+
Most Shared

The inspiring reason this former foster kid is helping underserved kids make movies.

True
Extra Chewy Mints

Johna Rivers spent most of her young life with the cards stacked against her.

She was put into foster care at the age of 9, and that's where she stayed until she was a legal adult.

"Everything around me was traumatic from the time I was a baby up until I was 19,” says Rivers.


Kids in front of the housing project where Rivers grew up. All photos via Extra.

But her hardships didn't stop there. Rivers was homeless for three years after she left foster care. This is an unfortunate reality for many kids who age out of the system. According to a recent NPR study, approximately 25% of former foster children become homeless after exiting foster care. The sudden absence in shelter and support also results in much higher incarceration and teen pregnancy rates.

And, not surprisingly, very few of these young people (6%) ever make it through college.

But Rivers was determined to flip the script on foster kid statistics.

She started by making education a priority.

Even though she says her high school was rated one of the worst in Los Angeles, she pushed through it and managed to graduate by 2011.

“I was extremely blessed and humbled to make it out of the environment, and be able to not allow those circumstances to define me," says Rivers.

And, thanks to the help of her mentor, Syd Stewart, she set herself up for a success in a career in the arts.

Stewart (left) and Rivers (right).

Stewart is a filmmaker and also the founder of Better Youth, a nonprofit that mentors disadvantaged youth like Rivers in media arts.

She showed Rivers her first film set over 10 years ago. “She introduced me to a whole new world that I never knew about," recalls Rivers.

Through Stewart's guidance, Rivers learned that she had not only compelling stories to tell, but a powerful voice to tell them with. Aside from her film work, Rivers is a spoken word artist who has performed all over the world.

However, she wanted to do more than just make art for the world. Following her mentor's example, Rivers decided to help others like her reach for their creative dreams too.

She co-founded the Real to Reel Global Youth Film Festival to help raise up the voices of underserved kids.

Rivers (center) with kids from the Real to Reel Film Festival.

Launched in October 2015, Real to Reel showcases films produced by youth ages 14 to 23 that shine a light on often overlooked social issues. The foster system is one of those issues — in 2017, Real to Reel's film offerings were all produced by current and former foster kids.

Rivers hopes the festival will help kids like her realize they deserve a place at the creative table. She wants to remind them that, with a little extra effort, anything they can dream up is achievable.

"You gotta put in the work, you gotta show up, you gotta believe in yourself, because if you don’t, nobody else will," says Rivers.

Rivers working on a film.

But, of course, you'll get further with people like Rivers and Stewart standing behind you. Few people know that better than Rivers, which is why she continues to give a little extra back whenever she can.

When she's not making movies, Stewart is a foster youth outreach liaison for the Spirit Awakening Foundation, which helps underserved youth find their spiritual identity through creativity. Clearly, she's made helping kids like her tell their stories a big part of her life's mission.

After all, her own story helped her realize her purpose. If she hadn't found a way to share it, she wouldn't be where she is today.

To learn more about Rivers and her festival, check out this video:

When You Give Extra, You Get Extra: Johna Rivers

After a mentor opened up a whole new world for this young filmmaker, she wants to do the same for others.

Posted by

Upworthy on Friday, April 20, 2018
All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less
Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

All hail the mocktail: Growing demand makes non-alcoholic socializing a lot more fun

Sober bars and events are growing in popularity with delicious, grown-up alternatives to alcohol.

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

Non-alcoholic drinks go way beyond club sodas and Shirley Temples.

For as long as there's been alcohol, there have been people who don't drink it. Some don't care for the taste, some don't like the buzz, some have religious prohibitions against it and some are recovering addicts who need to avoid it altogether.

Whatever reasons people have for not drinking, there's an unspoken attitude by some that they're missing out on a key part of social culture, especially when countless movies and TV shows portrays people winding down (or wooing one another) with wine and bonding over beers at bars. There's an air of camaraderie over sharing a cocktail or clinking champagne flutes together that's hard to capture with a basic Coke or sparkling water.

But what if you want that fun, social atmosphere without the alcohol? What if you want to go out and have fancy, alcohol-free drinks with your friends at night without being surrounded by drunk people? Where do you go for that?

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Touching video shows a new father joyfully singing while cradling his baby in the NICU

Seeing the baby raise his little hand moved the father to tears.

@fritojohnson89/TikTok

Little Remington listening to his father sing.

An incredible moment captured between a father and his newborn son has brought viewers to tears.

The viral video shows Daniel Johnson singing the worship song “Hallelujah Here Below” by Elevation Worship as he cradles his preemie son, Remington Hayze, in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Miraculously, as soon as Johnson begins singing a chorus of “hallelujahs,” Remington’s tiny hand raises as though he were carried away by the music. Seeing this, Johnson is instantly overcome with emotion and can’t finish the song.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Actress Julia Fox shares a tour of her cluttered NYC apartment, and it's a relatable mess

"Hopefully, somebody watches this and thinks, ‘Well, OK, maybe I’m not doing so bad.’”

@juliafox/TikTok

Julia Fox taking viewers on a tour of her apartment in New York.

To live in a perfectly curated, always tidy, Marie Kondo-worthy home might be a lovely fantasy. But for many, dare I say most of us, that is simply not a reality. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or helpful hands in the house to keep it from getting messy multiple times a week. Square that by a million if the home has small kiddos in it. And if there’s only one parent to clean up after those small kiddos? Forget about it.

That’s why people are letting out a huge sigh of relief after getting a video tour of Julia Fox’s New York apartment in all its glorious disarray.

The actress and model is often seen wearing bold, high-end fashion pieces at glamorous events like the Met Gala,

but her home is anything but glamorous.

Keep ReadingShow less