Good News Sunday: Naperville teen is youngest female to climb 50 state high points

Good News Sunday: Naperville teen is youngest female to climb 50 state high points

  • Naperville resident Lucy Westlake, 17, during her climbing trip to Denali in Alaska with her father, Rodney.

    Naperville resident Lucy Westlake, 17, during her climbing trip to Denali in Alaska with her father, Rodney. Courtesy of Westlake family

 
 
Posted7/18/2021 7:30 AM

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

For 17 days, Lucy Westlake and her father, Rodney, climbed until there was nothing but sky above them.

 

The 17-year-old mountaineer had gotten so used to keeping her eye on the path ahead, to always anticipating her next move and carefully calculating each step, that she half expected to look up and see more icy terrain.

But on June 20, as she and her dad stood atop Denali in Alaska, Lucy realized every obstacle, every possible stumbling block to summiting all 50 state high points had vanished somewhere in the 20,310 feet below.

The Naperville teen had achieved her longtime dream -- and broken a world record in the process.

"It was very surreal," said Lucy, who became the youngest female to reach the highest point of each U.S. state.

"There's no feeling like reaching the top and looking down around you. That's why I do it."

For the full story, click here.

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Niphaphone "Laura" Robertson lived with her family in a refugee camp in Thailand before arriving in America as a child. In her book, Robertson, now living in Algonquin, writes about uncovering her family's immigrant journey from war-torn Laos.
Niphaphone "Laura" Robertson lived with her family in a refugee camp in Thailand before arriving in America as a child. In her book, Robertson, now living in Algonquin, writes about uncovering her family's immigrant journey from war-torn Laos. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Lao author's book documents family's refugee journey

With $40 in hand, just the clothes on their backs and one bag of belongings between them, Niphaphone Sanavongsay's family arrived in America in 1979 as Laotian refugees fleeing the Southeast Asian nation in the grips of a civil war.

Niphaphone spent the first two years of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand before journeying with her parents and two older brothers to Kingsport, Tennessee. The family later settled in Elgin -- home to a large Laotian refugee population.

In her newly released book, "Forty Dollars and a Dream: Breaking Through The Bamboo Ceiling," Niphaphone "Laura" Robertson chronicles her journey, uncovering her family's story of escaping from war-torn Laos. She also writes about trying to fit in as an Asian kid at school, her immigrant identity crisis, and the racism she endured along the way.

"Growing up, I never really knew where we came from," said Robertson, 44, now living in Algonquin. "All I really knew was that we came here for a better life."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A 1995 graduate of Elgin High School, Robertson is a business coach, trainer, and motivational speaker who says she strives to help her clients live a life of meaning and purpose.

She also offers free career coaching, online training and makeovers for people in need through her Elgin business, Beautiful Potential Consulting.

For the full story, click here.

Members of The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley's Youth Engagement in Philanthropy program recently awarded $25,000 in grants to 10 local nonprofit organizations. From left are Quinn Butler of North Aurora, Cole Hemmes of Batavia, Sarah Shoaff of Sugar Grove, Nalani Lopez of Oswego, Bethany Anderson of Oswego, Lydia Oker of Sandwich, Julia Tippett of St. Charles, Abby Vagnoni of Aurora, Arleth Rodriguez of Aurora, Mariella Acevedo of Aurora and Kevin Molina of Aurora.
Members of The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley's Youth Engagement in Philanthropy program recently awarded $25,000 in grants to 10 local nonprofit organizations. From left are Quinn Butler of North Aurora, Cole Hemmes of Batavia, Sarah Shoaff of Sugar Grove, Nalani Lopez of Oswego, Bethany Anderson of Oswego, Lydia Oker of Sandwich, Julia Tippett of St. Charles, Abby Vagnoni of Aurora, Arleth Rodriguez of Aurora, Mariella Acevedo of Aurora and Kevin Molina of Aurora. - Courtesy of Thomas J. King
Fox Valley high school students give $25,000 in grants to 10 nonprofits

Ten Fox Valley nonprofit organizations were recently named as recipients of grants totaling $25,000.

The grants were decided by 22 diverse students from Fox Valley high schools who are a part of the Youth Engagement in Philanthropy program of the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley.

YEP aims to get youth interested in philanthropy and to encourage them to become future community leaders.

"This year was more challenging, because we couldn't meet in person," said Cole Hemmes, a recent graduate of Batavia High School, who had been with the program since its 2019 inception.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hemmes said, students met mostly online to screen and advocate for select grant applicants.

The students also participated in YEP's first fundraising drive. It was largely through an online Giving Tuesday fundraiser in November called "Youth Helping Youth" that featured a $12,500 matching grant from The Dunham Foundation.

For the full story, click here.

New bike path construction can also solve Hicks Road parkway flooding in Rolling Meadows.
New bike path construction can also solve Hicks Road parkway flooding in Rolling Meadows. - Courtesy of Christopher B. Burke, Engineering LTD.
State grants will help fund biking, walking projects in the suburbs

It's a bright future for Illinois biking.

Illinois Department of Transportation recently awarded 99 grants for biking and walking projects, with 45 in the Chicago area. Totaling $105.9 million, ranging from $32,000 to $2 million through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, this is the largest total ever.

Since 2019, the Rebuild Illinois long-term capital program has required funding for these projects. Projects of all sizes will benefit bikers and pedestrians in various communities. At least 25% of ITEP funds must be directed to high-need communities, determined by size, median income, poverty level and property tax base.

Cook County accounted for 23 projects; DuPage, seven; Lake, five; and three each in Kane and McHenry. IDOT's ITEP webpage reveals this project diversity.

For the full story, click here.

• Good News Sunday will run each weekend. Please visit dailyherald.com/newsletters to sign up for our Good News Sunday newsletter.

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