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Democracy

Immigrants explain why they personally celebrate the Fourth of July each year.

This is what patriotism is all about.

4th of July, immigrants, celebration, assimilation, American pride
Photo collage created from Pixabay

Some different perspectives on the American experience.

Some 300 million people live in the United States. And over 40 million of them are immigrants.

Now, some people might have you believe that too many immigrants might cause us to lose our identity as Americans or that we ought to be fighting and clinging to "the way things were."

But if you look around, you'll see that more than 1 in 10 Americans were born somewhere else — meaning they have their own unique set of amazing experiences to share and their own amazing stories about why they're here.


They each have their own ideas about what being an American means to them, too. And they each have their own reasons for celebrating American independence on the Fourth of July.

So if you want to feel proud, excited, and maybe even a teensy bit emotional about being an American, this one's for you.

Meet five immigrants from all over the country (and all over the world!) who are showing their American pride in many, many shades of red, white, and blue this year.

Mexican American experience, traditional, celebration

Traditional food the celebrate the Fourth of July.

Photo by Chad Montano on Unsplash

1. Nayeli Ruvalcaba's Fourth of July is full of traditional Mexican food and mariachi music.

Ruvalcaba, who was born in Mexico but moved to Chicago when she was 4, spent her early childhood in a mostly caucasian neighborhood called Lakeview. There, she says the Fourth of July was pretty much what you'd expect.

"Everyone would be making ribs and burgers and mac and cheese. And my dad would be drinking Budweisers and Coors Light," she said with a laugh.

Nayeli with her parents.

But when she was 16, she moved to a more diverse area of the city filled with families from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Poland.

There, she says, their holidays are much more vibrant. Neighbors gather in the alleys and share their customs and cultures with one another. They sing along with music (her boyfriend, who is in a mariachi band, often gets the party going). They play games. And then there's the food: Nayeli says she loves to chow down on delicious Fourth of July dishes like arrachera (a Mexican skirt steak), polish sausage, guacamole, and, of course, burgers.

"I know it's an American holiday," she says. "Buteveryone has their own culture. You just mix it in with what everyoneelse does."

Nayeli and her boyfriend in full mariachi get-up!

watermelon, English tea, mishmash of culture

Celebrating with a U.K. twist on the Fourth of July.

Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash

2. Johanna Dodd and her family celebrate their Fourth of July the "old fashioned way" but with a small U.K.-based twist.

A one-year work contract for her husband brought the Dodds to Connecticut from the U.K. years ago. 12 years later, they're still here.

The Dodds!

On their Fourth of July, she says, "We tend to do what everyone else in town does. We'll head to the fireworks display with our cooler packed full of food, and, occasionally, we'll sneak in some alcohol."

Sounds pretty American to me!

Johanna's young daughter watches the fireworks.

"The kids run around, there's lots of glow sticks, lots of football (both kinds) being played, lots of fun stuff happening. As it gets darker, there's the national anthem, and then out come the fireworks."

But there is one slightly British twist to the Dodds' holiday: "We don't really do the tailgating thing. We bring what we would call 'an English tea.' There's watermelon, yogurts, cheese sandwiches. Kind of a mishmash of both cultures."

grilling, fish, Liberia, American experience

Bringing home country traditions to the American experience.

Photo by Clint Bustrillos on Unsplash

3. Martin Matthews says he never misses a Fourth of July parade and for a powerful reason.

Matthews was 8 years old when he first came to America to escape a civil war in his home country of Liberia. One of his first memories? A huge Fourth of July parade in New Jersey.

"I had never seen anything like that. The flags, the drums, everything. I remember watching in awe."

Martin with his wife.

He returned to Africa later on but came back to live in America again when fighting broke out in his home country. And when he returned, that big parade stuck in his memory.

"I always loved that about America. It was a place I could be safe. A place I could enjoy freedom," he said. "To celebrate the independence of the United States holds a deep place in my heart."

These days, Martin is big on having barbecues with friends to celebrate Independence Day. There are a lot of burgers and hot dogs, but he'll sometimes mix in traditional African dishes, too, like African-style kabobs, to introduce his friends to his heritage.

"It's a big thing in Africa for people to put fish on the grill, like the whole fish," he added. "You put the whole thing on there. It was the first time some of my American friends had ever tried fish on the grill that wasn't salmon."

But his favorite thing about the holiday is still the parades. "We get there early and wave our American flags. Every year I always wear some kind of American shirt. We sit there and watch everything. It's my way of saying thanks to my adopted country."

cricket, India, celebrating holiday, University of Michigan

Changing the rules to make it work.

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash

4. Jay Pockyarath mixes cricket with an American-style barbecue on Independence Day.

"Ever since I was in eighth grade, all I wanted to do was come to the United States," he told Upworthy. After finishing college in India, he finally got the chance when studying nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan. From there, he married an American woman and started a family.

"The thing that works [in America] is that it's a meritocracy," Pockyarath said. "July Fourth is a celebration of that, in my mind. Of independence. Of the freedom to succeed."

Jay, who was born in India, proudly flies an American flag outside his home for July Fourth.

Pockyarath has lived in the United States for over 40 years, so it's no surprise that his holiday celebration looks pretty familiar: steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs on the grill. To him, what's really important is spending time with family.

"Usually we make up games," he laughed. "We play cricket — not the way it's supposed to be played, but with a tennis ball. We make up our own rules."

American flag, Fourth of July, friends and family, decorating

Embracing the traditions and bringing your own flare to it.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

5. Natalia Paruz is originally from Israel, and she decorates everything in red, white, and blue.

Natalia is now a musician in New York City.

"First I came here with my parents [about 20 years ago] for a year. At the end of the year, they went back to Israel, and I wanted to stay here," she told Upworthy.

Now she works as a musician in New York City. And she absolutely, positively loves the Fourth of July.

"It's a really fun day. It's a day where you can put politics aside. It's a day for celebrating the joy of this country."

Natalia and her husband host friends every year for a big meal. "I love decorating the house for the holiday with the flags. There's always a big flag hanging from the flagpole. In the back, that's where I really go all out. Every tree gets some kind of decoration!"

"We make hot dogs, hamburgers — how can you not?" she said. "We also make tahini, which is a traditional Israeli food. It's made of sesame seeds and it becomes a paste and you spread it on pita bread. Our friends here love it."

Natalia says an overabundance of food "as if you're going to entertain a bunch of soldiers" is a nod to her Israeli roots.

This year, she's going out with friends to watch fireworks. "I wear a T-shirt that has an American flag on it and a bracelet with the colors of the flag. If you're celebrating, you might as well go to the maximum."

It turns out, celebrating America means different things to different people. And that's kind of the point.

In my mind, the only thing better than a Fourth of July party filled with burgers, steaks, beer, and fireworks is a Fourth of July party filled with all of those things plus Mexican food and African music and "English tea" and tahini and mariachi bands and more.

So whether we choose to embrace the "American way" of celebrating Independence Day (red meat and fireworks) or to use it as a chance to celebrate the unique melting pot of culture that is our country today or something in between, I think we can all agree that the America we have now is already pretty great.

This article originally appeared on 07.01.16

Education

Someone criticized a middle school teacher's behavior. Her comeback was an A+.

When a person commented, "your a teacher act like it," Amy Allen hilariously took the advice to heart.

A rude commenter got a lesson from Ms. Allen.

Being a teacher isn't easy. Teaching middle school students is especially not easy. Teaching middle school students who spent several of their formative years going through a global pandemic in the age of smartphones, social media and a youth mental health crisis is downright heroic.

If you haven't spent time in a middle school classroom, you may not fully grasp the intensity of it on every level, from the awkwardness to the body odor to the delightful hilarity that tweens bring to the table. When you connect with your students, it can be incredibly rewarding, and when you don't…well, we all read "Lord of the Flies," right?

Skilled teachers bring out the best in young people, and that can be done in many different ways. For Amy Allen, it's by making her middle school classroom a fun, welcoming place to learn and by bonding with her students.


"I love teaching middle schoolers because they are awkward, and I’m awkward, so we get along," Allen tells Upworthy.

She plays games with students, gets rambunctious with them and creates opportunities for them to expend some of that intense pre-and-early-teen energy in healthy ways. For instance, she shared a video of a game of "grudgeball," an active trivia game that makes reviewing for a quiz or test fun and competitive, and you can see how high-energy her classroom is:

@_queenoftheclassroom

If this looks like fun to you, pick up my grudgeball template (🔗 in bio) #qotc #grudgeball #10outof10recommend @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️

"I think for teachers, we always want to create moments for our students that are beyond the standard reading, writing, memorizing, quiz, 'traditional learning,'" Allen says. "Games are a great way to incorporate fun in the classroom."

Allen clearly enjoyed the game as much as her students—"I love the chaos!" she says— and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fun keeps teachers sane, too. But one person took issue with her classroom behavior and commented, "your a teacher act like it." (Not my typo—that's exactly what the person wrote, only with no period.)

Allen addressed the comment in another video in the most perfect way possible—by acting exactly like a teacher.

Watch:

@_queenoftheclassroom

Replying to @كل الكلبات تريد مني Come see me if you have any further questions. #qotc #iteachmiddleschool #weDEFINITELYdonthavefuninhere @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ #Inverted

There are two solid ways to handle a rude comment without making things worse—you can ignore it or you can craft a response that makes the person look like a fool without being cruel or rude yourself. Allen's grammar lesson response was A+ work, right down to the "Come see me if you have any further questions" caption.

In fact, the person apparently went back and deleted their comment after the comeback video went viral, which makes it all the more hilarious. The video currently has more than 4 million views on TikTok and over 18 million views on YouTube.

"What’s funny is I left my correction on the board accidentally, and the next day, students asked me what that was all about," Allen says. "When I explained it, they thought it was cool because 'why would anyone go after Ms. Allen'? At that point, the video had maybe 10,000 views. I never imagined the video would go viral."

Two days later, as the video was creeping toward a million views, she upped the stakes. "Some of my students are my ultimate hype people, and they were tracking it harder than I was," she says. "I made a 'deal' with my fifth period if it reached 1 million during their class, they could sit wherever they wanted the entire week. During lunch, I checked, and it reached 1 million. So when they came back from recess, I announced it, and it was like I was a rockstar. They screamed and cheered for me. It was an incredible moment for me."

The irony, of course, is that Allen was acting like a teacher in her grudgeball video—an engaged teacher with engaged students who are actively participating in the learning process. Just because it doesn't look like serious study doesn't mean it's not learning, and for some kids, this kind of activity might be far more effective at helping them remember things they've learned (in this case, vocabulary words) than less energetic ways of reviewing.

Allen has her thumb on the pulse of her students and goes out of her way to meet them where they are. Last year, for instance, she created a "mental health day" for her students. "I could tell they were getting burnt out from all the state tests, regular homework, and personal life extracurricular activities that many of my students participate in," she says. "We went to my school library for 'fireside reading,' solved a murder mystery, built blanket forts, watched the World Cup, colored, and completed sudokus. Is it part of the curriculum? No. Is it worth spending one class period doing something mentally rewarding for students? Absolutely."

Teaching middle school requires a lot of different skills, but perhaps the most important one is to connect with students, partly because it's far easier to teach someone actually wants to be in your classroom and partly because effective teaching is about so much more than just academics. A teacher might be the most caring, stable, trustworthy adult in some students' lives. What looks like silly fun and games in a classroom can actually help students feel safe and welcomed and valued, knowing that a teacher cares enough to try to make learning as enjoyable as possible. Plus, shared laughter in a classroom helps build a community of engaged learners, which is exactly what a classroom should be.

Keep up the awesome work, Ms. Allen, both in the classroom and in the comment section.

You can follow Amy Allen on TikTok and YouTube.

89Stocker and cottonbro studios|Canva

Mom makes case for getting life insurance on child's other parent

Nobody wants to think about what happens if their child's other parent dies unexpectedly. It's not a pleasant topic but unfortunately it is something that happens sometimes and parents have to do their best to pick up the pieces after such a tragic loss. One mom, had the unfortunate experience of living through this tragedy and she took to social media to explain the steps she took to prepare for this day.

Kelsey Pumel, a multi-hyphenate TikTok creator recently had to help her young daughter process the unexpected loss of her biological father. Pumel and Kobe's father were never married and had broken up years prior but she admits to carrying a life insurance policy on him. The topic was brought up when her viewers informed her that she should file for social security death benefits to assist with the financial responsibility of caring for Kobe.

That's when the mom of five revealed that she took out a life insurance policy on Kobe's father when she was pregnant for multiple reasons.


"I have gotten many rude comments about the life insurance and some wild accusations made but I'm going to say this and I need y'all to hear me. If you have a child with somebody, you should have life insurance one that person, period," Pumel says. "If something were to happen, you're going to get that kickback of money to help you either raise your kids or to make up for the income that is now missing."

In a follow up video she clarifies that you do need the other person's consent in order to take out the policy. Pumel also answers the question on what she's doing with the insurance money after the death of her child's father.

"When I first got the money, I did take a chunk of it and I paid off all of my student loans, now stick with me. Why did I do that? Well, I had about $95K worth of student loans, my interest was over $6K a year. I wasn't even cutting any of it down trying to pay it with that type of interest." She reveals after talking it over with her dad who was helping pay the loans.

"So we came up with a payment plan that pays the entire $95K plus interest back to Kobe, paying it monthly into a 529 Plan, which is a college fund for her. So all that money will go into that plan for her. If she doesn't go to college or doesn't use all of it, it will be kicked over in an investment account that she will be able to pull at retirement age."

@growingwithkelsey

Replying to @bossyasf83 Correct me if im wrong about SS benefits but thats what I was told. But Kobe is going to be alright! I promise you I am getting her the brightest future possible set up! ♥️🫶🏼 #lifeinsurance

Not only is Pumel making sure Kobe has money to retire with, she's taking some of the money and putting it into a high yield account for her daughter. She also plans to buy a real estate property that will go to the little girl when she turns 18. Really, Pumel has thought of everything she could to make sure her daughter is set up to be financially secure her entire life.

While no one wishes for their children to experience the death of a parent before their time, this mom proves that having a life insurance policy on a coparent is simply a smart choice. Parents in the comments are applauding her for talking about this so openly.

@growingwithkelsey

Replying to @ohitsamber84 There are so many ways to set up an financial future for your children without big chunks of money! I strongly recommend talking with a financial advisor if you have kids and seeing what options you may have to ensure them a strong future. ♥️🫶🏼

"And BOOM that is how generational wealth is made baby! Good for you mama," one person says.

"Girl your daughter may not understand now. But when she gets older she will thank you immensely," another writes.

"That's perfect! Exactly what she'll need! Car, college, house...set her up to have no debt," someone else proclaims.

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

@inspiringbelfast/TikTok

Maybe this dose of wholesome humanity brighten your day.

Imagine walking down the street, minding your own business, when a complete stranger unfurls a red carpet at your feet. What do you do? Awkwardly avoid it and continue along your route? Tell the person off for not respecting boundaries? Or do you wholeheartedly accept the impromptu invitation and strut your best stuff?

For the passersby of Belfast, option three was the only choice.

Alan Wallace, who routinely posts uplifting videos that “share the warmth” of his hometown over on TikTok, recently added a video of himself going up to random folks on the street and giving them a moment to shine. And let’s just say, they nailed it.


Folks from all walks of life—including a construction worker that could be Michael Sheen’s doppelgänger—lit up at the opportunity to catwalk, skateboard, cartwheel and even do the worm down the crimson strip.

In a mere matter of seconds, we see all that humanity has to offer—humor, free expression, joy, inclusivity, connection. Such powerful stuff shown in the simplest way.

Even if the moment wasn’t quite as spontaneous as the video makes it appear (Wallace likely asked for permission before rolling the carpet out each time) these people still agreed to play. And that’s what’s magical about it.

“Everyone understood the assignment, from young to old, it was perfect,” one viewer wrote.

@inspiringbelfast Red carpet for strangers in Belfast #inspiringbelfast #belfastcity #belfast #heartwarming ♬ Beautiful Things (Sped Up) - Benson Boone

It’s natural for most people to not want to interact with strangers. And of course there are legitimate safety reasons influencing this instinct. But a lot of the time our avoidance comes from expecting things to be unenjoyable. And yet, research shows not only that people are often pleasantly surprised by how much connection, kindness, belonging and optimism they end up experiencing.

So maybe we don’t need a red carpet to simply enjoy saying hi to someone we meet on the street and reaping the benefits. But hey, it certainly helps.

Representative Image from Canva

Every parent should know about this game. Many have experienced it as kids.

Nurse and mom Jinny Schmidt wants parents to be aware of a game that’s circulating amongst tweens right now, because it’s not a game at all.

In a PSA posted to her TikTok, Schmidt shared that her daughter informed her that boys in her class were beginning to play what she called “The Firetruck Game.”

As Schmidt begins to describe what the “game” entails, it’s easy to see why she’s concerned. All parents should be.


Here’s how the game works: a boy puts his hand on a girl’s lower thigh. And he tells her “my hand is a firetruck” as he slowly moves it up her leg. When the girl gets uncomfortable, she is supposed to say “red light.” Except for when the girl says “red light,” the boy responds with “sorry, firetrucks don’t stop for red lights.” And so they run their hand all the way up the girl’s leg, Schmidt explains, and sometimes they “touch the girl’s crotch.” Yikes.

Many viewers noted growing up with the Firetruck Game, or a version called “The Nervous Game,” or “Red Light Green Light.” Suddenly The “Squid Game” version of “Red Light Green Light” doesn’t seem so bad.

No matter what it’s called, though, it’s touching without consent, and is inappropriate on so many levels, not least of which being that it’s an excuse for sexual assault. Hence Schmidt’s alarm.

“I know that kids will be kids and kids will do some stupid shit, But we’ve got to do better teaching our boys to keep their hands off of other people and teaching our girls that it’s okay to have boundaries,” she says, before asking parents to “be aware” if they hear their kids talking about it.
@the.funny.nurse Y’all gonna see me on the 6 O’clock news. #jrhigh #kids #tween #preteen #parents #moms #momsoftiktok #dads #dadsoftiktok #teacher #teachersoftiktok #publicschool #school #firetruck #firetruckgame #firetruckgameawareness #girls #boys #game ♬ original sound - Jin-Jin

And she is, of course, absolutely right. Folks who watched her video wholeheartedly agreed that the behavior should not be tolerated, and many shared some pretty intense, although warranted, reactions to it.

“We’d be playing a game called Ambulance next,” one person wrote.

“Press charges,” said another.

“We have a game also. It’s called ‘oops I broke your finger,’” a third added.

But many also chimed in to say that they would be talking to their kids immediately about it, which is probably the best route overall. That way kids can protect themselves, and others around them.

Middle school years in general are pretty rough. They can be just as difficult to navigate for parents as they can be for the kids going through it. It’s painful to watch your still baby-faced child go through many of the same awful pains that you did, many of which are unavoidable. But some things, like terrible and abusive games, can be avoided. So make sure to have those important conversations when you can.