"Immigrants don't pay taxes!"

It's a common myth, and some pretty high profile people seem to believe it (including, potentially, the president of the United States).

But it's not true. It's been proven not to be true.


Yet, it persists.

Recently, an Arizona State University student set out to bust this myth once and for all.

Belén Sisa came to America as a child and has since been a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood), an Obama administration program that aims to help people who came to America at a young age to stay. She posted to Facebook a photo of one of her tax documents, showing she paid $300 to the state of Arizona even though she's undocumented.

MYTH BUSTER: I, an undocumented immigrant, just filed my taxes and PAID $300 to the state of Arizona. I cannot receive...

Posted by Belén Sisa on Sunday, March 26, 2017

She's not the only one. Undocumented immigrants pay over $11 billion per year that goes into programs like Medicaid and Social Security — programs they'll never receive benefits from.

There's a multitude of reasons and mechanisms that make this possible, but according to some estimates, undocumented immigrants actually pay taxes at a higher rate than America's wealthy.

Her post quickly went viral, and soon after, there was extraordinary backlash.

Sisa's Facebook page was overwhelmed with insults, anger, and worst of all, threats.

People called her post a hoax. They told her to "get the hell out of Arizona." Or they found a way to gripe about a college student "only" paying $300 in state income taxes.

That's just what was posted publicly. Sisa's private messages revealed an even darker shade of rage, including people who claimed to have reported her to ICE and worse.

The HATE is real guys. The hate is real. I am legally working in the United States through DACA, and I'm pretty sure the...

Posted by Belén Sisa on Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sisa stood tall amid an onslaught of criticism. For as many people as she angered, even more people came to her defense.

Other DACA recipients from across the country praised her for fighting for understanding. Applause emojis rained all over her Facebook page. Other immigrants shared how much they've paid the government in recent years. Anyone who attacked her was quickly swarmed with dozens of rebuttals.

"Keep fighting girls! You'll make a difference," one friend wrote.

"Thank you for sharing this. May you stay safe and warm where you want to be," added another.

"I admire your strength, Belen! You're undocumented, unafraid, and here to stay," Facebooker Isabella Michaele posted. "We sure as hell have got your back."



Many of the most moving messages were sent directly to Sisa through private message.

This is what makes it all worth it. This is the reason to keep going everyday, fighting & standing together. The love makes me tear up, thank you ❤ #HereToStay #WePayTaxesToo

Posted by

Belén Sisa on Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"This is what makes it all worth it," she wrote in a follow-up post. "This is the reason to keep going every day, fighting & standing together."

There will always be people with a warped understanding of the American dream.

People who think the pursuit of happiness is a right that belongs only to a select few, or who can't view the success of others without wondering what it might cost them.

If Sisa's story shows us anything (besides the fact that a 23-year-old immigrant is willing to endure insults and threats of violence by releasing her tax information, while our president refuses to do so), it's that the believers will always be louder.

And that — far off as it may seem sometimes — the America most of us are dreaming of is still within reach.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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