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

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less