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GILLESPIE – The City of Gillespie will receive a $1 million state grant to support the city’s five-year plan to streetscape its downtown business district, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced Monday at a joint press conference with Gillespie Mayor John Hicks and Grow Gillespie leader Dan Fisher.

The City of Gillespie is investing $700,000 into the streetscape project, which will make a series of significant infrastructure updates and reinvent the esthetic of downtown Gillespie’s Macoupin Street as a regional destination for shopping, dining, and other commerce. The project will also improve pedestrian safety and make downtown more accessible for residents with mobility challenges.

“The future of Gillespie is strong thanks to Grow Gillespie and the commitment of local leaders to working with the state to build a vibrant and welcoming business environment,” Manar said. “For the young and talented, these efforts proclaim that you don’t have to move away to get ahead in the 21st century economy. You have a right to your rural roots, and Grow Gillespie is doing the work to ensure Gillespie is a great place to raise a family and start a business for the next generation.”

Negotiated by Manar last year, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant was approved as part of the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan.

Laying the groundwork for the streetscape project is the city’s $11 million investment in a city-wide water line replacement, which is currently underway.

The streetscape design is a collaborative effort between the city and Grow Gillespie, a local group made up of volunteers, focused on fostering local pride and improving the business environment of downtown Gillespie.

“One of the our primary goals with both the city and Grow Gillespie is to make downtown ‘the place’ to be by creating an attractive and comfortable ambiance that residents and visitors alike look forward to experiencing,” said Dan Fisher, the Gillespie City Treasurer and a Grow Gillespie organizer. “Thanks to Senator Manar, we have the opportunity to move forward on our plan to revitalize our community.”

consortiumSPRINGFIELD - Students in Macoupin County will have access to new tech education equipment and training facilities with the help of a recently delivered $2 million state grant advocated by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) intended to support capital improvements and much-needed equipment upgrades for the Southern Macoupin Consortium for Innovation and Career Pathways.

Formed in 2019 to serve students without access to vocational education training, the consortium allows six Macoupin County school districts to share facilities and resources for their respective career and technical education programs to offer students new opportunities.

“Tech education is vital to the economic future of our community,” said Manar, who secured the grant as a lead negotiator of the state’s bipartisan budget. “I’m pleased that the state is doing its part to ensure Macoupin County students have access to the high-quality vocational training and equipment that is relevant to today’s industries.”

The grant money was delivered in December and divided among the six schools based on enrollment: Bunker Hill, Carlinville, Gillespie, Mt. Olive, Staunton and Southwestern.



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Over the next few months, districts will purchase equipment and make significant facility upgrades in order to expand and improve career and tech education programs. Examples include virtual welders, vinyl printers, z-space equipment for auto mechanics and industrial arts, electrical upgrades to the facility, metals machines, equipment to offer digital communication classes, additions to vocational buildings for more classroom space, ventilation to expand welding and food science courses, glow forge and drafting computers.

In addition, the schools are looking at purchasing distance learning equipment to be able to broadcast courses to other classrooms.

“Many of our CTE spaces are outdated and original to the buildings. Ventilation, electrical upgrades, and expansion are essential,” Carlinville School District Superintendent Becky Schuchman said. “We believe the grant will allow not only the schools to work toward more workforce development but also allow our rural communities to grow and attract industry.”

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SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) today welcomed 37 young women from Sherrod’s Independent Mentoring Program, Inc., or SIMP, which provides mentorship, academic advising, and empowerment seminars to public school students in Decatur.

“Today was about history, progression, and women’s empowerment,” said Dr. Jarmese Sherrod, a media and journalism professor at Richland Community College, who started the program in 2002. “We want these young women to know they have the power and strength to achieve whatever it is they want for their future as long as they put their minds to it.”

The group from Decatur included students from Alternative Education Programs at Harris School, Futures Unlimited School and Baby TALK Foundation.

“Dr. Sherrod does a tremendous job of helping them develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed. When they visit Springfield, it should be more than a tour of the Capitol and a lesson on the legislative process,” Manar said. “The most important message I can convey to these students is that despite whatever obstacles they face, the halls of power are not inaccessible to them or their future.”

The visit was part of SIMP’s Empowerment Day and included a tour of the Old State Capitol and the current Capitol complex, and a group discussion on the Senate floor in which Manar encouraged the girls to view themselves as future decision-makers.

“Dr. Sherrod has impacted my life a lot. She changed my perspective on how I should treat myself and others,” said Shatavia Jenkins, a recent SIMP Scholar of the Month. “I see myself as a leader now. A lot of people look up to me and I enjoy helping keep girls on track.”

childcare announcement

CHICAGO – Child-care providers in certain downstate Illinois counties will see their reimbursement rates increase by 20% under the Child Care Assistance Program, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced this week.

In order to address Illinois’ early childhood workforce crisis, child care reimbursement base rates for all child-care centers and home-based providers are increasing by 5% statewide, with an additional 15% increase for providers in counties that are categorized as predominately rural, including Macon County.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said the move will improve access to child-care in Central and Southern Illinois communities and boost wages of child-care workers.

“I commend Governor Pritzker for working with downstate legislators on a bipartisan budget that prioritized Illinois’ child-care woes. These rate increases are much-needed, especially in underserved communities,” said Manar, a lead budget negotiator in the Illinois Senate.

Counties in Manar’s district that will see a 20% increase include Montgomery, Macoupin, Macon, Christian.

Madison and Sangamon Counties are among those that will see a 5% increase.

The state will invest another $3 million to expand access to training and education opportunities for child-care workers.

“These investments will provide relief to child-care centers that are struggling to keep their doors open and is a step toward ensuring every working family, no matter your ZIP code or economic status, has access to high-quality child care,” Manar said.

It was also announced this week that Manar will serve as co-chair of the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding, which will make recommendations on how to fund equitable access to high-quality early childhood education and care services for all children birth to age 5.


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