Governor encourages new IDOC cadets to focus on safety, believe in second chances

Delivers Keynote Address at IDOC Graduation Ceremony

Note:  Please check the Facebook page for a picture of one of the cadets, Jade Clark of Buckner -sd

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner welcomed new correctional cadets to the state’s ranks today. He was the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony, which included the first class of cadets for the Murphysboro Life Skills Re-Entry Center.

“We’re excited to have the new cadets joining us as we shift our approach to corrections,” Gov. Rauner said. “We’re focusing on the whole person, not just punishment, as offenders prepare for release back into society. We’re helping them believe they are better than the crimes they’ve committed and that they can be productive citizens when they walk out these doors.”

The Murphysboro Life Skills Re-entry Center is the second of its kind to open under Gov. Rauner’s leadership. The first, which is located in Kewanee, Illinois, opened in February 2017. More than 60 offenders have been released from the Kewanee facility in the past year, none have returned to prison.

The Life Skills Re-Entry Centers focus on teaching skills that will help offenders be successful once they’re released – such as how to manage a bank account, write a resume, communicate effectively with others, and prepare for job interviews. The Murphysboro facility will accept its first group of offenders in April.

A total of 190 cadets graduated from the Illinois Department of Corrections today, wrapping up six-weeks of coursework and on-the-job training.  During their time at the Academy, they learned how to understand and communicate with offenders on the mental health caseload and how to maintain composure in crisis situations.

Rauner has made criminal justice reform a priority.  Under his direction, the IDOC incorporated cutting edge staff training into its curriculum and offers ongoing courses aimed at creating safe working environments at all IDOC facilities.

Just weeks after taking office, Gov. Rauner announced his goal to reduce the prison population by 25% by the year 2025. IDOC Director John Baldwin says they’re already more than halfway to the goal.

“We’ve safely reduced the prison population by about 15% in the past three years,” Baldwin said. “Life is about second chances. We’re creating opportunities that enhance safety in our facilities and set offenders on a path toward success. We’re excited to have all of our new cadets join us on this mission.”

The Illinois Department of Corrections held two graduating ceremonies today, one at its Springfield headquarters and another at the Murphysboro Life Skills Re-entry Center, where Gov. Rauner delivered the keynote address.

More than 2,900 new IDOC cadets have been added to the ranks since Gov. Rauner took office. The new cadets will start at facilities across the state on Monday.

Video of the event can be found here.

Stride Pro Wrestling coming to Christopher Saturday Night


The old Christopher Grade School gym is the place to be Saturday as Saturday night as two former CCHS graduates, Jay Spade and Tony Flood duke it out for the Stride Pro Heavy Weight Championship.

Proceeds will go toward helping students take a trip to New York.

You might see some familiar faces down the card before the main event of the night.

Here is a link below from WSIL morning news man, and pro wrestling enthusiast Kevin Hunsperger of an assembly at Christopher Grade school yesterday with Flood and Heath Hatton. -Steve

Water nearly over the Norris City blacktop

Hamilton County Sheriffs Office photo

MC LEANSBORO –  The above photograph is taken from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office late Wednesday afternoon of the Norris City Blacktop between Broughton and Norris City. This area is very prone to flooding.

The road is still open at this time, but unsure if the water has receded.

I was unaware that several from Christopher take that way to NCOE.  I just wanted to make you aware.  An alternate route is to take Route 14 to Enfield and go south on US 45. -sd

Students earn high marks at WYSE Academic Challenge

INA – Over 150 students from 10 area high schools competed in the 2018 Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) Academic Challenge Regional in the last two weeks. Eight of the schools met on Rend Lake College’s campus on Wednesday, Feb. 7 to participate; however, due to weather, two other schools held make-up events on later dates.

During the WYSE Academic Challenge, schools with similar enrollment compete against one another in divisions. Christopher High School, Wayne City High School, Zeigler-Royalton High School, Sesser-Valier High School, Waltonville High School, and Webber Township High School make up Division 300. Division 700 consists of Benton Consolidated High School, Pinckneyville Community High School, and Hamilton County Senior High School. The lone Division 1500 school is Mt. Vernon Township High School.

Each student who competes in the WYSE Academic Challenge completes two exams in pre-selected subjects. They can choose from biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering graphics, English, math, or physics. Below are the regional results, followed by team photos. Students who qualify for the WYSE Sectional will compete at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Wednesday, March 14. The Illinois State Finals will be held April 16-19 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign.


Christopher Unit District #99 addresses an issue of an incident with student

CHRISTOPHER – CUSD #99 would like to address an issue that occurred at CES. Recently, a non-functional AirSoft gun was brought to the school by a student. Students made the staff aware of the presence of the non-functional AirSoft gun. Administration was notified and addressed the issue quickly. The student has been addressed accordingly.

It needs to be emphatically stated; Students were NEVER in danger at ANYTIME. The toy gun was not functional. It was NEVER used.

We want to commend the students, staff, administration, and School Resource Office for quick action. With all that has gone on recently, CUSD #99 is totally committed to keeping all of our students safe. Every decision and action is directed towards that goal.

From the district’s Facebook page

In Memorial: Caldwell, Pericolosi, Rubenacker & Crawford remembered

By ReAnne Palmer 

INA, Ill. – It was a night of celebration and merriment at the 2017 Rend Lake College Foundation Annual Dinner with numerous surprise awards and announcements, starting with the 2017 Alumnus of the Year. The Annual Dinner was held Thursday, Dec. 7 at the Mt. Vernon Hotel & Events Center.

Toward the end of the Annual Dinner, Zibby-Damron took a few moments to remember four individuals who have made lasting impacts on RLC and the Foundation: Millie Caldwell, Larry Pericolosi, Jody Rubenacker, and William Crawford.

Caldwell, a former RLC Foundation Board of Directors member and scholarship donor, was remembered for her years of dedication to the college and Foundation – a legacy her daughter, Cindy Caldwell, RLC Mathematics Professor, continues both inside and outside the classroom.

Millie Caldwell. Along with her work for the Foundation, she with husband Cliff were long time publishers/owners of the Christopher Progress. (RLC Photo)

“Millie was a strong supporter and long-time advocate for Rend Lake College. She generously provided scholarships for many years, and the Caldwell Family Scholarship continues to help our students,” said Zibby-Damron. “She served on the Foundation Board and was a recipient of the Presidential Award in 2006. Because of her dedication to RLC, Millie was also featured this year as one of the 50 Influencers of Rend Lake College. We are grateful for Millie’s love for RLC and her community.”

Pericolosi, and his wife Mary, were honored for their involvement with two major campaigns with the Foundation: the creation and fundraising of the Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus, and the renovation of the outside of the Dr. Allen Y. Baker Administration Building on the Ina campus, officially called the “Pathway to Success” campaign.

“Larry and his wife have been actively involved with Rend Lake College over the past decade. They were both strong supporters of the Murphy-Wall campus in Pinckneyville and the Pathway to Success campaign, plus they have provided annual scholarships to many deserving students,” said Zibby-Damron. “I know how much he is missed by his family, his friends, and his community.”

Rubenacker, the matriarch of the Rubenacker family, was remembered, not only for her generosity to the Foundation, but also for the impact she and her family have made on the legacy of Rend Lake College.

“Though I never had the opportunity to know Jody, it’s quite evident that she did one heck of a job. Several of our 50 Influencers were recognized for their multi-generation legacy, impactful return, or enterprising spirit, but Jody and her family were recognized for all three,” said Zibby-Damron. “Jody, and her husband Richard, were recognized in 2004 for their $25,000 lead gift to the RLC Foundation Challenge Grant II Campaign and the establishment of the Rubenacker Family Scholarship. Rend Lake College is very grateful for Jody and the Rubenacker family.

Crawford was honored for his selflessness and dedication to the betterment of RLC students and countless others in his community. A magnificent fundraiser and supporter, Crawford was heavily involved with the Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus.

“I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Crawford shortly after arriving at RLC. He was a very strong supporter of Rend Lake College, just as he was of many community endeavors, but you probably would not have known it, and that exactly the way he wanted it,” said Zibby-Damron. “Bill provided the lead gift for the construction of the Murphy-Wall campus in Pinckneyville, and only agreed to name the campus after the bank, not himself. He was deeply committed to his family, his community and to the bank – he gave them the glory.”

In his true spirit, Crawford wasn’t done surprising the RLC Foundation. Zibby-Damron continued, “A couple weeks ago, quite to our surprise, we learned that Mr. Crawford’s commitment to Rend Lake College was even stronger than we had known. In his true form, quiet and unassuming, the Rend Lake College Foundation received a check for $100,000 from Mr. Crawford’s trust. I find it very fitting that Mr. Crawford’s name will be the first added to our recently-unveiled Legacy Society. His legacy will remain very much alive on our main campus and at the Murphy-Wall campus for generations to come.”

To learn more about the RLC Foundation, contact Zibby-Damron at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1214 or

Sesser-Valier knocks off Christopher 74-61 in BDC West action

By Jim Muir

The Sesser-Valier Red Devils pulled off a huge win Friday night, defeating Route 148 rival Christopher 74-61.

Both teams fought to a 13-13 first quarter score and the Red Devils eked out a 31-30 halftime lead but it was a dominating third quarter run by S-V that propelled them to a Black Diamond Conference West victory. S-V outscored the Bearcats 26-14 in the decisive third stanza. Both teams played to a 17-17 standoff in the final quarter.

“Our effort was very good again tonight,” said S-V Coach Shane Garner. “We struggled a little in our offense early, but it was our defense in the second half that led to some turnovers and some easy baskets.”

S-V put three players in double figures in the contest with Lukas Gunter leading the way for S-V with 19 points. He was followed by Addison Page with 16 points and Tyler Winchester with 15 points. Rounding out the scoring for S-V was Peyton Rock with nine points, Preston Launius with eight points andJosh Gunter and Seth Boles with four points each. The Bearcats were led in scoring by sophomore Gabriel Motsinger with 16 points, one of four Christopher players who scored in double figures. Bryce Pratt added 13 points, followed by Dalton Saeger with 11 points and Daniel Flowers with 10 points. Bradley Young added nine points for Christopher and Kye Garver added two points.

The Red Devils are back in action on Tuesday, December 19 when they travel to Vienna for another BDC matchup. The Bearcats are also back in action on December 19 when they host Trico. Both games will wrap up the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule for each team. S-V and the Bearcats will participate in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament that will run from December 26-29.


RLC’s Newbury and Berner receive Hot Rod Nights Scholarship

By Reece Rutland 

INA, IL  – A pair of Rend Lake College students are the proud recipients of Hot Rod Nights Automotive Scholarships. The scholarships offered by the organization have helped several students pursue their passion for vehicles both inside and outside the classroom over the years.
The 2017 recipients are Tyler Newbury (Waltonville) and Dakota Berner (Christopher).

Tyler Newbury (Waltonville), left, and Dakota Berner (Christopher), right, are the 2017 Hod Rod Nights Automotive Scholarship recipiants. (Reece Rutland – Rend Lake College Public Information)

Newbury is a freshman who is currently working on a 1994 Chevy Camaro Z28.
“My dad grew up with a strong background in cars and building show cars. He did a little bit of drag racing as well. So, I grew up with that, and it’s brought me here,” Newbury said.

After graduating from RLC, he hopes to transfer to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Automotive Program. He wants to eventually get a career in automotive design after he graduates.

Berner is also a freshman in the RLC Automotive Program. He is currently working on a 1976 Fiat X19. He too got his interest in cars from family.

“My grandpa and my dad work on cars all the time. I always found it interesting. I had a 1978 Bronco that I built and had a lot of fun with. That kept me interested,” he explained.

Berner is currently employed at Shelby and Sons Auto Salvage in West Frankfort. He plans on finishing his degree at RLC and staying on with the company, becoming a mechanic.

As for the scholarship, both men were thankful for the opportunity from Hot Rod Nights.

“I’m very appreciative,” Newbury said. “I’ve always gone to car shows. I like showing my work. It’s nice to have something like this that rewards students for helping out and being involved in the automotive community itself. We have a good community in Southern Illinois. There are car shows every weekend. It’s a good thing, especially the shows in DuQuoin and here at the college. That’s just a great thing to see.”

“This scholarship helps out a lot. Especially when you are working and trying to go to school,” Berner added.

Hot Rod Nights raised the funds for the scholarship via their 50/50 drawings throughout the season.


Lady Devils move to 10-0 with BDC win over Christopher

By Jim Muir

The Sesser-Valier-Waltonville Lady Devils kept their unbeaten string intact last night as they eked out a hard-fought 62-57 road victory over the Christopher Lady Bearcats.

The win moves S-V-W to 10-0 overall (4-0 in the Black Diamond West). The Lady Bearcats fell to 5-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play.

The game was a see-saw affair with no enjoying a lead bigger than the final margin of victory by the Lady Devils. Christopher jumped out to an 18-16 first quarter lead but the Lady Devils rallied back to outscore the Lady Cats 16-9 in the second frame to take a 32-27 halftime advantage. Christopher fought back and pulled to within one point at 43-42 before the Lady Devils outpointed the host school 19-15 in the fourth quarter to grab the victory and remain undefeated on the season.

“It was an awesome game,” said S-V-W Coach Rick Metcalf. “It was one of those games where our offense kind of disappeared and our shots weren’t falling. Hats off to Christopher, they had a lot to do with that. I thought both teams played well. It was a very nice win for us on the road.”

The game was actually won at the free throw line for the Lady Devils where they connected on 19-23 (83 percent) free tosses. The Lady Bearcats actually notched one more field goal than S-V-W but connected on 13-25 (52 percent) free throws.

“We are shooting 79 percent from the line as a time through 10 games,” said Metcalf. “That is excellent at any level.”

Despite the loss Christopher Coach Seiger Shurtz had high praise for his team’s effort.

“We played a really good game,” Shurtz said. “We were solid in a lot of areas. We came to compete and we had ourselves in a position to win the game. Free throws and a couple missed opportunities down the stretch were the difference in the game. I’m proud of the way we competed and hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.”

S-V-W was led by Sami McCowen with 18 points, including 8-8 from the free throw line. Paige Tucker and Jada Hale added 10 points each and Adrianna Fedderke came off the bench with nine points. The play of Fedderke did not miss the eye of Metcalf.

“Fed (Fedderke) gave us a big lift off the bench with nine points,” said Metcalf. “And I thought Sami (McCowen) and Paige (Tucker) played outstanding.”

Rounding out the S-V-W scoring, Carlie Page added six points, Brooke Wilderman scored six points and Jaice McCowen scored four points.

Game scoring honors went to Christopher’s Courtney Hoppers who scored 20 points, followed by Jayla Willilams with 12, Maya Hewitt with nine points, Kassie O’Bryan with six points and Lauren Kent with three points.

Christopher is back in action on Monday, December 11 when they host Webber Township in a non-conference matchup. S-V-W returns to the hardcourt on December 13 when they host Trico.


Sesser-Valier/Waltonville   16 16 11  19 —  62

Christopher                            18   9  13  15 —  55


SVW (62) S. McCowen 4 8-8 18, B. Wilderman 1 304 5, Tucker 3 4-6 10, Page 3 0-0 6, Hale 3 2-2 10, J. McCowen 1 1-2 4, Fedderke 4 1-1 9

Team Totals: 19 19-23 62


Christopher (57) Williams 4 4-4 12, Henson 2 0-0 5, Hewitt 4 1-4 9, Miller 0 0-3 0, Hoppers 6 8-14 20, O’Bryan 3 0-0 6, Kent 1 0-0 3

Team Totals: 20 13-25 57


Dispute over land in Mulkeytown continues after years of litigation

Izaak Walton Lake which is around two miles NW of Chirstopher. (WSIL Photo)

MULKEYTOWN, IL –  A fight over land in Franklin County has pitted neighbor against neighbor. For almost three years, the Christopher Izaak Walton Club has fought in court with a farm family in Mulkeytown. According to some club members, the ongoing fight has divided the community.

Winter brings a peaceful quiet to the land owned by the Christopher Izaak Walton Club.

But underneath the calm, a heated battle continues to sow dissension.

“This whole land steal lawsuit has divided families, friends,” says club member Tony Rosales.

Please click on the link below from Evie Allen of WSIL-TV

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News