Many survivors of abuse suffer in silence. She used her Make-A-Wish to help change that.

She might be 10 years my junior, but I want to be like her when I grow up.

Lena Strickling may seem like your average young adult, but she's so much more. She's a survivor.

At 18 years old, not only has she been battling a form of cancer called Hodgkin's lymphoma, but she is also an outspoken survivor of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. When I read her story, she became my new role model.


There is a whole lotta power in this small package. Image by Collectively.

Lena is determined to use her life to make the world a better place.

When Make-A-Wish, the organization whose mission is to help children with life-threatening illness fulfill their dreams, reached out, Lena knew exactly what she wanted to do. She didn't go for your typical fun, well-deserved wish like a trip to Disney World or meeting her favorite celebrity.

She wanted Make-A-Wish to help her publicly share her story of abuse.

Lena has gone through a lot in life, but she says battling cancer is nothing compared to the pain of the abuse she endured. She carried a lot of shame about being sexually abused — until she started speaking out. When she finally told her mother, the shift in her life was huge. It was a pivotal moment in her journey to recover from the trauma and get her abuser out of her life.

She wants to inspire others to speak out so they too may feel the wave of relief she felt when she finally shared her story — and so others can think differently about what a survivor looks like.

Make-A-Wish gave her the experience of a lifetime.

Lena asked to spend a weekend with two of her closest friends, who are also survivors of violence, so they could join her for a photo shoot. Before the shoot, all three women had their hair and makeup professionally done. After the photos, she got to share her story online in video and print, so it can be spread far and wide.

GIFs from Collectively.

Her wish shows the power of speaking out as a survivor.

The truth is, sharing one's story of abuse can be helpful for both the survivor and people who hear it. Studies have found that there are psychological benefits from helping others and that storytelling can be a healing force after trauma.

Coming forward can also help make our society better — it helps combat the stigma that pressures so many to stay silent. According to a 2013 study, more than 1 in 4 girls and 5% of boys report experiencing sexual abuse or assault by the age of 18. Compare these numbers to the estimated 12% of child sexual abuse incidents reported to the authorities. Many feel too ashamed to share their history because of misinformation and victim-blaming. But Lena wants to change all of that.

This in no way means that everyone should or must divulge their survivor status to others. I am a firm believer in survivors knowing what is best for themselves. Deciding whether to come forward is deeply personal, influenced by a lot of factors. And some people decide that coming forward is not the best option for them. But Lena made the decision that it was.

Thanks to her bravery, we are one step closer to getting rid of the stigma that survivors unrightfully face after being victimized.

From one survivor to another, I want to say thank you, Lena.

Watch this amazing young woman in action in Collectively's video here:

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture