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2022 in review: Highlighting the stories and people of our community

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There was horror and strife in the headlines in Chicago and across the country and the world in 2022 – but it's always important also to highlight the people and organizations who are making a difference.

Here are some of CBS 2's stories from 2022 that put a spotlight on the good being done in our community, and the ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.

Cincinnati doctor keeps returning to Robbins middle school to pay success forward

Dr. Michael Thomas now practices medicine in Cincinnati, but he returns to his middle school in south suburban Robbins every year and encourages kids who want to follow in his footsteps. 

He gives students hands-on lessons in medical science – sometimes using state-of-the-art equipment usually reserved for medical schools and hospitals.

He hopes his efforts will help more young people of color find their calling in the health fields.

"We want to make sure that we sort of induce a spark – where they feel that they may be able to go into the field of medicine, or nursing, or pharmacy, or optometry," Thomas said.

CBS 2's Ryan Baker caught up with Dr. Thomas in May.  

Cincinnati doctor keeps returning to Robbins middle school to pay success forward 05:06

Suburban woman using her own struggle with infertility to get other Black women talking

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 20% of women of child-bearing age who want to have children are not able to. The heartbreak of infertility affects women of all races, but in the Black community, it happens more than we know, and more than we talk about.

In fact, Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience infertility. One reason; fibroids – small tumors that are usually benign, but often problematic. Experts say as many as 80% of African American women have them.

One reason is that fibroids – small tumors that are usually benign, but often problematic. Experts say as many as 80% of African American women have them. But we also talked to some doctors about other barriers Black women face in their struggle with infertility. One of those is a lack of Black obstetricians, gynecologists, and doctors specializing in infertility treatments.

In September, CBS 2's Audrina Bigos talked with a suburban mother who shared her own struggles with infertility.  Kenisha Leak said she felt alone and horrible in her struggles, and she has since founded an Instagram page called "melanin mamas."

Her mission is to share her story and encourage other Black women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and more to share their stories and seek help.

"They talk about all the time it takes a village to raise a child, but it truly takes a village to raise a mother in her journey in motherhood," Kenisha said.

Black woman shares her journey with infertility to help others 03:44

Curie High School honored as "World's Best" for combining arts and mental wellness

Curie High School won a major international award this year for supporting students' emotional well-being through the arts. The high school in the Southwest Side's Archer Heights neighborhood was one of only five schools, and the only one in North America, to earn the honor as World's Best School from London-based T4 Education.

Curie High School won the award for blending a superb arts program with strong support for students' mental, social, and emotional health.

Principal Homero Penuelas told CBS 2's Audrina Bigos that combining the two is the key to success.

"I believe, and as a school we believe that our students should have a great academic experience, and part of that is beyond just what's happening in the classroom," Penuelas said. "It's a large school. We want to make sure that none of our students fall through the cracks."

That's where part one of the equation comes in. Curie's behavioral health team of counselors, social workers, psychologists, and educators share one goal.

Teachers at Curie submit referrals to the school's psychologists as a team, and determine who is responsible for following up and starting an intervention. School psychologist Michael Clam said getting through to kids who are struggling inside isn't easy, and building trust takes time.

The other half of the equation is Curie's commitment to the arts, such as dance – which one teacher emphasized can build confidence and community.

Curie H.S. wins "World's Best" award for work on arts and mental health 03:35

Donut shop owner has been baking the 'Old Fashioned' way for decades in Roseland

Old Fashioned Donuts in the Roseland neighborhood has been drawing crowds for more than half a century. Owner Buritt Bulloch – who turned 84 in October – said in April that the secret sauce to his success is hard work. He himself works six days a week.

"I love to make donuts, keep people smiling, serving a good product," he said. 

Bulloch says he sees the same faces every day. His loyal customers call him Mr. B.

They say "Old Fashioned" isn't just a name, it's the way he runs his business and his life.

"Some days I cut 350 pounds of dough yeast with a rolling pin," he said. "There's a lot of new technology out there, but I just keep doing it the old way. I pay my bills by check."

Mr. B says the shop sells 250 dozen donuts a day. You can find Old Fashioned Donuts at 11248 S. Michigan Ave.

83-year-old donut shop owner has been baking the 'Old Fashioned' way for decades in Roseland 03:11

Forward Momentum Chicago dance program brings joy of movement to kids in underserved communities

Pierre Lockett has made it his life's mission to share the joy of dance with children. Through his organization Forward Momentum, he brings it to their neighborhoods so they can don't have to go far to experience the joy of movement and all that it teaches.

Lockett was a professional dancer for 20 years, including stints at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, where he was director of outreach.

"I loved what I was doing, but I kind of felt that there was more that I wanted to do. I wanted to go deeper into the community. I really wanted to bring dance to where children were," Lockett said during a visit to Henderson Elementary in Englewood. "While the kid might want to participate in the program, if they don't have transportation to get down, they can't do it. That's why having the program here in Englewood, having the program in Avondale, going into the schools that we're working with to bring programming to them was important to me."

And the education here goes way beyond dance. Lockett told CBS 2's Marie Saavedra his programs are designed to help children develop skills using dance as a tool – and to build confidence.

Chicago dance program helping underserved kids move forward with joy 02:45

South Chicago native builds community through art

Roman Villarreal calls himself and urban anthropologist – chronicling decades of change in his beloved South Chicago neighborhood. He was born in the community and has lived there ever since – for 72 years.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams reported in September, the neighborhood runs deep in Villarreal's soul, and its history is at the root of his work. It was a community whose residents largely worked in the nearby steel mills – and everybody thought it would stay that way.

But in the early 1990s, everything changed in a heartbeat. U.S. Steel shut down its South Works plant. It became a struggle to survive in South Chicago, and Villarreal said it wasn't pretty.

"Drugs, depression, alcoholism, divorces – all of the above," he said.

But not for Villarreal. Instead, it was his chance not to do what he was expected to do, but what he was meant to do – create art. 

Some of his efforts were what is known as guerrilla art – which is created anonymously in public places. the Mermaid sculpture at 48th Street and Lake Michigan is well-known to Hyde Parkers, but its creator was a mystery until 2001. At that point, Villarreal's daughter told the world it was her dad and three friends.

"Roman Villarreal: South Chicago Legacies" is now on display at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outside Art in River West. It showcases urban tragedy – Villarreal has already lost five family members to gang violence – but there are also joyous memories of live music and dancing at the Rainbow Lounge on South Commercial Avenue, among other monuments to happier times.

Villarreal says the most powerful images he paints are of men with children.

"There was never enough artwork that I saw growing up or my studies that showed men caring for their children in the same manner as women," he said.

The Center for Intuitive and Outside Art is located at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave. Villarreal's exhibit is closing soon – it is on display until Sunday, Jan. 8.

South Chicago native builds community through art 04:21

Rosy's family-owned bakery in Little Village is beloved by its customers

There are so many wonderful small businesses in Chicago, and many of them are family affairs. We made an early-morning in December run to Rosy's Bakery in the Little Village neighborhood – and we found family, fun, and some terrific treats.

Father-and-son owners Fernando and Eddie Vasquez arrive at the bakery very early in the morning.

"It's nice to have a family-owned business," Eddie said. "We always sometimes we get in the way. You know, we think differently, but family's family."

Fernando Vasquez has kept this ship afloat for 32 years. He bought Rosy's back then, not knowing anything about a bakery. He just wanted to own his own business, and get creative.

"We try to do different kinds of pastries, different kinds of breads, so the customer come over and they see something different all the time," he said.

Son Eddie didn't set out to bake cakes. He was heading to nursing school when he decided he wanted a taste of the family business. He just completed a special cake-baking seminar in Mexico. And he and dad really do love working together.

You can find Fernando, Eddie, and the whole crew along with their cool customers at Rosy's Bakery at 3237 W. 26th St. They all told us Little Village is a wonderful neighborhood, with a real family feel.

Rosy's family-owned bakery in Little Village is beloved by its customers 03:42

Pilsen artist Sentrock turned his love of street art into community building

Pilsen artist Joseph Perez, or Sentrock, talks a lot about "freedom." He feels it when he creates and wants you to feel it when you see his art.

"It's the idea of somebody wanting to find their freedom," he told CBS 2's Albert Ramon in September.

Sentrock said he first found his true self the first time he saw graffiti as a teenager.

"I'd never been to an art museum," he said. "So, for me, the museum was the graffiti we saw outside in the alleys and the old, abandoned buildings, so when I saw that, I fell in love with it."

When he tried it himself, he got into some trouble, but his mother turned things around.

"I got suspended from school for exploring my artistic voice," Perez said. "My mom was [like,] 'If this is the route you want to go, this is something you really want to do, let's try to develop it.' So, she got me boards and cans and brushes and let me do my thing in the backyard. I think that's what really helped me stay on the positive path."

That path led to "street art" that's building community today. It began with murals that caught the eye of social media fans, then gallery owners and museums.

But Sentrock said it's the authenticity, not the fame that keeps him going.

"For me, street art is the idea of giving back to the people on the street, everyday people," he said. "It's just constant communication with the viewer and the artist."

Sentrock also mentors young artists, helping them find their voices. You can see his exhibit "The Boy Who Wanted to Fly" at the Elmhurst Art Museum through Sunday, Jan. 15.

Pilsen artist Sentrock turned his love of street art into community building 02:57
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