ACT ace offering an edge

CHAMPAIGN – In his high school days, Daniel Thies got a perfect score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam. Now the Yale University graduate is back in Champaign preparing to teach students how to do well on similar tests.

Thies, who graduated from Champaign Central High School in 2003, is offering test-preparation classes this summer as an instructor for Ivy Insiders, an organization formed by Ivy League graduates.

Rantoul VIllage Board to vote on engineering work

RANTOUL – It has been 20 years since Rantoul's wastewater treatment plant last underwent a major upgrade.

On Tuesday, the village board must decide whether to enter into a $310,500 engineering service agreement with Donohue and Associates, Champaign, to prepare for a $2.67 million upgrade that could come online January 2009.

School's in for summer

CHAMPAIGN – When Jessie Knight and Ian Tatum go back in the classroom today, they'll be teaching students who haven't done well during the regular school year.

They may be behind a grade or two in reading, and some may be retained in the same grade if they don't improve their academic performance during the six weeks of summer school. That's a lot of pressure on Knight, Tatum and the other teachers to make a difference for their students.

Some Mahomet residents worry about park's intrusion

MAHOMET – Susan Stout was dismayed when she looked into her backyard on the west side of Mahomet a couple of weeks ago and saw a double basketball court being dug directly behind her chain-link fence.

The court is being constructed at the west end of Mahomet's new Bridle Leash Park.

UI cyclists stop in Urbana on their way to California

URBANA – Cyclists who are a fourth of the way through their cross-country ride said Sunday the lengthy trek through Pennsylvania was the first shock of the trip.

"Pennsylvania was a problem – 400 miles of hills," said University of Illinois senior Nick Ludmer, who signed on for the Illini 4,000, a 4,000-mile bicycle ride to raise money for cancer research, with his roommate, Anish Thakkar, a key organizer. He's one of 18 participants, most UI students or alums, making the 65-day trek that will end Aug. 4 in San Diego.

Danville YMCA groundbreaking set for Tuesday

DANVILLE – For Executive Director John Alexander, the Danville Family YMCA's new 5,800-square-foot fitness center marks a milestone.

Officials will be on hand Tuesday to begin construction of the $750,000 Glen Murphy Wellness Center, named for the past executive director who served from 1959 to 1981. Mr. Murphy, who died in 2004, had worked at the Danville YMCA since 1948, serving as the boys' secretary and as physical director before become executive director in 1959. The YMCA was established in 1883.

Fairchild Street subway repair deal up for panel vote

DANVILLE – Help for the Fairchild Street subway may soon be on the way.

The city council's public works committee will consider a $16,600 agreement with Decatur-based URS Corporation to design additional struts for the deteriorating structure.

Sometimes, junk is just junk

The next time you get ready to donate something to charity, stop and think.

Would I buy it?

Would I even take it for free?

Students, officials find resources officers quite near and dear

Kevin Franzen once took reservations for Hilton hotels in Dallas. Now, he starts his work day driving a Champaign County sheriff's car into the Unity High School parking lot in Tolono. He grabs a handmade safe-driving poster from the back seat and strolls into the school past students rushing to class.

Franzen, neatly dressed in a pressed brown uniform complete with a holster and gun, heads straight to his office, no more than a couple of steps from the entrance. By the time he's unlocked his office door, three students greet him.

Shutdowns uncommon; overtime quite common

SPRINGFIELD – Missed budget deadlines are not all that uncommon in Illinois.

Although the new fiscal year begins July 1, a report from the General Assembly's Legislative Research Unit shows the General Assembly adjourning after then two of every three years between 1970 and 1994.