Puerto Rico spoke loud and clear last night, but did anyone listen?

Here's two things you might not know: One, there's a primary in Puerto Rico. Two, Marco Rubio won it. By a lot.

Yep, that's right. Last night, Marco Rubio won Puerto Rico's GOP primary in a landslide.

It's Rubio's first major victory and his second outright victory in the race so far. It earned him 23 delegates and put him marginally closer to potentially someday maybe posing some sort of actual threat to GOP powerhouse Donald Trump and hot-on-his-heels Ted Cruz.


Marco Rubio campaigning in South Carolina. Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images.

Why such a huge win for Rubio in Puerto Rico?

Rubio is the only GOP candidate to visit Puerto Rico so far, as well as the only one to openly support statehood for the U.S. territory.

For Puerto Ricans, this is a significant position to take. The island is over $70 billion in debt and has defaulted on debt payments twice. As Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla told CNN, "We're out of cash."

People protest outside Wall Street in New York against cutbacks and austerity measures forced on severely indebted Puerto Rico. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The tanking economy is causing a mass population exodus from the island to the mainland. Fewer Puerto Rican residents to pay taxes means more debt, and the whole crisis has been ominously referred to as a "death spiral."

If Puerto Rico gains statehood, it will be able to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy with federal protection, meaning the island could restructure its debts, negotiate in court with bondholders, and cover about a third of its debt.

If not, Puerto Rico and its citizens will remain in the economic crisis indefinitely.

Primaries are the only chance citizens of Puerto Rico get to make their voices heard — they aren't allowed to vote in the general election.

A 115-year-old Supreme Court decision (blasted by John Oliver last year) ensures that no U.S. territories are allowed to vote in the general election.

While Republicans in Puerto Rico voted clearly in favor of Rubio, assigning their delegates last night (as they will for the Democrats in June), this is really the only chance Puerto Rican citizens have to let politicians running for president know what's important to them.

A vacant building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images.

Why would Rubio care about Puerto Rico if it can't help him win the general election?

Well, Florida has a population of over 1 million Puerto Ricans. Courting Puerto Rico helps Rubio secure the swing state's 99 delegates.

But frankly, Rubio doesn't have to worry too much about Florida. It's his home state, and pending another meltdown of epic proportions at the GOP debate on Wednesday, his win in Florida is all but clinched.

Rubio campaigning in Florida in 2010. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

It's pretty easy to make campaign promises to a population that doesn't vote in the general election.

Hillary Clinton promised Puerto Rico voting rights in 2008 and got 68% of the Democratic primary vote there. Mitt Romney promised statehood in 2012 and got 83% of the GOP primary vote that year.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño at Isla Grande Airport in San Juan in 2012 ahead of the Republican primary. Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images.

We never got to see whether either of their promises would come true, but Puerto Rico has consistently and overwhelmingly supported candidates who promise more representation, regardless of their political affiliation.

In this election cycle, candidates including Hillary Clinton have supported giving Puerto Rico bankruptcy protection, but only Rubio (and, formerly, Jeb! Bush) have campaigned in favor of full representation for Puerto Rico with a 51st star on the flag.

Will the next president be the one who finally recognizes Puerto Rico's primary votes for what they truly mean?

Or will the territory remain a stepping stone for politicians to use on their journey to more "important" political contests? Will 2016 be the year that Puerto Rico is rescued by the U.S. government? Or will our collective memory once again forget about the territory and its citizens until another candidate needs delegates in the next election cycle?

Last night, Puerto Rico was granted five minutes in a room with a nation that has a thousand other things on its to-do list. Its citizens spoke clearly once again — whether they're heard remains to be seen.

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan
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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

RODNAE Productions via Pexels
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The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.