Rachel Otwell

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community, and diverse culture. She produces NPR Illinois' original program, Illinois Edition. She also hosts The Scene, which airs on Thursdays and features cultural happenings in the central Illinois region.

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. While working toward that degree she spent a session covering the state legislature for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees from UIS in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, DC. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

About 300 people stood on Lawrence Avenue outside of Springfield's LGBTQ community resource facility, The Phoenix Center

Across the nation those in and who are allies of the LGBTQ community are mourning the loss of life in Orlando over the weekend. 

Rachel Otwell

  A student at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana was charged with murder this week, after she turned herself in and showed authorities the body of a newborn in her back-pack. Authorities say Lindsay Johnson - 20 years old from Monee - suffocated her son last month after giving birth to him in a dorm bathroom.

State of Illinois

R​ape crisis centers have had to scale back services because of the budget stalemate - which is headed toward its tenth month.

There are about thirty in the state - all part of the same coalition.

The Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault is one ... it serves 11 counties in central Illinois ... and helps over 500 people annually.

It provides counseling, and medical and legal advice for victims.

Shelley Vaughan heads it ... she says she's had to lay-off employees and stop doing rural outreach.

Lisa Ryan / Illinois Public Radio

Money is still being raised to help run the Illinois State Museum in Springfield -- even though its doors have been closed to the public for three months. A not-for-profit that deals with grants and private donations continues to solicit, sending out pleas for donations in the mail.

The chair of the board, Guerry Suggs, says it’s mostly union employees still on the job. 

“We have now obviously more time to do curation work because we don’t have to deal with the public,” Suggs said. “So the museum’s collections are in fact being maintained.”

RACHEL OTWELL / Illinois Public Radio

Muslims in Illinois are coping with increased scrutiny and incendiary rhetoric. In this second part of a two-part report, we Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell introduces you to a business owner in Champaign-Urbana.

Last weekend, more than 200 people of various religions and ethnicities attended a Springfield prayer vigil. It honored the lives lost in Paris and San Bernardino.

Muslim youth opened by singing the U.S National Anthem. Speakers included a rabbi, a Christian minister, and members of the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield.

Rachel Otwell / WUIS

Muslims in Illinois are coping with increased scrutiny and incendiary rhetoric. This first segment of a two-part Illinois Public Radio report visits a Springfield mosque.

The mosque of the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield is in a fairly nondescript building, save for its copper-colored dome. It's tucked away from a main road, nestled in a cluster of small businesses. The local Imam leads a Friday afternoon call to prayer.

EDWARDSPLACE.ORG

One of the nation's most historical instruments -- a piano that was played for the wedding of the 16th President of the United States -- will be restored to working order.

Edwards Place is the oldest surviving home in Springfield. Family members of Mary Todd Lincoln owned the home, and Abraham Lincoln himself spent time there courting Mary and socializing.

Now, Edwards Place wants to restore its piano -- one of only two surviving instruments that Lincoln is known to have listened to.

Human rights groups in Illinois say they'll continue programs for Syrian refugees. That’s despite the governor's calls to suspend accepting them.

As of 2010, Illinois has welcomed about 170 Syrian refugees. That's according to Sam Tuttle, policy director for Heartland Alliance.

"We hope that the governor and his staff and the people of Illinois will learn more about the resettlement program and that we can all be welcoming refugees who have oftentimes witnessed some great horrors, so that they can start their lives again," Tuttle said.

Flickr user Celeste Lindell / "Art supplies" (CC BY 2.0)

Teachers and administrators are working on new guidelines for art education in Illinois. Some schools have no art programs, while others have limited time to teach it.

New federal standards were released last year, though they came with no mandate. The State Board of Education has been organizing meetings for teachers to make the guidelines fit for them.

Jonathan VanderBrug is with Arts Alliance Illinois, an advocacy group that is also helping plan meetings. He says the process is meant to show schools why education in the arts is important.

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