A 10-year-old immigrant faces risks, doubts on the journey to reunite with his mother

by Eli Saslow

Originally published by The Washington Post, 7 September 2014

LOS ANGELES — The caseworker told Alex Ramirez he was being released from the immigration shelter, so the 10-year-old packed what was left of his belongings into a donated shoulder bag. He put on the rubber Tony the Tiger bracelet he wore for good luck and sneakers emblazoned with red flames. Then he visited a nurse for the last of eight mandatory immunizations, and she asked a version of the question he had been hearing for the past six weeks.

“Can you be brave?” he would later recall her asking in Spanish, and he told her that yes, he could.

He had been brave ever since leaving El Salvador at night in the company of a stranger and traveling more than 2,500 miles to cross into the United States. If there was one skill he had acquired during his long journey, it was how to affect toughness — how to stiffen his shoulders and spike up his wavy black hair with gel to make himself look a few inches taller and a few years older. “Estoy bien,” he remembered saying, again and again, to the trafficker who brought him and abandoned him, the Border Patrol agents who caught him, and the caseworkers at three government-run shelters who asked if he was okay. “I’m fine.” But in fact he was tired from the stiff cots, nauseated from the strange foods and anxious even now, as he waited at the shelter to be picked up by a mother who had left him behind six years before.

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Baseball dreams for Lou Rotola, 81, grow with age

by Benjamin Hochman

Originally published by the Denver Post

He was an old man who played baseball in a league for old men and he was the oldest of them all and he liked this. He arose each morning as incandescent as the sun itself and he carefully tucked in his uniform top and pulled his black socks high and crisp to his knees and was ready.

Lou Rotola turned 81 years old on this day, June 19th, 2015, and he drove an hour south from Fort Collins to Denver to play baseball.

“I can’t get a better gift, truthfully,” he said.

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Lost Brother in Yosemite

by John Branch

Originally published in the NYTimes, 11 June 2015

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Afternoon gave way to evening, and the parade of restless clouds and the occasional bursts of rain had moved on from Yosemite Valley. In their wake was the empty quiet of Taft Point, 3,000 feet above a famous green valley going gray in late-day shadow.

There were no tourists, only a raven, black and unhurried, circling at the edge of the cliff. It spiraled upward, a silent signal of rising air. A good sign for BASE jumping and wing-suit flying.

Dean Potter, a 43-year-old professional climber and jumper, considered one of the world’s best in a wing suit, stood a few feet from Graham Hunt, 29, his apprentice and flying partner.

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Isaac on the daily announcements

The most exciting time to live in Vermont is mid-February. This is the time when one is given the privilege of a 30-minute walk to school in sub-zero temperatures, with a 30-minute trudge home in the dark after a long day. It’s been four months since winter began, and it’ll be two more until it’s over. The firewood is being rationed to keep the house at a barely livable temperature, a steamy 50 degrees, and colds are so rampant that people lose half their body weight in phlegm each day. Yet, however dull Vermont may seem to students and teachers as they wrap themselves in layer after layer of flannel, make no mistake, today is the beginning of an era. Today is the day when Isaac (that’s me) starts his job of putting smiles on grim faces as the reader of the morning announcements.

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Yale essay by Viviana

There it sits, sullen in the passenger’s seat like a child in time out. Here we go again — someone else’s laptop to navigate, another Wi-Fi network to hack, another stubborn connection to overcome. After a frustrating drive through the neighborhood and careful identification of a network, success is stated simply: Connected. It is a brief moment of victory, but short-lived as I race against the clock to complete my stack of assignments. Sure, it would be ideal to have my own Wi-Fi, but I’d be satisfied if my family obtained a home first. Every day there is a new challenge; it is a game of adaptation: I beat each situation before it beats me.

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Costco by Brittany

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco.

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