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Education

I escaped generational poverty by  amassing college debt. Loan forgiveness will change lives.

My own children have never experienced coming home to no lights or running water. They will never have to escape from poverty because they don't come from it and I don't know that I'd be able to say the same if I didn't make the choice to accept student loans.

student debt; loan forgiveness; student loans
Photo by Jasmine Coro on Unsplash

I escaped poverty by going into debt.

I don't come from money. In fact, I come from the stark opposite. My mother was one of nine children who grew up in an abusive household that was well below the poverty line and her mother grew up poorer than she did. This cycle of poverty goes back as far as I can trace, so it's no surprise that I also grew up poor. There were days when the only thing we had to eat was peanut butter on a spoon during the day to keep us satiated until dinner because it was the only meal that day.


That's not for lack of trying on my parent's part. My stepdad worked a full-time job and lived the hustle life before it became coined by millennials and slapped on a mug. The one thing that was consistently impressed upon me by my parents was the importance of going to college so I could do better than the generation before me. But there wasn't a roadmap for me to follow. Neither of my parents had gone to college at the time and really didn't know the requirements to get in nor the process of applying for financial aid. Since this was before Google, there was no information readily available at my fingertips. There was no financial literacy to pass down to their children when their only goal was survival.

The Biden Administration has done something unprecedented in the history of the United States by forgiving $10,000 of student loan debt for Americans making less than $125,000 a year (less than $250,000 if married or head of household). If you received Pell Grant assistance while in college, you qualify for up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness. To qualify for the Pell Grant you have to be in great financial need, which means I also received this money to assist with college expenses. But contrary to what some believe, the Pell Grant isn't a large sum of money, so loans are still necessary, even for people like me who worked while in school. Escaping poverty is expensive and exhausting and a program like this will help others break the cycle.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

While most are focused on the loans being forgiven, there's a piece of information being overlooked that could make a big impact on people's lives. Under the new debt relief plan, people who are on an income-based repayment plan can now cap their monthly payments at 5% of their income. Previously the repayment amount was capped at 10% of a person's income.

Obviously such a big move has set off a firestorm of conversation around who should and shouldn't get it, or if it should be done at all. But the conversations around student loan forgiveness don't account for the fact that not everyone starts from the same place at the starting line. It's easy to say people should know what they're getting into when signing up for student loans if you grew up with a different set of circumstances.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

For people like me, student loans were the only way out of poverty and I'd do it again. Because I took out debt to pay for a college education, my children won't have to do the same. They will now have a financially literate parent to walk them through the process, explain complicated forms and help them find more cost-effective alternatives. My own children have never experienced coming home to no lights or running water. They will never have to escape from poverty because they don't come from it and I don't know that I'd be able to say the same if I didn't make the choice to accept student loans.

While forgiving $10,000 to $20,000 worth of student debt for a select group of people isn't ideal, this could open up the door to future borrowers. The awareness around predatory lending to students, the continuously growing cost of college and the stagnation of wages could lead to real policy change that would impact everyone. No student should be saddled with insurmountable debt just for getting an education and this is hopefully the first step toward ending this practice.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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True

You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


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“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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