Justin Juenemann, a backup kicker for the University of Minnesota’s football team, recently received an unexpected gift from an equally unexpected source. The 23 year-old has diligently worked as a volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital throughout his college years. His coaches and teammates were inspired to do something for him.
“Our goal was to create a moment of memory for Justin and his family forever because that’s what he earned,” said P.J. Fleck, head coach of the Minnesota Gophers.
Kyle Tanner, a teen patient at the hospital, spoke in front of the team and singled out Juenemann as his favorite player. Coach Fleck handed Tanner a t-shirt and told him to put it into a t-shirt cannon and fire it directly at Juenemann. He did so. Juenemann caught the white shirt, unraveled it and read the message on the front.
“Justin, congrats you have earned a scholarship,” it read. Justin and his teammates celebrated afterward and he FaceTimed his mother to show her the shirt.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Juenemann said. “It is something that I will never forget.”
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy who is not a star player,” Fleck said. “He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything, and he does is continue to keep his oar in the water and live that holistic life academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually. His life is not about him. His life is about serving and giving to other people.”
This scholarship will help Juenemann complete his senior year.
“I am pursuing a human resources degree and I’m looking…to help people throughout the rest of my life,” he said.
Grammy-winning artist Chance the Rapper has just gifted $1 million to Chicago’s public schools, where he received his education as a child. The money will benefit the arts and extra-curricular programs of ten elementary and high schools in the area.
Chance stated in a press conference, “I’m honored to make this donation to Chicago Public Schools Foundation and help cultivate Chicago creative minds. I’m committed to helping Chicago’s children have quality learning experiences that include the arts.”
Chicago schools have been dealing with budget issues for years, and spending cuts have disproportionately affected arts programs. Chance has been a strong advocate for improving education standards in Chicago: earlier this month, the artist met with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to share his concerns about recent education budget cuts. He has received praise from various members of the community and from such notable figures as Michelle Obama, who described the artist as “an example of the power of arts education.”
Chance desires his gift to be “a call to action,” and hopes that further measures will be taken to reintroduce various after-school and arts activities to Chicago public schools. The artist stated that he will “do all I can to support Chicago’s most valuable resource: its children.”
Two brothers from North Potomac, MD, wanted to help out their lonely classmates and took steps to make the idea into a reality. Ryan and Jack Golub recently saw video of a ‘buddy bench’ at a school in Pennsylvania and knew they wanted to have one at their elementary school.
The idea behind a buddy bench is simple: a lonely student takes a seat when they’re having difficulties making friends. Those on the bench will be approached by other students willing to be friends with them.
Ryan and Jack, who are in first and fourth grade, respectively, lobbied the PTA for the funds for the buddy bench. The brothers designed it themselves and it reads “make a friend, be a friend.” The bench was unveiled on Friday, Feb. 3 at Jones Lane Elementary School.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of, everyone remembers elementary school. It’s tough to think you don’t fit in,” said Annette Golub, Jack and Ryan’s mother. She and her sons hope the bench will help alleviate bullying and bring students together.
Millions of children across the country are participating in the Great Kindness Challenge, a grassroots campaign aimed at spreading happiness and strengthening community in schools.
The campaign was started by Jill McManigal of Carlsbad, California, for her two children and their neighborhood friends. From there, the group created “Kids for Peace,” an international non-profit that launched the Great Kindness Challenge.
“My inspiration is creating a world where everyone is loved and cared for and happy. The mission of the Great Kindness Challenge is to create a school environments where all students thrive,” said McManigal. “We want all children and all students to recognize the goodness in others, and this gives them the platform to do that.”
As part of the challenge, children in schools and youth groups set out to accomplish as many acts of kindness possible, from a list of fifty acts, over the course of a week. Some challenges are simple such as smiling at 25 people and others, such as sitting with someone new at lunch, encourage students to step out of their comfort zones.
In 2012, McManigal brought the challenge to three schools in her community. In 2013, the challenge grew and 263 schools participated. This year, over 12,000 schools and more than 10 million children across the country are participating. The materials needed to participate in the challenge are free for schools.
The challenge is positively impacting schools and communities across the country. Teachers have noticed that the challenge helps students become more aware of their words and actions, creating a healthier learning environment.
“As the children are given permission to go out there and really exert their kindness,” said McManigal. “It creates this joy that is palpable on campuses.”
Anushka Naiknaware, a thirteen year-old from Portland, invented a special bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed. The invention was a finalist in an international science contest sponsored by Google, an honor that has won Naiknaware a $15,000 scholarship, a trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark, and a year of entrepreneurial mentorship with a Lego executive. She was the youngest scientist to win one of the contest’s substantial prizes.
The bandage has tiny monitors embedded into its design, allowing nurses and doctors to “see” if the dressing has dried enough to be changed, without having to remove it from the patient. Large wounds have to be kept moist to improve healing and pulling up bandages too often to check moisture levels can worsen wounds. Naiknaware created and experimented with different ways to use ink printed into fractal patterns in order to embed nanoparticles of graphene into the bandage. These particles allow for accurate monitoring of moisture levels.
The Google contest judges were enthralled with her invention. She was named one of 16 global finalists chosen to travel to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Interacting with other teen scientists from all around the world was one of her favorite life experiences, she said.
Naiknaware won the Lego Education Builder Award that recognizes “a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.” In addition to the scholarship, mentorship and the trip to Denmark, she won a chance to address Lego’s board of directors and her own custom-built Lego brick.
Naiknaware intends to make the most of her mentor’s advice to see if her bandages can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used in hospitals across the country.