It’s FAFSA time! Tips and warnings when applying for college aid

BELLEVILLE, IL (Elizabeth Donald, Belleville News Democrat.  Please click on the link above for the full story Here is an excerpt below)

’s time for the FAFSA, that rite of college that has become a familiar trial for students and parents wrangling with the cost of higher eduction – and now it starts earlier.

So here’s what you need to know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, including the biggest mistakes you can make that can cost you thousands in financial aid, according to Experian and CollegeXpress:

It comes earlier in the year. In the past, FAFSAs were accepted beginning Jan. 1. Last year it was moved to Oct. 1, but some families are still holding off until January. Big mistake, according to Experian: some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, including the Illinois MAP grant. Assistance in 13 states is awarded in order of application, according to CNBC. In years past, Illinois MAP funds have run out three months or less after FAFSA applications were opened, so it pays to be first in line. There are multiple deadlines as well: the college deadline, state and federal deadlines

BCHS Senior Spotlight: Neal Carlton

Today’s Rangers Football Senior Spotlight is on wide receiver and safety, # 7 Neal Carlton. Neal is the son of Alan and Rhonda Carlton. Neal has played football for 4 years.

In addition to football, Neal can be found hunting and fishing year round. Neal plans to attend college after high school graduation. He says he would like to thank his mom and dad for everything they have done through the years to help him with his football career.


Today’s Benton Football Senior Spotlight is linebacker and offensive guard, # 68 Warren Smothers. Warren is the son of Allen & Lisa Smothers.

Warren has been playing for six season (4 years of high school ball and 2 years of junior football). He spends most of his time playing football, hanging out with friends and working out at the gym.
He plans to go to college next year and also plans to continue to work as well. He would like to specifically thank his mom, his aunt and his brother for pushing him to be the best he can be.

50 Influencers of Rend Lake College : Dave Ellingsworth, Warrior hero

By Reece Rutland, Rend Lake College Public Information

INA, IL – There are few names on Rend Lake College’s campus that transcend the person and represent an entire part of the RLC culture. When people hear the name Dave Ellingsworth, it’s impossible to not instantly think of the college’s softball program.

Dave Ellingsworth

But, Ellingsworth didn’t get his start at RLC on the softball diamond. In fact, he was a 17-year teaching veteran in the Mining Technology program before he took over the softball team from fellow legendary coach Hummer Waugh. Officially taking the head managerial role in 1994, following six seasons as an assistant under Waugh, Ellingsworth got things started with a bang, going 14-1 in the conference (27-8 overall) and notching a GRAC championship and Coach of the Year honors.

It wouldn’t be the last accolade earned by an Ellingsworth team.

All his third team did was go 31-13 in the spring and 46-21 overall, earning Ellingsworth Region XXIV “Coach of the Year” laurels and the team’s first Region XXIV title. That was followed by an appearance at the NJCAA Women’s National Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., in May 1996, where they finished ninth.

In 2000 the team posted a conference 12-2 mark (34-13 overall) to become GRAC co-champions. The Lady Warriors also earned Region XXIV runner-up showings in ’02, ’03 and ’07, and five third-place finishes in the Final Four between 1998 and 2008.

Perhaps just as, if not more, important than his team’s on-the-field success is the fact that 10 of his squads were honored with NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year distinctions.

Ellingsworth hard at work coaching the 2016-2017 softball team.

“Dave Ellingsworth is one of the finest people with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work.  His record as a softball coach speaks for itself, however, his character and caring attitude toward his players, fellow coaches and people in general are what separates him from other successful coaches.  I have learned a great deal about coaching and life in general from having the opportunity to work with Dave over the past 25 years.  I am grateful to have him as a friend and value his advice and counsel,” expressed Rend Lake College Athletic Director Tim Wills.

To further reflect that dedication to students and everyone else around him, in 2009, Ellingsworth was given the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes Scott Tickner Huddle Coach of the Year Award.

Named after Mt. Vernon Township High School Wrestling Coach and longtime local FCA representative Scott Tickner, the award was created to honor individuals and coaches who have demonstrated a passion for FCA’s faith-based values through years of dedication, action and leadership.

Ellingsworth’s team celebrates by shooting their coach with Silly String to celebrate his 800th coaching victory

In the interest of historical accuracy, Ellingsworth was involved with Rend Lake College before he (or anyone else for that matter) knew that RLC was even going to exist. In 1963, he prowled the halls of Mt. Vernon Community college as a student-athlete. In fact, he was the ninth-leading scorer for the Warrior cagers in 1963-64 when he scored one point on 1-of-2 shooting from the line.

Following his time at MVCC, he spent four years flying helicopters as an Army pilot in Viet Nam and teaching Aviation Technology at his other alma mater, Southern Illinois University from 1971-77.

Truth be told, Ellingsworth is a true blue American hero to boot.

As a U.S. Army Gunship Pilot from 1966-67 – his call sign was “Firebird 93” – Ellingsworth became a decorated war hero. He flew countless missions into enemy territory, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in aerial combat.

He was honored with the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross by Vietnam Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and was presented with the Vietnam Air Service Medal that features 21 oak leaf clusters.

In the July 23, 1967 edition of The Sunday Ledger-Enquirer out of Columbus, Ga., Staff Writer Charles Black wrote about U.S. forces sinking a North Vietnamese trawler on July 15 off the coast of Chu Lai. It was reportedly carrying enough weapons, ammunition and explosives to refit two regiments and sustain Viet Cong fighting for a year.

Black explained how the trawler was followed by radar for 200 miles and nearly got away. After it was spotted, the Navy’s swift boats intercepted the trawler and two destroyers moved in to hem it off, Black stated.

Chief Warrant Officer Ellingsworth during his time in the Vietnam War.

“The desperate voyage of the trawler, all of whose crew escaped except three left behind dead, was ended by a 23-year-old Army Warrant Officer named David A. Ellingsworth . . .” the report reads.

In addition, He also received a Purple Heart for being wounded in action. When his helicopter was taking on enemy fire, an automatic rifle round went through his wrist, glanced off of a metal plate worn by pilots under their uniform and smashed into his instrument panel.

In a previous interview, Ellingsworth said that time in his life imparts valuable perspective for his role on the softball diamond.

“I know exactly what I’m capable of,” Ellingsworth said. “And as far as coaching, I can keep things in perspective. If I make a bad decision on the field, I get someone thrown out at the plate. At that particular time in my life, if I made a bad decision, someone somewhere in the world would lose their most precious possession.”

In 1969, fresh out of the Army, he went back to school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance Control. He stayed at SIU after graduating and taught in the School of Aviation from 1971 to 1977.

That was the year he accepted a teaching position in the Mining and Industrial Technology departments at RLC. By the mid-1980s, Ellingsworth was on the softball field as a Lady Warrior Assistant Coach under Jim Waugh. He took over head coaching duties in fall 1993.

23 Seasons / 856-688 (.554)
































































































* Ties

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.40 GPA)

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 800th Win in 22 seasons
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.45 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.31 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.55 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.26 GPA)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.28 GPA

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 700th Win in 17 seasons
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.25 GPA)

Softball ~
Region XXIV Tournament Runner-Up (37-24)
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 600th Win in 14 seasons

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.04 GPA)

Softball ~
Coach Dave Ellingsworth – 500th Win in 12 seasons
(W, 7-6 vs. Jefferson Davis C.C. March 11, 2005)
NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~
Softball (3.40 GPA)

Softball ~
Great Rivers Athletic Conference Co-Champion (12-2)
Dave Ellingsworth / GRAC Co-“Coach of the Year”

Softball ~
9th, NJCAA Fast-Pitch Championships (46-21) (1st, Region XXIV)
Dave Ellingsworth / Region XXIV “Coach of the Year”

Softball ~
Great Rivers Athletic Conference Champion (15-1)
Dave Ellingsworth / GRAC “Coach of the Year”

Online MBA program garners more national recognition

by Chirsti Mathis, Southern Illinois University News Service

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Online Master of Business Administration program continues to rake in honors.

The program, housed within the College of Business, is among “The 50 Best Online MBA Programs for 2017-18” selected by The rankings were released this week with SIU in the No. 36 spot. This is the second year in a row SIU has claimed the same position on the list.

Online programs were evaluated based on the quality of the program, types of courses featured, academic rigor, faculty scholarship, school awards, rankings, strength of online instruction methodology, reputation and various other factors, including accreditation, costs, and the acceptance, retention and graduation rates. A proven track record for delivering “full-fledged online instruction” was required. In addition, in order to earn a spot on the list, a program must be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

“Our continued strong showing in the rankings reflects the quality of our faculty, staff and students,” said Terry Clark, dean of the College of Business. “We are making additional investments and have an enduring commitment to offering an array of top-quality online programs.”

The BestSchools online ranking included a profile of SIU and its College of Business’ online MBA program. The profile states that the online MBA program is offered in a 23-month format, with new groups beginning each summer semester and students taking one course during each eight-week term, giving flexibility but also encouraging students to interact with faculty and one another. It also noted that the program is completely online, with no campus visits required, and that there is an option for a concentration in Agribusiness Economics, offered in conjunction with the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Just last month, SIU earned the 23rd spot among Discover Business’ top online MBA programs and earlier this year, SIU was named among the top 40 “Best Online MBA Programs” by U.S. News and World Report. This is the third consecutive year for the U.S. News ranking and SIU claimed the No. 36 spot in the country. SIU also took the sixth spot in the Midwest and was No. 1in Illinois according to U.S. News.


Training to back up the Storm Prediction Center


O’ FALLON, IL-  (Nick Hausen, WSIL-TV)  Please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below)

Meet the 15th Operational Weather Squadron operating out of Scott Air Force Base. A team of weather forecasters that handles analysis, forecasting, and weather briefing for the Air force, Army, Navy, Marines, Guard, Reserve, United States Strategic Command, and United States Northern Command in 24 states.

“We forecast for the northeastern continental United States. We usually write aviation forecasts,” said Lieutenant Taylor Whitney. “And we’ll send out warnings and advisories for imminent weather.”

“In the unlikely event that they were to go down, we can step in at a moments notice and take over that support,” explained Jeffrey Mitchell, a weather technician trainer. “So it would be seamless for the people of the United States. They’ll still get their weather watches. But they’ll be coming from us in those situations.”


Today’s Senior Football Spotlight is wide receiver, corner and kick returner # 12 Ty Gordon. Ty is the son of Jesse & Bobbi Gordon.

Ty has been playing football for seven years (4 years at Benton High School and 3 years in the BJFL). His interests include playing football, working on his truck and riding 4-wheelers with his friends.

His plans for the future are to go to college after graduation and become a diesel mechanic.

Ty would like to thank his parents and his coaches for always supporting him and pushing him to do his best.


After a two-year dress rehearsal Vienna unveils its brand new football program

by Jim Muir 

Following the 2006 school year then-59-year-old Mike Rude retired as principal at Washington Grade School in Johnston City and at the same time tendered his resignation as the highly successful football coach at Johnston City High School, a position he had held for 16 years.

Despite his retirement and his decision to leave an established program where he compiled a 111-53 (.677 winning percentage), won six Black Diamond Conference titles and led the Indians to the playoff 12 times in 16 years Rude was certainly not ready for a rocking chair.

Instead, the Christopher native undertook the mammoth task of starting a football program from scratch at Vienna High School. In fact, the last time that Vienna played high school football was 1931. As an historical measuring stick — Franklin Roosevelt was president of the United States, the nation was right in the middle of the Great Depression, gas cost 10 cents a gallon and a brand new Chevrolet cost $600. In short, it’s been a long, long time.

Those that know Rude know the answer to ‘why’ he would embark on such a grueling task after his retirement. But, for those who don’t know the longtime coach the answer to that question can be summed up in one word – passion.

“Football is what I do every day of the year and what I love,” said Rude. “There is not a single day that goes by, and I mean seven days a week, 365 days a year, that I don’t work on something football-related.”

Vienna Times/Goreville Gazette photo

Shortly after his retirement Rude met with Vienna officials and the groundwork was laid to start the program. The initial plan – a plan that has been followed to the letter – was designed for the program to be open to freshmen and sophomore players and for Vienna to play an eleven-game freshman schedule in 2007 with a team made up of both freshmen and sophomore players.

Also during the 2007 season the Eagles played a four-game sophomore schedule. During the 2008 season freshmen and sophomores played a separate nine-game schedule each. Now, at the outset of the 2009 season Vienna is set to join the Black Diamond Conference taking the place of Cairo who disbanded football prior to the start of the 2006 season. During the first two years the Eagles played all road games.

Perhaps as an omen of things to come with the newest team in the BDC, the inaugural 2007 team finished with a 9-2 mark. In 2008 the Vienna freshmen team went 4-4 while the JV squad went 5-1. Overall, since the program began Vienna has a combined mark of 18-7.

Rude said three key elements were established in that first year when the program was launched.

“First of all we won games,” Rude said. “Also, we had good numbers to start with and the kids stayed out, we started with 31 players and we finished with 31. And we didn’t have any major injuries, which I think was really a plus.”

Vienna Times/Goreville Gazette photo

In making his point about how important those three things were in launching the program Rude looked at it from the opposite perspective.

“There were people that were skeptical about how much success we would have and then when we won it just really drove the stake in the ground that we were there for good,” said Rude. “We started with 31 players and if we would have finished with 22 or 23 players and maybe had a major injury like a broken leg or neck injury it would have made it very difficult. Those three things were just huge for us in getting the program off the ground.”

Rude said his first practice gave him a quick lesson in the size of the task in front of him.

“First of all, we had no facilities so we really didn’t have a place to practice and I’ve never been an athletic director so I’ve never had to order equipment,” Rude said. “Right down to the very basics, we didn’t have anything. We’ve had to order everything from knee pads to helmets to game jerseys and footballs. Then you think about the volunteers involved and the coaching staff, it’s been a huge undertaking.”

Vienna Athletic Director Ross Hill said the “planets aligned” and created a perfect start to the program back in 2007. Hill listed a $350,000 grant that enabled the school to purchase equipment, Cairo dropping out of the BDC which paved the way for Vienna to immediately join the BDC and have a full schedule and the hiring of Rude as key elements in getting started on the right note.

“It just all snowballed in a very positive way,” said Hill. “All the other schools were so helpful giving us games right off. Everything just fell into place and then on top of that the community really has supported us. It’s really just been amazing what has taken place here in only two years.”

Of all those events that fell into place Hill said landing Rude to start the program was the key element.

“Not just anybody could do what Mike has been able to accomplish,” said Hill. “For us to land a hall of fame coach was just incredible. The system he’s put in place and his leadership has just been huge.”

Hill said another major obstacle that is still being cleared is construction of a playing facility. Property was purchased near Interstate 24 and is nearing completion, Hill said, adding that former superintendent Marleis Trover and current superintendent Terry Moreland both embraced the project.

Hill said seeing the start of the football program through to completion is extra important to him because his dad played on the very last Vienna High School team back in 1931.

Overall, everybody in every aspect has just done a tremendous job,” said Hill. “I’m getting close to retirement age and this is really a dream-come-true to see this program get off the ground.”

Rude said he also realized in those early days that there was a communication problem with his players.

“I got in the car to drive home after that first practice and I realized that I had to reevaluate where things were at because I realized immediately that they were not nearly as far along as I thought they might be,” said Rude. “We were working on some defensive and secondary stuff and I said ‘I need a wingback, a flanker and a slotback over here’ and nobody moved. It dawned on me that they didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. We’ve had to begin with very basic things.”

A 1966 graduate of Christopher High School and a 1970 graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Rude began his coaching career at tiny Wyanet High School in central Illinois where he stayed two years.

They (Wyanet) had lost 26 in a row when I got there and I helped them get it to 34 in a row. We did go 3-5 my second year there. I stayed there long enough to find out that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.”

From there Rude spent five years at Kankakee Bishop McNamara as an assistant coach before moving back to Southern Illinois to coach at Anna-Jonesboro where he stayed from 1977-1981. Rude then coached at Marion from 1982 to 1991 and at Johnston City from 1992 to 2006.

Despite the 18-7 overall mark registered thus far Rude said he is trying to prepare this year’s team about the difference in playing at the freshmen and sophomore level as compared to varsity football.

“That’s a real concern for me right now,” said Rude. “I’m having a hard time making them understand how much the game is going to speed up at the varsity level. There is no way to assimilate that in practice. When we take the field on August 29 our entire team will have never played in a varsity game and there will be a big difference. It’s something we’re just going to have to learn on the fly.”

During his long tenure at Johnston City Rude dusted out the archives and revived the old single-wing offense and has brought the same offensive scheme to Vienna.

“They’ve picked it up very well,” said Rude.

Rude said he has a wide range of emotions as he enters the final weeks of practice in preparation for the season opener against Hamilton County, a Saturday afternoon game on August 29. He said as a way to show his team what’s in store, he has also been a frequent visitor to the IHSA website where he has compiled the records of other teams in recent years that started a new football program from scratch.

There’s Manteno, Metro East Lutheran, Bunker Hill, Trenton-Wesclin and a couple others that started new programs like this and I print out what these teams did in their first years when they went 0-9, 0-9, 1-8, 2-7, 2-7,” said Rude. “Nobody has started from scratch and won right off the bat. I want them to get in their heads that we can’t put the expectations so high that they think it’s a complete failure if we don’t win at the varsity level immediately.”

Certainly winning will be a focus but Rude also said building a program that will remain on solid ground is equally as important.

“I want to build the foundation here for this football program,” Rude said. “And then when the time comes for me to quit coaching football pass it on to good hands. Building a solid foundation here is important to me.”

Rude also gave high marks to those two classes back in 2007 that launched the first teams at Vienna. The freshmen are now sophomores and the sophomores make up this years’ senior class.

“Those kids came out and stuck with us,” Rude said. “Many of them made the decision to play football instead of other fall sports. They’ll always be remembered as the ones who got the program going.”

While Rude notes that he is experiencing a wide range of emotions these days the veteran coach said the primary feeling he has as he prepares to start his 38th year of coaching is “anticipation.”

“I’m chomping at the bit,” said Rude. “I can’t wait to get started.”



The Nelon’s performing tonight at Thompsonville First Baptist Church


by Steve Dunford

The Nelon’s will be in concert tonight at 7:00 at the First Baptist Church in Thompsonville.  Promoter Andrew Cooksey over the last year has brought some of the finest names in Southern Gospel Music in the past including the Kingsmen, Gold City, The Talley’s, The Wisnant’s and the Perry’s.

The Group’s motto is Faith, Family, Legacy, Vision.  With tight family harmonies, timeless songs and a passion for worship, The Nelons have been captivating audiences for four decades.

Standing on the legacy of founder and patriarch Rex Nelon; Kelly, Jason, Amber and Autumn continue the family tradition with unparalleled vocal excellence, incomparable harmonies and stunning live performances. The group has recorded more than 35 albums with chart-topping Southern Gospel classics like “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown,” “Come Morning,” and “O For a Thousand Tongues.”

With a love for the old and a vision for the new, The Nelons embrace their traditional roots, all the while, bridging the generational gap by pushing musical boundaries.

Their awards and accolades include three Grammy Nominations, six Dove Awards, 14 Singing News Fan Awards and a People’s Choice Silver Telly Award for the concept video “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus?” They are frequently featured on the best-selling Gaither Homecoming recordings and videos and have performed on The Grand Ole Opry, among other historic venues. However, it’s their heart for people and uncanny gift to communicate God’s love that has helped to expand the audience for Gospel music around the world.

For original group member Kelly Nelon Clark, singing alongside her husband Jason and daughters Amber and Autumn, this is a full-circle moment as she reflects on the countless nights she shared the stage with her father, Gospel Music Hall of Fame member Rex Nelon.  “I can remember people saying, ‘I wish you could see your father when you sing.’ I didn’t understand it then. But now as I watch my girls sing, I glow with pride and totally understand it.”

When the Nelons are not on the road, they call Georgia home. Though whether on the road or at home, the creativity never stops… and neither does the family bond. Jason is a triple threat as a singer, songwriter and producer while Kelly is an accomplished actress of both television and film, appearing in movies like His Love Is Blind, The Cardinal Rule and Losing Faith.  Amber is signed to Daywind records as a solo artist and recently released her first adult solo album Just Sing.  Her powerhouse soprano vocals earned her the coveted Favorite Female Singer win at the Absolutely Gospel Music Awards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Counseling and is working on her Master’s. Autumn joined the group full-time just two years ago and has been wowing audiences ever since with her crystal clear soprano sound and musical talent on both the mandolin and banjolin. When she leaves the stage, Autumn is hard at work studying. She’s a freshman in college at Baptist College of Florida.

Together as The Nelons, Jason, Kelly, Amber and Autumn are a family devoted to God, each other, and ministering the Gospel of Christ through music and the Word.

The Church is located on State Route 34, one block east of the school.  Admission is free, and a love offering will be taken.  I encourage you to attend for a great night of Southern Gospel music.


BCHS Senior Spotlight: Caleb Pemberton

Today’s Senior Football Spotlight is wide receiver and defensive back, # 17 Caleb Pemberton. Caleb is the son of Mark & Kendee Pemberton.

Caleb has been playing football for five years. He loves playing football as well as riding dirt bikes and 4-wheelers with his friends. He can also be found working on trucks.

Next year he plans to enlist in the United States Air Force.

He says he is thankful for his parents and all of his coaches for their investment in his life.