Their parents rejected them because they were LGBTQ, but she and her husband took them in.

"Others refer to it as a safe house, we call it home."

Deb and Steve Word's home in Memphis, Tennessee. Photos via Deb Word, used with permission.


Deb and Steve Word are observant Catholics whose house in Memphis, Tennessee, might look ordinary but is anything but.

Over the past six years, Deb and Steve have fostered over a dozen homeless LGBT kids in their home, most of whom had been rejected by their families.

Not in spite of their Catholic faith, but because of it.

Deb and Steve Word.

"[It was a] WWJD kind of thing," Deb told me via e-mail. "We really just welcomed hurting kids into our spare bedrooms."

According to an interview with CNN, Deb and Steve already knew their son was gay when he came out to them at age 23. When they asked him why he waited so long, he made it clear that, because of their faith, he was worried they would disapprove.

It was a wake-up call for the couple.

Deb holds up a sign reading: "I'm a mom and it's up to me to end LGBT youth homelessness."

"We are practicing Catholics, and outreach is something we have always done in some way or another," Deb wrote in her e-mail. "The truth that rejection seriously hurts our kids is not something the church wants to talk about."

"It is what I would want for my kids if they needed help and had no family to help them." — Deb Word

For Deb and Steve, it was crucial for the kids who lived with them to feel like their house was a home and that they were part of a loving, accepting family. The kids did chores and helped at mealtimes. Many continue to call Deb and Steve "Ma" and "Pop" to this day.

"[One] youth was with us when his mother died. He reconciled with her before she died, but he still carries a lot of baggage. He has moved away, but I hear from him every week, and he comes to visit when he's in town," Deb wrote. "Another of my boys was DADT'd out of the Navy [discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]. [His] mom didn't know he was coming home or that he was gay. He went thru a really rough period, but is doing great now and back in school with a plan for his future. One of the kids I see every week or so, [is] a trans man who is a great advocate!"

At times, Deb and Steve have struggled to reconcile their religious community and their mission.

"A group I volunteer for, Fortunate Families, is a Catholic group of parents of LGBT kids who help support other parents walk the journey," Deb wrote. "As a group, we were denied an exhibit space at a huge Catholic gathering, (World Meeting of Families) ... Some of the greatest harm to these kids has been done in the name of religion (not God, religion)."

A Fortunate Families booth.

Their work has led to some heartbreaking moments.

"We lost one of our kids a year after he left us. His funeral was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Deb explained, "Parents need to understand the harm that comes from rejection."

But despite the rough moments and heartache, to Deb and Steve, the choice to open their home was an obvious one. Though they have retired from taking in new kids, the couple is currently working with the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center to build a larger shelter for local LGBT kids who need housing and support.

"It is what I would want for my kids if they needed help and had no family to help them," Deb wrote.

And while fostering is a demanding, often complicated job, for Deb, the most important thing they've done for the kids they've helped raise is so simple, it can be summed up in two words:

"Loved them."

Deb Word with one of her foster children.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture