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%.


Emma Todd, then a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Tulsa, found herself seriously contemplating suicide, again. This time, the Springfield native had made her way to the top of a building.

She wanted to jump, but someone stopped her.

“I have been extremely lucky,” Todd said. “A lot of people aren’t; a lot of people kill themselves.” 

A committee of state lawmakers will meet in Chicago today to discuss problems, such as prostitution, happening at state-run residential facilities for teens.

The hearing is in response to an ongoing investigative series by The Chicago Tribune.

At least 14 teenagers who lived at the centers were found to have engaged in prostitution since 2011. Other problems include extreme discipline, lack of staff, and abuse.

Flickr user Todd / "You buys your ticket" (CC BY 2.0)

If you like to attend shows, chances are you've bought tickets online. Problem is, if you're doing a search and buying from the first site that pops up, there's a chance you're getting ripped off. 

These brokers have crafted legitimate looking websites, and often sell tickets at inflated prices, adding "service" fees. It's nothing new, but Carly Shank who works with Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield says 2014 has been the worst year for it yet:

"We've had a lot of high-profile events, and those are events that kind of help egg that problem along."

Charter schools have long been a divisive issue. Supporters say they allow schools to teach kids free of burdensome regulations.  Opponents say they take money away from traditional schools.  In Illinois this year, those views are colliding.  In the final installment of our series, we find out about the fight at the statehouse and what it might mean for charters:

Nearly two decades ago when the state legislature paved the way for charter schools, Republicans were in control and touted them as an innovative way to improve education by removing many rules and regulations. Now there are about 145 charter school campuses across the state, the vast majority in Chicago. Supporters say they are the change an ailing education system needs, but it's a contentious topic. In this report, the first of a two-part series, we visit a charter school and explore the differing opinions about them: