Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

Ways to Connect

Miller Park Zoo

Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington may be one of the smaller accredited zoos in the nation. It's a leader, however, when it comes to preserving several species of animals that are threatened or endangered.

The zoo currently is helping some 20 species survive, including the snow leopard, the red wolf, and San Clemente Island goat. It is a breeder for about 50 kinds of animals to insure they don't become endangered. Among them are: the sumatran tiger, tammar wallaby, the red-ruffed lemur and the kookaburra, a long-bill bird.

Ross D. Franklin / AP Photo

The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest denominations in the country, voted recently to denounce white supremacy and the alt-right movement, but not without controversy.

Muppetmindset / wordpress.com

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on Sesame Street? Paul Rudolph doesn't have to guess. He works there.

Rudolph, who grew up in Normal, is the vocal music director of the show. As such, he wears many hats—composing, arranging and recording many of those catchy tunes that stick in the minds of children and not a few adults. He recently won his second Emmy for music editing on the show.

Judith Valente / GLT News

Speaking at Bloomington High School, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said Bloomington-Normal schools stand to lose about $500,000  in Medicaid funds under the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare.

Judith Valente / WGLT

Bloomington police, community groups and the City Council have hammered out a draft ordinance for a new citizen-led police oversight board.

African American Advisory Council / Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

In McLean County, some 222 children in foster care are currently waiting for the chance to find a permanent home. 

Of those children, 88 are African American. They make up about 40 percent of the children in foster care, but last year accounted for only about 26 percent of the permanent adoptions.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Associated Press

She was the first African American ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, and first black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was only the second person to serve as Illinois Poet Laureate, succeeding Carl Sandburg. She was also the state's longest-serving laureate, an unpaid position she held for more than 30 years.

Illinois is pausing this month to celebrate the life and work of this woman of firsts,  who would have turned 100 on June 7.

Bill Majoros / Flickr

It’s a perfect night to watch for nocturnal birds. Calm winds, clear sky and waxing moon just above the horizon.

I’m standing at dusk on the Lexington Blacktop, just east of Lake Bloomington. I’m with Angelo Capparella of the biology department at Illinois State University, and Given Harper, another avid bird watcher and professor at Illinois Wesleyan.

We’re on the prowl for owls.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Like Americans across the country, Twin Cities residents were glued to their televisions, radios, computers and smart phones watching the live broadcast of the historic Senate testimony of fired FBI director James Comey. 

Judith Valente / GLT News

People who garden often say there is more to it than putting plants and flowers in the ground.  They feel a sense of serenity and well-being from getting their hands in the soil, from being outdoors and helping a living thing grow.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of Illinois Extension office and the McLean County Master Gardeners will offer a Horticultural Therapy Workshop at the Community Cancer Center in Normal. Its message: gardening can be healing.

Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour

A story line taken from Tolstoy's War and Peace. A musical remake of the nineties film Ground Hog Day. The trials of an anxiety-ridden adolescent and the true story of a Newfoundland town faced with hosting stranded air travelers on 9/11. 

Those are the themes of this year's line up of Tony nominees for best musical. The four nominated musicals are Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,Ground Hog Day, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away.

Once there was a brief shining moment known as Camelot the musical, with a score by Lerner and Lowe that became a Broadway classic.

Then there was the dark, free-wheeling Spamalot, a musical based on the cult film classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's that version of the English legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that will prance across the Connie Link Amphitheatre as the first of this summer's outdoor musicals.

Baby Fold

The Baby Fold's Residential Treatment Center for children and teens who suffer emotional difficulties due to abuse and neglect will close at the end of the month -- another casualty of the Illinois budget impasse.

Judith Valente / GLT News

As part of their Social Work in Action class, a group of Illinois Wesleyan University students began interviewing people who have been arrested in McLean County.  

Julien Harnels / Flickr

Like many Americans, Gretchen Snow  was horrified at the photos of a drowned Syrian refugee child who washed up on the shores of Greece. Then there were the images of African families fleeing violence in their villages, walking on dirt roads, children in tow and their  belongings on their backs.

Snow decided she had to act. She was not alone.

Judith Valente / GLT News

Walking along Shady Hollow Trail at Comlara Park, Sherrie Snyder spots a small flowering plant in the underbrush that contains a series of delicate deep purple blossoms. She stoops to snap a photograph of it on her cell phone.

"I'm going take a picture of this little guy, the dwarf larkspur," she says.

It's all part of a citizen-science project called Flora of Comlara Park. She and other volunteers—you might call them plant Sherlocks—observe and photograph the current plant life so that botanists can compare the plants growing today with those that grew a hundred years ago in central Illinois. 

Judith Valente / WGLT

Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli said he is conceding the contest to Mayor Chris Koos.

Bruce Emmerling / Creative Commons

Recent political rhetoric aside, the majority of immigrants living in the US. come here legally, and each has a compelling story to tell. Those are among the messages members of Bloomington-Normal's immigrant communities hope to convey at a conversation Thursday evening at Bloomington Public Library.

East Indian, Mexican, Caribbean and Latin American immigrants will share their personal stories.

Devon Buchanan / Creative Commons

Anonymous websites like Anon-IB that post nude photographs of women are difficult to control because the law has not kept up with the technology that makes these sites possible.

Pete Sousa / Official White House Photo

A growing number of school-age children have experienced some form of trauma or emotional difficulty. That often translates into behavioral problems both within the family and at school.

Increasingly, however, schools are attempting to prevent and address those problems through a variety of services, according to Brenda Huber, director of the Psychological Services Center at Illinois State University, and Mark Jontry, regional schools superintendent for McLean, Livingston, Logan and DeWitt counties.

Justin A. Wilcox / Creative Commons

When a person is experiencing an emotionally difficult period, often the first stop in seeking help is with a pastor or another trusted spiritual adviser.

That's why churches and faith groups across denominations are increasingly focusing on the mental well-being of their congregation members, says Patricia Turner, outreach director for Center for Hope International Ministries, an independent, non-denominational Christian church in Bloomington.

"I'm glad that this is one of the stops people can make," Turner said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

(This story has been edited to include comments from Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner and McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers.) 

What is it like to currently file a complaint of officer misconduct with the Bloomington Police Department?

Sophie Charles and Henry Dick, a couple from West Bloomington, did just that. They said they came away from the experience dissatisfied with the results and reluctant to approach the police in the future.

WGLT

Community support is mounting for an independent, citizen-led review board to monitor the actions of the Bloomington Police Department.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter is proposing a citizen-led review board to monitor and weigh in on the actions of the Bloomington Police Department.

Colleen Reynolds / GLT News

A new report on inequality in Bloomington-Normal shows that poor and minority residents live in neighborhoods that have more noise and air pollution, less quality housing, fewer places to buy fresh, healthy food, and less transportation opportunities.

Johnny Silvercloud / Creative Commons

Bloomington and Normal neighborhoods are more racially integrated than those of several other Illinois cities, including Peoria, Champaign, Urbana, Springfield, Rockford and Decatur.

Monica Elizabeth / Wikimedia Commons

President Trump signed an executive order this week he said would ease restrictions on the political activities of churches.

Although the order was signed to much fanfare in front of an array of faith leaders, and was touted as protecting religious freedom, it will have little effect.

That's according to Illinois State University politics and government Professor Meghan Leonard. Leonard said Congress decades ago prohibited tax exempt religious groups from endorsing political candidates

Gail Franklin / Western Avenue Community Center

Many social service workers burn out long before the quarter century mark. Not so Socorro Alvarez, the Hispanic Outreach director for the past 25 years at Bloomington's Western Avenue Community Center.

Mary Jo Adams

Two years ago, a female eagle was found shot dead in Normal. Her mate soon died -- killed apparently by another bird. Then their three orphaned eagles died. Bird watchers feared it would be the end of eagles in McLean County. But there is good news.

A new pair of the white-topped, hooked-beak creatures has taken up residence in the nest the dead eagles left behind and they are raising three eaglets there.

Judith Valente / GLT News

You don't normally expect to hear the words cancer and gift in the same sentence. But that is how Marcia O'Donnell, a Community Cancer Center patient, describes her life since her diagnosis of advanced breast cancer.

O'Donnell is a former mental health professional and mother of two small children.

She credits her positive outlook, in part, to being able to share her questions, fears and sometimes overwhelming emotions with Cancer Center chaplain Cheryl-Peterson Karlan.

Initially, though O'Donnell didn't even want to meet with the chaplain. 

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