When it comes to instructing teenagers, a teacher knows how to get their attention: pop culture.
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When it comes to teaching teenagers, Mr. Mooney certainly knows how to get their attention.

NPR created a short video about Mr. Mooney (included for your viewing pleasure below), a New Jersey high school teacher who runs his English classes in a very modern way. And one of his strategies just garnered him and his students a lot of attention.

Mr. Mooney taught a lesson using rapper Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly" album.

"To Pimp a Butterfly," released in early 2015, has been critically acclaimed for its depth and social commentary. And it debuted in the #1 spot on on the Billboard 200, a fact his freshman English class was well aware of.


So Mr. Mooney used some of the songs to convey lessons to his students about literature, including Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye."


Image by Mr. Mooney, shared by NPR.

He then wrote a blog post about the lesson that found its way to Kendrick Lamar himself. The artist read it and was impressed — enough to come visit the school and Mr. Mooney's students.

When Lamar came to the school, he said he could see and feel the students' energy.

GIF by NPR.

And that's because Mr. Mooney is doing the teaching thing quite well.

There are lots of ways to reach students, and Mr. Mooney found an effective one.

Image by NPR.

Mr. Mooney certainly isn't the first to use pop culture to make a lesson more interesting. These days, it's almost a must to make education relevant. But what he and a growing handful of other educators from elementary schools to colleges all over the world have figured out is that using art and culture isn't just about making a lesson "cool" or "interesting."

Bringing hip-hop into the classroom validates and shows an appreciation for a diversity of art forms — and respects the very culture that the students themselves create and consume.

Mr. Mooney points out how the demographics of our country and classroom are becoming more and more diverse, so we need to really examine what we deem worthy of study. And so far, that strategy is proving very effective.

Students are grabbing onto the lessons and showing a lot of interest.

"We kind of teamed together and put together this class called Hip Hop Lit," explains one student. "Teaching about African-American struggle and sexism, but through hip hop music, is really awesome."

"We dissect album covers, dissect advertisements, go through songs, and we dissect the literature of the songs," says another.

Image by one of Mr. Mooney's students, shared by NPR.

Inspiring, right?

We're so used to hearing about education focusing on the wrong things, like high-stakes testing. It's a nice (and inspiring) change to see a teacher truly reach his students.

You can watch Mr. Mooney and his class in action — and check out Lamar's visit, one that those students will remember forever.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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via Seresto

A disturbing joint report by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that tens of thousands of pets have been harmed by Seresto flea and tick collars. Seresto was developed by Bayer and is now sold by Elanco.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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