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Looking to make an impact in your community? These people have some ideas.
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Stand Together

We're always talking about giving back to our community. It's important. But sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start.

Volunteering and helping others isn't just good for the people around you, it's good for you, too. However, deciding what you want to do to help make an impact is often the trickiest part. Perhaps you're wondering whether or not the skills you already have can translate into actions that will elevate the lives of those in your neighborhood?


The answer is: Yes. There are endless ways to be an arbiter of change no matter where you live. Below you'll find some great ideas and places to start.

Photo by RawPixel and Unsplash

Build relationships with young people to help them gain the tools and skills they need to reach their full potential through programs like Thread.

The relationships a child develops early on play a crucial role in their educational and future life successes. Each of us can point to a critically important relationship in our life that helped us reach our goals.But few organizations emphasize the importance of building strong relationships more than Thread in Baltimore Maryland, which has seen first-hand how positive bonds with adults has turned under-resourced children's lives around.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

The basis of their program is simple — they believe positive, intentional relationships is the best way to unleash a child's potential, setting them up for future success. This relationship gap is seen consistently in children struggling in the bottom 25% of their class. So, Thread set out to build an innovative model: creating a "family of mentors," 4-5 volunteers, to become the"Thread Family" of disconnected students. For a commitment of ten years, these volunteers check in with students, encourage them, help with homework and accountability, and connect them with resources. It's a mentorship in which the volunteer treats the student exactly as if he or she was a part of their own family.

Their methodology seems to be working. Historically, only 6% of Baltimore's 9th graders with GPAs less than 1.0 graduate from high school in four years. Thread students beat those odds by more than 10 times. 87% of Thread students graduate high school within six years.,and 83% have completed a two or four-year degree or certificate program. Thread currently works with 527 students, alumni and over 1,000 volunteers.

But it's about more than helping students. Thread fervently believes everyone who forms relationships through the program benefits, because we could all use more ties to a community.

Becoming a volunteer is easy — as long as you can connect with a student once a week, you're more than welcome. Learn more about how you can get involved here.

Leverage your unique knowledge and skills to help others learn, like Oliver Ballou.

Olivier wanted to find a way to give back, but was finding it difficult to make time for traditional volunteering. As a full-time graphics designer and father of two kids, he also felt like, even if he found an organization he was passionate about, he wouldn't be able to help much with the limited amount of time he could commit.

Then, while working on a project for Stand Together Foundation, he came across their Needs and Offers Marketplace, which helps people match their skills with needs of already-vetted organizations(meaning they have proven themselves to be effective, innovative and responsible nonprofits in the communities they serve). He quickly found one that interested him – the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP), which provides services for homeless youth. The program helps youth finish high school, enter college, find jobs, obtain housing, and maintain employment all while building the interpersonal relationships they need to create a strong support network that can offer help if they need it.

Olivier volunteered his services, and Monica DuPea, Executive Director had a perfect job for him — design two infographics that could help newcomers quickly learn about what their organization has to offer.

DuPea hoped they would also "help increase donors and raise awareness about the organization."

Olivier was more than up to the task. "By applying my design skills – which I've been honing for years – I felt like I was providing real value for the time spent,"he said.

Each infographic is estimated to have saved MYEP $4,212 — so Ballou ended up saving them a combined total of over $8,400.

You too can leverage your unique gifts and talents to help organizations like NYEP for a variety of things like design, coding, sales force, legal etc. through the Stand Together Foundation platform.

Identify ways to reduce barriers in your community through creative means like Be My Eyes andThe Path Project.

Jennifer Bristol struggled for a long time about how to give back. Not only has she relocated many times in her life — attaching her to "many geographic communities" — but she's also an introvert. Being around others for too long drained her of energy. So while she's always been passionate about helping others, she sometimes found it hard to do.

"I give back to my global community through an app called Be My Eyes," Jennifer writes. "This app connects sighted people with blind people who need assistance with pretty much anything having to do with sight." She's helped people choose items of clothing, read the directions to a recipe, and select the movie they might want to see that night. While they might sound like small things, the help has made a make huge differences to blind people all over the world.

"I find it really satisfying to do something for someone else that I do on a daily basis and take for granted," Jennifer adds. "It's grounding and a great reminder to be grateful for all I have. I also love that it gives the recipients a sense of independence. Instead of one pair of eyes, they have tens of thousands at their disposal."

While the barriers Jennifer helps blind people navigate are often physical, there are other barriers, like a lack of access to education, that are similarly limiting for individuals in neighborhoods across the country.That's where organizations like The Path Project come in.

Before they started The Path Project, Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth had signed up through their church to deliverChristmas gifts to a local family that lived in a mobile home park. By spending time with this family and building relationships, they realized there was a much bigger need they could help fill.

The Hollandsworths, saw that a significant gap existed between the older and younger kids in the neighborhood — the younger kids had big aspirations for their futures whereas many of the older kids had dropped out of school, had children already, some were even in jail. Their parents also had trouble helping their kids with their homework, becauseEnglish wasn't their first language.

SinceMelinda was a teacher, she decided that she wanted to at least help a couple of the kids with their homework after school. That went over so well that it quickly turned into a volunteer homework-helping program for the entire mobile park community. When the opportunity to dedicate an entire mobile home to the tutoring program presented itself, the Hollandsworths decided to turn their simple idea into a full-blown nonprofit.

Path Project's success speaks for itself. 95% of its students attend school regularly, 87% have passing grades in reading and math, and 92% have good behavior reports in school compared to 33% of the kids living in the same neighborhood.

And it all started because Jim and Melinda just wanted to be good neighbors. "At the very least, you have the opportunity to be a good neighbor," says Jim, "I think that's what we're all supposed to be."

Jennifer,Jim and Melinda are all examples of social entrepreneurs — people stepping up and addressing the unique needs of their communities in innovative ways. This is how positive change happens. And organizations like Stand Together Foundation look for these social entrepreneurs who enact change in communities that truly need it by hearing people's concerns and finding solutions that work for everyone.

Whether you mentor kids, use your professional skills to support causes that mean the most to you or start something new in your community to help kids finish their homework, you're helping others get where they want to go. That's making the world a better place.

While it can be intimidating to figure out how to get involved, as you can see, there are many different ways and so many different organizations that you can support to make a big difference.

Check out Stand Together Foundation to get connected to over 140 innovative social entrepreneurs making a difference and find your way to get involved!

Learn More About Stand Together Foundation

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together Foundation do the searching for you.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Science

Op-Ed: We can no longer pass the buck on climate action

Society must be unwavering in pursuit of social and environmental justice.

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash
women holding signs during daytime

Voices from every part of the world have been calling for action on climate change and the rapid loss of nature for decades, but too many in power have ignored this growing chorus. Even today, with the impacts of climate change starkly evident, many leaders contend that now is *not* the time to take measures to halt or reverse climate change. And despite mounting evidence pointing to the market growth potential of green technology adoption, concerns over the cost of saving the planet at the expense of sparing the global economy from short-term pain have become the preferred stalling tactic.


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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.