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How Amy Poehler's Smart Girls is empowering teens through gaming.

A glimpse into Amy Poehler's Smart Girls' empowering new series.

How Amy Poehler's Smart Girls is empowering teens through gaming.

Have you heard of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls? Because if you haven't, you really should.

Poehler is a lot of things — an improviser, a Red Sox fan, a mom, a Hillary Clinton impersonator. But she's also a trailblazer. And there's no better proof of that than Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, a group committed to empowering girls to be ... well, whatever the heck they want to be (and to feel great being it).

Rock climber? Astronaut? CEO? Poehler says go for it, girl.


Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for TNT LA.

Smart Girls has done a lot of neat things and started many important conversations since it originally launched as a web series, Smart Girls at the Party, back in 2008. But one of its latest endeavors, Smart Girls Build, is particularly notable as being freakin' sweet, as it's using a video game rooted in the virtual world to inspire actual girls living in the real one.

In the Smart Girls Build series, Poehler's Smart Girls teamed up with The Sims to let girls create their virtual selves.

Take, for instance, 13-year-old Californian Celeste Javier, who is the focus of the series' first episode. Among her many interests are dancing and playing with her (adorable) corgi pup.

All GIFs via Amy Poehler's Smart Girls/YouTube.

Javier got to visit the hub where the video game is created by publisher Electronic Arts (EA). In The Sims, users can create virtual versions of themselves and live out their dreams and aspirations (digitally, of course). And that's exactly what Javier got to do.

Yes, creating your digital self is fun. But to Smart Girls, the new series gets at a bigger issue: inspiring girls to live out their creative pursuits, and finding the role models to help.

The Sims might only be a virtual reality to gamers, but the positive effects of playing it can seep into the girls' real lives, according to Maggie Lyons, director of development at Smart Girls.

“Our motto is ‘Change the world by being yourself,'" Lyons explained to Upworthy. "These girls really do that in The Sims, and hopefully are inspired to do the same in their real lives.”

Just 26% of jobs in computing fields are held by women.

The series focuses on opening doors for girls who might be interested in merging their passions with technology, as well.

In another episode, 17-year-old guitarist Tcarla collaborated with a producer to create music in the game. Every EA producer in the series is a woman, and while that may seem inconsequential, it certainly isn't.

"We also wanted to highlight female gamers and game producers," Lyons said. "If girls see more women creating and participating in fields like gaming, they’re more likely to say to themselves, 'Oh, cool! I can do that too!'”

Javier created a Sim that not only looked like her, but had the same qualities and passions as well.

Javier made sure her virtual self, or Sim, had the same traits and talents as she does. In her Sim's world, there was a dance studio, which was perfect for Javier; she's been dancing for nine years and is now in a competitive hip-hop dance group.


Letting girls know they do have a place in tech is vital, and we've got a (very) long way to go.

According to a study released last year by the American Association of University Women, a mere 26% of jobs in computing fields are held by women. When you look at engineering jobs, it's an even more cringeworthy 12%. (And by the way, these figures get more dismal when you consider how women of color, specifically, are represented.)

Looking at the gender makeup at top tech companies confirms this sad reality, as The Huffington Post reported in March 2015.

"At Google, women make up 30% of the company's overall workforce, but hold only 17% of the company’s tech jobs. At Facebook, 15% of tech roles are staffed by women. At Twitter, it’s a laughable 10%. For non-technical jobs at Twitter (think marketing, HR, sales), the gender split is 50-50."

Yes, The Sims is just one video game, and it won't solve this problem overnight. But it's one smart step forward.

"People really seem to be responding to the positive message, how inspiring these incredibly bright girls are, and our encouragement of female gamers," Lyons said of feedback from the Build series. "One girl even told us that Tcarla inspired her to start playing the guitar, which is awesome!"

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

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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