Jamaica students find service requirement fun, rewarding

DANVILLE – The Danville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity this week is getting a hand with a few projects from some Jamaica High School students.

The students are helping Habitat volunteers to build two backyard utility sheds that will be given to families receiving new homes this year, and they're helping clean up the home sites. They're also helping to fix up an old Danville fire station on Walnut Street, which the city donated to Habitat to serve as its headquarters.

Experts: 'Healthy' tan can be a ticket to skin cancer

MAHOMET – Oh, those relaxing, hot summer days at the pool.

Annalisa Cockerham used to love those days when she was a teenager – and the nice tan she'd get spending so much time in the sun.

But she's become a lot more cautious about her sun exposure since she developed melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.

County panel endorses full 1 percent for schools tax

URBANA – The Champaign County Board policy committee Wednesday night endorsed fully implementing the 1 percent school construction sales tax that county voters approved April 7.

The committee also sent to the full county board a proposed contract for Deb Busey, the longtime county co-administrator, to take over as the county's single administrator later this year at an eventual salary of $125,000 annually.

Fresh lemons, easy recipes for summer's main squeeze

You don't have to go to that dry lemonade drink powder. This time of year, the grocery stores are offering deals on fresh lemons. Don't be intimidated. Make your own fresh lemonade. Squeeze out the lemon juice, mix with water and sugar and you will be amazed at the difference and freshness.

Here are some recipes with the exact measurements – and some twists to make it more interesting. I can vouch for the last one – with the maraschino cherries. It's always an attention-getter and fave with guests.

Tried and True: Mushroom variety key to spaghetti

Each week, we'll be using this space to feature a recipe that has been tried and comes highly recommended. Sometimes the recipe and review will come from one of us on staff who loves to cook, and frequently it will come from our food-loving readers.

This recipe from Food Network cook Rachael Ray produced a quick, delicious supper for my husband and I, and there were enough leftovers for a couple lunches or more. The mix of a variety of mushrooms is key, though. I used shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms. I also used whole-wheat angel hair pasta. And I had no leeks in the house, so I substituted a whole yellow onion that I cooked along with the mushrooms.

Garden Fresh: Choose spinach for nutrients, minerals

If the rabbits haven't eaten it all, fresh spinach is popping up ripe and ready for eating these days.

Experts love spinach because they've learned – maybe from Popeye – that its nutrients and minerals keep us strong and healthy. Grocery stores offer bags of prewashed spinach that's delicate enough for fresh salads.

UI disables lobbying branch's access to student info

URBANA – The University of Illinois has restricted access to its student-information system following a News-Gazette report that found legislators attempted to influence the admissions process on campus.

The office of government relations, or the university's lobbying branch, was suspended from having access to the UI's Banner system, which includes student information.

House helps special-needs kids become self-sufficient

URBANA – When junior Courtney Osmond learns to make popcorn shrimp, she's also practicing math skills like measuring. When sophomore Stephen Driggers makes a bed, he practices reading, practices following a list of steps.

Achievements like cooking, cleaning and other household skills may sound like chores to most high school students, but to the kids with autism and other special needs in Cristina Godoy's Urbana High School class, these are the steps that lead to an independent life.

Veteran ACES dean named interim provost at UI

URBANA – A veteran dean who continues to teach and do research was designated interim provost at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois on Tuesday.

Robert A. Easter, the dean of the UI College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, has the job, pending approval by the board of trustees at its July 22 meeting in Chicago.

Urbana school staff, administrators to get raises averaging 4%

URBANA – The Urbana school board on Tuesday night approved increasing salaries for non-union support staff and district administrators by an average of 4 percent for the 2009-10 school year.

That is the same increase teachers will get next year, in the third year of their three-year contract.