Her future was laid out. But a passion for justice took her places she never imagined.

Christine Bischoff grew up in a small southern West Virginia coal town.

"Everyone's dad was a coal miner, and very few people were educated," Bischoff says. It was the type of place where opportunities were few and far between.

There were about six career choices in the whole town.


Christine Bischoff. All photos courtesy of XQ.

"You basically picked one, and that's what you were going to be," Bischoff says. She went with the one that, to her, sounded the most fun: physical therapy.

Then Bischoff's life changed permanently because of her teacher, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou.

"To a 21-year-old, everything she said was mind-blowing," Bischoff says. "Because you'd never thought of the world like that."

Angelou — whose work extended far beyond poetry into activism, social work, and civil justice — was also an education advocate who spoke on numerous occasions about the power and importance of learning. Bischoff had her as a professor in college.

One day, Angelou gave her class a sage piece of advice: If you don't like the path you're on, step off of it.

"So I literally walked out of the class and said, 'I'm not going to be a physical therapist. I'm going to be a civil rights attorney. I'm going to change the world," Bischoff said.

Now she works as an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's children's rights department.

The SPLC's work for children fights for education reform on multiple fronts. They work toward ending the notorious school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately harms black and Latino students. They ensure equal access to education for children in poverty as well as disabled children, and they also provide the mental health services that low-income and marginalized children often can't get on their own.

Every day, Bischoff works directly with kids who have been discriminated against or put at a disadvantage by the education system.

"When school districts or the state department of education violates [student's] rights, we go in and try to remedy the violation so that all students have equal opportunity that they're entitled to under the law," Bischoff says. In other words, when the SPLC finds a systemic injustice in the education system, they try to fix it permanently.

For Bischoff, fighting for education is a direct way to make the world a better place.

"If we don't fix the problems in our education, every piece of our society is going to suffer," she says. From the global economy to growing industries in science and tech to seemingly insurmountable world problems like climate change, educating every single child is a necessity.

"It's very easy to lose sight — that we all are in this together," Bischoff says. "Everybody wins or loses with what happens to education."

For Bischoff, the path toward a better world began with a simple step off a predetermined path — an opportunity that millions of kids might not get.  

Giving kids equal access to education is giving them access to equal opportunity. It's giving them the knowledge that if they don't like where their path is going, they too have the ability to step off and forge a new one.

See Christine Bischoff's full story here:

XQ Luminaries: Christine Bischoff

Her roots in rural West Virginia inspired her to fight for equal education for all children.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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