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Former GOP county leader in Georgia gets life sentence for child molestation

Former Cobb County, Georgia, Republican Party leader Joseph Dendy was given a life sentence after pleading guilty Friday to sexually abusing children.

Dendy, 72, must serve 30 years of that sentence in prison.

Dendy admitted that he had committed repeated sexual offenses against two boys, according to a statement from Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds. The crimes occurred between 2004 and 2011 at Dendy’s home, his church, and in a store dressing room, the statement said. 

>> Read more trending news

One victim, now an adult, told the court that he has nightmares of the abuse and became a military police officer to help other victims.

“I’m stronger than you,” he told Dendy. 

Dendy served four years as chair of the Cobb County GOP. His second, two-year term ended in 2015.

The defendant’s guilty plea came as a surprise during what was to be a pretrial hearing. Prosecutors were expected to call several additional witnesses who said they had also been abused. 

Dendy was able to hide behind his "public persona as a prominent community leader," weaving a "path of destruction through his family for decades,” prosecutor Susan Treadaway was quoted saying in the statement. “That ends today.”

Cobb Superior Court Judge Kimberly Childs presided over the case. 

Dendy’s attorney, Brian Steel, did not return a message left at his office. 

Dendy has been in custody since his arrest in May 2016

Massachusetts school to re-issue diplomas after misspelling town’s name

 A graduation-day typo led to a lot of laughs and all new diplomas for an entire high school class in Massachusetts.

>> Read more trending news

On the diplomas graduates of Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School received last weekend was the very city the school lies in, Taunton, spelled wrong. The first ‘n’ was missing.

“I was looking on social media, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, check your diplomas! Check your diplomas!’” said graduate Danielle Dalton. “And I checked, and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, mine’s spelled wrong, too!’”

“Tauton” was written on every diploma handed out last Saturday, though other city references were spelled correctly.

“It’s really funny, because it’s like, who would let that slip?” said Dalton’s friend and graduate, Daniel Norvish. “But you know, error. Everybody makes an error.”

“I thought it was kind of funny,” Dalton said. “We work so hard for that, to get that, for 12 years, and you would think someone would look over if it was correct. So it was like – it’s just a joke. It really is funny.”

The school made an automated phone call to parents assuring them the printing company, which made the error, would soon mail the school new, corrected diplomas.

“As you may have noticed, there is a minor spelling error on the bottom of the diploma that was issued to you on June 3,” a school administrator said in the recording. “While this in no way invalidates the diploma, we have contacted the outside vendor who printed them. They accept responsibility for the error and apologize for the inconvenience.”

The school said it will re-issue the diplomas by mail as soon as the corrected version arrives, unless graduates choose to pick them up at the school.

Former homeless student is valedictorian at N.C. school

A North Carolina high school student who battled homelessness to reach the top of her class is now headed to college.

>> Read more trending news

Megan Faircloth, 17, once lived in the back of a car with her sister and mother after they were evicted from their home in November 2015. Monday, she graduates from East Wake High School as valedictorian.

Faircloth said she knew she would have to fight to succeed, so she started taking multiple AP classes, participated in extracurricular activities and graduated first in her class with a 5.25 grade-point average.

“You can push your limits, and you should always push yourself because you can do things, even if you don’t think you can,” said Faircloth, whose family found a place to live in October.

Stanford University noticed her hard work, asked her to apply. She will be headed to California in the fall to major in English with a minor in education.

Woman sues teacher, principal for making son recite Pledge of Allegiance

An Indiana mother filed a lawsuit against one of her son’s teachers and his principal after they allegedly forced him to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

>> Read more trending news 

According to Jamie Porter, her son’s first-grade teacher removed him from class after he refused to recite the pledge in March. The ACLU has since filed a lawsuit on the family’s behalf to argue that the boy was “protesting.”

“He was doing it to protest the government of the United States, as it was racist, greedy and does not care about people,” the lawsuit stated, adding that the student “was extremely upset at this treatment by his teacher and the principal as he was made to feel that he had done something terribly wrong and was in trouble.”

>> Related: Chicago teacher fired for telling student to stand for Pledge of Allegiance

After learning of the boy’s reason, his teacher, Kelly McFarland, pulled him into the hallway and took him to the principal’s office. Twenty minutes later, Principal Mary Beth Harris brought the boy back to class, but later that day, she pulled him out again so that he could “practice” saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Fox News reported.

According to Fox News, Porter and her son are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and the mother implied that McFarland and Harris violated her son’s First Amendment rights.

>> Related: A security camera caught this boy’s small act of patriotism, and his proud mom wants every parent to see it

The school district responded to the incident, saying, “We are currently reviewing the complaint with our legal counsel and have been advised not to comment on pending litigation.”

WATCH: John Legend, Chrissy Teigen visit high school, practice with choir

Grammy award-winning artist John Legend and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, visited Snohomish High School in Washington state Tuesday and practiced with the choir, which sang "Seasons of Love" from the musical "Rent."

>> Click here to watch

The couple traveled in the Seattle area before they were scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Mariners game with their 1-year-old daughter, Luna.

>> PHOTOS: John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, baby Luna throw first pitch at Mariners game

Teigen attended Snohomish High School as a teenager.

>> Read more trending news

Photos on social media showed her touring her former campus and meeting students.

>> See the photos here

Dad walks daughter to first day of kindergarten, last day of high school

As his daughter prepared to graduate from a Texas high school, Jason Gayler was rummaging through a stack of old photographs when one caught his eye. It showed Gayler walking his 5-year-old daughter, Brittany, to school on her first day of kindergarten.

>> Read more trending news 

Brittany is 18, and Gayler had an idea. He decided he would walk to school on May 25, her last day as a senior at Alvord High School. Father and daughter were captured again in a photograph; Brittany tweeted the photo alongside the original shot, Today reported and it brought a warm response from friends and family.

"It was very bittersweet walking with him,'' Brittany told Today. "It's definitely a moment I'm going to remember forever. When I posted the tweet and going back and forth through the pictures, it just amazes me how fast it goes by. It feels like yesterday that we were taking that first picture."

Brittany will attend Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, to play softball and continue her education in the fall.

Jason Gayler, 38, said the reaction to the photograph has “been a bit shocking with a mix of happiness.

It brings me great joy if we were able to help people think back to that time, even if just for a brief moment, and smile,” he told Today. “I can hope one day when I'm old I can look back at this and smile."

Teens that missed prom due to accident get second chance to dance

Four teenagers in western Michigan will be getting a second chance to attend their high school prom after an automobile accident prevented them from attending, WXMI reported.

>> Read more trending news

Brooke Miller and her friend, Tiffany Schippa, were driving to take prom photos with their dates. 

“I was really excited because it was my first prom,” said Miller, a junior at Hamilton High School.

Schippa said the brakes went out in her car, causing her to run a stop sign. The teens were T-boned by another vehicle and spent the night at a hospital, WXMI reported.

“I bought the car two days before prom and the brakes went out," Schippa told WXMI. “We went through a stop sign and (the other vehicle) hit us going pretty fast. We spun around six or seven times and ended up in a ditch.”

The teens never made it to the dance, but some volunteers in the community. Miller’s father, Chad Miller, posted on Facebook, asking what could be done for the teens. The post went viral and a second prom has been scheduled for June 9, WXMI reported.

“Being a father myself, I have three kids and I have a daughter and I wouldn't want her to miss her prom,” said Josh Keedy, marketing director for Hometown Battles, a group that helps veterans in need. “To me it was kind of personal, to say that it's really important these kids do this. We will try to do everything we can for them to make this happen.”

“I told Chad with everything you've done for the veterans organization and your son being a current service member, let us help out,” Nate Koehn, president of Hometown Battles, told WXMI. “Let me find a way that our organization can help you out.”

The second prom will be free of charge and will be held at the Trestle Center in Hamilton, WXMI reported. So far, 100 of the teens’ classmates plan to attend.

“We're just getting more and more excited as we go,” Schippa told WXMI. “It's more exciting than the real prom. Everybody gets a second prom and we get our first prom.”

In addition to a free prom, the girls are going to be getting free hair and makeup and their dates are getting free tuxedo rentals, since theirs were cut off and ruined in the accident. 

Teen writes Yale essay about love for pizza, gets accepted

Applying to an Ivy League school can be a daunting task for any high school senior. To make it more fun, a teen from Brentwood, Tennessee, wrote about her love of pizza in one of the essays she wrote for her application to Yale University.

>> Read more trending news

ABC News reported that when Carolina Williams found out she was accepted into the New Haven, Connecticut, school in March, she received notes from the university's admissions team that singled out her essay about Papa John’s pizza. It was one of nearly 10 essays she submitted in her application.

“It really tickled me that they specifically commented on that one because there were a ton of essays,” Williams told ABC News. “I think it stood out because it was just very genuine and reflective of me and it was kind of taking a risk, I guess.” reported that the reviewer of Williams’ application was especially amused at her essay and said as much in her acceptance letter.

Related: This essay about Costco got a high school senior into 5 Ivy League schools

“As someone who kept trying to read books for fun on top of thousands of applications this winter, I really loved your essay on reading 100 books in a year and I laughed so hard on your pizza essay,” the reviewer wrote. “I kept thinking that you were the kind of person that I would love to be best friends with. I want you to know that every part of your application stood out in our process and we are thrilled to be able to offer you a spot at Yale.”

Williams wrote in her essay that ordering pizza at the chain when she was younger “made me feel grown-up” and that the slices “evoke feelings of independence, consolation, and joy.”

USA Today reported that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter offered Williams gift cards, a pizza party for her dorm, free pizza for a year and an internship.

Family and friends were so amused that they encouraged her to share the essay on Twitter, where she posted it on May 9.

Despite the warm response from the admissions team, Williams will be attending Auburn University in Alabama in the fall with a $72,000 scholarship over four years. Williams plans to study business and economics.

Luckily for Williams, Auburn has a Papa John’s on campus.

Michael Brown’s mom, Lesley McSpadden, receives high school diploma

Graduations aren’t just for sons and daughters. They are for parents, too. One of the latest mothers to walk across the stage is Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown.

»Related: Georgia mother and daughter graduate college together 

The activist earned her diploma alongside her daughter, Daysa, in Missouri thanks to the local school district’s adult high school education program, which allowed her to attend classes on weekday afternoons. 

>> Read more trending news

McSpadden, who left school after giving birth to her son in her junior year, decided to go back after creating the We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation. The initiative, made in her deceased child’s honor, focuses on advocating for justice and advancing education. So when Art McCoy, a Missouri school district superintendent, learned McSpadden never completed school, he encouraged her to finish. 

>> Related: Three generations of women graduating this year celebrate in photo shoot

"We had to get her educated and get a diploma,” McCoy told the St. Louis Dispatch. “What better way is it to honor your son than to get the degree he got?”

»RELATED: Florida university to honor Trayvon Martin and family with posthumous degree

This week, McSpadden graduated high school 21 years after leaving, smiling from ear to ear. 

>> Related: Florida student wears Black Lives Matter-inspired prom dress

In 2014, her son, who was unarmed, was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer at age 18. His controversial death ignited national outrage, sparking racial tension across the county. 

»Recommended video: RE: Race, an AJC conversation 

National Spelling Bee champ clinches title with ‘marocain’

A sixth-grader from California became the first solo winner of the National Spelling Bee since 2013, as Ananya Vinay correctly spelled “marocain” to win Thursday night..

>> Read more trending news 

Vinay, 12, became the first solo winner of the Bee since 2013, NPR reported. The winning word—marocain — is a heavy crepe fabric, its name derived from the French word for Moroccan.

"I just focused on my word and tried to spell it right," she said after spelling 35 words correctly, according to CNN. "It's a like a dream come true. I am so happy right now."

Vinay defeated 14-year-old Rohan Rajeev for the title in the 90th version of the contest. The two deadlocked for 20 rounds until Rohan, an eighth-grader, tripped on the word "marram" (the Norse-derived word for a type of grass).

Vinay won $40,000 in cash, a $2,500 savings bond and a large collection of reference books, NPR reported. Rohan, who was bidding to become the first winner from Oklahoma since 1965, won $30,000. 

To break the ties that had ended the previous three championship rounds, the bee added a written, 24-question test that all finalists had to take Thursday night. The results would have been used as a tiebreaker in the event that the finalists were able to make their way through the entire list of prepared words for the finals, NPR reported.

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