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He was an inmate. Now he's a Ph.D., and he wants to pay it forward.

Want to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners into society? Offer them education.

For many former convicts, punishment extends far beyond the time they spent in prison.

A National Institute of Justice study found that 60-75% of individuals are unable to find work within the first year of being released from prison. With increased unemployment comes increased chances that they will return to their previous habits, winding up back in prison, and continuing a disturbing cycle.


Photo by Douglas Grundy/Three Lions/Getty Images.

Daniel Geiter knows this struggle firsthand.

In the 1980s and '90s, Geiter found himself spending years at a time in and out of prison for what he describes as "petty-theft-type crimes." He served his time, and, in 1999, set out to get his life back on track — but first, he needed a job.

"You have to background check to get a McDonald's job in Chicago, and there's no landlord in Chicago that doesn't background-check you," Geiter told Upworthy about some of his initial struggles. "In most of those instances, they discriminate against anyone having maybe an arrest, but definitely a conviction on their record."

Photo courtesy of Daniel Geiter. Used with permission.

While Geiter eventually found jobs, it wasn't until he went back to school and earned a degree that he found success and normalcy.

Geiter found that once he attained a college education — he now holds four degrees, including a doctorate in education — he was able to overcome some of the obstacles that kept him unemployed and on the verge of returning to prison.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Geiter. Used with permission.

Now, Geiter wants to provide others in similar situations with the tools they need to stay out of prison. His solution is Ward College, which opens this fall in Chicago.

Ward College has come to exist in part because of Geiter's belief that Illinois is doing a poor job of offering prisoners resources to help get them back on their feet after leaving. While the Illinois Department of Corrections offers some educational opportunities, he believes they can do much more, all while saving some money.

"Our goal is to change the understanding of life after incarceration, because it should be life after incarceration. It shouldn't be a lifetime of incarceration." — Daniel Geiter

Ward College is made up of educators, administrators, and community members that Geiter gathered together.

"My challenge to them and my hypothesis that I presented to them was that if others had the support and the mentorship that I had, then they can be just as successful, if not more than I was."

Photo courtesy of Daniel Geiter. Used with permission.

There's no escaping his criminal past, so Geiter has come to embrace it while showing he can overcome it.

Last year, he put on an orange jumpsuit, laced up his shoes, and set off to walk from Chicago to Springfield (nearly 200 miles) to protest how little the prison system does to actually rehabilitate and reintegrate former inmates back into society.

"My life is eternally wearing that orange jumpsuit," he explained. "As soon as someone does a background check on me, that's how they view me. It doesn't matter what I've accomplished. Our goal is to change the understanding of life after incarceration, because it should be life after incarceration. It shouldn't be a lifetime of incarceration."

Photo courtesy of Daniel Geiter. Used with permission.

"95% of everyone that goes to jail is going to be released," he said, making the case for more programs aimed at rehabilitating offenders.

If all goes according to plan, by this time next year, Geiter will have data about the effect programs like Ward College have on prison recidivism rates.

He hopes the state of Illinois takes notice and begins modeling its own education programs after Ward College.

Until then, he's willing to carry that load as best as he can.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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