Richard Branson sank a ship and turned it into a sea-saving monster.

If ships really do have souls, the Kodiak Queen's must have been a weary one.

It's an old ship, first launched as a Navy barge in 1940 under the uninspiring moniker YO-44, and it's had its share of experiences. On Dec. 7, 1941, for instance, it was moored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked. The crew had to scramble to avoid the bombs while all around them, other ships and their sailors sank to the bottom of the harbor.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.


YO-44 survived the attack and was eventually decommissioned, renamed the Kodiak Queen, and turned into a fishing boat. But that wouldn't last forever. It eventually ended up in a maritime junkyard in the British Virgin Islands, destined for scrap.

Then, in 2012, someone recognized it.

A historian, Mike Cochran, saw Kodiak Queen in the junkyard, figured out what it was, and decided being turned into scrap metal was too ignoble for one of the few remaining Pearl Harbor ships.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

Cochran started to recruit a team, including photographer Owen Buggy and Buggy's previous boss and friend, British business magnate Richard Branson. Together, they set out to give the Kodiak Queen a proper retirement.

Their idea is something called the BVI Art Reef. Rather than ending up as junk, the Kodiak Queen will become a reef — a living part of the ocean that it traveled for so many years.

As part of the project, sculptors decided to adorn the Kodiak Queen with an 80-foot-long squid-like kraken sculpture welded from wire mesh and rebar.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

Krakens are mythical sea monsters known to sink ships. But this particular one isn't attacking — it's helping shepherd the Kodiak Queen along.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

"The kraken is embracing the boat and taking it down to this next life," Aydika James, a founder of the company that built the kraken, told The New York Times. "She’s no longer a weapon of war; she’s now a platform for rebirth and regrowth."

Once the work was finished in April 2017, all that was left to do was for the ship to get a friendly tow out to its new home.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

The destination? A sunny spot off the island of Virgin Gorda.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

The crew came out to see it off, including Branson, the man who'd helped get this all together.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

They gave it the proper honors for a ship going on a voyage — a bottle broken across the bow.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

And then down...

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

...it...

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

...went.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

There was a tense moment where it looked like it was about to tip over onto one side — ruining the artwork — but in the end, everything went right.

Safely nestled on the sea floor, the Kodiak Queen will slowly transform into an artificial reef.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

Artificial reefs are submerged structures that create habitats for fish and other sea creatures, which can help to restore damaged ecosystems. As sea life moves in, either naturally or through planned coral restoration projects, the Kodiak Queen's old hull and the kraken's many wiry nooks and crannies will become a great habitat for fish and other sea creatures.

In the meantime, the Kodiak Queen has become a tourist attraction and popular diving spot.

Photo from BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

It's giving a boost to the local economy, helping to highlight the importance of ocean conservation, and it might even inspire some future divers and conservationists.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

It's even helping scientists learn more about the waters around Virgin Gorda.

Photo from Owen Buggy Photography/BVI Art Reef, used with permission.

Scientists are using the Kodiak Queen as a platform to gather something called environmental DNA, which is a way to monitor what animal populations are present through castoff material (like poop).

This was a spectacular reincarnation for such a storied ship. One must imagine if indeed the Kodiak Queen has that weary soul, it must be pretty satisfied with how it ended up.

Heroes

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

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Democracy

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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