The week's good news: September 30, 2021
It wasn't all bad!
Oldest active park ranger in the U.S. celebrates 100th birthday
Betty Soskin has done it all — she's been a songwriter, businesswoman, civil rights activist, author, and musician, and now, she's the oldest park ranger in the U.S. On Sept. 22, Soskin celebrated her 100th birthday, and received quite the gift: a middle school in El Sobrante, California, was renamed in her honor. "Having a school named for me is more than I ever thought of because it means that a number of children will go into the world knowing who I was and what I was doing here," Soskin told ABC7. For the last 15 years, Soskin has been a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. During World War II, Soskin was a file clerk for a segregated union, and she shares with visitors what it was like for Black women during that era. "What gets remembered is determined by who's in the room doing the remembering," she said.
Olympian becomes 1st woman to finish swim to Block Island
Swimmer Elizabeth Beisel honored her father by making a dream they shared come true. Beisel, a three-time Olympian, made history on Saturday when she became the first woman to swim from mainland Rhode Island to Block Island. The 29-year-old completed the 10.4-mile swim in 5 hours and 19 minutes, telling People the feat left her feeling "humbled and honored." This wasn't just a historic accomplishment — it was also a fundraiser for Swim Across America, a nonprofit that raises money and awareness for cancer research. Beisel came up with the idea for a charity swim after her dad, Ted, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December. A Rhode Island native, Beisel had always wanted to tackle the swim to Block Island, and knowing she was going to try it "helped sustain" her dad before he died in July. She set a fundraising target of $5,000, but Beisel's Block Cancer swim brought in more than $135,000, which will be donated to hospitals in Rhode Island.
California high schoolers rescue 4,000 endangered salmon
The students at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, California, have stepped up to save endangered coho salmon. The school has a large hatchery on campus, where students typically raise steelhead trout. Because of California's drought, the water became too warm for 4,000 endangered coho salmon at a Lake Sonoma hatchery, and they were moved to Casa Grande, where the tanks can be kept at an optimal temperature for the fish. Before students can be in the hatchery, they must take a conservation and biology class and pass two safety tests. It's a full-time job taking care of the fish, with students coming in on the weekends to feed them. This is the first time Casa Grande has had the chance to rescue an endangered species, and the students are up for the challenge. "We have this opportunity to save coho salmon, to see that we can do it, if people put their minds to it," Kate Carlson, 17, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Determined to play football after losing his sight, this teen is now a starting quarterback
Jasen Bracy has always enjoyed playing different sports, but football is his passion — and he won't let anything get in the way of his dream of becoming an NFL star. Bracy, 15, was diagnosed with retinal cancer as a toddler, and by his seventh birthday had lost his sight. Bracy told his parents he was determined to play football, and started calling different teams in the Modesto, California, area. He finally got through to Coach David Nichols with the Modesto Raiders, who told CBS News, "The way he was on the phone, I just said, 'Come on, we'll figure it out.'" Bracy memorizes every play and where each player is supposed to be on the field, and after proving himself in practice and during games, he was made starting quarterback. "It's all memory," Bracy said. "It's all about having trust in the player, the receiver, and the team. I have to trust them 100 percent."
Scientists make 'bombshell' discovery in the 'peopling' of America
"Astonishingly old" human footprints preserved in the ground across New Mexico's White Sands National Park have been determined to date back about 23,000 years to the Ice Age, a finding which, if certified, "would rejuvenate the scientific debate about how humans first spread across the Americas," The New York Times reports. For years, many archaeologists have maintained that humans "spread across North and South America only at the end of the last Ice Age," writes the Times. Starting in the 1970s, some researchers went back even further for humanity's presence in North America — some 26,000 years. But of the fossils and ancient finds they pointed to to support such a hypothesis, none are "unequivocal," archaeologist Ben Potter said; layers of sediment, perhaps, may have made a find appear older than it really is. The footprints are far more definitive pieces of evidence that suggest humans journeyed across the Americas when they were covered by massive glaciers. "This is a bombshell," archaeologist Ruth Gruhn said of the study.