Editor's note: This is the second in an occasional series about Angela Simpson, a first-year teacher, and her first-grade class at Yankee Ridge Elementary School in Urbana. The first story profiled Simpson's first day of school. The first quarter of the school year has just ended, and The News-Gazette checks in on Simpson's – and the class' – progress.
CHAMPAIGN – Noah Zych got a tough assignment: Build a vehicle that can navigate through cities on its own.
The vehicle had to stop at stop signs, maneuver around other cars, merge into moving traffic.
You don't have to spend much time with Mark Ohrnstein to find him likable, articulate and a potentially great salesman.
What's not so readily apparent about the 38-year-old father of three is that for most of his life he's been an accomplished liar, cheat and a thief, all in the name of fueling his addiction to alcohol and cocaine.
"I've been in jail long before I ever got here," Ohrnstein said, figuratively.
CHAMPAIGN – Jacqueline Frazier Jones has probably never sat and watched a football game in her life.
And she's seen a lot of football games.
CHAMPAIGN – The week Austin Kaplan started law school at the University of Illinois, a hurricane was ravaging the Gulf Coast.
The devastation done by Katrina in August 2005, it turns out, would provide learning opportunities for him and fellow law school students that they could not have received in a lecture hall in Champaign.
NEW YORK CITY – For as long as she can remember, Brittni Johnson has watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.
This year, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School senior and four fellow students – all cheerleaders – will march in it.
DANVILLE – Pete and Jenny Ferrill say they have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Two Thanksgivings ago, the Ferrills weren't sure their dream of starting a family would come true.
PAXTON – Two sisters who have written three books about Paxton and their experiences growing up here plan to write a fourth that will immortalize the Paxton Majestic Theatre, recently destroyed by fire.
Donna and Pat DeMuth, who wrote their first book in 2004 called "In a Little Town Called Paxton," later moved back here and have become involved once again in small-town life.
URBANA – For 25 years, Bill Cain has trusted Dr. Reynaldo Tirona with his very life.
And with good reason.
CHAMPAIGN – What does it take to raise a J Leman, the star University of Illinois middle linebacker and long-haired free spirit?
For Happy and Dianne Leman – J's parents – it meant using both a firm hand and having the judgment to make sure they weren't squelching J's personality. It also was a family effort, as J is but one of seven members of the Leman clan, a family that is remarkable in its devotion to sports, each other and their faith.