WILL Pressroom

New Uni High documentary focuses on the experiences of local immigrants and advocates for immigration rights


Immigrants’ Journeys: Challenges and Opportunities in Champaign-Urbana—the latest public radio documentary to be produced from a long-standing partnership between Illinois Public Media and the University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Uni High)—premieres April 23 on WILL-AM 580. Both organizations are located in Urbana, IL.

With an immigrant population of about 12%, Champaign County represents one of the largest immigrant communities in Illinois. Of this population, approximately 30% are undocumented. In an effort to share the stories of immigrants in the local community and explore the history and current state of immigration in the United States, Uni High students interviewed immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and allies in the Champaign-Urbana community.

“We are grateful for all of the immigrants and migrants who came to Champaign-Urbana against great odds who were willing to tell us their stories as well as those who worked alongside them as advocates,” said Kimberlie Kranich, director of community content and engagement. “They trusted both Uni High and WILL and now these stories will help tell the larger story of our rich and diverse community.”

Immigrants’ Journeys: Challenges and Opportunities in Champaign-Urbana is a powerful audio documentary that explores individual immigrants’ journeys to central Illinois as well as the journeys of people who came to be vocal advocates for immigrants’ rights.

The project also highlights the importance of teaching public media to the next generation. “I learned about the importance of having a conversation. Everyone’s perspective has the potential to enrich your own, you just have to open the door,” said Uni High alum Abraham Han, who worked on the project.

For Uni High social studies teacher Melissa Schoeplein, the success of that experience relies on the students being able to lead the way, “As much as possible, this is a student-led project and students leave the project with new skills, new knowledge, and a deeper understanding of the Champaign-Urbana community.”

For more than 20 years, students at Uni High have worked with Illinois Public Media professionals to create radio documentaries and short series on topics ranging from equality in athletics and gender, integration and disability barriers, the Holocaust, and many others. One of these students, Jeremy Hobson, went on to co-host NPR’s Here & Now from 2013 to 2020.

Immigrants’ Journeys: Challenges and Opportunities in Champaign-Urbana premieres on WILL-AM580 (and streaming live at will.illinois.edu) on Friday at 7 pm (CST) on April 23. It will re-air/stream at 1 pm and 8 pm on Sunday, April 15 on WILL-AM and will.illinois.edu. You can also stream the full documentary right now here.

Editorial note: Interviews with the subjects were conducted in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed release of the final content.