Good news: The graduation gap between students based on race is shrinking.

Oct. 17, 2016, was a great day at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.

First of all, its students and staff have a huge reason to pat themselves on the back: They boast a graduation rate of 100% — not an easy feat for any school.

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.


Secondly, that figure impressed President Barack Obama so much, it was one reason he decided to swing by the school that Monday morning.

"It's been a while since I did math," he said during a speech addressing students and staff. "But 100% is good. You can't do better than that."

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

The president wasn't there just to congratulate Banneker students, though. There were record graduation rates across the U.S. last year.

In a speech addressing the country, the president applauded the record-high number of high schoolers snatching up diplomas from coast-to-coast.

Last year, 83.2% of American high schoolers earned their diploma within four years — the highest rate on record. That number marks steady improvements across the board since the 2010-2011 school year, when a new standardized way of measurement was implemented nationwide.

GIF via The White House.

What's particularly great, though, is that the gains were broad and felt across all racial minority groups as well as low-income students and students with disabilities.

"We’ve made real progress," Obama said at Banneker. "More African-American and Latino students are graduating than ever before.”

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

There hasn't been a single vital factor in ensuring more students get through  school; it's been more about multiple influencers working together.

The president touted a variety of reasons for the progress, including investments in early education, prioritizing access to high-speed internet in libraries and classrooms, and empowering girls and students of color to dream big by zeroing in on the obstacles they face — especially when it comes to math and science fields.

Obama seemed pretty pleased with the commitment America's high schoolers have made to finishing school.

This news doesn't mean we can sit back, relax, and watch that record high inch closer to 100%. There are still problems within the education system that need addressing.

Although graduation rates have improved across the board, significant inequities — what Obama dubbed the "achievement gap" — remain between certain groups.

Last year, 75% of black students, 78% of Hispanic students, and 71.6% of American Indian/Alaska Native students graduated from high school in four years — promising figures reflecting progress but still significantly lower than the 87.6% of white students and 90.2% of Asian/Pacific Islander students who did the same.

The encouraging news, however, is that those achievement gaps are narrowing.

By no means do graduation rates say it all when it comes to the state of public education, though. The zip code you live in is far too indicative of the quality of education your child can expect to receive. Increasing reliance on standardized testing for funding has gutted the art programs and creative curriculums that can be just as important for learning as algebra or biology. And public school teachers are still paid far too little, oftentimes having to dish out their own funds to provide basic learning tools for their classrooms.

Still, that 83.2% figure reflects an increasing number of teenagers who understand getting an education is the best way to prepare for adulthood.

Numbers aside, these improvements matter because they mean better, brighter futures for our youth.

Obama pointed out that graduating isn't just about the pride you get rocking a cap and gown in front of loved ones (although that's a nice reward); it's about opening doors to make sure you're prepared to enter a competitive 21st-century workforce.

"That’s what we want all of America to believe — in every kid," Obama said. "There’s magic in each and every one of you. And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and it realize it."

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

Watch Obama's speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School below.

He starts speaking at about 28:15.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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