How getting in trouble for skipping class may have saved this teen's life.

As a member of the Bloods, Trinidad Ramkissoon never expected to make it to Broadway.

Ramkissoon was the youngest of seven children, and while his immigrant parents worked hard to provide for them, the family still struggled, even enduring a bout of homelessness after their Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment burned down.

With his father working 16-hour days and his only brother in prison for a violent crime, Ramkissoon was on the lookout for role models — and on the streets of Cambridge, gang life was the best option he could see.


“This was a family connection for me for a long time,” he told the Boston Globe in 2012. “Sometimes I [still] wear [the gang flag] just to own that — to, like, acknowledge it.”

Central Square, Cambridge, near where Ramkissoon grew up. Photo by Tony Webster/Flickr.

By the age of 12, Ramkissoon had already been arrested, which led to a school suspension.

From the start, he wasn't set up for success.

Trinidad Ramkissoon. Photo via Huntington Theatre Company/YouTube.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Ramkissoon would be caught skipping class as a high school freshman. But it was a mistake that would change everything.

He and his friends were reprimanded by Elaine Koury, the director of the arts program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, who also worked with a local company called Underground Railway Theater. She was struck by how apologetic — and charismatic — Ramkissoon was and decided to recruit him into a youth theater program.

It was there that Ramkissoon began to learn how to let his guard down.

“It opened something up in me,” he says. “And even more it connected me with Vincent [Siders, one of the teaching artists], who took on a father role with me and started saying what I needed to hear — even when the words have been tough and I haven’t liked what he was saying.”

Ramkissoon on stage. Photo via Huntington Theatre Company/YouTube.

High school theater programs are known to reduce dropout rates by giving students a shared sense of purpose and responsibility — and a reason to continue attending school.

Theater wouldn't stop Ramkissoon from dropping out at first, but it did help bring him back.

After about a year out of school, he enrolled in Boston Day and Evening Academy, a unique program that helps students re-engage in academics on a personalized education track.

As a student there, he also discovered the plays of August Wilson through a partnership with another local theater company.

August Wilson. Photo via Huntington Theatre Company/Flickr.

Wilson was an African-American renowned for “Century Cycle,” a series of 10 interconnected plays that explore the black experience in America, each across a different decade of the 21st century. Ramkissoon was particularly drawn to the character of Troy Maxson in the award-winning play (and now movie) “Fences.”

“I was a high school dropout. I know what it means to feel like you’re on first base,” Ramkissoon said, referring to one of Maxson’s monologues in the play. “I thought it was amazing that [the character] had the courage to want to make it to second base — not to get home, but just to go to second base.”

Ramkissoon got involved in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, a national theater contest organized by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon.

His performance of Troy Maxson’s moving monologue was good enough to earn him a spot in the national finals — on the set of Leon’s Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” where he got to perform for people like Denzel Washington.

"For many of our students through the city, being invisible is the way of safety and surviving," said one teacher from Boston Day and Evening Academy. "Yet these young people [like Trinidad] ... find their voices and courageously say, 'see me and hear the truth that I have to tell.'"

“The fact that my voice gets to be heard on this platform… These are all opportunities that kids like us don’t get,” he told the Boston Globe on the eve of the finals. “I already won.”

Trinidad Ramkissoon, in back, on his way to the August Wilson Monologue Competition. Photo via Huntington Theatre Company.

Ramkissoon didn’t end up winning the national competition  — but he did get to be the speaker when he graduated high school.

Students like Ramkissoon who come from lower socioeconomic statuses are more than 30% more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree if they’ve experienced a high-arts education. They’re also twice as likely to choose a major that aligns them with a professional career, even if it’s not related to the theater.

But, perhaps most importantly, a theater education can mean the difference between a life on the streets and a life fulfilled, where talented people like Trinidad Ramkissoon can live up to their potential and become a part of something bigger than themselves.

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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via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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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.