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MADE IN ILLINOIS: Sam Boyle knows she’s in her place


Sam Boyle, managing editor for reporting at the Daily Illini, is shown in the student broadcast studio used for UI7. (Photo provided) 

Daily Illini editor uses quarantine to examine her love of journalism

For Illinois Press Association

CHAMPAIGN – University of Illinois senior Sam Boyle knows the value of putting a reporter into proverbial quarantine when they need to focus on investigations, rather than getting bogged down with the relentless daily grind of putting out a paper.

Little did she know that while in literal quarantine, she’d end up investigating her own passions, and her future.

“You spend so much time focusing on other people, and then suddenly you’re alone,” she said. “I just started picking apart why I started journalism, and why I like it.”

Boyle had been dead-set on working in a traditional newsroom for several years. Now, as she gets ready to spring directly off graduation in May into grad school in Champaign, she’s curious about archive library science.

“We have so much access to information, and there’s somebody behind that information. It wasn’t until I was forced to literally sit alone in my room that I just started thinking about that, and knowing that’s a route I can take,” Boyle said. “I have no idea where it’s going to go, but I definitely want to find a way to bring it back to journalism somehow.”

Her heart belongs to journalism, even though it’s nearly brought her to her knees. She confirms it did, in fact, bring her to the ladies’ room. The pressures of her responsibilities as news editor of The Daily Illini, coupled with intense coursework, came to a head in late fall of 2019.

“If I could define stress with one point in my life, it was that time,” she said. “I didn’t sleep much. I was always on my phone and on my laptop, checking the news and emails. I cried a lot - in the office, too. I’d need 10 minutes to go in the bathroom and cry, like once a day. It felt like I had a to-do list and I could never check everything off. I remember feeling like I almost quit. But I don’t like to quit. I’ve been like that my whole life. Even if I hate a book, I’ll finish it.”

When she was promoted to managing editor of reporting in March 2020, just as COVID-19’s grip closed around the world, she made it a point to make sure her staff always felt appreciated and supported.

“She’s kind of the unsung hero of everything we do at The Daily Illini,” News Editor Ethan Simmons said.

‘I can do that in 10 minutes. I do it happily.’

Early in the fall semester of 2019, Simmons braced after making his case for keeping two U of I students anonymous in his story on their role in protesting Hong Kong extradition laws.

“I was really scared the story was going to be over, and it wasn’t going to happen at all,” he said.

Boyle fully agreEthan-900x559(1)ed the students could face retribution from the Chinese government if identified. And she drove that point home during one of her signature live table reads of the story to her staff, after it was published.

“I always knew there would be a live table read from Sam Boyle,” Simmons said. “She was so good at coordinating that little team. That’s been a challenge for me this year.”

So she picks up the slack – slack Simmons sometimes doesn’t even know about until the paper comes out. Stressful as it was, Simmons said he was able to dedicate about 10 hours to the Hong Kong protest piece the week it ran. Usually he’s inundated reporting on COVID-19 data and trends. 

“I remember I was stressed out that entire week,” he said.

Boyle, sensing it, grabbed up work that would have otherwise fallen on his plate.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t even ask her,” he said. “She’s already doing it. A lot of that behind-the- scenes work was happening, but what was good about it was I didn’t even recognize it.”

Boyle admits she wishes someone had sensed when she was drowning in work.

“One of the best things is when I know there’s going to be a struggle, I pride myself on not asking what they need me to do. I tell them to give me something to do. Or I just do it,” she said. “So if it’s making a phone call, writing briefs, the quick, 200-word stories that need to get done, I can do that in 10 minutes. I do it happily.”

Her rewards are her staff’s mental health, and the excellent content they produce.

“It’s like the best feeling, especially now with everything we have to cover,” Boyle said. “My name isn’t on any pieces, but being able to see someone else’s name on that kind of work, it’s the most rewarding to be on the other side.”

Court records, nightmares and the national spotlight

While other students were knocking out internships in the summer of 2019, Boyle was getting invaluable on-the-job experience while covering a murder trial for The Daily Illini.

Yingying Zhang was a 26-year-old U of I agriculture researcher when Champaign resident and former grad student Brendt Allen Christensen abducted and murdered her.

Boyle covered the harrowing proceedings daily and filed broader and more in-depth pieces weekly.

She was exhilarated by the opportunity to cover such a high-profile case. Never having read a court record, let alone the legalese in a prosecutor’s motion, she picked the brains of her fellow reporters.

“I felt really blinded by it all,” Boyle said. “It was so hard at first to understand, but I’d lean over and just ask questions in the media room. I owe everything to the other journalists who were there.”

She made it abundantly clear she was with The Daily Illini, which paid a huge dividend after the verdict came down.

A courtroom employee approached her and told her a juror wanted to speak with a reporter – but only if that reporter worked for The Daily Illini.

When the juror requested anonymity, she swallowed hard. Just weeks before Simmons would make his case to keep the protesters anonymous, Boyle had to pitch her editor, Hannah Preston.

Preston ruled in her favor, and Boyle spent hours interviewing the juror at the library across the street from the courthouse.

She went into it anticipating he’d be guarded. Instead, he gushed.

“It wasn’t as difficult as I may have thought,” she said.

Her reporting caught the attention of ABC, which interviewed her for an episode of 20/20, which aired in November 2019.

“I blasted it everywhere,” Boyle said.

While she was reporting relentlessly on the trial, it was lather, rinse repeat. Boyle would spend the day in the courtroom, hurry home, write, file, sleep, and get up and do it all again.

The gruesome details that played out in the trial didn’t stay in the courthouse.

“I would get home and have nightmares about it,” Boyle said. “We were face-to-face with the guy. It did affect my mental health. But I didn’t realize it until after the verdict.”

She’s had numerous opportunities to leave journalism. During the civil rights upheaval, she wrestled with the fact that she wasn’t allowed to participate in protests.

“I had a moment where I felt like I couldn’t even express myself, and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I doing journalism?’ ” she said.

She has countless answers to that. Simmons and all the other colleagues with whom she’s fought in the trenches. Future journalists who need a compassionate, empathetic editor. The innumerable sources whose stories might have gone untold, if not for her. For instance, there’s the full, unabridged story of the murder trial of Yingying.

“I don’t know where it’s all going to go, but I don’t want to leave journalism,” she said.

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Press Releases


Americans have been preparing
for the impact of a pandemic for over 75 years!

From home economics to the modern family and consumer sciences classes, the foundation of basic life skills helped bring families through 2020 and beyond.  

Feb. 9, 2021
CONTACT: Marissa Kunerth, communications & public relations manager
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America


RESTON, VA For many, it has taken a global pandemic to motivate them to refine and reuse many basic life skills. With restaurants closed and stay-at-home mandates in place, a growing number of adults have turned to online tutorials, social media recipes, and family and friends to learn basic life skills. Admittedly, more than a fourth of Americans admit they cannot cook and claim this skill is something they now realize is an essential skill that should be taught in every school in the United States.

75 years ago, when Future Homemakers of America (FHA), presently known as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), was founded, no one thought the skills gained through Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) classes would get families through a pandemic. The country was digging out of the Great Depression and using skills taught at home and in Home Economics to rebuild the economy of our country. In education, Home Economics transitioned to Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994 and some felt these classes were no longer essential. Since 2012, there has been an estimated 40% decline in FCS classes, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to an outcry to bring “Home Ec” back and reinforced how important basic life skills are to not only be successful at home but holistically as humans impacting careers and communities.

Since its inception in 1945, FCCLA has promoted the need for FCS education for every student in every state in every school. FCCLA knows the importance of FCS education, which provides students with lifelong skills such as nutrition, menu planning, food preparation, clothing care and construction, money management, child development, and workforce readiness. Many students move from learning basic skills in an apron to preparing hopefully to someday wear a chef’s coat.

Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood shares, “The Illinois Association of FCCLA is proud to be a part of the long-standing legacy of helping students become great leaders. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing young people making a difference in their personal lives, their homes, schools, and communities!”

Through FCS education, FCCLA provides opportunities for members to develop 21st century skills that enhance students’ understanding of community, work, family, and their interpersonal relationships. This year, FCCLA celebrates its 75th anniversary by commemorating all 50 state associations who have contributed to student’s success through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge, and career preparation.

Since chartering with the national organization in January 1946, thousands upon thousands of Illinois students have taken advantage of this incredible organization and all it has to offer. As a youth led organization, Illinois FCCLA has teams of student officers who serve at every level of the organization from the local high schools to the state and national levels. These youth leaders plan and assist with all the community service projects, leadership training, and conferences that are held. Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood adds “one of the greatest things about FCCLA is that it has so many different programs and opportunities for the students to find success in. From community service projects to competitive events, FCCLA gives students the opportunity to combine their education and leadership skills to make a difference and receive recognition for their accomplishments”.

FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.

Research Sources:

Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook

WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496


Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


Illinois Principals Association to host first virtual Education Leaders Conference in February  

Feb. 1, 2021
CONTACT: Dr. Jason Leahy, executive director
Illinois Principals Association


SPRINGFIELD – In a first for the Illinois Principals Association, we are hosting our Annual Education Leaders Conference virtually. The 49th annual Education Leaders Conference and Exhibition, “L.E.A.D.” Conference (Learning – Equity – Advocacy – Diversity) will take place online February 22-23, 2021. The annual conference provides an opportunity for principals and other administrators to learn from leaders in the education field and participate in sessions to better serve their schools. 
“School leaders have been there to support teachers, guide parents, and serve our students through the multitude of challenges this school year,” said Dr. Amy Dixon, IPA President. “With the aid of the Illinois Principals Association, principals have not only overcome the challenges, but shown tremendous personal growth and flexibility.  Now it is time for school leaders to take time to recharge and renew their purpose, passion, and leadership. The IPA Education Leaders Conference is the premiere event of the year that will allow them to do that and so much more!”
The conference will include presentations from keynote speakers Adam Welcome, Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala, and Beth Houf.  Monday’s first general session will feature Adam Welcome, a Principal and Director of Innovation for a large school district in the Bay Area of California, and his presentation “Kids Deserve It!” Mr. Welcome has been honored as Principal of the Year for his region, a “20 to Watch” for the National School Board Association, guest blogger for EdWeek, NAESP magazine, and other publications. His presentation is a simple, yet profound message to become more engaged with your school community.
Speakers at the second general session on Monday afternoon include Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Schools, and Dr. Amy Dixon, principal of Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools in Carmi, IL and IPA President. IPA Principal of the Year awards, the Reaching Out & Building Bridges Award, and the Mr. John Ourth & Dr. Fred W. Singleton Professional Development Scholarships will also be presented at this session.
Beth Houf will begin the conference Tuesday morning with her presentation “The Power of Appreciation,” including strategies to build rapport with students, staff, and parents. Beth Houf is the proud principal of Fulton Middle School in central Missouri.  She is the Co-Author of “Lead Like a PIRATE:  Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff.”  Beth also serves as a facilitator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Leadership Academy, providing monthly training to state educational leaders.  She has spoken at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference, the Association for Middle-Level Education National Conference, the National Principals Conference, and many other state and local educational venues. 
The conference will include popular IGNITE sessions, presented by IPA Principal of the Year Award Winners and leaders including Mandy Ellis (Principal, Dunlap Grade School), Dan Kaiser (Retired Principal, Dwight Township High School), Hattie Llewellyn (Principal, New Berlin High School), Dr. Tron Young (Principal, Joseph Arthur Middle School), Dr. Marcus Belin (Principal, Huntley High School), and Abir Othman (Associate Principal, Victor J. Andrew High School). These innovative, fast-paced sessions provide a unique way to hear from dynamic speakers who will inspire fellow leaders.
Small group sessions at the conference include timely topics such as: Race Relations in Schools; Practical Steps for Transforming School Culture; Trauma Informed Care; Leading through the Lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Attendance, Chronic Absence, and Equity; Building Leadership Teams; and legislative and legal updates. Conference attendees can also explore the online exhibit hall for the latest in educational products and services, and resource materials from sponsors such as AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors), ECRA Group, Good for Schools, Horace Mann, Illinois Principals Foundation, Lifetouch School Portraits and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. For more information about the Education Leaders Conference, please visit ipafc20.zerista.com. For more information about IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.

The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 5,800 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders.






Ten $1,000 Scholarships Now Available for Midwest High School Seniors  

High school seniors from states that surround Iowa have a chance to earn one of 10 $1,000 college scholarships

Jan. 13, 2021
CONTACT: Christopher Weishaar
Digital Public Relations Specialist
Iowa Student Loan

(515) 273-7140

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (Jan. 13, 2021) — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 30, 2021.

High school seniors may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. Iowa Student Loan® will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

“We know 2020 has been a tough year on students and families mentally and financially. We want high school seniors to have the tools and resources they need to plan and pay for college,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “The information students receive during the program can help them make better decisions as they consider college finances, student loans and their future financial situations. We hope families also take this opportunity to explore all the free resources available on our website.”

The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2020–2021 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2021. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.

Additional Resources Available 

Iowa Student Loan also has additional resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.


About Iowa Student Loan
Established in 1979 as a private, nonprofit organization, Iowa Student Loan helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. Iowa Student Loan has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information about Iowa Student Loan, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.




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