The week's good news: May 18, 2023
It wasn't all bad!
Mississippi has a state fruit, thanks to these 4th grade students
Last fall, fourth-grade teacher Lisa Parenteau had no idea that by spring break, her students would be responsible for Mississippi having an official state fruit. After reading an article in Scholastic News about kids in Kansas getting the Sandhill plum named their state's fruit, it sparked a discussion in her classroom about whether their state had an official fruit. There wasn't one, and Project Blueberry was born. They chose blueberry as their official candidate since it's the most grown fruit in Mississippi, and asked their state representative to sponsor a bill. She agreed, and HB 1027 passed the House in February and Senate in March. Over spring break, the students went to the Mississippi State Capitol to watch the governor sign the bill into law. Parenteau told K-12 Dive she was inspired by her students and "just let them guide me. Everybody tells me I did such a good job, but I didn't. The kids did it. I was just there for the ride."
Rangers, community members work together to preserve 'riches' of Peruvian forest
Carlos Alberto Llauce Baldera has made it his mission to preserve and protect the Pómac Forest Historical Sanctuary in northern Peru. More than 100 species of birds and mammals live in this dry forest, where Llauce has been a park ranger since 2000. Around this time, hundreds of people came to the forest, after fake land speculators said they could purchase homesteads. They were forcibly evicted in 2009, and the forest was heavily damaged, with swaths of trees cut down. To stop illegal woodcutting, rangers began working with people in settlements just outside the sanctuary, educating them on how to take care of the forest, Llauce told The Christian Science Monitor. The community members soon gained "more understanding of the value of the park," he said. "We now work together to preserve its riches." Around 280 settlement residents volunteer in the forest, and Llauce told the Monitor the seedpods of algarrobo trees he finds on the ground "tell us the reforestation of this damaged area is a success."
The Progress Network wants to positively shift perspectives
Instead of focusing on what's going wrong, Zachary Karabell wants people to think about what could go right. Karabell is the founder of The Progress Network, which aims to deliver "a positive perspective on a complicated world" through newsletters, podcasts, and events. He launched the network to push back against the "relentless doom and gloom" dominating headlines, and told The Week there "is a real risk of over-focusing on the negative. Societies convinced the future will be more grim tend to become more fatalistic." To solve problems, you have to believe you can, Karabell continued, and remember that "we know what we fear and what we hope, and what we do in the present has a massive effect on what unfolds." Karabell co-hosts the podcast What Could Go Right, covering current issues through the lens of progress and finding solutions. He encourages listeners to be open and humble to the fact that "people have been way wrong about things being good and way wrong about things being bad."
NASA astronaut inspires kids to reach for the stars
Navy Lt. Commander Jonny Kim went from having an Apollo 11 poster above his bed to becoming a NASA astronaut selected for the Artemis program. "I wanted to go to space since I was a little child," the 39-year-old told Good Morning America. The son of Korean immigrants, Kim struggled with self-confidence, and after high school, became a Navy SEAL, receiving the Silver Star. He later earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, before joining NASA in 2017. During the Artemis missions, astronauts will explore more of the lunar surface, with NASA sending the first woman and first person of color to the moon. Kim didn't have any astronaut role models he could relate to, he told GMA, and the diversity at NASA now could help young people "unlock a potential that will make them be the very best versions of themselves ... when everyone can do that, we're going to be a stronger, better America. We're going to be a stronger, better humanity."
77-year-old has her dream wedding — with a twist
What started as an event to make her pals laugh turned into something special for Dorothy "Dottie" Fideli. On May 13, the 77-year-old "married" herself in front of family and friends at the O'Bannon Terrace Retirement Community in Goshen, Ohio. She told Today she came up with the idea because "I do some crazy things around here just to make people laugh. When I see them all down in the dumps, I go get one of my outfits on and dress up and come down, and they smile." Fideli's daughter, Donna Pennington, bought her mom a dress, made food, and put up decorations for the ceremony, and while it was originally for her friends and neighbors, Fideli realized that it was really her dream come true. When she married her ex-husband in 1965, they did not have the formal wedding she wanted, Fideli said, and for her daughter to make it happen decades later was "the best thing" ever.