AI is the future of tech. This program is ensuring that the next generation of leaders is prepared.
Capital One
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Capital One

Xavian Barnes didn't know quite what to expect when he prepared to help set a world record.

The 15-year-old recently finished his freshman year at the NAF Academy of Finance at the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) in Dallas. Despite his love of technology, he was a little apprehensive to learn coding and had never worked with Artificial Intelligence (AI) before he and 800 other local high school students took part in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp, a one-day training session that Guinness World Records certified as the largest AI programming lesson.

The event, hosted by Capital One, was meant to teach students the basics of the Python coding language, get them excited about the possibility of a future in tech and give them a hands-on experience by creating a program of their own.

Xavian's apprehension quickly disappeared when he and the other students set about creating a chat bot that would respond in the same way as their favorite celebrity. His choice was NFL star Marshawn Lynch. When Xavian and his classmate got the bot to sound like the football player, it was a breakthrough moment. "We were surprised it actually worked," Xavian says. "It seems like creating it, you'd need a lot of numbers and a lot of coding. But it went way faster."

As soon as the bot was up and running, Xavian started to think about what he could do next.

"I was able to talk to my mentors at school about it," he says. Xavian's teachers were more than happy to oblige his curiosity. When he goes back to school in the fall, they'll take his newfound interest in AI and encourage him to discover all the things he can create with a foundation in computer science.

Capital One

The record-breaking event is just the beginning. Over the next three years, Capital One wants to bring Basic TrAIning to more than 10,000 students.

Through its Future Edge program, Capital One is helping teens discover not only a passion for technology, but also the foundational skills they might need for a potential career in the field.

This initiative comes to life through programs like Capital One Coders. Since 2014, more than 11,000 students have been impacted by this program, inspiring students to recognize their potential as technologists by exploring the basics of coding alongside Capital One associates.

Capital One sought to further close the digital skills gap in high-demand areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Basic TrAIning program came out of conversations the company's leadership team had with its non-profit partners. Capital One uncovered a significant opportunity to provide students with training in AI and machine learning while simultaneously filling a void in the curriculum of schools they worked with. Local educational institutions often struggle to keep pace with ever-evolving tech standards and innovations. So, Capital One partnered with Major League Hacking to create a curriculum that would educate, inspire and help students demystify the world of AI.

"We did an initial study looking at some of the statistics across the nation, related to workforce and workforce training," says Monica Shortino, Director of Social Innovation at Capital One. "Part of what we found was that 8 out of 10 jobs require digital skills. For our students to be successful, they needed these digital skills. And with AI being such a growing field, our end goal is to equip these students for the jobs of tomorrow."

Capital One

Their program has already helped transform the perspective of students with their relationship to technology.

"When we piloted the program at the Boys and Girls Club, I remember one student saying, 'I don't know if this is my thing,'" Shortino said. "He was the one that ended up putting in the most hours wanting to stay late to tinker."

"That's the hope we have for all of the students coming into the program," she added. "Maybe they're a little leery in the beginning. But they're super excited by the end."

For Major League Hacking Co-founder Jon Gottfried, the importance of the program can't be overstated. A self-taught programmer who now works to empower student hackers from all backgrounds, Gottfried wants the emerging software developers of today to become the tech leaders of tomorrow. And that requires making tech accessible to all, without fear or judgment.

"Part of why we created Major League Hacking was to give more people access to those resources and create a community around it that reinforces people's love of building technology without the negative aspects of being graded on it or being in an environment that's unfamiliar," he says. "The workshops and programs that we do are designed to create a really positive space for people to learn."

It's something that Gottfried wishes he and others like him had been encouraged to learn when they were teens. "There is so much potential for technology as a path to upward mobility," he says. "And the more people and the more perspectives that are contributing to that, the better."

Capital One

The future couldn't be any brighter for Xavian and the other students that participated in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp. Their training may have only lasted one day, but it will stay with them forever. And it'll soon be a launching pad for thousands of others like them, providing the skills necessary to see themselves as competent, confident and capable in an ever-changing digital landscape.

"I would recommend it to my friends," Xavian says, even though he didn't know if he'd like coding at first. The emphasis on doing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for him. He's already thinking about studying AI in college. "It's an exciting experience," he says.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Kayla Sullivan nails the reality of toddler tantrums in her mock news report.

Anyone who's ever had a 2-year-old knows that they can be … a lot. Adorable for sure, but … a lot. Toddlers are just starting to figure out that they have their own free will, but they have zero idea how to wield it or use it for good. They want what they want, when they want it—except when they change their mind and absolutely do not want what they just wanted—and they don't really have the emotional maturity or verbal acuity to adequately express any of these things without crying, whining or screaming.

There's a reason they're so darn cute.

For parents, handling a 2-year-old's 2-year-oldness can be a challenge. You can't rationalize with them. You know they're not being little toddler terrors on purpose. You know that they're just learning and that it's a stage and a phase that won't last forever, but when you're in it? Phew.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images used from Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends' Facebook, with permission

Pitbull found four months after being given up for lost.

For nonprofit animal rescue organization Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends, reuniting lost pets with their owners is all in a day’s work. However, one recent rescue has gone viral, after the team successfully found a pitbull who had been missing for nearly four months.

Poor little Russ, a 3-year-old pitbull pup, had gotten spooked one night during a camping trip with his owner, Ricardo Rodriguez, in late August.

Rodriguez had done his best to find Russ: getting the help of friends, calling local shelters, posting fliers. To no avail.

And then, the Caldor Fire hit. As it destroyed several homes and businesses along a stretch of 200,000 acres, the flames forced an emergency evacuation for Rodriguez. From there, things began to turn bleak.

"After months of not hearing back from anyone, I assumed he was in good hands with a different owner," Rodriguez told CNN.

Luckily, Rodriguez and Russ’ story was far from over.

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Tony and Rambo.

Earlier this month, Stephen Colbert blew humanity’s collective mind by showing a video of a female orangutan driving a golf cart. Not only was the ape an accomplished motorist but she drove in style with just one hand on the wheel, looking as cool and confident as any human.

While Colbert joked that the orangutan was in Florida, it was actually part of a menagerie in Dubai belonging to Sheikha Fatima Rashed Al Maktoum, the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The orangutan is named Rambo and has been driving various vehicles since she was young.

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