Nobody gave these kids a chance — until one young former inmate followed his dream.
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The CW Black Lightning

David Lee Windecher didn’t exactly have the kind of start in life that sets a person up for success.

He grew up poor after moving to the United States from Argentina in the 1970s, and, he says, "poverty led to my first arrest out of desperation."

"It opened the door to the darkest years of my life."


At 13, David witnessed his first murder, and the trauma of that moment led to more trouble — joining a gang for protection. He also dropped out of high school, and experienced abuse from police officers and the criminal justice system.

At one point, David had been arrested 13 times, and spent 8 months in jail — and this was all while he was still a juvenile.

David looks at a photo of himself in his youth. All images via Upworthy.

After his last arrest in 1997, David knew he needed to change.

And it was a vision of himself as a criminal defense attorney that helped drive him to do just that.

“I would always dream about standing in front of a judge with a client standing next to me, and I would win,” he says. This dream came to him while he was incarcerated — and he took that as a sign for where he was destined to be.

“This isn’t home for you,” he told himself as he sat in a jail cell.

So, he set out to find a life that felt like home — a life of supporting incarcerated youth.

He earned his GED, graduated from college, then set his sights on law school. Out of the 50 law schools he applied to, only one gave him a chance — but that one chance was all he needed.

Today, David’s a criminal defense attorney and executive director of RED Inc., a nonprofit organization he founded in 2015.

RED stands for Rehabilitation Enables Dreams, and the organization aims to engineer rehabilitation programs so that youth don't have to fall into the cycle of going in and out of prison for the rest of their lives.

RED founder David Windecher walks through a courthouse.

There are a lot of  factors that set formerly incarcerated youth up for failure, again and again. “I spent enough time behind bars to realize that the judicial system was wronging people because of their status,” David explains. “Whether they were poor, whether they had a substance abuse issue, a mental health disorder, an academic deficiency.”

“They were limited in resource, they were in a volatile environment — how did you expect them to flourish? It’s impossible.”

To take on these obstacles, RED pursues their mission in three parts: increasing literacy, reducing poverty, and stopping youth recidivism (which means relapse into criminal behavior).

When a first-time, nonviolent, youthful offender gets incarcerated, David says, RED’s goal is “to help them get on the straight and narrow before it’s too late.”

“Without them, I wouldn’t have a second chance,” says Brian, one of the young people in the program.

RED mentee Andree describes his rehabilitation experience.

But David takes that a step further. “Most people don’t understand, it’s not their second chance. It’s their first chance — they never even had a first chance.”

The U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rates in the world — and three quarters of released prisoners go back to jail within 5 years. In Georgia, where RED operates, the incarceration rate is 32% higher than the national average.

That's why to improve this grim picture, RED runs workshops on topics like creative writing, money management, and civil rights. They also have events to bring communities together, like flag football games, and they host guest speakers to inspire the youth.

“Some of the speakers, it was like they were talking about what I was going through,” says Brian. “If they can do it ... I can do it.”

Many young people are skeptical when they first join RED – but over time, their doubts transform into hope.

“By the end of the year, they’re all saying, wait, it’s over?” David says.

As long as he’s making a difference in these young people’s lives, David knows he’s making a difference in the larger world. High rates of incarceration and recidivism negatively influence our employment rates, economy, and community safety.

Graduates of RED’s programs pose for a photo with David on graduation day.

That means that with every young person he gives hope to, David gives the rest of us some hope, too.

He began with only a limited chance for success in life. Now, with his help, youth with the same limited opportunities can make positive contributions to our world.

“We all have a purpose,” he says. “If we don’t carry out our purpose, no one else can.”

“No one is beyond redemption or hope.”

Watch David's story, and RED Inc. in action:

The CW: Black Lightning RED

He spent his youth in and out of jail for gang related crimes. Now he wants to stop that cycle for other at-risk kids.For more stories about community heroes, tune in to the series premiere of "Black Lightning" on Jan. 16 at 9/8c only on The CW.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, January 11, 2018

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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