Magic helped her survive homelessness. But scholarships helped her succeed in school.
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UCLA Optimists

It was just before Thanksgiving when then-high school junior Angela Sanchez and her father lost their home in Glendale, California.

A perfect storm of financial and family problems left her architect father unemployed, and the hardships soon led to eviction.

They slept in a car for the first few months, keeping up appearances of normalcy as best they could. Eventually, they found their way to a cold-weather shelter, then a family shelter.


Image via UCLA/YouTube.

But these were little more than places to sleep, and while it certainly helped to have a roof over their heads, it wasn’t enough to stop the stress of poverty and homelessness.

Despite it all, Sanchez did what she could to keep her grades — and her attendance — up. Her father had always taught her that education was incredibly important, and she had just started a new after-school club at the beginning of the year.

The theme of that club? Magic.

"A magician, by profession, is someone who is withholding knowledge," she explains.

And Sanchez's desire for hidden knowledge — to move beyond the hand that life had dealt her to experience something more — pushed her to succeed.

But just like magic, it would take a little know-how to get her there. That didn't stop her from trying, though.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

From a young age, Sanchez was drawn to the history of magic and magicians.

Everything from witchcraft to voodoo to Harry Houdini — particularly the ways they all tied back to women’s roles in society. Women who practiced magic were historically condemned while men were revered. Even as magic became more theatrical, women were still relegated to the role of assistants.

The history of women in magic resonated with Sanchez's thirst for knowledge, particularly when the odds are stacked against you.

After all, even AP calculus is still a secret knowledge of the world.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

But it wasn't easy. As her anxiety and uncertainty about the future got the best of her, even magic club began to fall apart her senior year, and calculus turned out to be an even greater struggle than she imagined.

Sanchez’s plummeting grades threatened the future she’d been looking forward to (one that, she hoped, would take her to UCLA).

That’s when she discovered School on Wheels, a nonprofit that offers tutoring support for children struggling with poverty and homelessness.

The nonprofit paired her with an astrophysics graduate student from Cal Tech.

"Making that connection was the best thing that ever happened to me while being homeless, and since then I have maintained a constant relationship with them," she says.

Her tutor not only offered her guidance in AP calculus, but he also gave her some "secret knowledge" to help unlock the mysterious realm of the college application process, a process that many underprivileged students are unsure of how to navigate.

A little support went a long way, and Sanchez was accepted to UCLA.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

And by calling on that same tutor, Sanchez was also able to track down a variety of local community scholarships, and learned about the differences between need, merit, and passion-based support as she navigated her way through a pile of applications.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

She secured enough scholarships to cover the cost of her education. But there were two in particular that meant more than money.

Sanchez received $10,000 through the Spirit of American Youth scholarship, awarded by L.A. developer and USC alum Rick Caruso.

"Having that scholarship was extremely important because I was able to request that money in different amounts over the course of my four years," she says, "So, I could fill in the gaps as I needed it."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

She also received a UCLA scholarship from the Alumni Scholars Program and was supported by an alumnus named Craig Ehrlich.

Ehrlich not only doubled the value of Sanchez’s initial scholarship, but also turned out to be a crucial networking conduit for Sanchez's personal and professional relationships.

"More than just maintaining a relationship with my donor, I’ve also kept in touch with all the other scholarship recipients," she says. "When you're able to provide support for students like that, it's a game changer. It colors your whole experience."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

That support helped Sanchez find tremendous success throughout her time at UCLA — and she used that opportunity to pay it forward.

During her sophomore year, Sanchez launched and organized a School on Wheels chapter at UCLA to help out other kids who were in the same tough spot that she had been just two years earlier.

"Our volunteers took care of everything from supplies to snacks to transportation," she explains. "We would go over to the shelters and group homes at night, and we would work there with the students."

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

When it came time to write her thesis for her history degree, Sanchez returned to a topic she knew well: the representation of women in magic history.

And thanks to the skills she learned in seeking out and applying for scholarships and grants, she was able to find the funding to travel around the country and continue her research through fellowships at other universities, too.

"If you can invest yourself into an area of extreme passion for you, everything else follows from there," she says.

The connections that she made — and the knowledge she discovered — helped Sanchez to secure a job after graduation.

After completing her bachelor’s in history, Sanchez stayed at UCLA to get her master’s in education. Along the way, she became interested in ECMC Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in L.A. that invests in programs to improve educational outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

Image via UCLA/YouTube.

For some students — especially those who are at-risk or low-income — the pathway to success is mysterious enough that it may as well be magic.

But Sanchez’s story shows that scholarships can open the doorway to the tools that students need to make their dreams a reality.

Today, Sanchez continues to work as the program analyst for College Success at ECMC Foundation, helping students like the one she used to be.

She helps oversee and determine the efficiency for college support and scholarship programs that help out people in similar situations to the one she used to be in. Essentially, she's professionally giving advice about how to succeed in college like she did.

She’s also on the board at School on Wheels, and is a magician member/magic historian with The Academy of Magical Arts. She gave back to UCLA with a monetary donation last year and hopes to give again in the future.

"I’m hoping to foster opportunity for others," she says. "A lot of opportunity has been given to me, so I am responsible for creating the same experience for other students and scale it as far as I can."

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.