It’s easy to get discouraged by all the bad news out there, but you don’t have to look far to see that there’s plenty of amazing news happening every day. Sometimes it might be something as small as a child demonstrating an act of kindness, while other times it could be a government body stepping up to do the right thing.
Here are 10 inspiring stories you might have missed this month, to remind you that there’s still plenty of good out there.
1. Disney donated a share of Black Panther profits to expand a youth STEM program.
Disney/Marvel’s latest superhero action flick Black Panther has been a booming success with audiences and critics alike. Several touching stories have come out since its release, ranging from Kendrick Lamar taking underprivileged kids to see the movie, to the latest news of the Disney’s contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The company recently announced that they would be donating $1 million from the movie’s profits to further STEM programs with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want,” read a statement from Robert A. Iger, Disney’s CEO.
2. A basketball player purposely missed a free throw for the most compassionate reason.
University of Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon showed what sportsmanship is all about when he honored the legacy of a former player by missing a free throw. The purposely missed shot was to ensure that he wouldn’t break the record of another Iowa-born Hawkeye, Chris Street. Street never had the opportunity to extend his record of 34 consecutive free throws when he was killed just three days after the final game of the season in 1993. Chris’ mother, Patty Street, who is a season ticket holder said she was moved by the gesture of the sophomore player. “That was so special that he thought of Christopher and that record,” said the teary-eyed mother. The intentionally missed free throw didn’t hurt the team either and they went on to beat Northwestern in the game. As for Bohannon’s decision before the game to not break the record, it was a no-brainer for the Iowa guard. “That’s not my record to have,” said Bohannon before adding “That record deserves to stay in his name.”
3. This middle-school student didn’t let bullies sidetrack her environmental mission.
To say that we have a serious plastic pollution problem on our hands would be an understatement. Every year, we dump around 8.8 million tons of plastic garbage into our oceans and waterways, threatening delicate ecosystems. While the problem can’t be solved by a single person, that’s not stopping 12-year-old Nadia Sparkes from trying her hardest. Sparkes regularly picks up every piece of garbage that she can find on the two-mile route from her home to her school. While most people would probably applaud her efforts, Sparkes has been the victim of school bullying, with some classmates calling here “trash girl” for her Earth-saving mission.
“I told her she had two choices, she could either stop collecting rubbish, stop drawing their attention and hopefully they would leave her alone. Or she could own ‘trash girl,” said Sparkes’mother. The middle-schooler did just that and went so far as to start a Facebook group called Team Trash Girl, and received support from local artists and eco-warriors along the way.
4. A teenager brought hundreds of solar lamps to Puerto Ricans living without power.
Puerto Rico might not be in the headlines quite as often as it was several months ago, but residents of the island are still feeling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Nearly a million people on the island still don’t have power, and 15-year-old Salvador Gomez Colon is doing his best to help out – one house at a time. The high school freshman launched a campaign after the hurricane hit to raise money for hand-operated washing machines and solar lamps. Gomez Colon raised more than $125,000 and so far, has donated 1,400 solar lamps and 300 washing machines to 840 households with plans to hand out 1,600 more. “This experience has taught me to be grateful for what I have. My family supports me, my teachers support me,” he told CNN. “The world can always benefit from a positive mission. So I have to take this to the end.”
5. The U.S. Army awarded three JROTC cadets with its Medal of Heroism after the Florida school shooting.
Stories of heroism and kindness in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting have helped remind us all that there is more good than bad in the world. One of the first stories of heroism to emerge was the story of Peter Wang. The 15-year-old member of the Junior ROTC was killed when he tried to help his fellow students escape the mass shooter who had entered their school. While Wang will never be able to graduate, the U.S. Military Academy is honoring him and two other students, Martin Duque and Alaina Petty, with the Medal of Heroism. It’s the highest medal given to Junior Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets. At his family’s request, Wang was buried in his JROTC uniform with the Heroism Medal on his body. A second medal was given to his family as a keepsake according to Lt. Col. Christopher Belcher, a spokesman for Army Cadet Command.
6. The BBC takes steps to ban single-use plastic by 2020.
The BBC has pledged to stop using single-use plastic across all of its offices by 2020, in an effort to curb the ever-growing plastics pollution problem. The decision came about after Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, watched the TV series Blue Planet II and said he was “shocked” by the plastics pollution highlighted in the nature documentary. The news is just the latest environmental step taken by a major British outlet after Scottish Parliament announced it would ban plastic straws in its kitchens, and after the Queen announced she would support reducing single-plastics use on royal estates. “We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way,” Hall said of the BBC’s decision. “Scrapping throwaway plastic cups and cutlery is the first step, and with our plan, I hope we can have a BBC free of single-use plastic altogether.”
7. San Francisco expunges criminal records of those arrested for misdemeanor marijuana charges.
Now that recreational marijuana use is legal in California, the city of San Francisco is taking steps to clean up some criminal records. The city’s District Attorney George Gascón announced that the new law will retroactively be applied to past criminal misdemeanor cases, expunging the records of past marijuana offenders. Under Proposition 64, the same law that legalized recreational marijuana use, allows offenders to petition for re-sentencing if their crime would have received a different penalty (or no penalty) under the current proposition. Because this can be a costly process though, the city is taking steps to immediately dismiss over 3,000 marijuana misdemeanor cases dating back to the 1970s.
8. A group of fifth-graders gave up their Valentine’s Day party to help those in need.
The fifth-graders at Prairie Creek Elementary School in Andover, Kansas decided to forgo the typical Valentine’s Day party and spread a little love instead. The class chose to skip the planned V-Day party and donate cards, candy, and toys to Wichita’s Littlest Heroes, an organization that helps children who are facing life-threatening medical conditions. The idea came about because one of the children’s classmates is currently battling cancer and the class wanted to help contribute to their school’s Kindness Project. The project was organized by Shanda Seibel, a teacher at the school with the simple goal of spreading kindness through small gestures. After seeing the class’ gesture of kindness, Seibel said she was happy to see students taking a positive action. “Children are not jaded and my hope is that they continue to spread kindness and change the world beyond their 5th-grade year,” Seibel said.
9. A Seattle TV station paid off the medical debts of 1,000 people.
Medical debt is a crushing burden for millions of people and is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. To help alleviate some of the stress that comes with medical debt, a Seattle news station used $12,000 to purchase $1 million dollars worth of medical debt from its viewers, and then forgave it all. If a person is unable to pay their medical debt, that debt can be sold, often times to a collection agency that buys it for pennies on the dollar and then starts sending bills to collect the debt. The debt can be bought and sold multiple times with the interest of course growing over time.
KIRO news worked with a New York-based company called RIP Debt to buy the medical debt of some of its viewers, and then mailed out yellow envelopes, informing them the debt had been forgiven. The story garnered so much attention from viewers that many people reached out to help. In an effort to keep the generosity going, the news station set up a website so that people could donate so that more medical debt can be paid off for residents in Washington state.
10. Los Angeles adopts parking meter program to collect money for the homeless.
Los Angeles is taking a new approach to raising money to help fight the city’s homeless crisis – parking meters. Los Angelenos who find themselves in downtown L.A. might notice six newly-installed bright orange parking meters, each sporting a yellow smiley face and the message “Real Change Movement.” Charitable passerby are encouraged to feed the meter which collects donations to be given to the C3 program – an outreach that works with the homeless of the Skid Row neighborhood. West Hollywood installed its own donation meter program last year and Los Angeles currently has plans to put more donation meters throughout the city.