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.

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For years, Tom Roberts edited Joan Chittister's columns for National Catholic Reporter. The two were friends and he says he thought he knew the Benedictine sister and spirituality writer well. That was before he began a series of lengthy and intense interviews with Chittister. Roberts' new biography plows some old ground, like Chittister's famous showdown with the Vatican over her support of women's ordination; her work on global human rights; her many books on monastic wisdom for contemporary readers, as well as her years as prioress of her monastery after the Vatican II reforms.

Courtesy of Benetvision

Joan Chittister, a Catholic sister and member of the Benedictine  monastic order, is considered one of the foremost spirituality authors of our time. She has written more than 50 books. Her latest book is about the men and women in the early church who retreated to the desert to seek God with an undivided heart. Chittister says the sayings handed down from them still resonate with people today.

Joan Chittister is a member of Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA. Her new book is "In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics."

Clotee Allochuku / Flickr

The Bloomington-Normal chapter of Not In Our Town is taking aim at bullying, discrimination and hate talk in the public schools. The group, which promotes racial and cultural understanding, is launching Not In Our Schools with a series of training sessions for students at the high school and junior high levels. Camille Taylor, a retired educator and one of the coordinators, says Not In Our Town's wants to train student leaders who can tackle common social problems in the schools.

Judith Valente

It took 49 years, but Normal's holiday festivities this December will include the town's first official African American Santas. In 1966, NAACP activist Merlin Kennedy tried to ride a float in Bloomington's Christmas parade dressed as Santa. He was threatened with arrest. At age 89, Kennedy is getting a chance to rewrite that story's ending.

Kathleen Lorenz

Speaking to students at Community West High School in Normal today, Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) defended his recent vote to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the U.S. 

Students questioned the Peoria Republican about the backlash against refugees triggered by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the Middle East.

Judith Valente / WGLT

In the months since Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing announced that it is closing its plant in Normal, GLT News has been checking in with three longtime employees to see how they, their families and fellow workers are coping. On Tuesday, production line worker Mick Hannah will assemble the final Mitsubishi Outlander sport vehicles at the plant.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr via Creative Commons

One of the framers of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act says that law ushered in many physical accommodations for the disabled, but failed in some ways to change society's attitudes about people with disabilities. Nationally-known advocate Marca Bristo told a Bloomington audience last night that educational and employment opportunities remain a challenge for the disabled.

James Yolkowski / Wikipedia

Within a four county region that includes McLean, Livingston, Ford and DeWitt counties, Life Centers for Independent Living helps thousands of people with disabilities obtain work and live on their own. LIFE CIL, as it's often called, recently signed an agreement with Connect Transit to help screen riders with disabilities to help determine the best transportation option. On Thursday (11/19), LIFE CIL celebrates 30 years of community service. The celebration coincides with the 25th anniversary of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. GLT's Judy Valente takes a look back -- and forward -- with LIFE CIL's executive director Gail Kear.

Demonstrator holds sign
Elvert Barnes / Flickr

The Immigration Project is marking 20 years of serving immigrants throughout central Illinois and parts of southern Illinois. To meet an increasing caseload, the group recently opened a satellite office in Champaign.

Flickr user tvnewsbadge

Attorney, author and justice advocate Sister Simone Campbell is best know for leading Nuns on the Bus tours across America to draw attention to the concerns of low income workers, immigrants and people with disabilities. She's known to many in McLean County too, having given the 2013 Jim and Gwen Pruyne Lecture at New Covenant Community Church in Normal.

Interfaith Worker Justice / WGLT News

Wage theft is the deliberate withholding or underpayment of wages by employers. On November 18, workers across the country will hold a series of events to focus attention on the problem. Interfaith Worker Justice is a Chicago-based organization that helps workers across the country who have been treated unfairly.

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

On January first, a new state law will go into effect that addresses police use of force. The law prohibits the use of chokeholds which have led to the deaths of suspects in some cases. GLT's Judy Valente talked with Illinois State University criminal justice professor Jason Ingram who speaks this week on police use of force.

Judy Valente / WGLT

In the coming weeks, GLT News will bring you a series of stories on the future of water in McLean County. You'll hear about the quality and quantity of water and update you on potential threats. Reports will explore conservation efforts, and how you can do your part to create a cleaner, more plentiful water supply. And you'll meet the people responsible for keeping our water safe. In this segment, discovers what happens when you flush.

Pope Francis' historic visit to Philadelphia this past weekend drew more than a million people. Among them was WGLT's Judy Valente, who accompanied a group of pilgrims from central Illinois. They drove through the night in a van to get there, hoping for a glimpse of the man in white. They got that and much more.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

This year marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most influential children's books of all time, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book has inspired numerous films, plays and songs, and gave rise to an industry of children's toys. Illinois State University English Professor Jan Susina recently returned from England's Cambridge University where he lectured on the enduring legacy of Alice and her memorable companions, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat.

The stone house with the wrap-around porch and large turret is a fixture off Old Route 66 in Lexington. Locals know it as "The Castle." It's the home of longtime residents Chuck Wright (pictured) and his wife, Mary. The Wrights have spent 30 years restoring the residence. Now they are working to turn their property into a carnival-like venue for special events, complete with a restored carousel. In another of our occasional series on Unknown Illinois, GLT's Judy Valente takes you to the play land the Wrights are trying to create in the heart of Lexington.

Jared Pohl, Flicker

In what may be the only case of its kind in the country, the Catholic diocese of Peoria returned a Bloomington priest to ministry who served time on felony drug charges. Neither the diocese nor the priest formally publicly disclosed his background to the people who attend the two parishes he serves. The handling of the case raises familiar questions about transparency in the Catholic Church and about balancing an individual's right to privacy with a congregation's right to know.

Mary Jo Adams

A gunshot rings out on a farm just outside of Normal. Conservation police soon find a female bald eagle wounded in a field. The bird receives emergency treatment, but cannot rebound. For Mary Jo Adams, an Illinois master naturalist, news of the eagle's death is particularly devastating.

"It just kind of breaks my heart to see the nest empty now when we should be seeing one to three eaglets poking their heads out."

Justice Department officials are seeking widespread changes in policy, training and the hiring of officers in Ferguson, Missouri following the stunning report detailing a long-term pattern of racially-biased policing there.

Staff

Transgender or transexual individuals--people who seek to change their gender--are becoming more visible and more vocal. Earlier this month, it was revealed former male Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner is transitioning to female. Transgender actress Laverne Cox of the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," appeared last year on the the cover of Time magazine.

Staff

Many transgender individuals--people who seek to change their gender--once felt compelled to live largely secret lives. Buoyed by the strides the gay community has made in recent decades, transgender people are increasingly speaking out.

Bloomington Police Dept.

Local police officials will face citizens tonight at a meeting called by the the community group Not In Our Town, the local NAACP and other civic organizations. The main topic is likely to be controversial statements made by white Bloomington police officers about African Americans.

President Obama is calling for a sustained national conversation about what he calls "simmering distrust" between police and minority communities. We begin a five-part series on police and race in the Twin Cities. From a four month WGLT investigation, you'll hear from citizens who say they feel police target them and from police who must balance combating crime with safeguarding individual rights. Judy Valente has this report.

Traffic stops account for the most common encounters citizens have with local law enforcement. Most stops are routine. Others can provoke considerable tension. In Illinois, minority drivers are twice as likely as whites to be stopped and searched for drugs or weapons, even though contraband is found more often on whites. Under a Freedom of Information Act request, WGLT's Judy Valente reviewed 90 traffic stops that occurred over two days in Bloomington and Normal. Part 3 of the GLT News investigative series "Police and Race in the Twin Cities" uncovered some surprising results.

Over the past four decades, courts and legislatures have given increasingly broad powers to the police. According to constitutional law experts, there's been a corresponding decrease in citizen's rights. In the 4th part of the GLT News investigative series "Police and Race in the Twin Cities," Judy Valente reports on how routine traffic stops can escalate into more serious confrontations, and on the difficulties citizens face in pressing claims of civil rights violations by police.

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