Originally published in Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2020.

On a hazy September afternoon near a willow tree, a boy with a bright red backpack spotted something slimy on the ground. “Hello, all the mushrooms,” he said, gently tapping the fungus, trying not to crush any as his small feet moved through the grass. 

A teacher asked why they might be growing in that spot. The boy thought for a moment. “Because it’s shady and wet!” That was just one lesson for the group of kids at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nature Preschool, a program that’s part of the growing field of nature-based early childhood education.

Nature preschools were increasing before the pandemic, more than doubling in the last three years, according to a report from the Natural Start Alliance, a project of the North American Association for Environmental Education. The report estimates 585 schools across the country have nature-based education at their core, meaning a significant amount of time is spent outside. Illinois is among the states with the most programs — topping 20. California and Washington, with about 50 programs each, lead the list.

Aerosol transmission of the coronavirus has raised concerns over safety of walled-off spaces, and some parents are wondering if one solution during the pandemic is as simple as stepping outside.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Chicago Tribune, September 22, 2020.

Niles village officials are hoping state legislators, citizens and professional studies will convince the Illinois Department of Transportation to approve traffic signals for an intersection where a 13-year-old bicyclist was killed in July.

On Sept. 11, letters signed by Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo were mailed to State Senators Ram Villivalam and Robert Martwick, and State Representatives Bradley Stephens and John D’Amico. The letters ask the elected officials to support the village’s request to IDOT for traffic control signals at Waukegan Road and Cleveland Street, which is part of a designated bicycle route.

The village is also seeking a traffic signal further east, at Caldwell Avenue and Cleveland Street, where the bike trail connects with Miami Woods and the North Branch Trail.
All four legislators, who each represent a district that includes a portion of Niles, were asked to mail a letter of support to the village by Oct. 1 so that it can be included in a larger package of documentation that the village plans to submit to IDOT officials.

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Category: In The News

Snow Plow TruckCHICAGO – Now that the Illinois Department of Transportation has begun accepting applications, Senate Transportation Chair Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) is encouraging qualified individuals to apply for seasonal snow-and ice removal positions. 

“Snowplow driving is an essential service that keeps our roads clear and our drivers safe,” Villivalam said. “This is a good employment opportunity for people who have struggled to find work.” 

Temporary snowplow drivers are hired every year on a full-time and on-call basis through IDOT’s “snowbird” program. To be considered, applicants must have a commercial driver’s license. Any potential employee must undergo a physical, vision test, and drug and alcohol screening. 

Applicants are selected based on their availability, job-related experience, and qualifications. Veterans are also strongly encouraged to apply. 

“With so many people currently unemployed, I hope they will take advantage of this opportunity to apply for a stable job heading into the winter,” Villivalam said. 

More information about the application process in specific districts, available positions, potential benefits, and salary can be found on IDOT’s website

Category: Press Releases

2020 CensusCHICAGO – State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) is strongly encouraging all Asian Americans to fill out the census before the deadline closes.

“We need to ensure Asian Americans have access to all of the same state services as other Illinois residents,” said Villivalam, the first Asian American elected to the Illinois Senate and the Co-Chair of the Illinois General Assembly’s Asian American Caucus. “I represent one of the most culturally diverse districts in the state. I am extremely grateful for the numerous contributions our Asian American neighbors, friends and family have brought to our community – everything from cultural to the culinary traditions.” 

According to the Census Bureau, Asian Americans from countries like India and China are the fastest growing demographic group in Illinois with a population that has increased by 24% since 2010. Asian Americans now account for 5.7% of the people in the state. 

The fact that Asian Americans are the fastest growing group in Illinois is a reminder of how important it is to fill out the census.

“If the Asian American community wants to have the representation it deserves in government and its fair share of federal resources, we all need to fill out the census,” Villivalam said. 

The census can be completed by phone at 844-330-2020, mail, or online at www.2020census.gov

Category: Press Releases

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