He was looking at a life sentence. Now he's giving others a second chance.
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Stand Together

At 38 years old, Dave Durocher was looking at a life sentence.

Dave Durocher. All images in this post by Upworthy and Stand Together.

He was a self-professed corruptor who'd ruined people's lives. As a high-level drug dealer, he'd already spent years in prison. After completing a two-year sentence, he immediately went back to selling drugs then was arrested again. He did a five-year prison sentence that time. Then a six-year sentence. Then a 10-year sentence. Four consecutive prison sentences.


His was the story you hear about and would think - “people like that will never change." And based on Dave's pattern of behavior, you'd be right. Being incarcerated had become a way of life for Dave. So, he decided he was going to make a name for himself on the inside." He'd always be at the top of the food chain. He'd always be calling the shots.

Unfortunately, the mentality of survival at all costs, fueled by hate worked against him. It made him more venomous which, in turn, made life in prison even more unbearable.

“Prison is a hate factory..." Dave said. “It's like high school with knives."

After completing his 10-year sentence Dave promised himself he'd never live behind bars again. But that didn't mean he was planning on changing his ways. Without an alteration in habits, mindset, or behavior, he had no plan to live a crime-free life once he got out - it was what he knew - and what he was good at. So, unfortunately, he went right back to dealing drugs shortly after being released.

"Jails aren't conducive to change, prisons aren't conducive to change," he says. "They aren't designed to be."

The same habits and behaviors he'd mastered through crime, deceit and manipulation were still there and hadn't changed. His pattern of behavior caught up to him again.

As the police closed in on him during a high-speed chase, Dave attempted to take his own life - knowing if caught, he would spend the rest of his life in prison, a place he'd promised himself he would never go back to.

He failed and was arrested yet again, which was his breaking point. Dave knew deep-down that he wanted more out of life than this revolving door of crime, death, and hate. But up to this point, he hadn't been able to break his own destructive cycle. Why would anyone give him another chance? He didn't deserve one.

He wanted to change, but didn't know how to take that first step.

“When someone is ready to change their life and says, 'I need to do something different, but I need help?' Where do you send them?" Dave said.

Faced with a life sentence (another 29 years) Dave begged for leniency in court. He'd heard about an innovative program for individuals just like him, and pleaded with the judge to be sent there as a last chance to change his life.

The judge heard his pleas and gave him a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the program. If Dave was able to complete it, he would not have to return to prison.

"Plead guilty for all charges and I'm going to send you to Delancey Street," Dave remembers the judge saying. "If you get kicked out, I've got you for the rest of your life."

Dave couldn't take the deal fast enough. But he also quickly learned that Delancey Street, a long-term (minimum of two years) peer-to-peer life-skills and vocational training program with a focus on social responsibility, wasn't going to be easy. At first, he started sliding back into his old ways of communicating — being arrogant, pompous, giving in to his ego and encouraging others around him to slip back into negative behaviors.

One day, Dave exploded at his program leader, telling the man that he'd never get what it was like to have served time.

“He said, 'I'm not here to tell you about your past, I'm here to tell you about how to change your life,'" Dave remembers.

That was a moment he'll never forget. It helped him realize he wanted to help others, too.

Dave was mandated to stay at Delancey Street for two years. He voluntarily stayed for eight, and ran Delancey's Los Angeles facility as its Managing Director for the last 5 years of his stay.

Today, Dave is the managing director of The Other Side Academy, another long-term residential training center similar to Delancey Street that helps people exiting prison, or recovering from a substance use disorder, completely transform their lives and reconnect with their communities.

Dave's past embodies the sobering rate of recidivism in America. Through his own experience he knew that the programs for people who had been convicted weren't working. 30, 60, and 90-day programs aren't enough to create wholly impactful change. With recidivism as high as 70 percent (or more) among those released from prison, Dave knew that people were leaving those programs and going right back to a life of crime.

So, in 2015, when he became the Managing Director of The Other Side Academy, he vowed to change that.

The focus of the program isn't just about abstinence from substance use — which Dave calls the easy part — it involves a complete change in character and behavior. The staff helps the program participants develop integrity and accountability through work and intense peer-feedback as they run the social enterprises that generate the revenue to support the operational costs of the program.

So far, the methodology is working.

Thanks to constant peer-to-peer feedback, the opportunity to stay in the facility long-term, and a focus on underlying behavior change, within its first three years of operation, 98 percent of the program's participants have not re-offended.

The Other Side Academy doesn't take any money from outside sources — the program generates it through business enterprises they've created in-house and through partnerships with nonprofits like Stand Together.

Stand Together is an organization that seeks to break the cycle of poverty in America by developing and investing in innovative solutions that target problems at the community level. The Other Side Academy participated in Stand Together's Catalyst Program in 2018, which provides business management training and helps social entrepreneurs develop a vision for growth based on their core capabilities and partners with them to increase their impact.

Today, Stand Together is helping The Other Side Academy expand to serve more individuals in their comprehensive and immersive program by investing to help them purchase a new 160-room facility, which will enable them to grow their programming, serve and employ more individuals, and build new social enterprises.

For Dave, that assistance allows him to give as many people as possible a new lease on life.

“I spent the first half of my life helping people die," he says. "I intend on spending the rest of it helping them live."

To learn more about Dave Durocher and the Other Side Academy, check out the video below:

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. By supporting social entrepreneurs like Durocher who're close to social issues like recidivism and have developed innovative solutions, the company is helping combat these issues in ways that are working. You can get involved and find a transformative org near you at Standtogetheragainstpoverty.org.

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love 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!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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