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A brilliant new effort is turning San Diego's homeless youth into business pros.

“Whatever it is that you can conceive, that you can do, it can be done."

A brilliant new effort is turning San Diego's homeless youth into business pros.

San Diego: A city with sunshine, sandy beaches ... and plenty of young people with nowhere to call home.

An estimated 2,500 young people, or more, to be more precise.


Photo from 8 West, used with permission.

The region's sunny weather and coastline appeal is a big draw to homeless teens and young adults from across the country who are trying to better their lives, which has helped make San Diego one of the worst cities in the country when it comes to youth homelessness.

The problem is that much of the city's resources dedicated to helping the homeless go toward older people, as chronically homeless adults are less transient (and, in at least that one sense, easier to help) than their younger counterparts are, according to Eric Lovett, executive director of nonprofit Urban Street Angels.

That's where soap (yep, soap) comes in.

A new initiative is empowering homeless young people in San Diego to take control over their lives. Using soap.

A program recently launched by Urban Street Angels is helping young people get a hand up in the business world. It's called 8 West, and it's a pretty cool concept.

“If we can help with them from a young age — before they become chronically homeless — than we have a better chance at keeping them off the street," Lovett said.

Homeless teens and young adults in the 8 West program are provided with supportive housing, mentorship, and part-time employment making and selling (sustainable!) bath, spa, and shower products.

GIF via 8 West.

The goal is to help them build skills relevant to their interests so they can leave the 18-month program with solid work experience under their belts.

"They're going to start getting into all aspects of the business," Lovett told Upworthy, noting participants will soon be able to help in the marketing and sales facets of the line as well.

8 West products can be purchased online, as well as in local retailers.

Photo by 8 West, used with permission.

8 West isn't just helping homeless young people build careers, though. It helps them build hope, too.

These young people have been through a lot.

Some were rejected by loved ones because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and others were exposed to drugs as children and are now fighting addictions. Several are coping with mental health issues or living with PTSD, and the majority have experienced sexual or physical abuse.

And if you consider how many of them have been emotionally abused, Lovett says the number is "astronomical."

Photo via iStock.

But participants are getting the message loud and clear: They have the ability to overcome the cards they've been dealt.

"Whatever it is that you can conceive, that you can do, it can be done," Lovett said he tells the program's young people. "So don't shortchange yourself. Don't believe what you've always been told — that you're nothing — and that you won't amount to anything. Because you can do it."

The program is gaining in popularity and has no plans to slow down.

Right now, the new program is relatively small, with just five participants. But a new Indie GoGo campaign is aiming to expand 8 West dramatically so that 100 young people can graduate by 2020.

And, from the sounds of it, they shouldn't have any trouble finding willing participants.

"We have a waitlist right now," Lovett said, noting that participants' friends who are also homeless have seen the hope the program instills and want the same for themselves.

"We see the more people that come in and see what's happening, they want that [too]."

GIF via 8 West.

Support 8 West's fundraising campaign here, and learn more about the program in the video below:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."