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Family History Day is an amazing opportunity for kids to discuss their heritage with their classmates. Most of the time.  

Michelle Morales still chokes up when she thinks of how heartbroken she felt when she came to school eager to teach her class about her Puerto Rican ties to Taíno Native Americans and was met with opposition. Her teacher insisted that her ties to indigenous culture were not real.

"That sticks with me," Morales says, "because in that moment, a history that I should have been proud of was erased."


Watch her tell her story:

XQ Luminaries: Michelle Morales

It's so important for students to have teachers who look like them, understand their culture, and most importantly, believe in them.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"My culture, my history, was never taught," Morales says. And unfortunately, she’s not alone.

It's been said that history is written by the victors, and for minority students, that means their history is often not written at all. History textbooks focus on American history as told by white Anglo-Saxon men, leading kids of color to believe they have no place in the country's narrative.

Photo via Mivka Challenge, used with permission.

When kids don't see themselves reflected in American history, it becomes more difficult to picture themselves in America's future. To empower a diverse generation of future leaders, we need youth of color to be represented and included.

Morales is on a mission to make sure kids of color don't repeat her past experiences.

As the executive officer of Mikva Challenge in Chicago, Morales helps design and implement programs that get kids engaged in making social change early on.

Photo via Mivka Challenge, used with permission.

"Youth of color do not see themselves in the larger political structure and the larger narrative of the American story," she says. "We want youth to know that they are important to the change of our society."

Through Mikva, young people are given the opportunity to become civically engaged and see for themselves that they have the potential to make positive change.

Mikva teaches kids about policymaking, electoral engagement, and community problem-solving through hands-on projects. The program was founded as an all-volunteer civic engagement project and named after former White House counsel, judge, and U.S. congressman Abner Mikva and his activist wife Zoe.

Now, Mivka is a more than 6,000-student program, working to educate a generation of young people about their nation's politics.

Photo via Mivka Challenge, used with permission.

It not only prepares them for lives of civic engagement as adults, but it shows them that there's no need to wait until they're older to get started on projects they care about.

Mikva has already affected over 10,000 youth in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

But its message isn't limited to any geographical location. The "Mikva model," as it's called, "assumes that young people deserve a voice in our democratic process, and it challenges educators and public officials to invite, and meaningfully include, youth in civic decision-making."

Photo via XQ/Mikva Challenge.

That's an initiative that every organization can — and should — implement.

As for Morales, she's focused on making the future better for the kids who come after her. "I do this for them," she says. "I do this to make things better for them. I don’t want them to go through what I have gone through and what other people of color have gone through."

Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.

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.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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