The Parkland College Blog

Parkland College's Project READ Receives 2022 Spotlight Awards

Project READ Learners, Tutor Recognized with State Awards

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Project READ at Parkland College has won three Spotlight Awards from the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State.
The Spotlight on Achievement and Service Awards recognize the achievements of individuals who support the adult literacy effort in Illinois, from adult learners improving their skills to the volunteer tutors who assist and guide them.  
All three of Parkland’s nominated individuals received awards at a reception ceremony in Springfield on May 11. Longtime tutor Bob Kirby won the Spotlight on Service Award, and learners Doug Webb and Efrain Gaspar both won Spotlight on Achievement Awards.
Since retiring from his physician practice ten years ago, Kirby has never stopped caring for and wanting to help others, especially immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community through English language classes. He has shown his dedication by founding the English Second Language program at the local First Presbyterian Church, tutoring with Project READ, and hosting an “Easy English Fellowship” group every Sunday and Monday.
After seeing the limitations that a family member faced due to illiteracy, Kirby was inspired to begin teaching English. "With training and encouragement from Project READ at Parkland College, tutoring adults in English is something I can do," he said. "Meeting learners from diverse cultures has enriched my life, as has my relationship with the Project READ staff."
Learner Efrain Gaspar’s goal is to become an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Champaign, which requires a math examination, among others. Originally from Guatemala, he and his tutor Cathy Salika would focus on word problems to practice his math and English skills.
Gaspar has since passed the IBEW math examination. "We are all so happy to see him advance his skills and achieve the goal he has been so focused on," the Project READ staff said. "Efrain has been a tremendously dedicated learner—the model of politeness and studiousness."
"I have been able to achieve these goals because of Project READ’s ability to find excellent resources and volunteers," Gaspar said. "My family and I are so thankful for the help from Project READ."

Learner Doug Webb credits Project READ and his tutor Diane Terando for helping him change his life. From a self-described "non-reader" to passing GED exam portions and taking computer classes at Parkland, he and the Project READ staff are very proud of his achievements and steps forward.
"I used to be shy and afraid because I couldn’t talk well, and my words didn’t sound right," Webb shared in his nomination essay. "I am more comfortable meeting people now than ever before in my life. I have more confidence. The word ‘quit’ is not in my vocabulary any longer."

Project READ is made possible by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, using funds designated for literacy.

For more information about Project READ, please visit, email, or call 217/351-2580.

[from top: Bob Kirby, Efrain Gaspar, Doug Webb, with state officials in Springfield.]

ECCA Students Commit to Parkland College at Signing Day Event

ECCA Signing Day Celebrates High School Seniors Enrolling at Parkland

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Parkland College celebrated the continuation of Early College and Career Academy students' academic careers with a special signing day event on May 3.

The ECCA Senior Signing Day recognized high school seniors who have earned dual credit through the Early College and Career Academy and have chosen to continue their education in a career training program at Parkland this fall. Students and their parents were invited to the college campus to take photos, declare their enrollment, and celebrate their accomplishments.

18 seniors from eight local high schools signed letters of intent to enroll in Parkland College associate's and certificate programs such as automotive technology, criminal justice, industrial technology, motorsport technology, nursing, occupational therapy, computer science, and more. Schools represented were Unity, Gibson City Melvin Sibley, Champaign Central, Mahomet-Seymour, Monticello, St. Joseph-Ogden, Fisher, and Centennial.

ECCA Director Nick Elder has seen the students through from high school to college. "We are thrilled that these students have chosen to re-enroll at Parkland College to continue their post-secondary education," he said.

"All high school students who participate in ECCA benefit from their experience, but it is especially satisfying to see these students return to advance their education and graduate from a certificate or degree program at Parkland. By re-enrolling at Parkland, these students have taken the first step to make that goal a reality."

The Early College and Career Academy is a joint effort of Education for Employment System #330 and Parkland College to provide high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to earn dual credit in nine different Parkland College program areas. Over 1000 students have participated in the program since its inception in the 2015-2016 school year. Learn more at or contact Director Nick Elder.

Staerkel Planetarium to Host Total Lunar Eclipse Viewing

Total Lunar Eclipse Viewing at Staerkel Planetarium, May 15

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The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College is hosting a free telescope viewing of the total lunar eclipse, weather permitting.

On Sunday, May 15, the eclipse will be visible in most of North America, depending on cloud coverage. In Champaign, the Moon will start to get dimmer after sunset and begin moving into Earth's umbra, or full shadow, around 9:30 p.m. The total eclipse begins around 10:30 p.m. and will last for about 80 minutes.

Planetarium staff and members of the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society will set up several telescopes outside the planetarium so visitors can view the moon. The circle drive outside the planetarium and theatre will be blocked off to allow for pedestrian traffic. Visitors should park in the M1 or C4 parking lots.

A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is positioned between the Sun and Moon. Normally, the Moon would appear full, but Earth's shadow can cover the Moon entirely, making it much dimmer. A total lunar eclipse looks red due to sunlight refracted through Earth's atmosphere.

For more information about the event, the planetarium, or booking the dome, please call 217/351-2567 or visit

New Early Childhood Educator Degree, Tuition Support

New Early Childhood Educator Degree at Parkland College

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Parkland College is launching a new early childhood education program, and area childcare workers can apply for free funding to cover tuition costs.

Students who earn Parkland's Early Childhood Education (ECE) AAS degree will now be able to transfer their credits to obtain a four-year degree, something they could not do with the college's previous Early Childhood Development degree, according to ECE Program Director Amy Chamley.

"It's a new bridge/transfer path, but the same top-notch Parkland curriculum we are well-known for,” Chamley said. "Our two-year program can prepare you for eventual work as a head teacher, assistant teacher, or director in a DCFS-licensed childcare center or home-based program."

Designed for people interested in making a positive and immediate impact on young children's growth and development, Parkland's ECE degree features supervised, hands-on instruction and professors with real-life experience in the field. Students spend time observing and working with children at Parkland’s Child Development Center and other area programs and facilities. The program's flexibility accommodates both full- and part-time students, with classes available on-campus and online; future teachers can work while they earn their degree.

Once students complete the required minimum 60 semester credits to earn their associate's degree, they can either enter the workforce as daycare or preschool workers or opt to transfer as a junior to a four-year program in early childhood education to finish a bachelor's degree and obtain their Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL). Obtaining the PEL would allow them to teach young children in Illinois public schools (birth to second grade), private elementary schools, and Head Start.

"It's training you can make fit into your life," Chamley said. "Earn the degree and start your own home daycare or become director-qualified by taking one extra course with the AAS curriculum."

Because Illinois, like the nation, is experiencing an early childhood teacher shortage, the state invites residents with childcare education experience to apply for the Illinois’ Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program to help pay for Parkland's training. The scholarship covers an academic year's worth of college credits.

Employment of childcare workers is projected to grow eight percent from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an average 150,300 openings projected across the country annually.

For additional information on the Early Childhood Education Associate in Applied Science degree at Parkland, visit

Parkland College 2022 Commencement Ceremony, May 12

Parkland College Commencement Exercises, Thursday, May 12

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Dr. Stuart King, pain management specialist and anesthesiologist at Christie Clinic and University of Illinois trustee, will deliver the keynote address during Parkland College's 2022 Commencement Exercises, Thursday, May 12, at 8 p.m. in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Dr. King is a University of Illinois Trustee appointed in 2017. He is a lifetime member of the University of Illinois Alumni Association and has been or currently is a board member with the Parkland College Foundation, the Presence Hospital Foundation, the Carle Foundation, and UIUC’s MBA advisory board. He has served on Christie Clinic PC’s board of directors and is a diplomat for the American Board of Anesthesiology. In the past, he has been president of the Christie Foundation and the Champaign County Medical Society Board.
He began his career in 1987 with an associate’s degree at Parkland College in Liberal Arts and Sciences, and received a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He would continue his career with a doctorate from the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine at Peoria. He completed his residency in anesthesiology at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He earned his MBA at UIUC in 2010.
Dr. King is a pain management specialist at Christie Clinic and head of the Department of Spine and Pain Management. In his military career, he was a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, and Captain of the 1/106th Aviation Battalion in the Illinois Army National Guard; he was also head of the medical section. He served at the McLeod Regional Medical Center and was on the Illinois State Medical Society’s Council of Economics.
He has worked as a clinical associate professor for multiple areas in the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine since 2013. He was also an interim associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Medicine for four years. In 2012, he was honored with Parkland College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Parkland College's 55th Commencement will include a welcome from college administration and the Board of Trustees. The Parkland College Foundation will present the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Late trustee Jonathan Westfield will be commemorated with an honorary degree and Parkland student Ross Booker's family will be presented with a posthumous degree. 

Student presenters will include honor student Angela Lustria Maligaya, tassel turner Sean M. Ealy, and student trustee Kha K. Nguyen. Nguyen is a High School of St. Thomas More graduate. Along with his role as student trustee, he is co-president of the Cobra Investment Society.

Ealy is a Cincinnati native and chose Parkland for the strong athletics program. He has been part of the Cobras basketball team for two years, and is pursuing a degree in communications.

Maligaya is a Parkland Pathway student and 2020 Centennial High School graduate. She has participated in many academic and student groups while in high school and on campus, including Phi Theta Kappa. After graduation, she plants to pursue global environmental sciences at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

The ceremony will also feature music selections by the Parkland College Wind Ensemble and an invocation and benediction by Pastor Willie G. Comer Jr. of Berean Covenant Church in Urbana.

This event will be in-person and livestreamed via YouTube and Facebook Live. Visit for more information.