Her history was erased from her classes. Now she's making sure it won't happen again.
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XQ

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.

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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The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

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.

Keep Reading Show less