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The Circus Project teaches homeless kids to fly. It's awesome.

Being a homeless kid can feel like walking a tightrope — so this nonprofit is teaching them how to be acrobats.

The Circus Project teaches homeless kids to fly. It's awesome.

There are an estimated 1.7 million homeless youth in America.

That's a huge number — and a huge problem. Homeless teens are more likely to develop depression and PTSD, and even if they do get off the streets, they may still experience emotional and behavioral problems.

That's why there are a lot of programs out there to help homeless, at-risk youth. Some programs focus on mentorship, some help kids develop leadership skills, and others give them something to do to keep them out of trouble.


... and then there's the Circus Project, which teaches homeless kids how to fly.

Seriously.

All photos in this story were provided by the Circus Project and used with permission.

The Portland-based program uses the circus arts to help homeless youth channel their energy into productive, empowering social activity.

The circus arts are more Cirque du Soleil than Barnum & Bailey. There are no animals involved in the Circus Project's performances — just humans using their bodies to make really awesome art.

The students in the High Flyers outreach program take classes for 8-10 weeks to learn how to suspend themselves from aerial silks...

And perform trapeze acts...

And become acrobats.

The program's founder, Jenn Cohen, said that High Flyers isn't just about learning how to balance, hanging from a trapeze, or becoming really flexible. It's actually mostly focused on developing healthy coping skills and self-confidence in a positive, productive environment.

"Part of the curriculum is teaching them the skills to be able to work with authority, to be able to work with our peers," Jenn Cohen told Upworthy.

"Our curriculum is actually very integrated with life skills training," Jenn added.

The program also continues to support the students in their social circus program after they graduate.

The Circus Project began with just the outreach program, but they have now grown to include an academy with paid classes for the public too, as well as a professional performance troupe.

So, after the students complete their classes in the program for at-risk youth, the Circus Project offers them scholarships to participate in the public academy and continue to develop their circus skills.

"The big goal is to find these kids in the outreach program who really respond well to it and communicate to them that there is a place for them at the Circus Project if they can make it here," Sean Andries, Circus Project program director, told Upworthy.

Having a place to belong is something that isn't always available for homeless youth, but it can be life-changing.

Jessica Coshatt, a former homeless young adult who became a High Flyer, can attest to that. After participating in the High Flyers program, she's became a wellness specialist at another nonprofit for homeless youth. She recently told The Lund Report that her time in the Circus Project helped her transition out of homelessness.

"I wanted to get back inside for trapeze and acrobatics training," she said.

"Circus is fun, it's exciting, it's tough, and the only way you're going to get better at it is if you actually invest in it and work hard at it," Andries says.

The founders hope that between the circus arts and the support of fellow artists, these at-risk teens and young adults can find stability.

“What we see with a lot of these outreach teams that really respond to it is that it gives them something they really care about, that they're passionate about," Sean said.

"They realize that if they want to get better at it and pursue it, they need to organize the rest of their life in order to support that," he said.

This is such an amazing, unique way to help provide support to some of the people who need it the most.

Want to learn more? Check out this video to see what an actual Circus Project performance looks like:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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