Their neighborhood was in poor health. These amazing teens changed that.
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Dignity Health

In February 2018, a South Los Angeles community gathered to celebrate some local heroes: teenage agriculturists.

The event was the grand opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art greenhouse on the John C. Fremont High School campus.

This greenhouse is custom designed and optimized with the latest technology for plant growth and education. The vents are computerized. The blinds open and close by themselves, depending on the brightness of the sun.


This facility might sound like something you'd find in Beverly Hills. But it's in South L.A., which has the highest rates of poverty and lowest rates of health in Los Angeles County.

In other words, the place is unlike anything this area has seen before.

The community garden at Fremont High School. All images courtesy of UMMA Community Clinic.

That's why city officials, community organizations, and local residents came together for the grand opening. It symbolized the growth of a neighborhood that was severely lacking green spaces and is now being transformed through healthy food and community.

The greenhouse is the newest addition to Fremont Wellness Center and Garden, which opened in 2012 on an unused lot at the high school. The whole project includes a community clinic, community garden, and small park, and the neighborhood youth are spearheading its mission.

When it comes to resources, South L.A. students and their low-income neighborhoods are overlooked far too often — but not with Fremont Wellness Center and Garden.

It began as a vision for safe and open green spaces as well as quality health services for students and the surrounding neighborhood.

So the Fremont Wellness Center and Garden's creators started the Gardening Apprenticeship Program — or GAP — which teaches students about gardening, environmental science, and food justice.

GAP currently only works with 14 students at a time. But with the addition of the greenhouse, students can participate in a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) as well. About 60 students can take part in ROP, making an even greater impact on youth in the community.

The new greenhouse at Fremont Wellness Center and Garden.

For inner-city youth who would ordinarily have to travel to wealthier neighborhoods for safe, green spaces, this opens up exciting new possibilities.

They learn about the social issues affecting communities like theirs and how they are amplified by a lack of access to fresh food. They also learn how to grow their own organic food, which helps improve their community's health and wellness.

"They learn more about agriculture and learn more about the field and get the professional experience to hopefully, one day, go into this field," says Keshia Sexton, director of organizing at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

And exciting events, like the greenhouse grand opening, allow the students to showcase their hard work for the community.

"It was definitely a student program and a student celebration for this new state-of-the-art resource that's now on Fremont campus," Sexton says of the grand opening ceremony. Presentations included a Fremont High School drill team performance and speakers from L.A. Unified School District, with photographers present to capture it all.

Ribbon-cutting at the greenhouse grand opening ceremony.

The program has been transformative for the youth involved, and one special speaker, Tiani, a GAP student, demonstrated that transformation.

"[She] spoke about how the program impacted her and made her a stronger advocate and gave her the confidence she needs to really succeed," Sexton recalls.

And she is not the only participating student to feel this way. The students' experiences and knowledge provided a crucial perspective on food equity. Their recommendations helped shape the future of their communities as well as offering expertise gained through education and lived experience with fresh foods.

"It's a healing space, and it's a space for folks to enjoy nature," Sexton says. "But it's also a learning space and a civic engagement space, where people are getting activated in being part of the solution for addressing the food inequity."

Fremont High School students at the new greenhouse.

This program helps empower young people to be part of the solution, advocate for their communities' needs, and get healthy food growing in underserved neighborhoods that really need it. And their impact is already significant.

Their South L.A. neighbors now have new resources for healthier living within walking distance.

For example, the community clinic offers medical care for all ages at low to no cost, which will likely help improve overall health of the local population. The clinic is also hosting a free, biweekly farmers market open to the community. Healthy eating plays a critical role in preventative health care; nutritious foods can help prevent things like diabetes and high cholesterol.

The UMMA Community Clinic farmers market.

It's no wonder these students are so proud to show off their work. This is an incredible model that could inspire resources for healthy living in urban areas throughout the country.

In South L.A., Fremont High School students now get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. They're not only eating fresh food that they've grown themselves, but they're also realizing the impact that they can make on their community.

When imagining what it means to have green spaces in urban areas, most people might imagine a park or garden. But with a model like this, green spaces can be hubs of wellness, community, and education.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.