Wanted: Your favorite social media place

CHAMPAIGN – Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents over the age of 12 are using social media, according to this recent analysis. Overall, Twitter has an estimated 200+ million monthly users. Facebook has well over 1 billion. Instagram has 200 million users. (Source:

Here in #chambana, there are thousands – and that’s a lot of conversations.

Darla Frye with her daughter Lauren in her sixth grade classroom at Urbana Middle School on Thursday, November 14, 2013. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Journalism

Teacher still dedicated despite struggles with cutbacks

By Sal Nudo/For —  Mother and daughter enter the brightly lit Biggby Coffee shop on Mattis Avenue in Champaign. It’s a brisk October evening, 7 p.m., dark outside. Forty-year-old Darla Frye is a sixth-grade teacher at Urbana Middle School who’s taught in the same place for 15 years and has seen her share of discouraging trends in the school system: fewer counselors to assist students in need; shrinking budgets and cut programs; and parents who are indifferent to their kids missing too much school. Darla has a master’s degree from the University of Illinois, her laptop in a bag and, at the moment, a slightly strained look on her tan face. Her sandy hair is pulled back tight.

Weekly RoundUp: Back to School

Whether you walk your child to school or wave to him through the bus window, you’re in good company. Parents across the country are frantically buying that last wide-ruled notebook and package of glue sticks and sending their kids back to school. 

We’ve shared articles highlighting several different aspects of heading back to school. Read this week’s roundup for news about school safety, student hunger and tips on starting off the year on the right foot.  

Students headed back to school this week – The News-Gazette

“This week marks the start of school for many local students, which has local police reminding motorists to watch out for students and mind local school zones.”


More Than Half Of Teachers Report Buying Hungry Students Food With Their Own Money – The Huffington Post

“We often hear about U.S. teachers being paid poorly for all the work they do to educate children. But did you know that 63 percent of teachers report buying food for the classroom each month with their own money?


Weekly RoundUp: Student Loans

Fixed interest rates for student loans will soon be a thing of the past. Last week the House joined the Senate in passing a proposal that would link student loan interest rates to the financial market. According to a recent Bloomberg news article, this means “9 million undergraduates will pay 3.86 percent on their next loan.”

The passage of this bill means that the “380,000 Illinois undergrads getting ready to take out federal loans will see their interest rates drop by 3 percent as a result,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a July 26th press release, after the Senate approved the measure. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama this month. While student savings could begin as early as this fall, not everyone is lauding the student loan deal.

Brant Houston, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair and Professor in the Department of Journalism in the College of Media at the University of Illinois
2012-2013 CAEPE Award Winner

CU-CitizenAccess co-founder honored with campus-wide award

The co-founder and director of CU-CitizenAccess was one of three University of Illinois faculty to be honored Tuesday night with a campus-wide award aimed to highlight community engagement projects locally, nationally and globally. Brant Houston, who holds the Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting in the Department of Journalism, launched CU-CitizenAccess in 2009. The award-winning online news and information service is nationally recognized for its focus on investigative and enterprise coverage of social, justice and economic issues in east Central Illinois. The Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement, given annually by the Office of Public Engagement, honors teams and individuals who engage the public to address critical social issues. This year a doctoral student and a team received awards along with the three faculty members.