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America fell in love with ‘Little Miss Flint’ long ago. What’s she up to now?

You may have seen her photo ops with Obama and Trump. Here's her story.

America fell in love with ‘Little Miss Flint’ long ago. What’s she up to now?
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Aspen Institute

When 7-year-old Mari Copeny was crowned Miss Flint in the spring of 2015, she and her mom already knew something was wrong with the water in their Michigan home.

The water — which they would later learn was contaminated with lead from corroding pipes — was giving the family rashes. “We knew something was up, but [at that point] we had no idea it would become such a widespread crisis,” explains Mari’s mother LuLu.

Mari Copeny. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.


Months later, officials confirmed the suspicions of residents in Flint, Michigan. The water had been switched to a new supply source in April 2014, and was corroding the city’s pipes. The result? Severe, widespread lead contamination — an incredibly dangerous issue, especially for children.

After news of the unsafe water broke, Mari was ready to do everything she could for her community.

Mari (who’s now 9) has been doing community service since she was 3, often focusing on helping bring positive light to local law enforcement. But when she learned that the water in her town was dangerously contaminated, “She became concerned about the kids, especially her brother and sister,” says her mom. “She asked to go out and protest and help to pass out water.”

Mari with a friend at a water donation drive in Ohio. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

Since then, Mari — now known as “Little Miss Flint” — has helped with bottle drives, marched in parades, talked on the news, and become a voice for change.

She may be best known for a letter she wrote to President Obama in spring 2016, which helped spur his decision to visit Flint in person. “Even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits,” Mari wrote.

President Obama responded to Mari’s letter with a promise to visit the following week and added, “Like you, I’ll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community.”

Mari meeting President Obama in May 2016. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari poses in front a mural in Flint of herself and President Obama. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

The water in Flint is still not safe.

In the past few months, Flint has begun to fade from the public eye. The water in Flint has now been contaminated for two and a half years. Federal aid funding to fix the issue has been approved by the United States Senate, but the progress toward clean water is slow going. Because the lead contamination in the water was coming from the pipes themselves, all the affected pipes in the city need to be changed before the water can be declared safe.

In Mari’s house, the family is still using bottled water to cook, drink, and brush their teeth.

“Sometimes kids can be the ones that end up making a change,” Mari insists. “Just because we are kids doesn't mean that we can't change the world.”

In many ways, Mari is just a normal 9-year-old kid: She likes to draw cartoons, read, and ride her bike. But until the water in Flint is 100% safe, she intends to continue fighting for justice in Flint. She explains, “My favorite thing about being Little Miss Flint is being able to be a voice for the kids here in Flint and getting to meet and make new friends.”

What’s the one thing Mari wants to tell the whole country? “That the Flint water crisis is far from over, so please don't forget about Flint. And to the kids, remember that one kid can change the world!”

Mari poses in her "future president" shirt. Image via LuLu Brezzell, used with permission.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."