And a happy first Friday in April to all you good people! It’s Final Four weekend, I wish I had a Duke game to look forward to but hey, should be terrific matchups on Saturday.
Hope the weather is finally warm where you are; lots of good stuff to get to on Good News Friday this week.
First up, a high school principal named Akbar Cook at West Side H.S. in Newark, had a big problem.
A lot of his students weren’t coming to school, because their clothes were dirty and they were getting bullied for it.
So Cook decided to do something drastic:
Two years ago Cook wrote a proposal and received a $20,000 grant to get five commercial washers and dryers installed at an old storage room at the school, and now his students have a place to clean their clothes and literally wash away the stigma that bothered them.
“I think we really put the microscope on basic needs of kids. Everyone wants the high test scores, everyone wants them to perform well. But if the kid doesn’t feel confidence in just coming to school, being that person we know they can be, then what are we doing,” Cook said.
That’s just one of the great things Cook is doing at the school; one man, doing great for his community.
**Next up today, the story of this NBA season has been the incredible emergence of the Milwaukee Bucks and their young superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka, “The Greek Freak.”
Giannis is, by all accounts, a humble and hard-working kid who has amazing basketball gifts, and he’s led the Bucks to the best record in the Eastern Conference this year.
But what he does off the court, and his basic humanity, is what makes so many love him. Take this story; last week at an autograph-signing event in Wisconsin he met a young girl named Lily who has been drawing pictures of him for more than a year.
Giannis is delighted as she hands them to him, but then he gets up and goes the extra mile: He gives her a huge bearhug as the tears start to flow from her eyes.
“Thank you so much. This is amazing,” he said. “You did all this? Thank you.”
You know Lily will remember that hug for the rest of her life.
**Finally today, a fantastic piece of journalism from Zac Keefer of the Indianapolis Star newspaper.
Sonny Franzese was once one of the most feared Mafia leaders in all of the U.S., rising to No. 2 in the Colombo crime family. His sons went into the family business, of course, but Michael Franzese never loved the life. After leaving the mob he fell into a severe drug addiction, and finally hit rock bottom.
That’s when the FBI got ahold of him, and asked him to help them put away his father once and for all.
And Michael did. He wore a wire for months, and eventually testified against his old man. When Keefer found him, he was living in the witness protection program in Indianapolis, but recently Michael decided to come out of the shadows, and confront who he really was.
He knows leaving the witness program could get him killed. But he doesn’t care.
Here’s the lede to this remarkable piece of journalism:
Some pieces of his old life never left him, so they just sit there, all these years later, crammed into his mind’s darkest corners. You wanna off a guy? He remembers how. You tail him. You study him. You wait. John Franzese Jr. knows how easy a mark he’d be.
“You look for patterns,” he says. “I’m not hard to look for.”
Not anymore. Same breakfast at the same Panera Bread, every morning for 11 years. Same route to Mass at St. Matthew, every Wednesday night for a decade. Same recovery meetings, week after week, year after year. These days, routine is everything. In the old days, routine got you killed.
They’d follow him, to the converted two-car garage on the northside of Indianapolis he calls home, the one tucked behind a halfway house where he helps a half-dozen men stay sober. They’d bust through the door and hurry through the kitchen, past the Bible verses tacked to the wall, past the handwritten notes from the high school students he speaks to and the addicts he counsels. They’d find him in the bedroom. It’d be over quickly. He wouldn’t have a chance.
“You know how easy a setup this is?” he shrugs. “I don’t keep guns here.”
It’s really a wonderful story, told to Keefer over many months. You can tell he earned Frazese’s trust. What a tale. Good to see great local stories done so well.