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3rd Annual Toast of Champaign is October 14th

The 3rd Annual Toast of Champaign is happening Saturday, October 14th, from 1 to 10 p.m. Last year's event featured special taps of special brews over the course of an afternoon. 

This year's event, hosted by The Blind Pig Brewery, will take place in the Pig's beer garden and feature brews from Triptych, Rigg's, Destihl, JT Walker's, Monarch, and Big Thorn Farm & Brewery. 

More information is available on Facebook

Photo by Brittany Busboom. 

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Local faith group to rally at Rodney Davis’s office to support Dreamers

A  local Jewish advocacy group, Hineni-CU, will hold a rally outside the Champaign office of Congressman Rodney Davis from 12-1 p.m. on September 20 to present a petition demanding that Davis vote in favor of a “clean” Dream Act of 2017 (HR 3440).

Speakers will include Rabbi Ari Naveh, Imam Ousmane Sawadogo, and Father Tom Royer.

The shofar, a ram's horn traditionally blown during the Jewish High Holidays, will be blown at this event because of its historical use as a call to justice.

On Bloomington-Normal's WJBC, Davis claimed he would support a Dream Act but wants to include amendments regarding strict border security. This is playing politics with people's lives and is unacceptable.

Who: Hineni-CU, a local Jewish advocacy group

What: Rally outside Congressman Rodney Davis's office to present a petition

When: Wednesday, September 20, 12-1 p.m.

Where: Congressman Davis's office, 2004 Fox Dr., Champaign

Why: “This is a very personal issue for us,” says Hineni-CU executive director Diane Ore. “For so many of us, our parents or grandparents were brought to this country as young children by their parents as they fled oppression and war. We're horrified that today's “Dreamers,” whose stories remind us so much of our own family histories, could be expelled from our country through no fault of their own, even to dangerous, life-threatening conditions. We've seen this before.”

The Dream Act of 2017 (HR 3440) would protect from deportation the nearly 800,000 children of undocumented parents currently covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, which the Trump administration plans to cancel in six months. Nearly 41,000 of these children reside in Illinois, many in Davis's district.

To see the petition, click here.

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Common Ground Food Co-op hosting Owners Party September 21st

This Thursday the 21st, at the Urbana Civic Center, Common Ground Food Co-op will be hosting their annual Owners Party. This is a great opportunity  to meet fellow owners and enjoy tastings from all departments. 

In addition, owners will have the opportunity to vote in Owner's Elections, participate in wine tastings, a Co-op Explorer's art activity, an owner input session, Co-op photobooth, coupon packets, and giveaways.

If you're not already an owner, now is a great time to sign up! To RSVP, email Sarah.Buckman@commonground.coop, and check out the

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Annual Allerton Park Family Campout and Exploration happening this weekend

The third annual Allerton Family Campout and Exploration kicks off this weekend in Allerton Park from the 22nd to the 24th.  

This year's event will include a Campfire Concert with the Okee Dokee Brothers, various hikes with local biologists, and a chance to view wildlife and get to know more about the nature around us. 

Spaces are limited, so register soon at Allerton.illinois.edu or call 217-333-3287.

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Urbana High School Homecoming activities and parade

Uhs

Urbana – Urbana High School will celebrate homecoming during the week of September 25 through September 30, with their traditional Homecoming Parade on Friday, September 29.  In a change from previous years, the Homecoming Varsity football game vs. Champaign Central will be held on Saturday, September 30 at 12 noon.

Pep Rally and Homecoming Parade

On Friday, September 29, the UHS Homecoming Pep Rally will be in the Oscar Adams Gym at 11:30 a.m.  The Parade will start shortly after, at 12:30 p.m.  The time is a change from previous years.  The parade will include the Homecoming King and Queen and their Court, UHS Marching Band, floats created by student committees representing student groups and grade levels, student athletic teams, and a variety of special guests and USD #116 administrators.  The Court will also be introduced during the UHS Varsity Football game the next day.  Because the varsity football game will be held on Saturday, there will be no Tailgreat event this year.

The parade route will begin at the high school on Race Street at Iowa.  The parade will continue north on Race Street to Main Street, east on Main Street to Vine Street, south on Vine Street to Washington Street, west on Washington Street to Broadway Avenue and finish in the high school parking lot.

Race Street will be closed to thru traffic between Iowa Street and Indiana Avenue beginning at 11:30 a.m. through the start of the parade.  Once the parade starts, traffic along the parade route will only be obstructed for the time it takes for the parade to clear the area (approximately 15 minutes) on each leg of the parade.

While we encourage supporters to watch the parade and cheer on our Tigers, drivers in the downtown area and around the high school may want to avoid this area during the parade times.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.  Everyone at Urbana High School and Urbana School District #116 appreciates the support the community shows to our students.

UHS Homecoming Athletic Events
Please find a list below of our UHS athletic teams and their games during homecoming week.
· Monday, Sept. 25th @ 4:30 PM - JV/V Boys Soccer vs. Mahomet-Seymour
· Wednesday, Sept. 27th @ 4:30 PM - Girls Swimming vs. Normal Community
· Thursday, Sept. 28th @ 4:00 PM - Girls Tennis vs. Mahomet-Seymour
· Thursday, Sept. 28th @ 4:30 PM - Varsity Only Boys Soccer vs. Peoria Manual
· Thursday, Sept. 28th @ 5:00 PM - F/JV/V Volleyball vs. Normal Community
· Saturday, Sept. 30th @ 12:00 PM Noon - Varsity FB Game vs. CH Central

Urbana School District #116 is a unit district located in east central Illinois. Our outstanding schools in an outstanding community comprise of an early childhood school, six neighborhood elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and an adult education center.  To discover more about our award winning schools and students, please visit www.usd116.org. You can find us on Facebook at Urbana School District #116 or follow us on Twitter: @Urbana116.

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Town hall featuring congressional candidate Erik Jones September 23rd

Join us on Saturday, September 23rd from 2:30-4 p.m. for a town hall featuring IL-13 congressional candidate Erik Jones.

Erik Jones is running as Democrat to unseat Republican Congressman Rodney Davis in Illinois' 13th Congressional District which includes Champaign-Urbana.

This is a family-friendly event.

The CU Indivisible town hall series is intended to help our community get to know a variety of candidates, ask questions, and become involved in the electoral process.

CU Indivisible is a progressive, non-partisan community organization. Find out more about us here.

SEATING: This event will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis.

FORMAT: Town hall style question and answer session. Please feel free to prepare questions in advance.

SPEAKER INFO: To learn more about Erik Jones, please visit here.

COST: This event is free and open to the public. Families are welcome to attend.

NOTE: This series of events is educational in nature and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate. CU Indivisible does not endorse candidates for office.

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Unit 4 students’ scores for ACT and AP are exceeding state average

From the press release:

ACT, AP scores for Unit 4 exceed state average

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- College readiness among Champaign Unit 4 School District students is higher than average, according to recent reports on ACT® and Advanced Placement (AP) test scores.

The 2017 graduating classes of Central and Centennial high schools achieved an average composite score of 22.6 on the ACT college entrance exam, beating the state average of 21.4. A score of 21 or above is considered an indicator for college readiness, according to ACT.

The ACT consists of curriculum-based tests in English, math, reading and science to measure skills needed for success in first-year college coursework. Thirty-seven percent of Champaign students were considered college-ready in all four areas, exceeding the state average of 30%. 

The state did not mandate the ACT for the class of 2017 as it transitioned to a state-funded SAT for the class of 2018. In this gap year with no state-funded entrance exam, Unit 4 administration prioritized efforts to help those who qualified apply for the ACT fee waiver to help as many college-bound students as possible take the test. A total of 403 students from the class of 2017 took the ACT, compared to 626 in 2016.

Champaign students’ above-average readiness for college is also evident in AP exam scores, which measure achievement in college-level AP courses. In 2017, Unit 4 students achieved a mean score of 3.30 out of 5, higher than the Illinois average of 3.03 and the U.S. and global averages of 2.84 and 2.86, respectively. Many universities grant placement and course credit for scores of 3 or higher.

AP achievement continues to be a focus for Unit 4. The total number of AP students (415) has nearly doubled since 2011, with enrollment among minority and low income populations the highest in six years. The number of Unit 4 students earning exam scores of 3+ has doubled since 2011.

“Unit 4 is committed to our students’ post-secondary success,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Laura Taylor said. “These higher than average scores on the ACT and AP exams indicate that the students who will pursue college are academically prepared and poised for achievement.”

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MTD awarded $1.45M FTA grant to add hydrogen fuel cell electric buses

From the press release:

FTA GRANT AWARDED TO MTD

TO ADD HYDROGEN FUEL CELL ELECTRIC BUSES

Urbana, IL—A $1.45 million competitive Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant has been awarded to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) for the purchase of no-emission, hydrogen fuel cell electric buses and associated infrastructure. The Low-No Emissions Grant is offered by the FTA to support the transition of the nation’s transit fleet to the lowest polluting and most energy efficient transit vehicles. Such a purchase will make MTD the first transit authority in the State of Illinois to add fuel cell electric buses to their fleet.

"The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District continues to be a leader in the region by providing innovative transportation services to the community, and this grant is no exception,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL13). "I'm proud to see the transit district receive these funds, which will add two new, energy-efficient buses to its fleet."

In anticipation of this advancement of MTD’s environmentally friendly efforts, Karl Gnadt, MTD’s Managing Director, attended the Midwest Center of Excellence’s 2017 Public Transit Workshop this week in Canton, Ohio to examine the technolog firsthand and to learn about such things as fueling and infrastructure requirements.

“MTD has long been on the front edge of technological advances,” says Gnadt. “With
this Low-No Emissions Grant, MTD will be the first transit system in the country to
commercially operate 60-foot, articulated, hydrogen fuel cell electric buses. This is
fantastic news for the University of Illinois campus and the greater Champaign-Urbana area. We are grateful that Representative Davis and Senators Durbin and Duckworth worked together to show support for this local initiative that advances positive, sustainable programs here at home. This grant would not have been possible without their support.”

How does fuel cell technology work?

Most vehicles use an internal-combustion engine to burn fuel, generate heat, and push pistons up and down to drive the transmission and wheels. Whereas, instead of an engine, electric vehicles rely on batteries that feed electric power to electric motors that drive the wheels directly. Hybrid vehicles have both internal-combustion engines and electric motors and switch between the two as necessary.

Fuel cells are a bit like a cross between an internal-combustion engine and battery
power. Like an internal-combustion engine, they make power by using fuel from a tank, but the fuel is hydrogen gas rather than gasoline or diesel. Unlike an engine, a fuel cell doesn't burn the hydrogen. Instead, the hydrogen is fused chemically with oxygen from the air to make water. In the process, which resembles what happens in a battery, electricity is released and used to power a vehicle’s electric motor. The only waste product is water—which exits the vehicle as steam and a liquid pure enough to drink.

Think of fuel cells as batteries that never run flat. Instead of slowly depleting the
chemicals inside them, as normal batteries do, fuel cells run on a steady supply of
hydrogen and continue to generate electricity as long as there's fuel in the tank.

In Brief:

  • Hydrogen fuel cell buses look and act like hybrid buses but offer zero-emissions.
  • MTD’s fleet is currently 77% Hybrid and will be 83% Hybrid by 2018, making MTD a leader in providing environmentally friendly public transportation. This FTA Low-No Grant will take MTD’s fleet to the next level.
  • MTD will be the first in Illinois to add hydrogen fuel cell electric buses to their fleet and the first in the United States to commercially deploy 60-foot, articulated, hydrogen fuel cell electric buses.
  • Hydrogen is a clean and safe energy carrier that will meet a full day’s transit needs without the need to stop and refuel or recharge.
  • Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, biogas, and electricity, including electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar. MTD’s solar farm produced 257,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy in FY2017, and MTD plans to pursue the self-production of hydrogen from solar and other renewable sources.

MTD’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Buses, By The Numbers:

  • 0 Zero-emissions at the tailpipe
  • 250-300 Mile range between refueling
  • 2017 Year of FTA Grant announcement
  • 2019 Year of expected delivery of hydrogen fuel cell electric buses

CTE Presents - Driving Zero Emissions: Fuel Cell from CTE on Vimeo.

Top photo courtesy of MTD.

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Loren Tate is retiring from writing at The News-Gazette

Loren Tate has been a columnist for The News-Gazette for nearly half a century — and he's decided to hang it up, turning 86 this year. You've likely seen his byline in a variety of ways throughout the years, but Illini Athletics were the sweet spot.

Photo from News-Gazette

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Last call for Parkland’s 2017 Art & Design Faculty Exhibition

The annual showcase by Parkland College’s faculty artists is in its final week. Some of the exhibit's highlights include Peggy Shaw's "90 Years," a photographic deconstruction of an old family film; dense abstract paintings by Matthew Watt; decorated stoneware and earthenware by Laura O'Donnell; sculptures by Chris Berti, including a striking (no pun intended) carved baseball bat; and "Dance of Death," a series of whimsical paintings by Joan Stolz, one of which seems to be a poke at a certain golf-loving president.

For those who prefer art of a more practical nature, the marketing communications field is represented by Liza Wynette's illustrations from the 2107 United Way Kindergarten Calendar, as well as Paul Young's "Small Ideas," a collection of dozens of sketches he developed in response to branding and visual communications presented by commercial clients.

The exhibit is free and open to the public, thanks in part to a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

Where: Giertz Gallery, 2400 West Bradley Ave., Champaign IL 61821

When: Wed-Thurs 10 a.m. –7 p.m.; Sat 12 noon–2pm