+
Most Shared

His neighborhood’s known for violence. So he’s helping young filmmakers give it a new rep.

True
Extra Chewy Mints

As a kid, Ruben Garcia might not have imagined he could become the musician and audio engineer he is today.

That’s because Garcia grew up in Watts, an area of South Los Angeles known for high rates of poverty and violence. In his neighborhood, kids didn’t get opportunities to explore the possibilities of audio engineering because they lived in a community that lacked resources for sometimes even the most basic needs.  

"[Audio] equipment is expensive," Garcia explains. "Access is expensive."


South L.A. also has lower high school graduation rates than the rest of the city, and high school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed and imprisoned. Research also shows that because of high rates of health problems, homicide, and suicide, South L.A. residents have shorter lifespans than residents in other parts of the city.

Garcia at work as an audio engineer. All images via Extra.

Without the right support, a kid like Garcia growing up in South L.A. wouldn't focus on much more than survival.

That's why Garcia says he was "blessed" to connect with Better Youth, a nonprofit that would change the course of his life.

He participated in several Better Youth programs, which include media training and partnering with mentors in film, audio, and music industries. They even provide professional certification to help mentees get a leg up in their industry of choice.

Garcia (right) hands out certificates to Better Youth participants.

But it wasn't just the events and programs that made an impression on Garcia. It was how the organization went above and beyond to make sure he had what he needed to participate.

"I'd say, 'Well, I don't have any money' or 'I don't have a ride,'" he says. And then Better Youth staff would mobilize to get him to the event location in some way — such as by sending a ride or carpooling.

Such gestures made him feel cared about, built up his confidence, and helped him persevere through hard times, which, in turn, got him to high school graduation and into college.

"It really inspired me because I felt like, wow, these guys will do anything to help me," he says.

Garcia gained hope for possibilities he'd never considered before. At Better Youth, he learned that people cared about his future and that, with his new skills in music and engineering, it was possible for him to thrive.

As an adult, Garcia wanted to continue the cycle by giving back to others like him, so he became the information and technology director of a Better Youth program called Real to Reel.

Real to Reel is an international film festival that's entirely for youth. Young filmmakers submit creative films from locations all around the world — including, of course, South L.A.

Part of the red carpet at the Real to Reel film festival.

As they learn skills in filmmaking and compose their festival submissions, the Real to Reel youth get to express themselves and raise awareness about issues that matter to them, such as foster care, homelessness, and race relations.

They also get to walk the red carpet at Hollywood's L.A. Film School and rub elbows with special guests and film industry insiders, like past guests Bill Duke and Melvin Jackson Jr.  

As the information and technology director, Garcia says he's the guy everyone calls when something tech-related goes wrong — and he's happy to get things up and running again. But for young people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford such opportunities, help with technology isn't just a matter of fixing equipment. Garcia also acts as a role model, an example of someone who pushed through difficult circumstances to thrive as an expert in his field.

Garcia recognizes it's not just the "big things" that make a difference. But that's not the only reason he's committed to sharing the smaller moments of kindness.

He was in a horrific car accident in college, which caused a brain injury that affected some of his memory. He eventually got it back, but he first had to slow down and take time to recuperate. It gave him a chance to reflect, and the whole experience made him even more grateful for life’s little moments that show how people care, even when times are rough.

"It makes you appreciate the life you already had because you almost lost it," he says. "It kinda makes you re-evaluate things. … I'm still here, what now?"

In reflecting on his journey, he says he's realized what a difference someone simply offering a ride, an invitation to lunch, or a welcoming greeting made to him.

"Sometimes, it's that one small thing that can flip a person a complete 180," he says. And now, he's committed to being the person who creates those meaningful moments for someone else.

For more about Garcia's work with youth, check out this video:

Extra Episode 3: Ruben Garcia

Finding opportunity growing up in an at-risk community can be difficult, which is why strong mentors can make a huge impact.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, May 7, 2018
Sponsored

Three women, three MS journeys: How multiple sclerosis looks different for everyone

Gina, Nathalie and Helga share their reactions to being diagnosed with MS and how they stay informed and positive in the face of ever-changing symptoms.

Courtesy of Sanofi

Helga, Nathalie and Gina all have MS, and their experiences show how differently the disease can manifest.

True

It’s been 155 years since neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot gave the first lecture on a mysterious progressive illness he called “multiple sclerosis.” Since then, we’ve learned a lot. We know MS causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue, including damaging the brain and spinal cord. Resulting symptoms can be debilitating and include fatigue, blurred vision, memory problems and weakness. Huge advancements in our understanding of MS and its underlying causes, as well as treatment advances, have been made in the past few decades, but MS remains a complex and unpredictable reality for the 2.8 million+ people diagnosed around the world.

Ironically, the only real constant for people living with MS is change. There’s no set pattern or standard progression of the disease, so each person’s experience is unique. Some people with MS have mild symptoms that worsen slowly but sometimes improve, while others can have severe symptoms that drastically alter their daily lives.

All people with MS share some things in common, however, such as the need to stay informed on the ever-evolving research, find various lines of support and try to remain hopeful as they continue living with the disease.

To better understand what navigating life with MS really looks like, three women shared their MS stories with us. Their journeys demonstrate how MS can look different for different people and interestingly, how the language used to talk about the disease can greatly impact how people understand their realities.

woman with horse, woman riding horseGina loves riding her horse, Benita.Courtesy of Sanofi

Gina—Hamburg, Germany (diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis in 2017)

When her youngest son was 4 months old, Gina started having problems with her eye. She’d soon learn she was experiencing optic neuritis—her first symptom of MS.

“Immediately after the diagnosis, I looked up facts on MS because I didn’t know anything about it,” Gina says. “And as soon as I knew what could really happen with this disease, I actually got scared.”

As her family’s primary income provider, she worried about how MS would impact her ability to work as a writer and editor. Her family was afraid she was going to end up in a wheelchair. However, for now, Gina’s MS is managed well enough that she still works full-time and is able to be active.

“When I tell somebody that I have MS, they often don't believe me the first time because I don't fulfill any stereotypes,” she says.

Overwhelmed by negative perspectives on living with MS, Gina sought support in the online MS community, which she found to be much more positive.

“I think it’s important to use as many positive words as you can when talking about MS.” It’s important to be realistic while also conveying hope, she says. “MS is an insidious disease that can cause many bad symptoms…that can be frightening, and you can't gloss over it, either.”

To give back to the online community that helped her so much, Gina started a blog to share her story and help others trying to learn about their diagnosis.

Though she deals with fatigue and cognitive dysfunction sometimes, Gina stays active swimming, biking, riding horses and playing with her sons, who are now 11 and 6.

Cognitive dysfunction is common in MS, with over half of people affected. It can impact memory, attention, planning, and word-finding. As with many aspects of MS, some people experience mild changes, while others face more challenges.

Gina says that while there’s still a lot of education about MS needed, she feels positive about the future of MS because there’s so much research being done.

woman in wheelchair holding medal, woman rowingNathalie is an award-winning rower with multiple international titles.Courtesy of Sanofi

Nathalie — Pennes Mirabeau, France (diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2002)

Nathalie was a teenager and a competitive athlete when she noticed her first symptoms of MS, but it would take four years of “limbo” before she was diagnosed.

“Ultimately, the diagnosis was more of a relief, than a shock,” she says. “Because when you have signs and you don’t know why, it’s worse than knowing, in the end, what you have.”

However, learning more about the disease—and the realities of disease progression—scared her.

“That glimpse of the future was direct and traumatic,” she says. Her neurologist explained that the disease evolves differently for everyone, and her situation might end up being serious or very mild. So, she decided to stop comparing herself to others with MS.

She said to herself, “We’ll see what happens, and you’ll manage it bit by bit.”

By 2005, Nathalie’s MS had progressed to the point of needing a wheelchair. However, that has not dampened her competitive spirit.

Nathalie began her international rowing career in 2009 and has won multiple world titles, including two Paralympic medals—silver in London and bronze in Tokyo. Now, at 42, she still trains 11 times a week. Fatigue can be a problem, and sometimes hard workouts leave her with muscle stiffness and shaking, but she credits her ongoing sports career for helping her feel in tune with her body’s signals.

“Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my body, letting my body guide when I need to stop and take breaks,” she says.

Nathalie explains that she used to only look backwards because of the initial shock of her diagnosis. In time, she stopped thinking about what she couldn’t do anymore and focused on her future. She now lives in the following mindset: “Even when doors close, don’t miss out on those that open.” Instead of focusing on what she can’t do, she focuses on the opportunities she still has. Right now, this includes her training for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, where she will compete for another rowing medal.

“I only go forward,” she says. “Well, I try, anyway…It’s easy to say, it’s not always easy to do. But that’s what I try to do.”

woman exiting water after swimming, woman with great daneHelga's Great Dane has become a helpful and beloved companion.Courtesy of Sanofi

Helga—Johannesburg, South Africa (diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis in 2010)

When Helga first started having balance issues and numbness in her feet, she chalked it up to her training as a runner. But when the numbness moved to her face, she knew something was wrong. She never guessed it was MS.

“When I was diagnosed, I felt completely overwhelmed and clueless,” Helga says. “I felt that I had nowhere near enough information. I did not know anything about the disease…I had no idea that it was going to be a process of continually monitoring and adjusting your lifestyle.”

In the beginning, Helga’s symptoms developed slowly, and she didn’t appear ill to others. She was even able to run for a few years after her diagnosis, but she couldn’t do marathons anymore, and she began to fall frequently due to balance issues and right-foot dragging. Then her cognition issues became more problematic, especially in her job as a trainer in a printing company.

“My executive function, decision-making and short-term memory were affected to the point that I was eventually medically unfit for work,” she says. She stopped working in 2017.

However, she didn’t stop living life. Even though she could no longer run, she continued to swim competitively. She got a Great Dane puppy and trained him as a service dog to help her walk. She also serves as vice chair of the patient support organization Multiple Sclerosis South Africa, and she advises others who have been diagnosed to join a patient advocacy group as soon as possible to get reliable information and meet others with MS.

Helga says she is “hopeful” about the future of MS. “I must say that I am so grateful that we have all the new medications available, because my life would not be the same if it wasn't for that,” she adds.

Part of how she manages her MS is by looking at the positives.

“If I could tell the world one thing about MS, it would be that MS is an incurable disease of the nervous system, but it's also the greatest teacher of valuing your health, family, friends, and managing change in your life,” she says. “My life is diversified in a way that I never, ever thought it would, and MS has been honestly the greatest teacher.”

Each MS journey is unique – with each person impacted experiencing different struggles, successes, and feelings as they manage this unpredictable disease. But the common thread is clear – there is a critical need for information, support, and hope. We are proud to participate in World MS Day and share these incredible stories of living life while living with MS. To learn more about MS, go to https://www.sanofi.com/why-words-really-matter-when-it-comes-to-multiple-sclerosis.

MAT-GLB-2301642-v1.0-05/2023

This article was sponsored by Sanofi. Participants were compensated when applicable.

@geaux75/TikTok

Molly was found tied to a tree by the new owners of the house.

Molly, an adorable, affectionate 10-year-old pit bull, found herself tied to a tree after her owners had abandoned her.

According to The Dodo, Molly had “always been a loyal dog, but, unfortunately, her first family couldn’t reciprocate that same love back,” and so when the house was sold, neither Molly nor the family’s cat was chosen to move with them. While the cat was allowed to free roam outside, all Molly could do was sit and wait. Alone.

Luckily, the young couple that bought the house agreed to take the animals in as part of their closing agreement, and as soon as the papers were signed, they rushed over to check in.
Keep ReadingShow less

Redefining comfort: Your guide to seamless athletic leggings for women

Experience the perfect balance of comfort and style with women's seamless athletic leggings.

Editor's Note: Upworthy earns a percentage of revenue from the sale of items mentioned in this article.


In athletic wear, a good pair of leggings can make or break your workout experience. Comfort, flexibility, and style are key factors contributing to the perfect pair, and finding ones that marry these elements seamlessly can be challenging. Whether you're a yoga enthusiast, a gym-goer, or someone who values comfort in their everyday attire, these seamless leggings offer something for everyone. Dive in to discover the perfect pair that will elevate your athletic wardrobe and enhance your workout routine.

Keep ReadingShow less

A woman is upset with her husband and wants to leave him.

There are a few big reasons why 70% of divorces in the United States among heterosexual couples are filed by women. Women have more economic opportunities than in decades past and are better positioned to care for themselves and their children without a husband’s income.

Another big reason is that even though the world has become much more egalitarian than in the past, women still bear the brunt of most of the emotional labor in the home. Gilza Fort-Martinez, a Florida, US-based licensed couples’ therapist, told the BBC that men are socialized to have lower emotional intelligence than women, leaving their wives to do most of the emotional labor.

Secondly, studies show that women still do most of the domestic work in the home, so many are pulling double duty for their households.

Keep ReadingShow less

Ring doorbell video captures what it's like to be the default parent.

Kids, man. I'm not sure of the scientific way audacity is distributed, but kids have a lot of it and somehow make it cute. That audacity overload is especially interesting when you're the default parent—you know, the parent kids go to for literally everything as if there's not another fully capable adult in the house. Chances are if your children haven't sought you out while you were taking a shower so you could open up a pack of fruit snacks, then you're not the default parental unit.

One parent captured exactly what it's like to be the default parent and shared it to TikTok, where the video has over 4 million views. Toniann Marchese went on a quick grocery run and *gasp* did not inform her children. Don't you fret, they're modern kids who know how to use modern means to get much-needed answers when mom is nowhere to be found. They went outside and rang the doorbell.

Back when we were children, this would've done nothing but make the dogs bark, but for Marchese's kids, who are 3 and 6 years old, it's as good as a phone call.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Fitness coach and child with cerebral palsy inspire each other through long-distance mentorship

"I want Colbie to know that she can pick up the phone and call me for whatever reason."

Fitness coach and child with cerebral palsy inspire each other.

Everybody needs someone who can relate to them; it's one of the things that connects the human experience. For a 5-year-old New Jersey girl named Colbie Durborow, that connection came just in time. Colbie has been noticing people staring at her lately as she gets around using leg braces, a walker and sometimes a wheelchair, and she told her mom that she doesn't like it when people stare.

"She said, 'Mommy I don't like when people stare at me. Mommy, I don't like it, I want them to stop,'" Colbie's mom, Amanda Durborow, told CBS Mornings.

Colbie was born 17 weeks early and has cerebral palsy (CP), a group of disorders that affect balance, mobility and posture, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her mom connected with former CrossFit trainer Steph Roach on Instagram, and the two became friends.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Photographer doesn't force young girls to smile in photos and the results are powerful

“Allow girls to show up, take up space and not smile if they don’t want to.”

@bdlighted/TikTok

Smiling is overrated.

The expectation to put on an air of happy, fun, pleasant nonconfrontation through baring teeth, otherwise known as smiling, is something many, if not most, women know very well. What’s more, this pressure is often introduced to women at a very early age.

And obviously, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with naturally being a happy, smiling person, issues arise when kids are taught that being themselves, just as they are, isn’t acceptable.

That’s why people are so impressed with North Carolina-based photographer Brooke Light’s (@bdlighted on TikTok) hands-off approach when it comes to taking pictures of young girls.

Her philosophy is simple, but oh so poignant: Allow girls to show up, take up space, and perhaps most importantly, not smile if they don’t want to.

Keep ReadingShow less