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Senior student barred from Christian school's graduation because she's pregnant

Maddi Runkles is a senior at The Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland.

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With a 4.0 grade point average, athletics commitments and a leadership role in the school’s Key Club, she was all set to graduate this spring.

Then came her son, Grayson.

Runkles learned she was pregnant in January. The Heritage Academy, a conservative Christian school, considers premarital sex a violation of its code of conduct, as do many institutions with similar values.

Despite the fact that she attends a Christian school, she said she considered an abortion. A 2014 study found that nearly 60 percent of women who have abortions identify as Catholic or Protestant.

“I had worked so hard for (graduation), and I made one mistake, and all my hard work was being taken away from me,” she told WUSA-9.

WUSA-9 reported that she was first removed from her position on the student council and suspended for two days. She was also told that she’d be forced to finish the school year at home, by herself.

But that changed when a group of students and parents petitioned the school to allow her to finish the year.

“I mean, all I did that was wrong was just have sex before marriage, which they don’t agree with,” said Runkles, who said carrying the child was“the right decision.”

That’s not how her high school sees it. Principal Dave Hobbs planned to tell the entire school about her pregnancy and resulting suspension, according to Students for Life, an anti-abortion group that’s gotten involved on her behalf.

When interviewed, Hobbs said the school’s code of conduct is applied on a case-by-case basis, but that the school has already been generous in allowing Runkles to finish her school year on the premises.

Her father, Scott Runkles, said he resigned from his position as a member of the school’s board because of how his daughter was treated.

Read more at WUSA-9.

Megachurch pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen criticized for throwing ‘Hook ‘Em’ hand sign

Thousands of students graduated this past weekend from the University of Texas at Austin, flooding social media with photos of proud new alumni and their families.

>> Read more trending news 

For most parents, documenting the occasion with a photo means throwing up the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign, too, usually without much fuss. But when your parents are the first couple of televangelism, a spirited hand gesture can take on a whole other meaning. 

>> Photos: Longhorns arriving for UT graduation ceremony May 20 

Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, draw thousands every week to their massive Lakewood Church in Houston, and millions tune in from across the globe to watch. The pair also head a massive multi-million dollar empire stemming from book deals and tours. Their son, Jonathan, recently graduated from UT, and he posed with each of his parents for a pretty common photo taken during commencement weekend: the graduate and his mom and dad both making the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign. 

Gigantic indoor water park in Georgia on track to open in spring 2018

By next spring, amusement park lovers will have a new attraction to visit.

Great Wolf Lodge Georgia, which will include a 456-room hotel, is on target to open in 2018. Officials say it’s too early to given an exact opening date.

"Our guests would probably say that the highlight at any Great Wolf Lodge would be the indoor water park, and for Great Wolf Lodge Georgia, we’re building a massive, nearly 100,000-square foot indoor water park,” said  Jason Lasecki, a spokesman for Great Wolf Resorts. 

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Great Wolf announces new LaGrange project

Several “new experiences” are currently in development and officials hope to share more details in the fall.

The LaGrange park will be the 16th in the company’s portfolio.

Features include Fort Mackenzie, a multi-level interactive water fort treehouse with a massive tipping water bucket; a huge wave pool and several zero depth entry pools.

The water park is only available to guests at the hotel.

The resort will also offer  several onsite dining options including Barnwood, the brand’s unique full service restaurant and Hungry as a Wolf  handcrafted pizza and pasta.

Starbucks testing coffee-flavored ice cubes

Select Starbucks locations in the U.S. have begun testing a new offering for customers in two states.

>> Read more trending news

According to CNN, the coffee chain will offer coffee ice cubes to customers who request them in cold drinks.

The new ice cube option is only available in St. Louis and Baltimore locations while the company sees how customers will respond to the offering.

>> Related: Starbucks being sued for too much ice in drinks

Starbucks spokeswoman Holly Shafer said 100 stores will offer the cubes for the next eight weeks.

>> Related: Starbucks locations to begin serving ice cream treat

Each drink with the customized cubes will cost an extra 80 cents.  

The cubes can be added to iced espresso or brewed coffee drinks, CNN reported.

>> Related: Move over, Unicorn Frappuccino; here's Starbucks' Dragon Frappe

World's first Nutella Cafe opening in Chicago

The Nutella counter at the Chicago Eataly hub has enjoyed success, and the company has decided to erect a flagship Nutella Cafe in Chicago, just across from Millennium Park Plaza, on May 31.

A representative from Nutella told Chicago Eater that the two-story bar will be “the first to truly capture the essence of the Nutella brand -- not just in the dishes that’ll be served, but in the full experience.”

>> Read more trending news

The cafe will be two levels and will branch out from the bar at Eataly.

In addition to Nutella products, the location will serve soups, salads and paninis. The Chicago Nutella Cafe will also serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, gelato, crepes and espresso, according to Eater.

>> Related: An Italian deli institution of Chicago is sadly shutting its doors after nearly 70 years

While Chicago will have the world’s first Nutella Cafe, the company has similar locations all over the world, including a shop in Palestine and kiosks in Sao Paulo.

According to their website, Nutella originated in 1946 when a shortage of cocoa supplies after the second World War caused an inventive pastry maker in Italy to begin using hazelnuts in his spreads. Today, the company is worth billions of dollars.

14-year-old graduates from college with physics degree

Last week, 14-year-old Carson Huey-You became Texas Christian University’s youngest graduate, earning a bachelor of science degree in physics and minors in math and Chinese.

His mother, Claretta Kimp, said he started learning calculus when he was 3, and she credits her availability as a stay-at-home mother, as well as TCU’s community of faculty and teachers, to her oldest son’s achievements.

“It feels like it was meant to be he would come here,” senior associate dean Dr. Magnus Rittby said of Carson. “There are a lot of reasons why it was successful, and I think it’s very hard not to love Carson and the person he is. He’s not some abrasive kid who think he’s smarter than everyone else, but actually, he is smarter than everyone else.”

Carson enrolled at TCU when he was 11

“When I used to get bad test scores or something like that, I would go home and be disappointed and think about, ‘Oh, I should have known this, I should have done way better,’” he told the Star-Telegram.

Now, he’s learned how to react to an unexpected result.

“I know better how to deal with that disappointment, knowing that I will bounce back,” he said.

Carson’s aptitude for subatomic particles and learning will continue this fall, when he will return to TCU to pursue his master’s degree. The young scholar hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. and teach in the field.

>> Related: Move over, Mozart! History’s newest premiere pianists are among us, and they’re in Houston

Genius seems to be a family affair: His 11-year-old brother, Cannan, is set to join Carson at TCU this fall, studying for a degree in astronomy.

While the curriculum and environment of college can be quite adult, the boys’ advisers and mother are dedicated to providing the boys with opportunities to be young.

>> Related: Texas lawmakers want you to be able to get your bachelor’s degree at community colleges

“This is where they can continue to learn and grow physically, spiritually, emotionally in every aspect of which your child needs to grow,” Kimp said of TCU’s investment in hers sons. “They don’t feel like, ‘Oh, I’m in a school with a bunch of grown-ups,’ and everything. They feel more like, ‘Hey, this is my family. This is my team. These are the people who really care about me.’”

“TCU is where I’ve grown up,” Carson said. “It’s home.”

Chick-fil-A adds new sandwich, lemonade to summer menu

Chick-fil-A is offering its customers the savory tastes of a backyard barbecue with two new summer menu items.

>> Read more trending news

The Atlanta-based fast food chain introduced its new Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich and Watermelon Mint Lemonade on Monday. The summer sandwich and beverage will be rolled out nationwide at all Chick-fil-A locations today through Aug. 19.

The barbecue sandwich includes up Chick-fil-A’s signature grilled chicken with bacon glazed in a brown sugar pepper blend and Colby Jack cheese on a Hawaiian-style bun, topped with a smokehouse barbecue sauce. The 500-calorie sandwich costs $5.59 before tax.

The new minty beverage, which Chick-fil-A suggests pairing with the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich, adds watermelon and mint flavors to the chain’s beloved fresh-squeezed lemonade at 200 calories. A small drink costs $1.85 and is also available in a diet variety.

Chick-fil-A backs its new seasonal sandwich up with science, reporting more than 95 percent of U.S. consumers like barbecue.

“We know our customers love the flavors of our grilled menu, and we are excited to offer two items this season that will give them something new to try,” David Farmer, Chick-fil-A vice president of menu strategy and development, said in a news release.

The Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich “was incredibly popular in test markets. I hope our customers are as excited as I am to get this kind of high-quality sandwich at the drive-thru,” Farmer said. “We hope customers will enjoy the new ingredients and flavor combinations in our Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich and Watermelon Mint Lemonade all summer long.”

>> Four Atlanta restaurants are the 'best barbecue joints in America,' according to ranking

Chick-fil-A added another limited-time menu item in March when it introduced the Frosted Strawberry Lemonade, a spin on the Frosted Lemonade, which the company introduced in 2015. The Frosted Strawberry Lemonade, described by Chick-fil-A as a “seasonal twist on a customer favorite,” is a combination of Chick-fil-A’s signature lemonade, the vanilla Icedream and strawberry purée. It’s being offered nationwide through May 20.

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report. 

Parents call school's 'hair policy' racist

Parents are calling a "hair policy" at a Massachusetts charter school racist after they said black female students are being suspended and disciplined for wearing braided hair extensions. 

>> Read more trending news 

“I was kind of shocked because for years everyone has been able to wear braids,” said Maya Cook, a sophomore at Mystic Valley Regional Charter in Malden, Massachusetts.

Parents of two students told WFXT that their daughters have been kicked off their sports teams and barred from prom at Mystic Valley Regional Charter as discipline for refusing to take out their braided extensions. Others have been suspended, but the parents said they're not backing down.

Cook said school officials first pulled her aside two weeks ago after she and her sister, Deanna Cook, both African-American, had their hair braided at a local salon.

Their adoptive mother, Colleen Cook, received a call from the school.

“The school basically said that they didn't want anything artificial or unnatural in their hair,” said Colleen Cook.

The school's policy says students cannot have a hairstyle that is distracting to other students, and hair extensions are not allowed. Colleen Cook argued that the policy targets only black students.

“We told them there's nothing wrong with their hair the way it is. Their hair is beautiful, there's no correcting that needs to be done,” said Colleen Cook.

Deanna Cook said hair extensions and braids are integral to African American culture.

"It makes me feel like my culture and my hair was not important enough to be represented around the school," Deanna Cook told WFXT.

The Cook girls refused to take out their braided extensions and were punished with daily detention. Colleen Cook said it became worse last week.

“All the little black children were marched down for a hair inspection, whether they had braids or not, and asked, ‘Are those extensions? Are your braids real or not?’” said Colleen Cook.

In a statement, school officials told WFXT: “Our policies ... foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with ... the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

Colleen Cook said the school’s policy doesn’t send a message of success to her daughters.

“It really affects them to their core and tells them, ‘You're not good enough, you need to change,’” she said.

She has filed a complaint with the NAACP and the anti-defamation league and said that so far, there has been no response from school officials.

Mystic Valley Regional Charter released the following statement from Alexander J. Dan, the school’s interim director:  

“The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School serves a diverse student population from surrounding communities that include Everett, Medford and Malden, among other cities. The school consistently ranks among the top schools in Massachusetts in MCAS testing, SAT testing and college admissions. We send students from all walks of life, including those of color and those from limited means, to the best colleges and universities in the nation. 

“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means. Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.” 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story used the colloquial term “braids” to refer to braided hair extensions. This story has been updated to clarify the wearing of braided extensions. 

10 ways to save money on a trip to the beach

Temperatures are warming up, and the sand and surf are calling.

>> Read more trending news

A day at the beach is a great and inexpensive summer activity, but costs can creep up if you’re not careful.

Here are some tips on keeping your summer beach costs down:

1. Carpool

If you can easily drive to a beach, you know that it’s hard to find parking spots there. Both private and public beaches can charge an outrageous amount to park.

If you have four people going to the beach and parking is $20 a car, why take two separate cars? Carpool and split the cost among everyone.

>> Related: 10 inexpensive places to get away from it all

2. Bring your own food

There are usually plenty of food trucks, food carts and seaside restaurants around beaches, but the food can be overpriced.

One of the best ways to save money when you visit the beach is to bring a cooler of your own food. Prepare some sandwiches, throw in some fruit or other snacks, drinks, a bag of ice, and you’re good to go.

3. Buy food away from the beach

If you are going to bring your own food to the beach, consider buying groceries outside the beach town. Food prices tend to be almost double in high tourist areas because local markets know they can jack up the prices and people will pay.

4. Stay cheap

Consider booking a room in a motel or renting out someone’s summer house. You might not have a beautiful room, but there’s a good chance you’ll be paying significantly less, and the purpose of visiting the beach is to be outside, not in your room all day.

>> Related: 7 things more hotels are giving away for free

It’s also a great time to consider camping in areas where that’s acceptable. Get a tent and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.

5. Get a non-waterfront hotel

If you want to stay in a hotel, renting a room in a hotel that is not on the waterfront will save you money. Hotels close to the beach tend to be more expensive than hotels that are farther away from the beach, but sometimes the distance is no more than a few blocks and easily walkable.

6. Find free activities

While it might be tempting to rent jet skis or go scuba diving, those costs can climb quickly. Think about what you can do on a lower budget. For example, get some cheap snorkeling gear and explore the waters that way, instead of spending money on a scuba excursion.

7. Avoid beachfront stores

Beachfront stores are filled with touristy junk -- poorly made knickknacks that will fall apart and beach equipment that is overpriced. For example, you might find beach umbrellas there for twice the amount you’d find miles away.

Buy your towels, chairs, bags and umbrellas before you go on vacation or at a non-beach-related store away from the hotels and beaches.

>> Related: 7 things you should never buy at the airport

8. Budget

This is a basic need for any vacation, but it’s easy to look at a few days at the beach and think you won’t spend much money. You’ll probably be right, but there are other things on which you might spend your money, such as food, entertainment or souvenirs. Going on vacation without a set budget can easily cause you to spend more money than you intended.

9. Go during the offseason

Offseason is a relative term for a beach vacation. Offseason on Cape Cod is much different than it is in Florida.

Offseasons are generally from September to November or late February to early May. You’ll find that hotels and flights are cheaper and they’ll be less hassle while you’re visiting the beach and other attractions.

10. Transportation

Many large, popular beaches are near many different amenities and attractions. You might want to see what type of public transportation is available or if you’ll need to rent a car. If there is a decent public transportation system, take advantage of it instead of renting a car.

Better yet, if everything you need is nearby, walk everywhere.

If you’re planning day activities, your hotel might also have free shuttle services.

>> Related: Adult summer camp with alcohol, no counselors, debuting in new cities this year

Chipotle to debut first dessert

Chipotle plans to add a dessert item to its menu this year.

The Denver-based Mexican grill announced Tuesday it will begin testing a fried dough dessert next month, Business Insider reported

>> Read more trending news

Chipotle’s buñuelos, a traditional Mexican dessert, are fried tortillas sprinkled with honey, cinnamon and sugar. They’re to be served with caramel-apple dipping sauce.

“It’s simple to make and requires us to add just a few additional ingredients,” Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said, according to Yahoo. “They’re delicious and complement our menu nicely.”

It’s unclear which locations nationwide will offer the dessert first. 

Although Chipotle announced last year that it would be adding a dessert item to the menu, the buñuelo comes as a surprise, as many speculated the restaurant chain would debut churros as its first dessert.Chipotle is known for being slow to change its menu. According to Business Insider, the addition of buñuelos will be the company’s third major change in 20 years.

The most recent addition was chorizo, which Chipotle began offering in October. 

The company also announced that sales at restaurants that have been open at least a year rose 17.8 percent in the first quarter, and revenue increased 28.1 percent to $1.07 billion. Chipotle’s stock rose, and Ells said the increases indicates a “strong start” to the year.

>> Related: Here's why Chipotle doesn't sell queso

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