True
XQ

Teachers in El Paso, Texas, have a secret weapon. His name is Dr. Skateboard.

In a perfect world, the morning school bell would ring and every child would snap to attention, ready and enthusiastic to learn. But of course, nothing is perfect.

In reality, kids come with all styles and levels of enthusiasm for learning — only a few of which are actually to sit down and pay attention to the lesson.


More and more, researchers are finding that interactive lessons are the way to go when it comes to capturing the attention of an entire classroom of children. That's why teachers call up Bill Robertson — or, as the kids call him, Dr. Skateboard.

"I started skateboarding when I was 13," says Robertson, whose title stems from the fact that he does, in fact, have five academic degrees, one of which is a doctorate in education. "I was a high school and middle school teacher for a little while, and I started thinking about ways I could make my class more engaging," he says. "Any time I brought in my skateboard, kids got more interested."

Just like that, Dr. Skateboard was born.

All photos courtesy of Dr. Skateboard, used with permission.

Not only is Robertson now a professor, but he also skates around the world teaching kids (and adults!) lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math.

According to Robertson, skateboarding is the perfect vehicle for lessons in STEM because it incorporates so many of the forces that act on most things.

"The balance of those forces is how you make things fly," he says. When kids pile into the auditorium to watch Robertson skate, they no longer have to imagine their physics problems — they get to see them in action. "Whether it’s an airplane or a skateboarder doing an ollie, you can demonstrate those principles through skateboarding."

So, as Robertson soars into the air, he explains exactly how forces like gravity, momentum, and lift help him takeoff and land safely on the ground — while also putting on a show.

But lessons aren't all about science. Robertson also carries an important message about engaging in learning itself.

Especially to kids with other passions (like skateboarding), school can seem like a chore that keeps them from doing what they really want to do. "By bringing Dr. Skateboard together, I give kids the idea that you can have activities and pursue your education," he says. Robertson works to show kids with all sorts of interests how to become lifelong learners by finding the academic concepts that lie hidden in activities that take place outside the classroom.

"You just try to present content in ways people may not have thought about it," he says. "Whether you’re skateboarding or doing some other kind of activity you really enjoy, it’s a matter of breaking those activities down to see where the concepts lie." For a musician, that could be the physics of sound. For an artist, the chemistry of color.

He also teaches kids about work, showing them that whether it's skating, school, or something different, it takes the same skills to be good at anything.

As a skateboarding doctor, he's uniquely positioned to convince kids that, truly, athletics and academics aren't all that different. Everything takes hard effort.

"Persistence, practice, patience, creativity, tenacity, goal-setting — they’re also the same things you do in your education," he says. "So if you have success in something you like, you can bring that into your education."

His programs speak to adults, too — parents and teachers who may be tempted to write off kids who don’t seem interested in learning. "By being a doctor, I can appeal to teachers and parents and decision makers and say don’t marginalize kids who are into these activities. Because they may have the attributes to become a Ph.D."

Though Dr. Skateboard makes appearances around the world, parents and teachers can learn from his methods without seeing him in person.

Robertson encourages adults to take their own natural interests and talents and use them to show kids how education is in everything — no matter how unconventional it may seem.

But, he warns, the key is not to feign interest in something that even you think is boring.

"Kids especially can tell when you’re being real," he says. "They may or may not be into what you’re doing but they can respect that authenticity."

So if you hate billiards, don't try to teach geometric angles over a pool table. But if you're teaching something you love, just like Dr. Skateboard, you might just end up passing that passion along.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Family

Mom and stepmom become best friends and hope to inspire more togetherness

The "Moms of Tampa" are officially besties and loving it.

Meet the Moms of Tampa, winning hearts online while advocating for healthy co-parenting.

Tiffany Paskas and Megan Stortz, aka the Moms of Tampa, weren’t always the best friends that they are now. The unique story of how they became that way is catching a lot of positive attention and shining a light on how we might rethink co-parenting dynamics after divorce.

Stortz and her ex-husband Mike (married now to Paskas) share custody of their 11-year old son, Michael. At first, like many moms and stepmoms, Stortz and Paskas never spoke to one another.

Paskas explained to local NBC affiliate WFLA, “We just didn’t know it was okay to talk. We were under the impression, being children of divorce, that the ex and the new never intermingle, so it was like, best to stay away. So that’s kind of how we dealt with the first four years.”
Keep Reading Show less

Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

Keep Reading Show less