Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

The holiday season is the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, whether it’s cooking in an overly cluttered kitchen, lighting too many candles around the home, or stringing up old or damaged holiday lights. Consider the following tips from the U.S. Fire Administration on how to prevent house fires during the holidays.

  • Keep candles 12 inches away from things that can burn, and consider using flameless battery-operated candles.
  • Place candles in a sturdy candleholder that will not tip over, and never leave a burning candle alone.
  • Throw away holiday light strands with frayed or pinched wires, and turn off all your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Water your Christmas tree every day, as a dry tree can very easily catch fire. Get rid of your Christmas tree soon after Christmas or whenever it dries out.

We hope you have a safe and refreshing holiday break!


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

Heading to College? What’s Your ETA?

Parkland College is excited to offer District 505 high school and home-schooled students a great new opportunity to complete college general education courses while still in high school.

Parkland’s new Early Transfer Academy (ETA) is a fast track to college that gives students in their last two years of high school a new, structured opportunity to complete the general education courses required at nearly all four-year institutions. High school and home-schooled students age 15 and older  who meet Parkland’s reading, writing, and math placement requirements will be able to register for selected courses offered at times planned to fit their schedule.

  • Students in the first year of the two-year program will take classes with faculty who have incorporated learning skills into their curriculum. Students participating in the ETA will not only earn transferable college credit but will gain experiences that will increase their chances of success as they move on to a four-year university. While in the first year, students will gain experience in time management, online learning, academic planning, and organization of workload.
  • In the second year, ETA participating students will be able to choose from a wider range of general education courses that allow them take classes apart from the group. The two-year schedule helps students gradually become comfortable with the college environment, so that they are ready for the next step upon graduating from high school.

Courses offered through the ETA will fulfill the requirements of the General Education Core Curriculum as identified by the Illinois Articulation Act. This public act states that upon completion of the GECC, no student will be required to take additional lower-division general education courses at any public college or university in Illinois. All public colleges and most private institutions in Illinois accept the courses in the GECC. The GECC includes courses in humanities, fine arts, social sciences, mathematics, and physical and life sciences.

A high school student who enters the ETA as a junior could complete the entire GECC package by the time he or she graduates from high school. That same student could potentially complete an associate’s degree at Parkland in one year after high school and then transfer to a four-year institution with only two years needed to complete a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, a student completing the GECC through the ETA could transfer those credits directly to a four-year institution and complete a bachelor’s degree in three years or less. Participation in the ETA could mean significant savings in college costs as well as a greater chance at college success because of the experiences gained on Parkland’s campus.

Who/What: The ETA is an early college program for high school juniors and seniors designed to help students move through coursework included in the General Education Core Curriculum requirements for college. Students will get a head start on their college degree/program completion and, at the same time, receive support from faculty and staff who are dedicated to helping students successfully navigate the transition from high school to higher education.

Where/When: ETA students will choose between a morning or afternoon track to complete three different courses each semester. Morning classes will meet 8–9:15 a.m. Monday–Friday, and afternoon classes will meet 4–5:15 p.m. Monday–Friday, at the Parkland College main campus in Champaign.

How: Registration is open to incoming juniors and seniors, 15 years of age or older. The registration window is February 1–June 1, 2018. Students will work with their high school counselors to complete the necessary registration requirements and determine dual credit eligibility. To register, students will need to submit:

  • a non-degree-seeking admissions form to Parkland College
  • a dual credit/dual enrollment request form
  • qualifying ACT or SAT scores, or complete the appropriate Parkland College placement test

Program Details:

  • Students can choose either the 8–9:15 a.m. track or the 4–5:15 p.m. track. Both have identical course offerings. Classes will meet M–F.
  • Students must meet the placement requirements for each course, either through Parkland placement testing, SAT, or ACT.
  • ETA Year 1 students will be in a cohort together.
  • Cost for the ETA will include Parkland College in-district tuition, fees, and books.
  • Payment plans will be available to help families distribute the cost throughout the semester. We are currently exploring scholarship opportunities but do not want to present that as an option until we are 100 percent certain funds will be available.
  • All courses meet the requirements set forth by the Illinois Articulation Initiative, meaning they are part of the General Education Core Curriculum and will transfer.
  • Friday classes are hybrid. This means that the class will meet every Friday, but 50 percent of the class will be conducted online, using Parkland’s online course management platform, COBRA. Through these courses, students will learn how to succeed in an online college course.
  • High schools will determine whether or not enrollment in ETA will simultaneously earn high school credit. The enrollment process will remain the same either way; the only difference is whether the student is granted high school credits.
  • ETA Year 2 classes will include life/physical science courses, mathematics, and communications.
  • Year 2 students will have more options for their schedule and will be mixed into classes with ‘general population’ students. Parkland will make every attempt to modify the Year 2 schedule if a student can earn dual credits through their home high school. For example, if a student is able to take a Year 2 class at their home high school, we will substitute another required course in its place.

***Parkland College is hosting an ETA Information Session on Monday, January 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Interested students and their parents are invited to attend to learn more about the program. Registration to the open house is available at***

[Nancy Sutton , Ed.D., is dean of the division of arts and sciences at Parkland College and one of the ETA coordinators.]

World AIDS Day 2017

For this week’s blog post, we’ll be discussing an intersection between Public Health and Public Safety as we observe World AIDS Day today, December 1.

First, some fast facts about HIV:

  • At the end of 2014, the most recent year for which such data are available, an estimated 1,107,700 adults and adolescents were living with HIV.
  • Of those, an estimated 166,000 (15%) had not been diagnosed.
  • The number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19% from 2005 to 2014. Because HIV testing has remained stable or increased in recent years, this decrease in diagnoses suggests a true decline in new infections.

Although undeniable progress has been made in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS, the job isn’t finished; plenty more work has to be done, both domestically and abroad. If you’d like to get involved, here are ideas on how to help:

  • Reach out to a local HIV  service organization. Many organizations have support groups for people living with HIV and their loved ones. To find a local HIV/AIDS service organization near you, use’s HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator.
  • Get involved in your community. To get involved in HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy, contact your local HIV service organizations and/or community health department. These groups can help identify local volunteer opportunities. You can also visit the sites listed below to search HIV-related volunteer opportunities.
  • Engage with others. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat offer opportunities to connect with others who are interested and involved in HIV issues.

***This post was compiled using resources from and the CDC.

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

Home Security for the Holidays

Starting with Thanksgiving, the holiday season is typically a time when police departments see an uptick in burglary and theft reports.  Criminals know that many homes will be unoccupied for prolonged periods of time as people are away visiting family, making it a prime opportunity to break in.

Whether you’re headed out of town or just over to a family member or friend’s house for a few hours, here are a few ideas to keep your belongings safe while you’re away:

  • Secure all valuables in a safe; this includes credit cards, jewelry, cash, etc. While you don’t need a bank vault installed in your home, there are plenty of smaller safes that can be secured to the floor via screws or bolts that are perfectly suitable (if you rent, check with your landlord first).
  • Jot down the serial numbers of your consumer electronics. Save them in a safe space or on a secure cloud file. These will help the police recover your items if they’re stolen and someone tries to sell them at a pawn shop.
  • If you own your home, or your landlord will allow you to make modifications, consider installing security cameras and ample exterior lighting. Ensure that all exterior doors have both a handle lock as well as a deadbolt.
  • When ordering gifts online, consider being discreet as you dispose of the boxes they come in. A massive pile of cardboard next to your house can indicate a worthwhile break-in to an unscrupulous passerby. Break down the boxes as much as possible and don’t put them out until the evening before your recycling gets picked up.

If you do come home and find that you’ve been broken into, call the police immediately and don’t go inside if you have any suspicion that the burglar might still be present.

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

Putting the Spotlight on Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault have come forward with their stories in the past few weeks and months, making it a particularly active time in the headlines. As famous actors, executives, and politicians are falling under suspicion, it can be easy to lose sight of the everyday reality of most victims:

One out of every six American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime.* And the rich and famous aren’t the only ones committing sexual assault and harassment; about 70% of assault victims knew their attacker.

It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. First of all, please know that you are not alone. Below are some other things to keep in mind. If you are in immediate danger or have been seriously injured, call 911.

  1. Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
  2. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
  3. Call the RACES (Rape Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services) hotline at 217/384-4444 or 1-877/236-3727. They provide free, confidential services to anyone who has been affected by sexual assault, abuse, or harassment.

When you call the hotline, a staff member will walk you through the process of getting help at your own pace.

*The above post was adapted from and

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

Go ahead, get ahead.