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Thumbs up to the Chester Public Library for playing host to the Smithsonian Institution’s “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” exhibit. The display centers around the out-migration from rural areas at the turn of the last century. The Smithsonian’s website said the exhibit “offers small towns a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century.” It also points out that not all rural communities are on death’s door and listening to the tales or rural America’s residents is important. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 20.

Thumbs up to Ameren Illinois for its avian protection program. Last week the utility donated a power pole and a work crew for half a day to move an osprey nest at Carlyle High School’s football field. The crew installed a nesting box, provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, atop a pole, then placed the pole about 50 yards from the nest built atop one of the light standards at the stadium. The utility also provided a bucket truck that allowed avian specialists to remove the nest from the light standard and place it in the nest box. Hopefully, the operation was a success and osprey will return to the nest next year.

Thumbs down to the SIU women’s swimming and diving team for being placed on probation by the NCAA. The team was placed on probation for conducting impermissible tryouts and lessons for team prospects. The suspension means scholarships will be reduced to 10.85 through the 2022 school term and SIU must also pay a $5,000 fine. Swimming coach Rick Walker said the mistakes were unintentional, but he takes full responsibility for the errors. We hate to see the program embroiled in NCAA issues. The men’s and women’s swimming teams have been incredibly supportive of other athletic programs on campus.

Thumbs up to the Murphysboro Apple Festival. The annual September event has become an iconic part of Southern Illinois life, from Murphysboro residents staking out spots for the parade weeks in advance to the memorable apple-peeling contests, pie-baking competition and the creation of the inimitable Captain Applesauce. On a totally serious notes, festivals such as this are a part of life in rural America. These celebrations cause residents of a community to bond together, forge a sense of pride and can be an economic shot in the arm.

Thumbs up to the forward thinking in the proposal to turn the old Hardin County Work Camp into a jail for Hardin, Pope and Gallatin counties. The former state facility was shuttered in December 2015. The renovated facility would have between 75-100 beds, large enough to serve the three rural counties and also a possible source of revenue, holding overflow inmates from other counties. The problem? It will take cash to renovate the facility. Area legislators and Sen. Tammy Duckworth are on board, trying to secure state and federal grants. “The push to reopen this facility is a great opportunity for Southern Illinois, creating jobs and providing a critical service to Hardin and surrounding counties,” said State Sen. Dale Fowler of Harrisburg.

Thumbs up to the revitalization of the Carterville Schools Foundation. The foundation had dissolved, but was reformed when it received a $1 million donation from the estate of James and Rosemary Childress. Childress graduated from SIU in 1951 and became a successful businessman, owning numerous corporations. He passed away in 2016. The estate also donated substantial amounts to John A. Logan College and Southern Illinois University. After the donation, the Carterville Schools Foundation was re-established and last spring awarded scholarships to graduating seniors. The foundation is now accepting applications for teachers for classroom grants.

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