Jenna Fischer visited a college. It didn't go as planned. So now, she wants change.

It started with a racist threat, written on a stall in a DePauw University men's bathroom on April 11, according to Indy Star.

Then the N-word, spelled out using rocks, was spotted in a park, the school confirmed in a statement. Another offensive message — this time, one spouting homophobia and anti-Semitism — was found in a different bathroom. And a student was seen sporting blackface and a derogatory sign at a local bar.

Four separate hate-fueled incidents — all in one week, at just one university.



Hate at DePauw University hit a fever pitch in mid-April. And actress Jenna Fischer, of all people, was there to witness the pain, frustrations, and calls for action boil over in real time.

The actress, known for her role as Pam on "The Office," was on campus in Indiana on April 17 to meet theater students, participate in a Q&A, and sign copies of her book, "The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide."


But the event took an abrupt turn when demonstrators from the school's Association of African-American Students interrupted the gathering chanting and carrying a large banner that read, "We are not safe," the Associated Press reported.

This kind of turmoil isn't confined to the small, private school in Greencastle, Indiana.

College campuses have always facilitated social debate and, as a result, often can attract hate-filled bigotry. It was at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, after all, where white supremacists chose to gather in protest of the removal of a confederate statue in August 2017.

But evidence suggests hate crimes increased significantly at many colleges and universities in the months following the election that gave us Donald Trump.

"As spaces often populated by the religious and ethnic minority groups Trump pilloried during his bruising campaign, college campuses were natural incubators for conflict," Dan Bauman wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education in a report published in February. Many of the incidents, he wrote, involved references to the president.

While no direct ties have reportedly been made connecting Trump to the hate on display in Greencastle, DePauw's recent bigotry problems aren't all that unique.

But the hateful acts have been eye-opening to Fischer, nonetheless.

In a tweet published the day after the DePauw demonstrations, Fischer opened up about the unsettling events.

"Needless to say, I was shocked and upset to hear what was happening on their campus," Fischer wrote.

She continued (emphasis added):

"The student protesters spoke about their experiences and about the hate they have been encountering. I could feel the pain, sadness, and fear coming from these students. No student should feel at risk, or have to suffer the kind of bigotry and hate these students have encountered. These students need to be heard and they need change."

In her statement, Fischer announced she'd be donating the money she received from the university for her appearance to three organizations helping combat racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia and transphobia among young LGBTQ people: the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and The Trevor Project.

The gesture was well-received.

"What an amazing letter, [Jenna Fischer]. Thank you," one Twitter user wrote. "I'm a DPU grad and watched the live stream last night. You were wonderful. Thank you again for the words of encouragement that was so well said."

Mark McCoy — DePauw's president, who was at the event — thanked the actress for speaking out for the demonstrators. Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League also sent his appreciation for Fischer's "generosity and ... commitment to combating hate and bigotry." The Trevor Project thanked Fischer "for using this event to inspire hope and support our lifesaving work."

"My hope is for all people to be respected, accepted, and loved for their individuality and uniqueness," Fischer wrote. "And, above all, to be safe."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."