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Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune
Rosario Del Real, 70, a paletero at ice cream shop Las Tres Abejas, gets emotional after meeting with Michaelangelo Mosqueda and girlfriend Karen Gonzalez, who posted a TikTok video about buying up his ice pops so he could go home for Father’s Day.

Struggling a bit with what to say about the 4th of July in a time of both upheaval and promise, I decided to share a story that highlights the best side of the American spirit. In this report, a couple bought up a vendor’s ice pops so he could spend Father’s Day with his family. And they didn’t stop there.

Cathy Free shared the story at the Washington Post. “People in Chicago’s Southeast Side are accustomed to the sight of 70-year-old Rosario Del Real pushing his bright yellow cart along the streets, offering up frozen treats on summer days.

“The former carpenter makes a living selling $2 Mexican-style ice pops, or paletas, in a variety of flavors, including pineapple, strawberry, watermelon and cinnamon.

“On Father’s Day, Cynthia Gonzalez was enjoying an alley cookout with her family in the 83-degree heat when Del Real came by and asked if anyone would care to buy a paleta, she said. Gonzalez, along with Michaelangelo Mosqueda and several other family members, decided they could do better than buy just one pop apiece.

“They opened their wallets and bought every paleta in Del Real’s cart — 65 of them, at a cost of $130. Then they recorded a video of Del Real’s joyful reaction and posted it on TikTok.

“Mosqueda’s post quickly racked up more than 5 million views, he said, prompting him and the Gonzalez family to set up a GoFundMe for Del Real in the hope of helping him retire. In about a week, the effort has raised more than $62,000, and comments have poured in from tens of thousands of people:

“ ‘The paleta man was KING to us kids in Chicago!!!!’ wrote one woman. ‘Miss those days. Bless you guys!’ …

“ ‘I cried tears of joy to see his humble reaction,’ added a woman in her 20s. ‘So proud of you for doing this.’ …

” ‘Our local paletero is the sweetest, most polite person ever,’ Gonzalez said. ‘We didn’t want him to be working on such a hot day anymore.’

“As she and the others bought all of the ice pops in his cart, Del Real started crying, she said.

“ ‘You could see the relief in his face,’ Gonzalez said. … ‘He even got on his knees. We offered him some food and something to drink, and he left with the biggest smile on his face.’ ”

For a bit more background, read the article by Laura Rodríguez Presa at the Chicago Tribune: “Don Rosario was born in a rural town in Zacatecas, Mexico. He immigrated to the United States in 1969, crossing the southern border a handful of times before becoming a citizen in 1979, he said.

“ ‘When I first decided to immigrate to the U.S., my only wish was that my family and I could eat once a day, at least,’ Don Rosario said. ‘We were very poor.’ …

“ ‘I’ve had countless jobs,’ Don Rosario said. When he moved to Chicago, he established his family on the Southeast Side, where he was able to buy a home to raise his three children with the help of his wife. In 2015, Don Rosario was able to slow down when he finally finished paying off his house, he said.

“Don Rosario said he has made mistakes in his life, including run-ins with the law, but having to deal with them helped him to become a better person.

“ ‘I was diligent to do everything right to pay for the mistakes that I made,’ he said Thursday. … The first thing Don Rosario plans to do once he returns to Mexico is to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to thank God for the blessings he has received, he said. …

” ‘He refuses to stop working,’ said Lucero Del Real, one of Don Rosario’s daughters. ‘I’m still in shock and extremely grateful for the family, and all the people that have changed my father’s life from one day to another.’ ”

More at the Washington Post, here, and at the Chicago Tribune, here.

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College is expensive, and for students from low-income families, even a small emergency can throw the whole thing off course.

That is why colleges are beginning to get creative with techniques to keep students’ educational goals from derailing over relatively small but unexpected expenses.

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker writes about one such college.

“Francis Dillon will tell you that the huge expenses associated with college aren’t necessarily what makes it hard for students of limited means to get through school. Often, it’s relatively small stuff that can have a huge impact.

“Formally, Dillon is a vice president for advancement of Stonehill College. But for years he has been the person those on campus turn to when a student can’t afford a new laptop, or a trip home during a vacation break, or to apply to graduate school — the kinds of expenses that many of their peers take for granted. …

“Tuition, room, and board at the private 2,500-student school in Easton runs about $55,000 a year. That’s not cheap, but it is often defrayed by scholarships and other financial aid. The dealbreakers are much smaller. …

“Two years ago, a benefactor surprised Stonehill with a gift of $117,000 that came with no restrictions. Stonehill officials, including Dillon, had a novel idea for it. They decided to create a small, permanent fund to take care of the little student crises they had been quietly addressing piecemeal. …

“When he thinks about students whose college careers may have been saved by emergency infusions of cash, Dillon can rattle off examples. But one of his favorites is a current Stonehill accounting student named Juan Lopez.

“Lopez grew up in a tough area on the South Side of Chicago called Little Village. He says when he was about 13, some gang members in his math class noticed his facility with numbers and tried to recruit him as a bookkeeper. He avoided getting involved, but school became a constant source of anxiety.

“A teacher encouraged him to enroll in a parochial school across town, from which he graduated as the valedictorian. From there, he was recruited to Stonehill. …

“At one point, he faced an unexpected crisis. His father had lost his job, and with it his family’s health insurance. Stonehill requires all its students to have health insurance.

“Enter Dillon, with a check for the required coverage. Lopez freely admits that it wasn’t the only time he has needed help.

” ‘If it wasn’t for this fund, I probably would [have been] out of here by the end of my freshman year,’ Lopez told me. …

“Instead, he is a junior with a 3.6 grade-point average. He’s been hired as a summer intern at a major Chicago accounting firm.” More here.

For folks struggling to pull themselves out of poverty, any unexpected expense can raise insurmountable barriers. Congrats to Stonehill College for this smart assistance.

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