Judith Valente | WGLT

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

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

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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. 

Judith Valente / GLT News

Cheryl Peterson-Karlan, the chaplain at the Community Cancer Center in Normal, says her job is about listening to people, meeting them where they are, and if possible, helping them find hope.

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How much skin is too much skin to show at school?

That's a question swirling around Kingsley Junior High School in Normal after the principal sent out a dress code edict prohibiting clothing that reveals bare shoulders, bra straps, midriff or cleavage.

 

Hospice Chaplain Kerry Egan says she doesn't know if listening to people's life stories as the confront death can make a person wise.

"I do know it can heal your soul. I know this because the stories healed mine."

Henri Huet / AP

As an expert in international affairs, Harvard University Professor Fredrik Logevall considers it crucial to study the Vietnam War, a complicated and controversial part of American history. 

Logevall was a child living in Canada when the United States pulled its combat forces from Vietnam in 1973.  He has since written widely about the war and shared his insights recently at Illinois State University as a guest of the History Department.

Illinois Wesleyan University

There were few books in Cornelius Eady's household when he was growing up in Rochester, New York.

"We barely had a radio," he recalled on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

The future of Planned Parenthood across Illinois is far from certain. But its services don't appear to be under immediate threat from a recent directive from President Trump.

That measure would allow state and local governments to withhold Title X family planning funds from health facilities that also provide abortion services.

McLean County's sole Planned Parenthood clinic would not be affected because it doesn't perform abortions. Additionally,  all Planned Parenthood clinics statewide receive Title X funds as a direct grantee of the federal government and not through the state, said Julie Lynn of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. 

However, women's reproductive services, especially for low income residents, remain a target of many federal and state officials, Lynn said.

GLT News

At a public forum last December sponsored by Black Lives Matter, several residents of the Bloomington's west side complained that their neighborhood is under a police microscope, with officers making unfair stops and arrests.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner says  he sends additional patrols to areas of the city that have a higher rate of incidents. 

The practice is a  common one known as "hot spot policing."  It is used by departments across America in cities both large and small to address high crime areas. But does hot spot policing work?

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There's and old joke that goes like this: a prison guard asks an inmate what he's in for. "Talking," the inmate replies.

Law Professor James Duane says it's no laughing matter.  He's the author of the book "You Have The Right To Remain Innocent" and is featured in a video titled "Don't Talk to the Cops" that's garnered thousands of views on You Tube.

Duane says innocent people sometimes get convicted based on information they provide to police in an effort to be cooperative.

Colleen Connelly

It's time once again for community gardeners to begin planting.

The West Bloomington Active Garden has added 12 news beds this season for residents to plant for free, making for a total of 32 plots.

However, all of those plots are already spoken for. Colleen Connelly, who oversees the garden, says there will be a waiting list. Connelly says she's not surprised by the interest the gardens have generated.

Judith Valente

At a bank of desks near an arched window streaming sunlight, a farmer does Internet research on one of the computers at the Carlock Public Library. Another patron reads the newspaper in one of the newly- remodeled reading areas. The scent of fresh woodwork and new carpeting fills the room.

These days, many public libraries face cutbacks in funding or even closure. That's not the case in the small farming community of Carlock,  population 569, near the border of McLean and Woodford counties. 

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She disguised herself as a male hoping to study at a university. Her personal collection of books is said to have numbered 4,000. She once said women "can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper. "

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a 17th century Mexican nun who wrote poetry and plays and championed a woman's right to study, learn and think for herself.

Travis Meadors/GLT News

Conscientious objectors -- those who refuse to fight in the military based on religious, moral or ethical beliefs -- have existed since the birth of the nation.

During the Revolutionary War, George Washington allowed conscripts from peace churches to return home.

At the start of World War I, conscientious objectors received some protections. Those were expanded and became official policy during World War II.  

Illinois State University

In an incident that shocked the nation, the apparent gang rape of a 15-year-old Chicago girl was broadcast live on Facebook  last month. Dozens viewed the assault before it was taken down. No one apparently notified authorities.

The incident is part of a growing phenomenon in which assailants brazenly post video or images of sexual assaults on social media sites. 

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin greeted about 500 central Illinois residents at a town hall meeting in Bloomington Friday with the words, "There was good news from Washington today."

Durbin was referring to the failure of the U.S. House to pass a Republican-backed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

On a recent Friday evening at the Herb Eaton Gallery, Sara Quah stepped onto a stage to do what loves and feels most comfortable doing - singing the songs she composes.

Black Lives Matter

Editor's Note: This post includes updated information, 

 The case of a 10-year-old handcuffed by Bloomington police, whose photograph caused controversy on social media, has been resolved for the time being. 

A spokesman for Black Lives Matter said an agreement was reached which allows the 10-year-old to  complete the community service he was supposed to perform in connection with a 2016 charge of destruction of government property.

Black Lives Matter

Note: This post has been revised to reflect new developments.

The mother of a 10-year-old boy who was handcuffed by Bloomington police and photographed in an image that went viral on social media last week is speaking out about the incident.

Anntionnetta Simmons said her son suffers from attention deficit disorder. He was charged last week in West Bloomington with disorderly conduct. His mother said the charge is the result of a misunderstanding.

Community Players

Perhaps the most familiar opening notes of any American show come from composer Leonard Bernstein’s classic score for the musical, West Side Story.

With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show premiered on Broadway in  1957  and followed the rivalry between ethnic New York teens and young immigrant Puerto Ricans.

The show's opening lines, "Hey brown boy, this is our street ... swim back to where you came from," demonstrate perhaps just how little we’ve progressed as a nation since then.

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When the sole clergy abuse survivor on an international papal commission resigned in protest recently, citing resistance by Vatican officials to reform, the protest didn’t surprise Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.

Sangamon Auditorium

Before the People vrs O.J. Simpson became known as "the trial of the century," there were the trials of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, two fictional  characters based on real-life murderesses in the Broadway musical Chicago.

With a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the show evokes the boozy, sexy, smoke-filled jazz clubs of Chicago in the 1920s. It is on stage Monday and Tuesday this week at Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium.

Wikipedia/Google Images

You might have noticed your female colleagues wearing red clothing today. Or perhaps they didn't show up at the office at all.

It's all part of the International Women's Day celebration, held each year on March 8. The day has special significance this year as women across the world try to maintain the momentum unleashed during the women's marches on Washington and other cities across the globe last January.

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Illinois State University is not officially a "sanctuary campus," but plans to remain a safe haven for undocumented students.

That's according to education administration Professor Beth Hatt and Latin American studies Director Maura Toro-Morn. The two are co-founders of CAUSA, the Committee Assisting Undocumented Student Achievement.

ISU Center for the Performing Arts

 With the record-breaking popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, revivals of another show about the founding of America were sure to follow.

The musical 1776, on stage at Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts, tells the story of some of the other founding fathers -- those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Director Lori Adams said the struggles to bridge division and reach compromise that the show depicts mirror many of the same challenges facing America today.

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Bloomington-Normal continues to absorb the sad news of the sudden passing of Tina Salamone, director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

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Bloomington has lost one of its most ardent advocates for the arts.

Tina Salamone, director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, died of a sudden heart attack on Sunday afternoon and was pronounced dead at Bro-Menn Hospital, McLean County coroner Kathleen Davis confirmed.

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