WIU Alum Honored for Act of Kindness

A 1989 Western Illinois University alumna is receiving notoriety in Phoenix, AZ, because of an act of kindness she performed during her work day. Screen-Shot-2013-06-28-at-9.40.43-AM

Natalie (Petersen) Simonick, who received her bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration and her minors in political science and management, is a police sergeant with the Phoenix Police Department.

While on patrol one night, Simonick saw 18-year-old Cristian Felix walking in an isolated area. She learned the teen was walking six miles each way to his job at a fast food restaurant because there are no buses running during the times he would need a ride.

Simonick gave Felix a ride home that night but the boy’s work ethic left an impression on the officer.

“I asked him if he ever had a bicycle, because that’s a little safer than walking,” Simonick told the Fox television station in Phoenix. “He said he’s never ridden a bicycle before.”

The officer decided to give the boy an extra bicycle she and her husband had at home. She and her husband also taught Felix to ride the bicycle. She also gave him a helmet and light.

“It’s really something when someone comes up on the street and then offers to do a kindness for you,” Felix told the television station. “It’s great ? I’ve never had an actual bike before, now I just want to ride it all the time.”

For more on this story, visit myfoxphoenix.com/story/22211517/curfew-check-turns-into-good-deed.

WIU’s Thai Scholars traveling, adjusting to life in U.S.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University. They are pictured here after they first arrived in the U.S.

Just about five months ago, 10 high-achieving students from Thailand began a new adventure at Western.

The students (all from rural districts in Thailand) are part of the One-District-One-Scholarship (ODOS) program, sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. They arrived at WIU in February and were immediately enrolled in a specially developed Western program, Royal Thai Newcomers, which helped prepare them for their English-language studies through the WESL (Western English as a Second Language) Institute.

According to David Bell, WESL director, all 10 of the students have matriculated into the regular WESL program and are now studying English six hours per day.

“They continue to live in University housing, and several of them have requested to have U.S. roommates beginning this fall semester,” Bell said. “They have adjusted well, and their English-language skills have improved greatly in the short time they have been here.”

Once the students are competent in their English-language skills, they will begin their studies in their chosen majors.

This past weekend, Western's Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western's Center for International Studies, to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

This past weekend, Western’s Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. (They are pictured here with Thai Scholars who are attending other Midwestern universities.) The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

“The plan is to provide them with the skills they need to succeed so they can start in their major programs in Spring 2014,” noted Richard Carter, executive director of Western’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach.

This past weekend, the students traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies.

“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the ODOS scholars to the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars. After the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture,” Carter explained.

Western Illinois University English as a Second Language Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

WESL Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

At the June 15 meeting, in addition to the Thai Scholars from Western, Thai students from several universities in the Midwest region were present, as well as the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand, Dr. Nontigorn Kanchanachitra. Also present were the Minister Counselor of the Royal Thai Consulate, Dr. Nantawan Sangton, and the Guidance Office of the Office of Educational Affairs, Dr. Korn Thepnorarat, Carter added.

Learn more about the One-District-One-Scholarship program at thainewsupdate24.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-district-one-scholarship-program.html and more about how the Thai Scholars came to Western at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10514.

Alumnus Throws Out First Pitch at Cubs Game

130602_Cubs_007 130602_Cubs_010Earlier this month, Western Illinois University alumnus Stephanie McCurry was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game to honor her status as a female veteran.

McCurry, an Abingdon, IL, native who graduated in 2007 with a communication degree, was invited to the June 2 game in Chicago.

June is an exciting month for McCurry, who will be married Saturday, June 15, in Peoria and who wrapped up her 10-year career with the Illinois National Guard last weekend.

She also recently ended a nine-month deployment at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, where she ran recreational programs for the troops.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, when the opportunity with the team presented itself, McCurry was excited but nervous.

“Basically, the Cubs called the USA, the USA contacted the public affairs officer and Major League Baseball contacted me,” McCurry told the Galesburg Register Mail recently. “They were looking for a female soldier recently back from a tour to throw out the first pitch.”

At the stadium, McCurry received VIP treatment, including meeting the umpires and some of the players. Her family and her fianc? were in the stands cheering her on.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good,” McCury said of her pitch.