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Most teenagers probably wouldn’t look back fondly on a year spent in a homeless shelter, but Brittnie Pemberton sees the time as a good year, a year with strong sense of family, of learning, and of hope, and her story should inspire others.

 

While at a living center for homeless women and their children in San Diego, Brittnie met photojournalist Linda Solomon, who had created the national “Pictures of Hope” project a year earlier to increase awareness of homeless youths. Solomon gives disposable cameras to children in the program, and the pictures they take of their life’s wishes are featured on greeting cards sold to raise money for charities helping the homeless.  “The most important for me as a photojournalist is to show children that their dreams matter,” Solomon said. “We show the children their dreams are respected and their dreams can come true.”

 

Brittnie, then 9, largely avoided wishing for personal possessions. She asked for world peace, an end to world hunger, happiness, an athletic life and to have her family reunited.

 

Near the bottom of the list, at No. 14, she also wanted a new car.

 

With the camera Solomon gave her, Brittnie took a photo of San Diego State University. The picture was printed on a holiday card above the words, “I hope to get a scholarship. — Brittnie, age 9.”

 

And then unexpected things began to happen.

 

San Diego State University’s Alumni Association learned about Brittnie’s dream and offered her a four-year, full scholarship on the condition that she eventually meets admissions requirements. Journalist Diane Sawyer heard about the scholarship offer and interviewed Brittnie on national television.

 

Hard work and compassion paid off Tuesday for a San Diego teen who used to be homeless.

 

A few days ago, Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet awarded 16-year-old Brittnie Pemberton a new Chevy Spark, making her the first Spark of Hope Award winner.

 

Marty,

The Good World News

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At this new charter school the students play seasonal sports (as well as weight training, cardio, yoga and core strengthening) for the first three hours each day!  The goal of this very unique high school is to use sports as an academic-engagement tool to drag the highest of the high-risk students back from the precipice of scholastic failure.  The school week is six days long, and all students participate in a mandatory summer program.

Urban Dove Team Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant is open to students who are “over-age and under-credited.”  (In New York City, there are nearly 140,000 young people between the ages of 15-21 who have either dropped out of high school or are lacking the course credits necessary for graduation.)  This charter school has three special ed teachers and a social worker, but the critical role is played by the coaches.  Students are divided into “teams”, but their coaches also play the role of adult mentors who travel with the teams through every class during the entire school day, starting with a homework period (all “homework” is done in the morning with the team), and who motivate, guide, and counsel the students.  Coaches promote communication, teamwork, and leadership to help improve students’ confidence and self-esteem, ability to focus, managing of emotions, and consideration of others.

The school’s founder, Jai Nanda, coached basketball in an urban school in the 1990s and noticed that the boys on his team did much better academically during the basketball season and would often drop out completely when the season ended.  Jai began to understand the academic and social power of sports to energize, engage, and educate, which eventually led to this academically successful charter school which uses sports to provide a structured, disciplined environment.   Jai has worked with young people his entire life, and has dedicated his career to improving and enriching their lives.



Research has long shown the health and social benefits of physical activity for young people, but there are growing studies showing that students can better focus their attention and perform better on academic tests after exercise.  Especially morning sports increases kids’ school engagement and cuts way down on truancy.

 

Marty,

The Good World News

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The photo really says it all!

Jesse and Kelly Cottle, of San Diego, Calif., may look like any cute couple in love, but taking a closer look, one sees that Jesse, a marine and double-amputee, is being given a piggyback ride. Jesse, 28, lost both of his legs in Afghanistan in 2009 after stepping on an IED.  After spending months recovering in the hospital, Jesse met his future wife Kelly, 24, in San Diego at a swim meet during one of his first outings with his new prosthetic legs. “His personality and who he is just outweighs his injuries by so much that you forget about it after a while,” Kelly explained.

Jesse is not a hero for stepping on an IED, he’s a hero because of the way he has handled what was handed to him and how he chooses to continue to conduct his life with his positive attitude. The happy couple just celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Aug. 18 by eating the top layer of their red velvet wedding cake.

 

Marty,

The Good World News

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