Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Third-grader Donoven Cruz tries out his eclipse glasses with classmates while looking up at a projector light at Gotsch Intermediate School in Affton. Aug. 17, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

One of the first science lessons of the year for thousands of students in Illinois and Missouri won’t happen in the classroom, but high above it.

Teachers are using Monday’s solar eclipse as an opportunity to inspire a new generation of stargazers, stockpiling special viewing glasses and planning activities and eclipse-specific lessons.

Of course, there’s the other side of the moon: Dozens of schools in the St. Louis area are closing, mostly for safety reasons.

July 27 photo: Mark Kelly helps cast members of "In the Heights" stage a fight while Christina Rios looks on from behind him.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

This has been a super-crazy week for St. Louis theater professional and mom Christina Rios.

One of her three younger children started kindergarten. Her teenager entered her junior year of high school. And her theater company R-S Theatrics geared up to open its largest-ever production: “In the Heights.”

A total solar eclipse in 2006.
Franz Kerschbaum

Like any other day, the sun will rise on Monday. But close to noon in Missouri, the moon will start to cover the sun.

“You’re going to start to see little bits of the sun start to disappear, like someone slowly taking little bites out of a cookie,” said Anna Green, planetarium manager at the Saint Louis Science Center.

The sky will start to go dark quickly, like someone dimming the lights in a room. The air will also become colder, said Angela Speck, astrophysicist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The city of St. Clair, Missouri, is issuing permits to help keep some order when it comes to parking as thousands arrive for the eclipse.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Jason Alexander's family has owned the Budget Lodging Hotel in St. Clair, Missouri, for nearly three decades. During that time, only one event has sparked a customer to book a room years in advance.

Aaron Murray, 30, works out at Paraquad in St. Louis. Murray was paralyzed from the waist down during a home invasion in 2012.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2011, Aaron Murray bought his first gun at a sporting goods store — a .40 caliber Beretta pistol. He and his wife were fixing up a foreclosed home in a tough neighborhood in the northern suburbs of St. Louis, and he wanted to protect himself.

Two years later, a bullet from his own gun during a home invasion would leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

Natasha Toro (Vanessa) and Marshall Jennings (Benny) are shown on the bottom row. Jesse Muñoz (Usnavi) and Cassandra Lopez (Nina) are on the top.
Provided | Autumn Rinaldi | R-S Theatrics

Way before his blockbuster play “Hamilton,”  Lin-Manuel Miranda was a college student, struggling with a script about his upbringing in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

On Friday, Miranda’s early musical “In the Heights” comes to St. Louis' .Zack Theatre in the Grand Center area. The R-S Theatrics play tackles one of today's toughest subjects: immigration. It's a huge draw for local Latino actors and those from other states, including one theater professional from New York City.

People line the sides of West Florissant during a protest held to marke the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

After a Ferguson police officer fatally shot Michael Brown Jr., local artist Damon Davis hit the streets. What he saw there conflicted with TV news reports and social media posts he’d seen that emphasized clashes between protesters and police.

“It was absolutely nothing like what was being portrayed by the media,” Davis said.

Instead of clashes with police, he noticed people exercising their first amendment rights. So when budding filmmaker Sabaah Folayan contacted Davis about collaborating on a documentary about the protests, he felt compelled to work with her. That documentary, “Whose Streets?” will be released locally and across the nation tonight. 

This file photo of painter Rey Alfonso shows him during a 2015 return visit to Matanzas, Cuba, where he was born and grew up.
Provided | Patricia Alfonso

When Cuban-born painter Rey Alfonso was 12, his mother died. The next year, he built a raft and set out alone for the United States, away from Fidel Castro's Cuba and all that was familiar.

It would be the first of many attempts to pursue a new life. After the raft sank a few miles off shore, the Cuban Coast Guard picked him up and sent back to his grandmother’s house. A few months later, he tried once more and again, his raft sank.

Ashley Lock peers out of the window during a district bus tour for new teachers at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, where she'll teach history.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

As children and teens across the St. Louis area enjoy their last few days of freedom before school resumes, districts are putting teachers — old and new — to work.

It’s an especially busy time for new hires, who have to deal with several days of paperwork, learn technology and navigate unfamiliar schools.

When Norman Brown was 15, he served as a decoy while a man twice his age robbed a store and fatally shot its owner. Brown received life without parole for first-degree murder even though he wasn’t the shooter.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There are about 100 inmates in Missouri who were told as teenagers they would die behind bars for murder. All of them are now eligible for parole after serving 25 years due to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions and a change in state law.

But only three of the 23 men who’ve asked for their freedom know when they’re going home — a ratio that advocates say is unconstitutional.

Calvin Riley stands in one of the many rooms of the  George B. Vashon African-American Museum on St. Louis Avenue. (July 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Calvin Riley has spent years searching through musty basements and dusty attics to rescue the objects of historical significance that he displays in his George B. Vashon African-American Museum in north St. Louis.

“What I show here, you’re not going to see in other museums,’’ Riley said.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:45 p.m. August 2 to correct the percentage of KIPP St. Louis' budget that goes toward marketing in 7th paragraph Photos of smiling children in school uniforms grace the sides of buses, large billboards and flyers in mailboxes throughout the St. Louis area. Those images — and the selling points written underneath them — are meant for parents trying to figure out which school to send their kids.

With the dozens of charter schools and St. Louis Public Schools vying for students (and the state tax dollars that follow), the institutions have to act more like businesses, marketing themselves — sometimes heavily.

Angela Speck, an astrophysicist at University of Missouri-Columbia, tells a story at The Story Collider even at St. Louis Public Radio in May 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Like it or not, science is a part of our lives. It affects our health, our environment and our understanding of who we are and how we fit in the universe. At a time when our knowledge of how the world works is quickly expanding, climate change is altering the planet, and the state of health care hangs in the balance, it’s especially important to share stories about what science means to us personally.

Peter Seay and his child
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

 

 

A group of St. Louis doctors is working to make sure transgender kids get the medical care they need.

When the Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Transgender Center of Excellence opens today, it will be the first of its kind in a 250-mile radius. The clinic aims to provide transgender children with comprehensive health care including pediatric medicine, endocrinology, and mental health counseling.

Emily Lohse-Busch received her M.B.A. from DePaul University and launched a strategic communications business in Chicago.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The new executive director of an initiative designed to attract startups to the St. Louis area brings a mix of national and local experiences to the position.

Emily Lohse-Busch recently took the helm of Arch Grants after serving as a senior director with Global Impact, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports international nonprofit groups. She also worked for a consulting firm in Chicago, specializing in dealing with the nonprofit sector. 

Katey Finnegan demonstrates how to use the chill zone, a space where students can take time to regroup while at the Maplewood Richmond Heights district's Student Success Center.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area school districts are in the midst of a discipline revolution. After the Ferguson Commission in 2015 recommended banning suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade, schools began looking at how to address the root causes of difficult behavior.

Twenty-one districts pledged to at least attempt to reduce suspensions, and two have followed through, but officials say it can be tough to do without substantially investing time and money.

Matthew Kerns poses for a portrait with his late father's mounted deer head. The head, of the first deer his father killed, is now his prized possession. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Who among us hasn’t grappled with building a relationship with our parents?

Matthew Kerns, director of the St. Lou Fringe festival of performing arts, struggled to bond with a father who was very different from him. Kerns was a gay theater kid; his dad was a stereotypically “manly” man who drove a truck and hunted deer.

A pond inside the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest in Forest Park. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Ecologist Amy Witt of Forest Park Forever was leading a nature walk through the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest, a wooded habitat on the park’s southwestern edge. There are trees here that are older than the 1,300-acre park, which the city of St. Louis opened in 1876.

“They’re awesome. Right? We have some really old trees. We have some really young trees. That’s the natural regeneration of a forest and of a habitat,’’ Witt said. “We are called Forest Park for a reason.’’

Dr. Shilpa Babbar, an OB-GYN physician for SLUCare in St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Twice as many United States women are dying in childbirth today as in 1990, even though all other wealthy nations have seen declines in maternal mortality rates.

Rising rates of obesity and women having children later in life may help explain the rising number of deaths, said Dr. Shilpa Babbar, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis County.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Guyton has lived by the Mississippi River her entire life. She and her husband farm in Annada, a small town on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. She knows that growing crops on the floodplain comes with some risks.

The Guytons’ farm, about 65 miles north of St. Louis, endured major floods along the Mississippi in 1993 and 2008. But since 2008, she’s noticed more flood events.

Alaa Alderie, a Syrian refugee, is the owner of Cham Bakery in St. Louis.
File photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Alaa Alderie sought refuge in the United States several years ago, not long after Syrian authorities started looking for him because of his involvement in political demonstrations against President Bashar Al-Assad.

In 2012, he and his parents came to St. Louis, where his brother had arrived earlier, finding success in their new home. Alderie, who is Muslim, considers himself a “lucky refugee.” 

Campers listen to Katie Dreas of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explain foliage during a summer camp at Little Creek Nature Center on July 17, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Children benefit from a balanced diet of screen time and outdoors time, studies show.

In the St. Louis area, several camps and summer youth jobs focus on environmental education and exploration. St. Louis Public Radio visited a smattering of them to see what kids are learning.

Eureka resident Sharon Wasson sits in her basement, which still hasn't been completely put back together after the severe flooding that occurred in May.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Two months ago, retired physical education teacher and Eureka resident Sharon Wasson spent four days trying to keep sewer water from entering her basement. An armada of blower fans covered the floor. Members of Eureka High School’s football and wrestling teams packed the place, pumping water out of Wasson’s house.

Two months later, the basement where she once spent most of her time is still a work in progress. Having dealt with the major flooding in May and in December 2015, Wasson is conflicted about staying in Eureka.

File: The Knuckles met and became friends before their musical collaboration began.
File photo | Provided | The Knuckles

Don’t put Rockwell Knuckles and Aloha Micheaux in a box.

He’s known as a rapper and she’s more of a pop singer, who made it to the finals in “American Idol” in 2005. But the St. Louis performers shun labels in their collaboration known as The Knuckles.

Lacy Seward, social services coordinator for the Monroe City Manor. Medicaid cuts proposed by Senate Republicans could hit hard in this small town, that helped vote them into office.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

MONROE CITY, MO. — The closest emergency room is 20 miles east on the highway. That’s why it isn’t unusual for people experiencing heart attacks, blood clots and strokes to show up at Dr. Rodney Yager’s clinic on Main Street in Monroe City.

Yager, who grew up in the area, can handle the fast pace of a small-town clinic. What worries him more is how federal health care policies being shaped in Washington, D.C., could affect his patients.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

Confetti hangs in an open window reminiscent of a snowglobe in Bunny Burson's sculpture
Bruno David Gallery

Early on election night last November, artist Bunny Burson looked to New York City’s Javits Center ceiling, expecting confetti to fall to celebrate Hillary Clinton becoming the nation's first woman president. But the confetti never fell.

Crushed by Clinton’s loss to President Donald Trump, Burson began an almost two-week journey to track down the confetti, which she thought would make great material for artwork.

Kendric Carlock describes the layout of Wyman Center in Eureka, where he's interning this summer at a teen leadership program. The college senior wants to work at a nonprofit that aims to increase college access after he graduates.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Carlock graduated from St. Louis Public Schools in 2014 with a 2.0 GPA. His parents never went to college. His family didn’t have a lot of money. His odds of attending college were, by all measures, not great.

But the magnet-school grad was determined. With the help of his guidance counselor, Carlock found a space at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. In the fall, he’ll be a senior in the communications department.

Nika Marble is an artist, musician and head bartender at Elaia and Olio. (June 23, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Nika Marble’s artistic toolbox holds an eclectic mix: A shot of tonic, a staccato note and a sharp pair of scissors.

Each tool is in service of one of her artistic endeavors: music, mixology and collage making. But as she dons one hat after another, how does Marble define herself? In this reboot of our Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Marble about an identity crisis that plagues many creative people.

“Am I am I an artist who waits tables? Or am I a waiter who occasionally makes art?” Marble said. “This is a thing that has worried myself and a lot of my friends in their lives.”

Ella Jones, left, and Diane Stevenson hug goodbye after a meeting. Their group, which is run by The Breakfast Club, offers support and friendship to women diagnosed with breast cancer. (June 13, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new friend was scheduled for a mastectomy, but was now determined to get out of bed and cancel the surgery. So Ella Jones’ mothering instincts kicked in.

“I went over to the bed, and I rubbed her and talked to her, and explained in general terms what was going to happen,” said Jones, 71. “If she had gotten up out of that bed and left, she would have never done any treatment.”

Jones, a nine-year breast cancer survivor, is one of several women who coach others through their treatment in St. Louis. The program is run by The Breakfast Club, a local nonprofit that supports African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer.

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