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Let me show you what discrimination looks like in real life. It hurts.

Just because the Boy Scouts of America can exclude people because of their sexual orientation doesn't mean they should.

Let me show you what discrimination looks like in real life. It hurts.

Imagine how you'd feel if you were told your child could remain part of a group but that you were unwelcome because of who you were.

Adella Freeman doesn't have to imagine. She says was recently told she wasn't welcome as a committee member in her son's Boy Scout troop. The reason? She's gay. This is what discrimination looks like.


Adella and her partner are parents to three kids, the eldest of which has been a Boy Scout for eight years. 15-year-old Nick (pictured above, left) was just a year away from becoming an Eagle Scout and had joined a new troop after the one he previously belonged to dissolved due to low membership.

Adella submitted an application to the new troop for family committee membership and assumed it would be accepted. After all, her family had been committee members for the eight years Nick was in other troops.

But she was wrong.

Instead, she says a leader from the troop approached her at a meeting and pulled her aside. She explains:

"The leader who approached me stated that it had been brought to his attention that it was a possibility that we were gay and because of that, he would have to ask that we withdraw our applications, which they had not even submitted since we had joined, or we could pretend the conversation hadn't happened and not mention anything else."

Adella left the meeting and sat in her car, knowing she was going to have to tell her son (who hadn't been a part of the conversation) what happened once he came out.

How could this happen?

Easily. The Boy Scouts of America is legally allowed to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

Back in 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America could legally exclude gay scouts and gay leaders because of their sexual orientation. 14 years later, on January 1, 2014, the Boy Scouts lifted the ban on openly gay scouts, agreeing to be more inclusive by allowing anyone to become a Boy Scout.

But the ban on gay leaders remained.

Adella believed that committee membership was different than leadership and therefore didn't think that the ban applied to her. Based on Adella's recount of what happened, her son's troop disagreed.


When Nick finished up the meeting and came to the car, Adella told him what happened. Knowing her son had dedicated over half his life to the Boy Scouts, she offered him the option of remaining a part of the troop and distancing herself. He declined, saying that he wasn't willing to be part of an organization that didn't welcome his family.

"He was amazed that people would be so hurtful and discriminate ... like that," Adella said. "We have raised our kids to be respectful and accepting to everyone, and they are not used to seeing this sort of behavior."

So what now?

Adella is determined to not let this happen to other families.

"I would love to see the Boy Scouts change the policy to include all families. All families are important. I would like for the Boy Scouts to know that they really don't hurt the adults with this policy as much as they hurt the boys. The boys are the ones who suffer."

Adella is a chapter lead for Scouts for Equality. You can learn more about the organization and how to support it.

She also started a petition on change.org, asking the Boy Scouts to allow all families to be members. You can add your name to the petition, joining at least 60,000 other people who already have — and ask your friends and family to do the same.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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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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