viewpoint or explore thoughts. It’s a chance to organize the chaos that often plagues the adolescent mind.

Best of all, rereading old posts can be an experience in itself for kids. I know it is for me! That then becomes cause-for-pause to reflect on where I used to be and where I am now, in many senses of the idea.

3. Connect with Others
While it can be scary to think about allowing middle schoolers to connect with strangers on the Internet, it can also be a way in which students widen their own perspectives. In my classroom, my students explore the idea of an echo chamber. Online, this is often referred to as a filter bubble.

The concept is basically this: Everything we know we like and agree with surrounds us and reverberates back to us on a daily basis. Online, algorithms “get to know” our online presence by keeping track of what we like and interact with, and they fill our social media accounts and even the ads on the websites we visit with more content just like that. This creates a tiny bubble that is very difficult to burst without making a conscious effort to seek other perspectives.

As a blogger, kids have access to other perspectives from anywhere in the world, which can effectively burst that filter bubble and give kids a window through which to view the stories of other cultures and more. On top of that invaluable experience, bloggers then have the opportunity to write for different and authentic audiences with a unique diversity they probably aren’t getting from their classrooms throughout the school year. Imagine the possibilities! Lastly, it provides opportunity for conversation around safe practices online, and also the development of a digital footprint, along with the space to practice safe habits routinely.

I hope you are excited by the idea of blogging for your child. I am certainly excited to be delivering such relevant content to our young writers in the area! To me, blogging is more than just a hobby. It’s a way to create, reflect, and expand my own perspective to include the stories of writers all over the world. I hope you’ll explore this class and the many others Parkland has to offer this summer. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

See you this summer!

Elizabeth Maske
College for Kids Teacher
How to Be a Blogger, Adventures in Stories and Snacks

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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.]