Good News Friday: A 9-year-old girl wows a Florida school board arguing against standardized tests. A mother’s incredible devotion to her son’s organ donations. And a Rube Goldberg-style Passover video that will wow you


And a Happy Friday to you all! Whether you’re celebrating the first night of Passover, Good Friday, or just that it’s Friday in general and the Final Four this weekend, I hope you enjoy the day.

Three cool stories for you on Good News Friday this week. First up, it’s state standardized testing season here in New York state and lots of other places,  which means 99 percent of students in junior high and high school are dreading the next few weeks, racked with anxiety since they’ve had “the importance of these tests” drilled into their heads by teachers since September. (For me, as an occasional substitute, I love testing season; I proctor all day, the kids are basically not allowed to talk, and I get paid for making sure no one cheats. Easy money!)

Anyway, I’m not here to argue about whether standardized tests have become way too important (they have) or if it’s crazy way to evaluate teachers (it is). I’m here to talk about my new hero: 9-year-old Sydney Smoot is sick of standardized tests, and she spoke to the Hernando (Fla.) County School Board two weeks ago to express her displeasure.

Great to see a child stand up for what they feel is right.

Check out the poise, confidence and intelligence oozing out of this kid. I love it…


**Next up, I’m a huge proponent of organ donation, long before I found out I was born one kidney short of a set and may need one someday.

To me, organ donation is (pun intended) a no-brainer; long after you die, parts of you live on in people who desperately needed help to survive. One of my favorite stories I ever reported and wrote as a journalist was this piece in 2004, about a former high school athlete who died suddenly, but her organs allowed five others to live.

This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer this week was so touching and wonderful; a boy named Thomas Gray sadly only lived for six days, but his organs accomplished so much after he passed. Thanks to the incredible devotion and doggedness of his mother, Sarah, we’ve learned just how much Thomas’ life has meant to so many others. It’s helped with life-saving research at Harvard, Duke and Penn.

The way I see it,” Sarah Gray said, “our son got into Harvard, Duke, and Penn. He has a job. He is relevant to the world. I only hope my life can be as relevant.”

Read this story, get the Kleenex ready, and sign an organ donor card.


**Finally today, it is the start of Passover, which means lots of cheesy Jewish male singers making song parodies (I’ve seen a bunch of them, and most of them aren’t too funny) but also incredibly cool videos like this.  Students at the Israel School of Technology made this crazy-awesome Rube Goldberg-like video for Passover.

My brain was a few seconds behind at all times watching this, but it’s very cool.


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