Rachel Otwell

Reporter & Assistant News Editor

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees 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, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

Illinois Department of Public Health

A first-of-its kind study is being done to track ticks in Illinois. Researchers want to know where certain illness-carrying types are most prevalent.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Rallies across the country, including Illinois, will take place Saturday. Attendees will call for the reunification of families separated at the US-Mexico border.

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In a 5 to 4 ruling, the US Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump's so-called travel or Muslim ban. A proposal that passed the Illinois General Assembly aims to protest that policy.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

As news has centered on the plight of hundreds of families who have been separated while trying to enter the US through Mexico, concern has been raised over the ultimate destiny of about 1,500 children being held in detention centers and shelters. There are at least 66 of those children in Chicago, according to Heartland Alliance, a non-profit with nine shelters for unaccompanied minors there.

c/o Lorin Devine

For decades, women have been battling to break through the “glass ceilings” in their chosen fields. Females whose identities include an intersection of "minority" designations face increased obstacles when it comes to advancement. To the Front is an NPR Illinois series where we talk with female and nonbinary people about the way their identity intersects with their art and work. 

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Immigrants' rights advocates are close to celebrating what they consider a win in Illinois, especially for domestic abuse survivors. They are hoping Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign 'The Voices Act' soon, as it passed out of the state's General Assembly during the final days of the spring legislative session.

The Pharmacy / Jeff Williams

Nearly a century ago, a book was published by Vachel Lindsay called The Golden Book of Springfield. In it, he imagines a utopian version of the city, where by 2018 - its citizens have had religious and social awakenings. The ultimate message is one of unity.

Rachel Otwell

The Opening Minds Through Art program was started in Ohio in 2007 as a way to give people with Alzheimer’s and dementia a chance to be artists. The Springfield Art Association has now taught classes over a fall and spring session. A reception on Friday from 5:30 - 7 at the SAA Collective Gallery at the Hoogland Center for the Arts will display the latest work. 

Eric Rogers for NPR Illinois

A theatrical and punk rock venture in Champaign–Urbana has become an empowering part of the arts scene there.

Brian Mackey

On Wednesday, Illinois ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed change to the U.S. Constitution — 46 years after Congress approved it.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

A resolution that would have Illinois ratify the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be called for a deciding House vote. The House sponsor, Democratic State Rep. from Skokie, Lou Lang, says he's close to reaching the 3/5ths vote needed, but there are still "attendance issues."

millikin.edu

Millikin University in Decatur has broken ground on a center to house classes and performances. It includes a new state of the art theater that can seat over 250 people.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Governor Bruce Rauner has signed an executive order he says will mean more minority-owned businesses will get government contracts. But some are skeptical about his true intentions.

Public Domain

Earlier this week Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto of gun legislation and added his own ideas, including a plan to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases. It would apply to mass shooters and those who kill police officers.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

A measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment got approval from an Illinois House committee Wednesday, in what could be the final step before it's called for a decisive vote in that chamber.  

The measure has already passed the state Senate. Opponents argue it could mandate government funded abortions and force co-ed prison populations.

Chief sponsor and Democratic representative from Skokie, Lou Lang, says two of his colleagues told him they're worried a "yes" vote could be used against them in future campaigns.

flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder

Legislators of both parties are calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to voice support for the Equal Rights Amendment. While a ratification proposal passed the state Senate - it has yet to be called for a vote in the House, where it appears there may not yet be enough votes to gain the supermajority needed. But what's really at stake?

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The Equal Rights Amendment is back in the news and back in the Statehouse, as supporters make another push for ratification in Illinois.

Meanwhile, the fiscal watchdog group The Civic Federation is out with a critique of Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget proposal and its own plan for the state, and a southern Illinois county declares itself a sanctuary for gun owners.

Copyright 2018 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now to Southern Illinois and a story about counties that are declaring themselves sanctuaries for firearms. From member station WUIS in Springfield, Rachel Otwell reports.

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Chris Quintana covers the "culture wars" on college campuses and other news for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He was intrigued by the story of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's one-time icon, Chief Illiniwek. Quintana visited the school and surrounding area for a story released earlier this year.

Rachel Otwell

A decades-long battle for state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment is still waging on. On Tuesday, supporters traveled from different areas of the state to urge lawmakers to act.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Now retired, Lea Joy became part of the Springfield Police Department in 1983. She had three children and had been a social worker, but she felt too powerless in that role. She wanted to make things better.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Last week, Springfield's Iles Elementary School got a surprise when a musician and speaker who travels the world made a stop in town for the day. His message helped inspire acts of kindness and compassion.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Record Store Day is an international event that promotes artists and independent record stores. Each year, special releases come out featuring old and new music. 

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When Making A Murderer was released by Netflix in late 2015, it made a ripple among the public at large. Many were swept up in the debate as to whether or not the film's subject, Wisconsin man Steven Avery, was guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach.

NPR Illinois/courtesy

Over the weekend, members of the Hindu Temple of Greater Springfield prepared for their new temple with "Bhoomi Puja" ceremonies - meant to help break new ground and appease positive energies while honoring the earth.

Rachel Otwell

A national meeting for NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, was held in Springfield over the weekend. 

papersofabrahamlincoln.org

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project announced on Thursday a revamped website with about 5,000 legal, personal and political writings and documents associated with the nation's 16th president.

LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing a measure they say would amend school code in a way that would be beneficial when it comes to noting the community's role in state and national history. Last week those representing groups like Equality Illinois urged lawmakers to pass the proposal, which has yet to reach a vote outside of committee.

Rachel Otwell

Those in favor of a measure they say would help get an amendment closer to being added to the U.S. Constitution will head to the Statehouse to lobby for it on Tuesday.

Rachel Otwell

The Equal Rights Amendment, commonly referred to as the ERA, aims to end the legal distinction between men and women, something supporters say would enhance equality when it comes to issues like equal pay. Congress approved it in 1972, and then it went to the states for ratification. 38 states had to approve it by 1982, a deadline set by Congress. It fell short by three.

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