It wasn't all bad
2:03 a.m.

Officially, Jessie Hamilton was a cook at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Louisiana State University, but she was also a therapist, a cheerleader, and a friend.

Starting in 1982, Hamilton worked at the Phi Gamma Delta (also known as Fiji) house for 14 years. She made about 100 brothers delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but was also available to lend an ear, offering advice on everything from relationships to coursework.

"I was always there to talk things through with them," she told The Washington Post. "They'd come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems." Fiji brother Andrew Fusaiotti graduated in the late 1980s, but can still remember his talks with Hamilton. "She was truly like a mother to us," he told the Post. "She treated us like we were her own kids. She was always looking out for us."

A sharecropper's daughter, Hamilton started working at 14, and has had at least two jobs at a time ever since. She's kept in touch with several of the brothers, and they decided for her 74th birthday this month, they were going to give her the gift of retirement. Fusaiotti found out from Hamilton's children that she needed $45,000 to pay off her mortgage, so he started a fundraiser. More than 90 brothers from across the country donated a total of $51,764.

On April 3, a dozen vaccinated brothers surprised Hamilton outside of her Baton Rouge home, and after singing "Happy Birthday," they gave her two checks — one to pay off the mortgage, with the rest to spend on whatever Hamilton wants. "If I hadn't been sitting, I would have fell down," she told the Post. Hamilton has put in notice at her two jobs, and plans to spend part of her retirement visiting with the Fiji brothers. "They were my kids," she said. "They still are." Catherine Garcia

April 13, 2021

The kids at Deer Creek-Prairie Vale Elementary School in Edmond, Oklahoma, threw a star-spangled celebration last week for their cafeteria manager, Yanet Lopez, when she passed the U.S. citizenship test.

Lopez, her husband, and their three children came to the U.S. from Cuba in 2016, settling in Oklahoma after a stint in Houston. As a child, Lopez said, her "dream was [to] come to this great country," and she was thrilled when her entire family passed their citizenship tests. "I know everything about the United States," Lopez told KOCO. "Constitution, presidents, everything. It's amazing. I learned a lot of history because I love this country."

Lopez is a beloved member of her school's community, with the principal writing on Facebook that they are "so excited for Ms. Yanet and the realization of one of her dreams in passing her citizenship test! We laughed that she would know more than those of us born in the U.S. I am honored to work with one of the best U.S. citizens I know." To congratulate Lopez, students and staff members lined the hallways to cheer her on, giving Lopez hugs and chanting "USA!" It was "really, really exciting," Lopez said. Catherine Garcia

April 12, 2021

Carole Hopson is blazing a trail in the sky, showing other Black women that they belong in the cockpit.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that Black women make up less than 1 percent of all certified pilots, and Hopson — a pilot with United Airlines — is one of them. Hopson, 56, told People that as a kid, she would spend her summers mesmerized by the planes taking off and landing at Philadelphia International Airport. She went to college, studying Spanish and journalism, and started a career in human resources, but "the revelry and imagination of flying just stuck with me," Hopson said.

When they were dating, Hopson's husband, Michael, surprised her with flight lessons. Her husband and teenage sons have been "absolutely" supportive of Hopson following her dream of becoming a pilot, and since 2018, she's been full-time with United. A lot of people aren't used to seeing a Black woman as a pilot, she told People. Many do a double take, or ask her for a drink, thinking she's a flight attendant. Recently, a woman pulled Hopson aside at the airport and asked her, "'How does my daughter get to be like you?'" Hopson said. "It was a special moment."

United is launching a flight school to train 5,000 pilots by 2030, with half of them being women and people of color. Hopson — who was one of only two women, and the only Black woman, in her pilot class — is working with United and the nonprofit Sisters of the Skies to get 100 Black women enrolled in flight school by 2035. She is excited about this challenge, telling People, "Watching the sunrise above the clouds never gets old. That experience is one we should be exposing all women to." Catherine Garcia

April 9, 2021

Don Muchow ran the roughly 2,800 miles from Disneyland to Disney World not because he really wanted to see Mickey Mouse or ride Splash Mountain — the Texan says he did it to show other people with Type 1 diabetes "there are safe ways to do even epic things."

Muchow, 59, of Plano was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1972. At the time, he told WKMG, there were no glucose meters and his doctor told him "not to exercise, and I followed those instructions for 42 years." More recently, he started experiencing health issues linked to his diabetes, and found that it was necessary to become active. He jumped into a running regiment, and was soon completing 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and Iron Man triathlons.

Pre-pandemic, Muchow planned a run from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, and a friend remarked that it would be like going from Disneyland to Disney World. Muchow liked this idea, and in February 2020, he went to Newport Beach, California, dipped his toe in the Pacific, and then ran 14 miles to Disneyland. The run didn't go as originally planned: he paused after a month when his father died, and then at the 1,260-mile mark, he had to take a break for safety reasons because of the pandemic.

This March, Muchow was ready to finish, and he logged 32 miles a day, stopping every 10 days, WKMG reports. On Tuesday, he made it to Disney World, where he was greeted with cheers, and on Wednesday, he went to a Melbourne, Florida, beach so he could dip his toe in the Atlantic. On Facebook, Muchow wrote that Disney's slogan "If you can dream it, you can do it" is a motto that "goes double for everyone like me, with serious lifelong medical conditions. The diagnosis is the beginning, not the end." Catherine Garcia

April 9, 2021

Archaeologists searching for King Tutankhamen's mortuary temple made an even bigger discovery, as they unearthed Aten, a 3,000-year-old lost city believed to have been founded by King Amenhotep when he ruled ancient Egypt.

Betsy Bryan, an Egyptology professor at Johns Hopkins University who participated in the archaeological mission, said in a statement this could be the most "important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamen" was found in 1922. She added that it will "give us a rare glimpse into the life of ancient Egyptians" during a time of great wealth.

In September, archaeologists started a dig in Luxor between the temples of King Ramses III and Amenhotep III, on the hunt for the mortuary temple. After a few weeks, to the "great surprise" of the team, "formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions," the mission said in a statement. "What they unearthed was the site of a large city in good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life."

To date the settlement, the team looked at hieroglyphic inscriptions etched on pottery, scarabs, rings, wine vessels, and mud bricks. They have found houses, tombs, a bakery, a workshop containing molds used to make ornaments and amulets, and a cemetery. These spaces have been "untouched for thousands of years," the mission said, "left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday." Catherine Garcia

April 8, 2021

Pooja Rai believes all children should have access to a playground where they can let their imaginations run wild, and through Anthill Creations, she's helping make this happen at schools across India.

Rai is the founder and CEO of Anthill Creations, based in Bengaluru. In 2014, while still an architecture student, Rai went with a friend to donate food at an orphanage. She was shocked to see the kids playing with trash, like pipes they pretended were swords and old shoes they used as badminton rackets. "Play shouldn't just be part of a rich, privileged kid's lifestyle," Rai told The Christian Science Monitor. "All kids have a right to enjoy their childhoods."

She asked friends for donations to buy playground equipment, but then had an idea that would help both kids and the environment. Every year, roughly 100 million old tires are thrown away in India, and Rai figured she could turn some of that trash into treasure — in the form of playground equipment like tire swings, jungle gyms, tunnels, and sculptures.

Since Rai began Anthill Creations in 2016, the nonprofit has delivered tire playground equipment to 275 schools, public spaces, and refugee camps, and designed playspaces for blind children as well. The tires are all carefully looked over to make sure they are safe to use, and then painted bright colors and transformed into whatever each site requests. Read more about the creativity behind the designs at The Christian Science Monitor. Catherine Garcia

April 8, 2021

Southern California's famous Venice Beach will soon be more inclusive, ensuring that all visitors can enjoy the sand and surf.

It can be hard to navigate wheelchairs through sand, but a new mesh mat set to be installed at Venice Beach next Tuesday will make it much easier. The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors is installing an access mat that is semi-permanent and made of a firm nylon mesh, so anyone who needs a harder surface will be able to move across the sand. The mat will be available for use every year, spring through fall.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told City News Service one of the "great joys of going to the beach is spending time on the sand near the water. Now, with the use of this new mat, people who have difficulty negotiating the sand can more fully and safely enjoy a glorious day at Venice Beach." Catherine Garcia

April 7, 2021

Peter and Veronica Fuchs know how to put on a show, and "Stump the Maestro" is their runaway hit.

Peter, 91, is a former composer and conductor, while Veronica, 87, is a retired Broadway singer. They live in a senior community near Miami, and at the beginning of the pandemic, the couple started a Facebook Live show called "Stump the Maestro," streamed daily from their apartment. It began as a way to entertain neighbors they could no longer visit with, but word soon spread, and viewers began tuning in from all over.

Each show begins with Peter playing some show tunes and Veronica asking viewers if they can name the songs. Veronica then fields requests — typically jazz standards, Frank Sinatra, more show tunes — and while Peter knows most of them, if he does get stumped, he researches the song and plays it the next day. To close out the show, Peter performs his latest original composition: "Wear a Mask."

Peter told The Associated Press the couple enjoys interacting with their diverse audience. It's "nice to be able to make people happy," he said. One regular viewer, Toddi Jacobson, told AP that "Stump the Maestro" has "provided so many of us with beautiful music, laughter, friendship, and a feeling that we are connected." Catherine Garcia

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