Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When surviving is winning

The woman in this story invited me in to her home, allowed me to write a story about her and her son and awed me. She is both optimistic and realistic. She looks to the future but preserves her past. She is an inspiration to us all.

When surviving is winning

By Tara May
Pioneer Press Staff Writer

Anna Roeser knows the ugliness of cancer.

She knows it as a mother, carrying her son's dehydrated 3-year-old body in and out of hospitals as leukemia ravaged his blood cells.

She knows it as a diagnosis, vividly recalling the conversation that changed her life -- the doctor calling to tell her the lump in her breast was malignant, and she would need aggressive treatment and surgery.

She knows it as a lifestyle, first watching the chemotherapy tear through her son's body and then, only months later, looking in the mirror at her own bald head, devoid of eyelashes and eyebrows.

And she knows it as a survivor, a woman who will stand with her now 8-year-old son Gus during Relay for Life's survivor ceremony, both of them in remission from the disease that entered their life six years ago.

"When you first hear the word cancer, you think it's a death sentence," the Libertyville resident said. "That's what I thought. But I want people to know that's not how it has to be. There is hope.

"In everything, there is hope."

Roeser and her son are the honorary chairpersons for the 13th annual Green Oaks-Libertyville-Mundelein-
Vernon Hills Relay for Life, which will take place from 6 p.m. June 2 to 6 a.m. June 3 at Mundelein High School.

She said she wanted to give back to the community that helped her so much — friends and family and church members who helped her arrange childcare and cook meals and grocery shop during her hard times.

"They were there by the grace of God," Roeser said. "Even those day-to-day activities, just getting dinner on the table, was a challenge, and they helped me through that."

But Roeser said she also wanted to participate in Relay for the first time this year to help raise money to look for a cure for a disease inflicted on both her and her son.

And, she said, the event will also be a chance to stand up with her community, others whose lives have been affected by cancer.

"We're all members of the same club -- one we didn't ask to join," she said. "Cancer doesn't discriminate."

The Green Oaks-Libertyville-Mundelein-Vernon Hills Chamber of
Commerce, which partners with the American Cancer Society for the event, has strongly supported the Relay for Life since 1999, chamber President Dwight Houchins said.

"We view cancer as a business issue," he said. "There's loss of productivity, increase in insurance and health care costs, not to mention pain and suffering. It's a stressful thing."

The event has garnered more than $3.5 million since it began taking place in Lake County, Houchins added.

That money goes to research, advocacy, education and service, said
Kelli Burke, an American Cancer Society spokesperson.

Last year, the Relay brought in $422,000, she said. This year, the organization is aiming to raise more than $438,000.

For more information, a complete schedule of events or to register, visit the event Web site.

The June Relay for Life is open to the entire community.

The GLMV-area high schools are also holding a youth Relay for Life, which will take place April 14-15 at the Libertyville Sports Complex.
That event is for high school students only.

The June community event will include the Luminaria, an evening candlelight ceremony in honor of those still fighting against cancer and in memory of those who lost the battle, a survivor reception and an opening lap walked by cancer survivors.

When Roeser thinks about her life for the past six years, she has to blink back tears. She smiles at her son Gus, who was born with down syndrome and was in and out of hospitals for so many years, as he comes off the bus from school, grinning back at his mom.

Telling her story now, she says, is therapeutic.

"Going through this has been cathartic," she said. "Life is good. We've come so far. It really makes you appreciate everything – your life, your family, everything."

But it is that walk she looks forward to most — June 2, when she will grasp hands with Gus and show the world they are survivors.

That will be her victory.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

News should be a community dialogue

In a post on the TribLocal blog, I say we believe at TribLocal that people deserve to have a voice in the community dialogue before, during and after our reporting process. We welcome residents to comment on existing stories or submit their thoughts on a topic separately from our staff-written stories.

And if we're not talking about a topic you're inerested in, the TribLocal Web site offers an open invitation for you to start your own conversation.

And just because a story is written doesn't mean the conversation is over. If you comment on a story or submit your own opinions, you will see them online and often in print. For example, some responses submitted to a story on the Ft. Sheridan golf course debate in Highland Park appeared in print as part of an ongoing look at the issue. In print editions, we remind readers to weigh in online and look for that discussion to be reverse-published in a later print issue.

Read more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Committee looks to build $10M family center

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

The members of the Community Family Center committee in Highland Park have a vision.

They walk down the hallways of the old Karger Center basement with dilapidated floors and crowded halls that flood during rainstorms. But they envision a redeveloped center where the city's youngest children have room to spread out and play.

They peer into a storage room where social workers hold counseling sessions and crowded shelves are spilling over because there's no room anywhere else. But they envision ample, private office space for meetings about personal matters.

They talk about social workers who drive from building to building across Highland Park and Highwood to do their work and help families. But they envision one campus in the heart of downtown Highland Park where social service organizations could work in cooperation.

And they know there's a lot of work in front of them: millions of dollars in fundraising, for a start. But they envision a community that supports their cause and plan to meet—or at least come close to—that fundraising goal in 2010, begin construction in the fall and open in the summer of 2011.

The Community Family Center steering committee is a group of Highland Park and Highwood residents who have dedicated their time on a volunteer basis to build a family center in the heart of downtown Highland Park. The organization they plan would house a variety of maternity, infant, preschool, kindergarten and family service organizations, including Family Network, Family Service, Highland Park Community Nursery School and Day Care Center, the Highland Park/Highwood Home Child Care Association and the Tri-Con Child Care Center.

A decade in the making

The Community Family Center steering committee members began meeting about nine years ago—although at that time, they didn't have a name for themselves yet. Nor did they know exactly what they were working for or where they would build it.

They simply knew there was a need for more affordable child care services in Highland Park and Highwood. In 2002 and 2006, United Way assessment surveys showed that the community saw a need for more early education support—specifically affordable, non-religious child care.

"It's sorely needed," said Herbert Wander, an attorney who led the committee for much of its duration. "We've got these great agencies who do amazing work in sub-standard conditions. We need to take care of our young kids."

Read the full story on TribLocal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

State of the Media report

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual State of the Media report this morning.

Read it on the Columbia Journalism Review Web site.

The information is as bleak as we knew it would be and includes:

• The newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in reporting and editing capacity in the past year.

• Online advertising, content pay walls and the idea of unbiased news aren't working.

But, I don't think this should discourage anyone. We knew all this. Now is the time to move forward with more news analysis, opinions and community engagement. We as newspapers should foster and host the conversation.

If we don't, someone else will.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Check out the TribLocal: Inside the Newsroom blog

This is my personal blog.

Want to know more about Chicago Tribune's TribLocal? Check out our blog hosted by Chicago Now, the Tribune's blogging network.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ann Landers

Today, I found out something I should have already known.

Ann Landers worked for the Chicago Tribune.

I should have known this because I work for Chicago Tribune's TribLocal, and, well, it seems to be common information.

But I read Ann Landers' columns when I was a little girl living in Lowell, Mich. in our metro newspaper, The Grand Rapids Press. I had no idea then where they originally came from, and only my dreams, not my reality, spanned much beyond the west side of the state. I remember wondering if she existed at all, or if she perhaps was the invention of a newspaper editor.

She had a way with words that I admired and aspired to. She had the answers to all the questions I never even knew to ask. She wrote intelligently and inspired me. One piece of prose she penned in her column I clipped in 1995, and it is preserved inside a frame that also holds my wedding photos. "Love is friendship that has caught fire..." it reads.

I wanted to be a writer and a newspaperwoman more than anything, and there she was, every day. Her career seemed a million miles away from my life.

And yet, here I am today, working for the same major media company as Ann Landers. I can't wait to tell my mom.

Lake County to restore rare ecological system

This story had one big surprise factor for me: Thousands of volunteers help preserve the Lake County Forest Preserves land. I had no idea so many people were committed to protecting the lands in my county.

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

Rare plants and a unique ecological environment will be protected in a major restoration of Grainger Woods—an endeavor that will be jump-started by one of the largest grants in the forest preserves' history.

The Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves District garnered a $500,000 donation from the Grainger Foundation, which will in part fund the comprehensive restoration planned for the 308-acre Grainger Woods Conservation Preserve, Lake County Forest Preserves District officials said.

Planning is already underway for the $1.5 million project, which is set to take place over a span of seven years, said Barb Vicory, the executive director of the preservation foundation.

The preservation foundation will continue fundraising to cover the cost of the project, she added. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that receives charitable gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations to support the public lands owned by the forest preserves.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources designated 169 acres of the land as an Illinois Nature Preserve in January. That status is only given to the most ecologically sensitive public lands, Vicory said.

"That's a distinction that's held for the most rare areas of our state," she said.

The portion of the site designated as a nature preserve contains wet-mesic upland forest and northern flatwoods, which the state considers globally imperiled. The designation will provide protection to seven state endangered or threatened species.

During the restoration project, the forest preserves will have to be cautious in removing the non-native species without damaging the rare native plants, Vicory said. The plan may include the use of spot-applied herbicides.

"We have to be very careful," she said.

Read more. The full story is on TribLocal.

Lake Forest teachers invent reading curriculum, raise ACT scores

I really had fun reporting this story. Education stories fascinated me even before I became a parent, and now I am even more intrigued by how and what we teach our children.

These two teachers are passionate about their work. I could hear it in their voices as they spoke about this project. They put in long hours and extra time to help these students succeed. They're being innovative and doing something no one's done before.

And, as a writer and avid reader, I know exactly how valuable it will be for students to have a higher comprehension level.

Meet two Lake Forest teachers who are changing the world, one student at a time:

By Tara May Tesimu
Published in Chicago Tribune's TribLocal

Two Lake Forest teachers are inventing the curriculum for a course to help high school students become better readers—and raising ACT scores while they’re at it.

Lake Forest High School teachers Becky Mueller and Linda Rich co-teach a one-semester elective class called strategic reading, in which they teach students how to become better readers through different reading strategies and three main components: vocabulary building, comprehension and fluency.

"The idea usually is that you learn to read until you're in 3rd grade, and then you read to learn after that," Mueller said. "It's a paradigm shift. Teachers are not used to teaching reading in high school. We teach students that reading is an active process as opposed to just sitting there absorbing information."

The class is considered tier two intervention, the teachers said, which means that it is designed for students who need some help improving their reading abilities but is not considered intense intervention.

And it's also come with an unexpected bonus. The class began in the 2007-08 and testing has shown that many students who take the class see a rise in their ACT scores—from 1 to 7 points, or from a 13 score to a 20 on the reading portion of the standardized test. The information shows that 63 percent of the students who take the class have seen a rise in their ACT reading score.

"That's not our main goal," Mueller said. "We're thrilled that the kids are getting something so tangible out of it, and that motivates them, but to us, it's just an extra—a great way to hook their interest."

...Read more. The full story is on Triblocal.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting to know you...or me!

We spend every Friday getting to know TribLocal journalists on our blog at Chicago Now.

Here's an introduction to myself and the innovative blog co-moderator, Heather Leszczewicz:

Community Manager Tara May Tesimu


Q. What's your journalism background?
A. I can't remember a time I wasn't doing some form of journalism. I was editor-in-chief of my middle school paper in 8th grade, held the same position at my high school paper and started at Michigan State University's student daily when I was a sophomore. I then worked for two daily newspapers in New Mexico and Michigan before coming with my family to Chicagoland.

Q. What drew you to TribLocal?
A. TribLocal is innovative--using new media and technology to transform the way we think about local news. But it is also a return to the roots of journalism, in which we are working hard to foster a community discussion. We want everyone to have a voice, and we encourage not only thoughtful and unique contributions to our site and print edition, but through comments and feedback in any and all formats. I believe we are creating a model that works--not only for news but for true community engagement.

Q. What do you like about covering Highland Park, Highwood, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff?
A. It doesn't take long to realize people in these towns are extremely dedicated to their communities. And why wouldn't they be? The communities are intelligent, passionate, vibrant and beautiful. The people who reside here work hard to make them great places to live, work and play--now and for future generations.

Q. What do you do when you're not working at TribLocal?
A. I am the mom of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so a good chunk of my time is spent chasing tricycles, reading books out loud, finger-painting projects and playing at the park. My husband, Sammy, is a tennis pro, so I often find myself on a court pretending I can actually swing a racket. If I find a moment to myself, I love independent films, concerts, reading (actual grown-up books) and swimming. I also love weekend trips back to the small town where I grew up in Michigan to see my family and have a bonfire.

Q. If you weren't a journalist, what career would you have?
A. If you weren't a journalist? That sounds like a foreign language to me. Teach journalism at a university? I think I'd also be interested in psychology, so I could still work with people and write.

Reach Tara by calling 708-498-4130, e-mailing, on Twitter @triblocaltara or on Facebook.

Community Manager Heather Leszczewicz

Q. What's your journalism background?


A. I've always known I wanted to be a writer. I wasn't a kid wavering between several different aspirations. I got into the Internet early and started e-mail newsletters focusing on things that interested me or girlie advice. I started interning for a PR/Marketing firm while at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights and I worked for the school newspaper, the Viator Voice.

I majored in journalism at Marquette University and graduated. I worked at the Marquette Tribune as a jack-of-all-trades--reporter, copy editor, editor and designer--as well as the literary/news magazine the Marquette Journal. And I spent a year and a half as an intern for Milwaukee's online daily magazine

I graduated in 2007, moved back to Illinois and started a position with the Chicago Sun-Times' hyperlocal, citizen journalism Web site, which is defunct. Now I'm at TribLocal which allows me to report, photograph, design and work online.

Q. What drew you to TribLocal?
A. I had already been introduced to citizen journalism at my last job and I love it. I know there are plenty of important things happening in communities that aren't getting covered. And TribLocal allows residents to have some control over their news and learn what's happening right down the block. I'm a big believer in user participation, which is why I also love (okay, am addicted to) social media. TribLocal gets the community involved.

Q. What do you like about covering Lincolnshire, Lake Zurich, Vernon Hills, Libertyville and Mundelein?

A. I previously had the chance to explore Libertyville, Vernon Hills and Mundelein and now I'm getting a chance to learn more about Lincolnshire and Lake Zurich. There's a beauty in all these communities and residents have such pride when it comes to their town. And everyone I've met has been so nice. I've also liked discovering some of the local treasures.

Q. What do you do when you're not working at TribLocal?
A. I watch a lot of TV and movies. I have a DVD collection that rivals some rental places. I love to read for fun. I've been trying to cook more, but my kitchen has limited counter space.

Q. If you weren't a journalist, what career would you have?
A. Like I said, I always wanted to be a writer. If I was forced to choose something else, I think I'd enjoy being a photographer most. I love making coffee table books full of photos and taking photos of scenery.

Reach Heather by calling 708-498-0248, e-mailing or on Twitter @hlesztriblocal.

Read the original post on Chicago Now.

About Me

My photo
Stories are my passion—and I am an advocate for the new, engaging ways to share and create those stories. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and now live and work in the Chicago area.