Rachel Otwell

Reporter

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%.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A local elementary school is teaching students about growing their own food with a hands-on project. Rachel Otwell recently visited the community garden across from McClernand Elementary School and spoke with instructors and students as they planted and tended to plots. She brings us this story:

 The Springfield school board decided last night it will begin interviewing search firms and may hire one to find a new superintendent for district 186. The district has an interim superintendent who took over for Walter Milton at the beginning of April. It’s been debated since then how to go about finding someone to permanently replace him.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tensions were high at last night’s (5/6) Springfield district 186 school board meeting as the 

  new board was seated and a president and vice president were appointed.

The meeting started with goodbyes for the previous school board members.

sps186.org

 A Springfield school board race that was too close to call is now over. Katharine Eastvold announced today she has conceded in the race for subdistrict five. She lost by one vote to Donna Moore. A partial recount found that votes had been counted accurately. Eastvold says she considered asking a judge for a full recount but did not find enough evidence to warrant that move. A supporter of Eastvold had used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover election documents. But Eastvold says those documents failed to turn up information to justify dragging out the contest.

  Community gardens are cropping up in urban areas across the country. They’re a way for those without the yard space to grow their own food. Kemia Sarraf is the founder and president of the local group gen H Kids, which stands for Generation Healthy. She tells WUIS’ Rachel Otwell about how the group is bringing a new community garden to Springfield:

CLICK HERE for more information or email George@genHkids.org to register for a garden plot.

  Katharine Eastvold lost her run for Springfield school board by a single vote about three weeks ago. But she’s not quite done fighting for the seat. A partial recount earlier this week found the votes had been accurately recorded. Donna Moore was declared the winner by only one vote in subdistrict 5. But it’s not yet over. The next step says Eastvold is working with her lawyer to determine whether there’s enough evidence to warrant asking a judge for a full recount.

 The funerals for five people murdered last week in Manchester are over, but donations are still being sought to offset those costs.

The victims were five family members, including two small children. Services took place at the Mackey Daws Funeral Home in the town of Roodhouse. Justin Daws is the funeral director there. He says the burials also occurred this week – though payments have yet to be made. Daws says the area in west central Illinois is tight-knit and he will wait indefinitely for funds from the victim’s family to come in:

  The Central Illinois Foodbank collects grocery items and gives them to charitable organizations in over 20 counties. The foodbank will be moving its Springfield location later this year to a new donated facility. Kaleigh Friend with the foodbank recently joined WUIS’ Rachel Otwell for this interview:

CLICK HERE for more information about the Central Illinois Foodbank.

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