Here's what back-to-school shopping looks like when we refuse to act on gun violence.

Back-to-school shopping has always been an annual rite of passage for most families — but it's starting look a little different.

In the past, back-to-school time meant buying some pencils, crayons, and notebooks. But now, bulletproof backpacks are an item appearing on many people's lists.

In summer 2018, back-to-school shopping shelves and ads have included bulletproof backpacks, inserts, and clipboards. Bulletproof backpacks are also increasingly showing up in kiosks at shopping malls.


Just earlier in 2018, bulletproof shields were given to eighth-graders at a Pennsylvania middle school. The shields were meant to be inserted into the students' backpacks — to better prepare them for high school.

The trend of bulletproof backpacks shouldn't be that surprising.

According to a national poll by Phi Delta Kappa International released in July, 1 in 3 parents in the United States express fears and concerns about their children's safety in schools, mainly stemming from repeated occurrences of school shootings.

The Washington Post reported that, since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, more than 215,000 students have experienced some form of gun violence at their school. So far, in 2018, there have been 23 reported school shootings.

Sales of bulletproof backpacks had a striking surge following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 people. One manufacturer — Bullet Blocker — said orders of bulletproof backpacks had a 30% increase the day after the shooting. Another manufacturer, Guard Dog Security, reported a 150% increase in items shipped.

But here's the daunting reality: Bulletproof backpacks are not the answer.

While a lot of these bulletproof backpacks and inserts are marketed to provide security and convenience, the truth is far from it.

Bulletproof shields don't necessarily offer protection from assault weapons and rifles like that used in the Florida high school shooting. Safety consultants also have gone on the record to say that bulletproof products aren't very effective and are a real distraction from the actual solution: gun control reform.

School is meant to be a safe learning environment for children. It shouldn't be a war zone. Parents should not feel the need to send their children in bulletproof gear to school before some even learn how to read.

It's time for us to act. On Election Day November 2018, vote for candidates that fervently advocate for gun control. Until then, you can donate to gun control organizations, call your congressional representatives, and educate yourselves on state and federal gun laws.

Come on, America. We can do better.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.