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Gen Z is all right—check out these young activists stepping up to make a difference
Aniyah Ayres, Trinity Jagdeo

2020 has drained everyone, by way of a pandemic, political upheaval, and a shaky economy. Somehow, despite all of this, Gen Z has maintained the energy and focus to create a better state of being in the United States.

Generation Z is made up of everyone born after 1996, and studies show that this generation leans into their civic duty. Whether through inspiration or service projects, here are five youth-run businesses that are striving to make a difference during this unpredictable year.

Trinity Jagdeo


Trinity Jagdeo, We Can't 2 We Can

Trinity Jagdeo is striving for inclusivity for disabled children. Inspired by her childhood friend's battle with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, Jagdeo saw the need for representation and was determined to close the gap. Her comic book series We Can't 2 We Can gives disabled children powers and makes them superheroes.

She also has started a non-profit of the same name, Trinity explains the mission, "We offer many services to the special needs community; hosting inclusive events is one of them. This year, in celebration of our second anniversary, we planned to host a fashion show called, 'I Love Me and My Disability.' Unfortunately, due to the current events going on with the world, we have had to postpone our show." She was still able to fundraise online, and the proceeds have gone to the many families she works with.


Trinity started her charity at 17, and now 19, her business has grown. She is now a public speaker and gives talks about entrepreneurship and goal-setting at high schools and colleges. How does she measure her success? "I will know I've made it when I get invited on the Kelly Clarkson show."


Stand Up, Fight Back


Andreya, Isabelle, Piper, Lee, and Noelani, Stand Up, Fight Back, Tucson

Stand Up, Fight Back (SUFB) is the brainchild of five teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19, who all met at Tucson protests for George Floyd. Since its inception, the teens have held events, calling for justice for victims of police brutality and relocation of police funding into the community, like housing and school initiatives. "We all grew up seeing how unjust this country really is. We had very similar ideas and morals; so we easily adopted a connection. Because of this strong connection, we all agreed to join together and find a way that we could make a difference in this country, big or small."

"In our city, three people have died in police custody in the last few months. Our goal is to be a part of the change in history, and to do whatever we can to help move this revolution forward. We are trying to make this earth a good place for all of us to live, not just a select few."

The teens believe that the best way to support their organization is to support their causes. "Black lives matter, as well as immigrants, LGBTQA+, and civil rights. Whether that means working with your local official donating, sharing, protesting, signing petitions. Do whatever you can do to eradicate the injustice in the system." The group always needs extra supplies for their efforts, and they have attached a Venmo donation link to their social pages.

Carrie and Sophia Fox


Sophia Fox, Adventures in Kindness

The idea for Adventures in Kindness was born one year ago when Sophia (then nine) asked her mother a tough question. "I asked my mom one night why there is so much mean in the world. She didn't have an answer, so we tried to answer it together. We decided to replace the word mean with kind." The pair sat down and created a list of age-appropriate activities. That list became the book Adventures in Kindness.

Carrie explains, "The book is written primarily for children between the ages of seven and 12, and it is designed to be a practical resource for them and their families, where they could open the book and literally have everything they need at their fingers to go create positive change."

The book, as well as the website, have become a platform for kind kids. For members of the Kind Kids Club, there are rewards for completing a certain number of activities. Their slogan is "Kind is cool, so wear it proud."

The book is available on Amazon and their website, and if purchased through the site, at least 10% of the profit will go to one of the charities featured in the book. For July, the donations went to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Carrie says they were chosen "because of their work with a platform called Teaching Tolerance. In the book, we talk about the importance of empathy and learning about cultures different from your own." To purchase books, kits, or apparel, visit their website.

Ventura Website Builders


Deive Mece, Evan Robert, Yash Rondla, Ventura Website Builders

Three 17-year-olds saw their community hurting in the wake of COVID19, and they felt compelled to take action. Evan explained, "We noticed that a lot of small businesses in our area—many run by older folks—were struggling. Nobody was visiting their businesses, and we realized that they had no online presence at all." The three noticed that without customers able to walk through stores, and they started what they called a "community service project" to help their local businesses stay afloat.

With the downtime they had while sheltering in place, the teens taught themselves how to build websites. According to Deive, "We're all interested in computers and coding. So we all pretty much learned how to build the websites over the past couple of months. We just looked up like tutorials and YouTube videos, and figured it out like that."

The boys are excited to continue helping businesses in need, and since they all want to major in business in college, Evan says that they are loving the early lesson in entrepreneurship. "Deive is interested in maybe minoring in software engineering, so we are all getting valuable experience." The three would like to expand their business outside of their Simi Valley area. If you know a business that has been impacted by COVID and can't afford web design, visit their website to request a consultation.


Aniyah Ayres


Aniyah Ayres, Aniyah's Mission

Since Aniyah was six, she's had the desire to give back. That is why she founded Aniyah's Mission. Her organization has been tending to the needy in West Philadelphia by feeding the homeless, as well as back to school supply drives and scholarship giveaways. At six, she started with a water ice stand, and now, at fourteen, she is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, motivational speaker, and author.

COVID-19 changed the dynamics of Aniyah's mission, but with her mother's help, she's still able to make a difference. "My mom went to the store for families and took their groceries to their houses, and we started supplying lunches for hospital workers."

Aniyah, who is now 14 and starting high school, hopes that her next steps are writing a second book. She wrote her first, which teaches children how to grieve after a loss, inspired by losing her own father really young. "There weren't any resources to help me cope with my anger or grief. So I wrote a book, hoping to help others process their grief. I definitely see myself and another book, and having more of a global impact."

Aniyah recognizes the advantages she has had with starting a nonprofit, but she wants to encourage others who may not have as many resources to still give back. She offers this advice: "You have to make sure it's something you really want to do, because it can get tiring. Then make sure you have the mindset to get started. Start out small, you can hand out bags of food in your neighborhood, or you can take part in a community cleanup day. From there, gather more people. Learn how to fundraise, and make sure you have a strong supporting family and friends behind you."

2020 has taught us many tough lessons, but one worth carrying into 2021 and beyond is that you're never too young to make a difference.

Tonya Russell is a freelance journalist who is passionate about mental health, wellness, and culture. To see more of her work or cute dog photos, follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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