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The Summit Hill School District 161 Board of Education unanimously named Michael Ruffalo as the new principal of Dr. Julian Rogus School on Wednesday, April 30, during a special meeting. 

Ruffalo currently serves as principal of Hilda Walker Intermediate School, and he will replace Kathryn Klein as principal at Rogus for the 2014-2015 school year. In early April, the  board approved Klein as the district’s director of curriculum for the forthcoming school year. 

Will O'Brien

Volleyball and basketball enthusiasts can rejoice as the Mokena Village Board unanimously approved an indoor sports facility addition at Velocity All Sports during its regular board meeting Monday, Aug. 25.

The special use permit request from Velocity All Sports, located at 9120 W. 191st St., allows the business to operate a 50,000 square foot indoor volleyball and basketball facility on the property.

Danny Ciamprone

While many students across the nation ventured to banquet halls for prom night this year, Lincoln-Way East’s prom-goers took a trip to Italy — or at least they felt like they had.

The prom, which took place Friday, May 16, at CD & ME in Frankfort, featured an “Under the Tuscan Sun” theme. Sunflowers adorned the dining tables, and attendees received a family-style Italian dinner rather than the buffet typically served at East proms.

Will O'Brien

Only 11 years old and already competing at the University of Michigan.  

Mokena-trained gymnast Sam Garza placed third on vault in his level at the USA Gymnastics Region 5 Championships Friday, April 11 through Sunday, April 13. The New Lenox resident competed against qualifying gymnasts from all over Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. 

Garza is a member of the Gym-Kinetics boys gymnastics team in Mokena.

A sea of blue packed the meeting room for the Mokena Village Board of Trustees meeting on July 14 as family, friends and supporters received a resolution designating the honorary name of “Aaron Toppen Memorial Drive” for Townline Road between 187th Street and Francis Road in Mokena.

“Through this tragedy and difficult time, we’re really, really blessed with the wonderful circle of support,” said his mom Pam Toppen who, along with several family members and supporters, wore blue T-shirts to commemorate Aaron.

Rebecca Susmarski

Journalists, analysts and pundits across the U.S. have consistently referred to Illinois as one of the worst-run states in America, and Mokena residents are paying for it. The value of homes in Mokena is depressed because more people are leaving the state than coming in, especially at higher incomes. The great emigration is driving the supply of homes up in Mokena and the demand for homes down. Corporations are also fleeing as Illinois now has the fourth highest corporate tax rate in the country, taking their well-paying jobs with them.

Danny Ciamprone

Pictured is Berkot’s Super Foods fried chicken. Berkot’s is the place to go for fried chicken in Mokena. On an average graduation weekend in June, the grocery serves upwards of 2,000 pieces of the hometown favorite.

Photo by Jean Lachat/22nd Century Media

Mokena-gram producer Jean Lachat blogs at

Rebecca Susmarski

A sunflower is among the wildflowers growing on the corner of 194th Street and Wolf Road, where the color changes every hour.


Danny Ciamprone

Regan Loconte knows the most successful charity events take a bit of effort and a lot of goodwill. 

The Mokena 12-year-old had both in the bag – more than 400 to be exact – the number of grocery bags filled with non-perishable food she collected during a recent food drive.

Rebecca Susmarski

Down one game in the Illinois High School Association state title game and tied 24-24 in the second set Saturday, June 7, Lincoln-Way East senior outside hitter Nate Van Dellen was as confident as ever.

Van Dellen didn’t doubt his team would come back against Warren and win the school’s first boys volleyball state title.

“Not at all; not for a second,” he said. “At the time, we had won 40 games together. I didn’t doubt these guys for a second.”

Rebecca Susmarski