Students Fly via Skype

Sixth-graders at Gompers Middle School interested in participating in the National Geographic Bee Club were able to speak with a renowned

pilot stationed halfway around the world via Skype earlier this month.The students were able to ask Capt. Barrington Irving several questions about flight and the cultures he has experienced on his journey as the youngest and first black pilot to fly around the world solo.

“I was able to explore amazing things, all possible because of my education,” Irving told the 11 students.

This was part of Irving’s “Flying Classroom” initiative in which he promotes learning of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects by talking with kids from around the world. The Joliet School District is participating in the program, which connects Irving to students who will learn about the real life applications of STEM and other subjects such as geography, social studies and language arts in different cultures.

Irving told students the story of how he turned down football scholarships to become a pilot after another pilot talked to him about the job when he was young.

“I literally told him I’m not smart enough to fly,” Irving said.

Irving accomplished a 30,000-mile journey in a small plane called “Inspiration” in 2007. He also answered questions about Chi

the Skype discussion was part of an effort to use technology to meld STEM education with social studies.

nese culture, education and how high his plane flies.

Irving talked about currency exchange rates, the difference between towns like Joliet and Shanghai with a population of 15 million, and the STEM-oriented focus of Chinese education. He encouraged students to explore their interests in geography and flight.

Sixth-grade social studies teacher Heather Watson said

“It expands the horizons for what they see,” Watson said. “They can see what it’s like in a specific part of the world by talking with him [Irving].”

Natalie Coleman, the social studies and STEM program coordinator for the school district, organized the discussion.

“These kids don’t see a lot of geography and they can see it now,” she said. “It’s cross-curriculum and part of the Common Core standards.”

About 60 students from Joliet School District 86 middle schools will participate in the National Geographic Bee Club. It’s the second year the district is holding the club to promote participation for the state geographic bee in the spring.

122 years sentence

Erick Maya’s 15-year-old girlfriend promised to wait for him if he went prison for the murder of Briana Valle. Judge Robert Livas said “Let’s see how long she can live,” before sentencing Maya to 122 years in prison for the murder of Valle and the attempted murder of her mother, Alicia Guerrero. Guerrero testified at the sentencing hearing saying she still has many medical complications from the Feb. 13 attack where she was shot in the shoulder after her daughter was shot in the back of the head. Valle’s parents moved from Cicero to break off her relationship with Maya. Maya was eight years older, and when Valle began making friends and having dates, she received threatening text messages from Maya. He threatened to rape her and kill her whole family, according to trial testimony. Maya claimed he is a wrongfully convicted man and will spend the rest of his life in a cage for a crime he “didn’t commit.” Maya tried blaming police for corrupting the investigation. The judge said the police work presented in this case has been some of the most efficient he has ever seen.

The Upper Room

­­­Her intention for The Upper Room was to have a 24/7 faith-based hotline to serve Catholic priests and brothers. Now The Upper Room is busier than ever! Seems that people all around the globe has gotten a hold of their 800 number. According to Seeley, they receive calls from Catholic clergy, but most calls are from laypeople seeking moral guidance. “The questions and dilemmas are wide and varied,” mentions Seeley. “Some people call just to have us pray with them,” Seeley said.

Seeley has worked with hotlines for nearly 45 years. She also founded the Crisis Line of Will County and Grundy County in 1976, which still exists. Seeley blames the media for the increase of calls concerning the occult. “Look at your TV programs,” Seeley said. “How many of them deal with vampires and ghosts?”

The Upper Room is ran by Seeley and 19 volunteers. Seeley says more volunteers are needed and training sessions are eight weeks long. Most open time slots are filled by Seeley herself.  Volunteers must be practicing Catholics. Seeley prefers people that are “seasoned,” although she might allow select college interns to volunteer if they have a psychology of theology background.  Although Seeley requires volunteers to have a solid understanding of the Catholic faith, that does not mean callers receive a Catholic-based lecture when they call, Seeley said.

One of the first questions a volunteer asks a caller is, “What faith were you raised in?” Based on the callers response the volunteer may tell the caller to reach out to a priest or minister of his or denomination. “They need to think it out,” Seeley said. “We help draw it out, help them examine what is bothering them and help them see which choice is most helpful with fewer negative consequences.”

In addition to receiving training in paraprofessional counseling, human sexuality, suicide prevention, grief counseling and communication skills, volunteers must have sensitive listening ears, Seeley said, and have an open, nonjudgmental attitude.

“Sometimes, we save a life,” Seeley said, “and sometimes, we just send them down a different path to live happily ever after. Sometimes we help bring them back to their practices of religion or help them make healthy changes in their lifestyle.”

Occasionally, the hotline will receive repeat calls from the same people wanting to discuss the same problems, Seeley said. Volunteers still will speak to them but limit the time and amount of phone calls they will take from them, gently steering repeat callers to other resources, she added.

“It’s not good for the person to rehash everything,” Seeley said.

The hotline phone number is 888-808-8724.