How this beloved, 90-year-old community center continues to be a haven for so many to this day
Isaac Remsen via Capital One
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Capital One

Yvonne Gittens, or Ms. G, as most everyone calls her, practically grew up at the Cambridge Community Center (CCC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She started going to their after-school program when she was in the second or third grade, and basically became a fixture of the place from that point on.

How she ended up there was no accident — her parents and their siblings went there as kids, as well.

"My joke is that I was conceived there," says Ms. G.

"When I was a kid, it was a safe place to be," she continues. "Everybody in the neighborhood went. It was inexpensive. I think we paid 50 cents a year for our membership."

The CCC was founded by a group of black pastors over 90 years ago because the other local community center was for whites-only at the time. In response to the blatant racial inequality and lack of opportunities for black community members, they created a haven for youth and adults alike from one of the few underserved communities in Cambridge; offering a variety of programs and services designed to help close the economic and generational gaps that still exist in the city. But perhaps most importantly, it's a place where people can feel at home and connected to a support system.

It's no surprise that families like Ms. G's keep sticking around, and that community members like her have woven the Center into the fabric of their lives. Once she was old enough, Ms. G got her first job at the Center checking kids into the program. Then she was a camp counselor teaching archery and swimming. When she became a parent, she sent her kids there, and now her kids send their kids. But over 30 years ago, she made an even bigger commitment to the Center — she became a board member.

Ms. G started off as a regular board member, but quickly moved to treasurer, and then onto secretary. Soon enough she was named the board president, overseeing all the Center's operations.


"I held all the offices," says Ms. G.

The most challenging position was when former executive director Janet "Ms. K" Kendrick suddenly passed away and Ms. G became the interim director. The CCC was in danger of closing, but Ms. G says the board members "rallied together to keep the center afloat" no matter what.

"Through all of its tough times, it never closed its doors," she says.

Isaac Remsen via Capital One

Aside from the steadfast commitment of its members, the Center has stayed alive all these years thanks to the incredible support from local organizations and businesses, like Harvard University, MIT, and Capital One.

Since 2016, Capital One has helped bolster the Center in a number of ways. Most recently, they helped renovate the Center's tech lab for the youth who use it every day. In partnership with Capital One, the new tech lab has also launched a digital literacy and digital banking program for seniors in January 2020 called Ready, Set, Bank.

"We worked in partnership with the Center to ensure that the new space would meet the current needs of the people who use it every day," says Aarón Almada, Community Affairs Manager at Capital One. "Our local Boston Café teams helped to assemble furniture and put the finishing touches on the lab before its grand unveiling to the community."

"They are there pretty much whenever we need them, and sometimes they're volunteering to be there for us when we haven't even thought to ask," says Darrin Korte, Executive Director of the CCC.

"Dom Orion and Deb Auslander are the best," says Ms. G. "As Capital One Ambassadors, they have done so many things for the Center. In addition to volunteering their time, teaching financial education workshops and forming long lasting relationships with our members, they also bring us coffee and pastries for the Ready, Set, Bank class each week."

The program will be run by Tech Goes Home, another Capital One nonprofit partner that aims to empower communities to use digital tools and overcome technological barriers. They provide the curriculum and support needed for the program, while CCC will provide the participants and host the program in the newly refreshed tech lab.

Ms. G is largely responsible for bringing the digital literacy program to the seniors in the community. As a senior herself, she often struggles with technology that's supposed to help make business and everyday life easier.

"I've got an iPad at home that I can't even find," she says. "I got so frustrated with it that I put it away."

Needless to say, she knows how valuable such a course will be to other senior citizens in the community. She thinks that it's important that they become more tech-savvy so that they can better protect their personal information on the internet — an area where personal information is most vulnerable.

"It gives the seniors an opportunity to gain knowledge in a small group setting with other seniors, says Ms. G. "The fact that they are learning from people in the banking industry gives them confidence that they are getting good solid, reliable information."

The program teaches people how to use banking apps, busts myths about privacy and security, and empowers community members to take control of their money by learning how to check balances, deposit checks, pay bills and send money from their phones.

Even though the program is provided by Capital One, there's no pressure to sign up with or switch over to the banking institution — the organization simply wants to help people become more knowledgeable and empowered when it comes to their finances.

Ultimately, all parties involved aim to enrich the lives of people in the community. In fact, that seems to be the guiding principle behind the CCC and Capital One. "When we find people to invest who truly believe in our work, truly special things can happen," says Korte.

"It's more than the financial support. It's the people that are real, everyday people," says Ms G.

Beyond that, the CCC's supporters are helping to perpetuate a place where so many people, young and senior alike, feel safe, valued and inspired to become their best selves.

In that way, it offers much more than enrichment. "The Center is home. It's family. It's connection. It's relationships," Korte continues. And as long as caring members like Ms. G and partners like Capital One are around, it will remain that way for local individuals and families who rely on it.

To learn more about the Capital One's Ready, Set, Bank program, visit www.readysetbank.org.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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You may never have heard of President and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative (BWHI) Linda Goler Blount, but for over 25 years, she's been doing the arduous and yet vital work of assuring that Black women achieve health equity and reproductive justice.

Sometimes working behind the scenes securing funding, and other times in front of the cameras or on Capitol Hill fighting what can feel like a Sisyphean feat to move her organization forward in its mission. Blount is resolute in her battle against two of the greatest risk factors to the health of Black women are racism and gender discrimination.

UP: What are some of the biggest challenges facing Black women today -- vaccine hesitancy, preventative health, maternal mortality, diet, stress… etc?

LB: Stress is the number one health issue for Black women. Obesity-related syndromes such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease have their roots in stress -- and microaggressions trigger stress. We know there's a causal relationship between stress and weight. Black women have about 15% more cortisol in their bloodstream than white women. It changes their metabolism. If you give Black women and white women the same low-fat diet, Black women will lose weight more slowly and if both groups eat a high-fat diet, Black women will gain weight more quickly. We can see this in the DNA level. So, we focus our programs on asking women how they feel about being a Black woman in this environment at this moment. Because if we don't understand that and more importantly, if providers, policymakers, and corporate leaders don't understand that, then we're not going to make the kind of progress we need to improve health outcomes for Black women. And equity is a long way off.


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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!