Beth Altena

Links program breaks down barriers

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

Challenged students get a little help from a friend by BETH ALTENA A program that pairs successful students and those that face learning differences is so successful that teacher Emily Molesta hopes it will become a model for other schools. “Links” at Appleview Elementary in Sparta is a new program that links children with learning challenges such as autism with their peers, who mentor them and often form special friendships. It is called Links because it links students together like the rings or loops forming a chain. Darby Andreini is one of the links who has several students within her mentorship, and the relationships with her new friends have become a staple of conversation at home. “Not a day goes by without a Ferd story or an Alex story,” said Katy Andreini of her daughter, a fourth-grade student at Appleview. Darby was interviewed by TV ? recently and will be featured in a news segment this week. “She has developed amazing leadership skills,” Katy said of her daughter. More importantly, the relationship between Darby and her links is one of mutual care. “She doesn’t look down on them or patronize them,” Katy said. Katy said her daughter can be frustrated when others assume her role with her links is to discipline or boss them around. “They mentor their link by helping them with their school work or making sure no one is picking on them on the playground,” she described. She gave the example of offering a special toy or incentive to complete tasks. “One of her links loves Thomas the Train, so she found one and said, ‘Do you like this Thomas? If you fill out your planner every day this week, it’s yours,’” Katy described as an example of how Darby encourages her links. The relationships that have become apparent between the 50 or so students who are involved in Links are a secondary result of the program, first developed by Grand Valley State University. The main goal of the peer support program originated as a way for children in the autism spectrum of learning challenges to be more successful at school. Integrating students with developmental disadvantages is a concept that is coming into its own, and Molesta believes other schools can look […]

Rockford Chamber director resigns

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

Davis has led business organization for last six years by BETH ALTENA The Rockford Chamber of Commerce will have a new director when the resignation of Brenda Davis becomes effective March 25. According to Chamber Board President Dr. Carl Stites, Davis told the board she was resigning at their most recent board meeting earlier this month. Jeanne Gregory will serve as interim executive director for a three month period. “We were very lucky to have had Brenda as executive director of the chamber this past six years,” said Stites. “She is a big part of why the Chamber has been so successful.” Stites said that the position is very time consuming, with many night and weekend events the director is expected to oversee. “This has taken a big chunk of time away from her family,” Stites stated. Davis was hired when former director Carl Shook retired after leading the organization for several years. In his tenure, and continued by Davis, the Chamber was reinvented, with every-other-month luncheons, afterhours networking events, an ambassador program and increased membership.    

Artist’s passion for environment lives on in book

March 10, 2011 // 0 Comments

Peter Wege finances educational efforts by BETH ALTENA Whether Rockford artist Mark Heckman’s billboards made people laugh or shocked them, they were always noticed. Now, after Heckman’s death in May 2010 at age 49, following a two-year battle against non-Hodgekins lymphoma, the passion that inspired him lives on in a book tour aimed at raising environmental awareness. With the financial backing of philanthropist Peter Wege, Heckman’s book “Sooper Yooper: Environmental Defender,” illustrated by Heckman and written by best friend and author Mark Newman (check), is making its rounds throughout the country, spreading the message that every individual can make a difference in protecting our environment. “It’s something they both wanted to do for a long time,” said Heckman’s widow, Diane. Diane said she and Newman visit schools across the Midwest, presenting “Sooper Yooper” and providing teachers with lesson plans, worksheets and a copy of the book. They have presented their interactive road show in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including right here in Rockford. “Sooper Yooper” features hero Billy Cooper, who purposefully is a hero lacking in super powers. This point is to emphasize that anyone, not those with special powers, can protect our natural resources. Billy chases down zebra mussels, sea lamprey and other threats to the environment. “Sooper Facts” offer some sobering statistics regarding the dangers of ballast water from interoceanic freighters that regularly visit the Great Lakes and the resultant 180-plus invasive aquatic species already entrenched in our waters. Diane said the presentation, often with the Heckman family dog, Tank—included in the book as Mighty Mac—has been given to over 7,000 children and will visit schools as requested at least through the year. The program is supplemented by an art contest offering scholarships to students. The illustrations are “typical Heckman,” Diane said. The artist worked on the book during his illness and refused to let his health darken his unconventional view of the world—a view he was always eager to share. Heckman was a nationally recognized artist whose work was featured on the pages of Times and Newsweek before the age of 27. He was commissioned to create the portrait of President Gerald Ford that hangs in the state capital. Much of his work had a touch of “shock value,” […]

The Rockford Squire/The Rockford Weekly Register celebrates 140th

February 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA Anyone visiting the Squire office may have noticed a yellowed newspaper framed and hanging on our wall. It’s old, but you would have to look closely to see the significance. Dated February 8, 1871, the print on the brittle paper reads that it is Issue 1, Volume 1. This week The Rockford Squire newspaper, then in business as The Rockford Weekly Register, passes a milestone of its 140th year in operation, the oldest business in the City of Rockford. Happy birthday to Rockford’s original hometown newspaper! The newspaper is an important member of the community, and we are excited to see another year of publishing for the residents of Rockford. Our coverage area is the Rockford school district—100 square miles of people with stories to tell and news to share. When kids visit our office, we show them old cameras and photos and hold up copies of the paper going back more than 100 years. We tell them about how the industry has changed—we publish in color, with photos. Cameras are digital and computers deliver our “pages” to the printer. We still have the original lead letters that were used to put stories in, one letter and space at a time for each article, but those days are long gone. When the paper was young, Rockford didn’t have electricity, cars or telephones. The paper was here to report all that new stuff coming to town. Today, in our 140th year, technology is beyond those first editors’ imaginations, but essentially the business of newspapering is exactly the same. Advertisers pay for the newspaper and residents receive it free. We have news we write ourselves about people we sit down and talk with. Readers call and tell us when we make a mistake—which we do appreciate. Part of reaching and passing a milestone anniversary is the opportunity to reflect. When attending Rockford Area Historical Society meetings, much material comes from the editions of the old Register. People also often come in to get back issues or photocopy the bound books we have of all of our editions going back a number of years. We have 30 years worth, but the historical society has issues going back to that first issue in 1871. You can […]

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