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

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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