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In eighth grade, Steven Kwan didn't know if he wanted a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM), but he knew that he wanted a $1,000 scholarship for college.

Steven Kwan in eighth grade, when he started with TAF. Photo courtesy of Steven Kwan.

Kwan's parents, first-generation immigrants from China, had always stressed the importance of education, so when the Seattleite reached the eighth grade he understood that he'd have to start saving for college.


When Kwan learned that Seattle's Technology Access Foundation (TAF) was offering $1,000 scholarships for successful completion of each year of its Technical Teens Internship Program (TTIP), a high school STEM program, he applied — even though he didn't know much about TAF.

The scholarship and organization would go on to shape his entire career.

Photo courtesy of TAF.

TAF is dedicated to making futures in STEM possible for people of color and other underrepresented students in Washington State. Through education and building connections, TAF is helping to create the tech leaders of tomorrow and bridge the gap in representation in the technology sector.

Kwan was part of TAF's original venture into education as a member of TTIP, an after-school program. While most kids were using computers to play around with instant messaging, Kwan was spending six hours a week learning about programming, software engineering and professional development skills like interviewing and collaborating with others on the job.

“The goal of that was to help us develop these technical skills so that, come summertime, they would help us find internships within the Seattle area to make use of those skills," says Kwan.

Two things happened later that year: Kwan learned that $1,000 wasn't enough money to go to college, and he decided he wanted to pursue a career in tech.

So he spent the next four summers interning in the tech field, even working two summers with Microsoft, where he got hands-on experience in software development and engineering using the skills he gained from TTIP.

“[TAF] really helped me understand what it was I really wanted to do when I got older," he says. “It helped me explore software engineering more than just sitting in front of a computer and tapping away code. It was an opportunity to be very creative and to build things that could help people."

TAF made Kwan confident about what he wanted to do next. It also gave him the skills he needed to thrive in a field where people like him are underrepresented.

Kwan today. Photo courtesy of Steven Kwan.

Even now that he's 29, Kwan says his mentors at TAF are like family. They pushed him to be successful by providing the tools necessary for him to stand on his own. They helped him find and apply for scholarships, wrote him letters of recommendation and helped him craft his personal statements — which, as anyone knows, is one of the hardest parts of applying to college.

“What that really translated to was I got into three schools," Kwan says. “I got a direct admission into the computer science department at the University of Washington."

He was also the recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium scholarship.

Once at the University of Washington, Kwan worked hard academically and made a conscious effort to help the community. He worked with social justice groups, mentored high school students applying for institutions of higher education and took on a leadership position coordinating other mentors at a local high school.

Today, thanks to all he learned at TAF and in college, he's a senior software engineer at a major tech company where he's worked for more than seven years. But one of the most important things that TAF taught Kwan is how much representation matters. It helped him recognize that he has a voice that deserves to be heard.

“I recognize that because of [how long I've been at my job], I also now have the power to be an advocate for other people. TAF really helped to shape my lens on what diversity and inclusion looked like in tech and what equality and belonging look like."

According to a 2018 PEW research report, the vast majority of people with careers in STEM are white and male. Kwan and TAF are working to change those numbers.

Photo courtesy of TAF.

At his job, Kwan has made promoting diversity a major part of his career. For example, he's been an instrumental part of setting up his company's pride network — a place of inclusion for LGBT+ employees.

“TAF has given me skills to be a very good advocate for myself," says Kwan. “I've realized that as a part of that it means I also have to advocate for other people as well if I want to see changes happen."

Kwan recently became a member of TAF's Board of Directors. And the organization, which he joined when it was in its early stages, has grown right along with him.

While TAF has transitioned out of after-school programming, the organization has brought all of the most important components of its previous program — including hands-on experience, job shadowing and resume building — to a school, TAF@Saghalie, that the nonprofit co-manages in partnership through the Federal Way School district. TAF's program still caters to underrepresented kids and has been so popular, it's grown from 300 students to over 700 in two years.

Because of TAF's hands-on approach, the kids who attend the school are becoming more knowledgeable and confident than even their biggest supporters might have expected.

“The way we have the students collaborate in a project-based learning environment, they start being accountable, responsible for each other's success," says Tyrone Cunningham, a Development Officer for Corporqate Relations with TAF.

TAF also gives its students a chance to volunteer and use their skills to work on solving real-life problems — such as homelessness — in order to stoke their passion for working within the community. This leads to more and more kids giving back as adults, just like Steven Kwan.

And one of the main reasons that TAF has been able to help so many kids succeed is thanks to partnerships with and investments from companies like Capital One.

Photo courtesy of TAF.

“Capital One has been so amazing to our kids in a variety of ways, from getting their employees to volunteer with [the students] to hosting job shadowing and internships," says Sherry Williams, TAF's Executive Director of Development. Capital One has also invested significantly in TAF, even helping the organization build out a robotics and engineering lab for the school.

But Capital One's contributions go way past the monetary:

“They have given an endless amount of time," Williams goes on. “What makes Capital One different from other corporate partners is the investment. Corporations can write a check [and] walk away. [Capital One] can direct that money towards a certain program and feel great about it. And it is great."

“The difference with Capital One [and its local employees] is they have really taken a holistic approach with TAF and really wrapped their arms around our organization and our students. If we send out something and say, 'Hey we need volunteers for our STEM expo' [or] 'come judge our kids' projects in March,' they're gonna show up."

This kind of support means more kids and educators will become part of a strong community that's expanding STEM's reach.

Photo courtesy of TAF.

“We alums understand what it means to be a part of a collective whole," says Kwan. "I think one of the greatest things is that we recognize that we're all still needed to continue the work so the people coming up behind us don't have to face some of those struggles that some of us had to face with being the only person of color [at work]."

As the organization grows, Kwan hopes that the conversation evolves beyond just creating space for minority groups in STEM fields to what changes must be made to retain those same groups in this industry. And, while he's on the board, he hopes he can help shift the narrative of what it means to be a professional and give people like him even more access to STEM than when he was a kid.

One thing's for certain — with TAF getting bigger and people like Kwan at its helm, the future of STEM is only getting brighter.

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.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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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.

Carter Trozzolo is exhausted—aren't we all?

There was a massive snowstorm in Canada on Monday that blanketed southern Ontario. In a report on the storm’s aftermath, CTV News interviewed young Carter Trozzolo to see how it was affecting everyday Canadians. Trozzolo had the day off from school so he was put to work shoveling snow in his neighborhood.

When asked how his monumental task was going he said, "Tiring," with a large sigh. "I really wish I was in school right now," he continued. He added that he wasn’t just shoveling snow for himself but "neighbors, friends, probably people I even don't know," he said in an exasperated tone. “I am tired,” he reiterated.

The clip was of a young man shoveling snow, but his overwhelming sense of exasperation feels like it was about a lot more than just the task at hand. It’s how most of us feel after almost two years of dealing with the pandemic.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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