Independence Day is an important day in the United States.

In 1776, the Continental Congress declared the 13 American colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire and would be recognized as a new nation — thus asserting independence from British rule. This action led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution over a decade later.

But for years, the rights our independent nation promised only applied to certain people.

Black Americans, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and many other communities didn't get to experience the same freedoms. Instead, to varying degrees, they experienced persecution.


With the passage of several Constitutional amendments — such as those that granted black Americans citizenship, women the right to vote, etc. — the U.S. made steps toward equality for all. But, progress is an ongoing journey. While our nation has improved in many ways, black and Latino citizens still experience disproportionate rates of poverty; gun violence has decimated communities of color, schoolrooms, and churches; and LGBTQ citizens still face high rates of discrimination.

Thankfully, Americans are a fighting bunch. Citizens across the country continue to raise their voices for the rights of all Americans. Here are six organizations fighting tirelessly to ensure that rights to freedom and justice truly do apply to all citizens:

1. RAICES

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

RAICES is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrants. The Texas-based organization has been doing great work to support immigrants since 1986, and they're now the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. After a Facebook fundraiser for the organization went viral and amassed more than $13 million, RAICES has been able to increase its ability to help separated families locate one another. Their dedication to reuniting families and ensuring that immigrants are afforded the human rights they deserve serves as a true example of fighting for liberty and justice for all. You can support RAICES here.

2. Color of Change

Photo courtesy of Color of Change. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

Color of Change is one of the largest racial justice organizations in the U.S. Operating online, it strives to make the government and large corporations more knowledgeable about how to create safe and equitable environments for black Americans. Striving to ensure black Americans enjoy the same freedoms afforded to them by the Constitution, the organization continues to successfully fight for economic, criminal, and media justice as well as be an amplified power and voice for people of color. You can support Color of Change here.

3. Easterseals

Photo courtesy of Easterseals. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

Americans living with disabilities have made huge strides thanks to organizations like Easterseals leading the way. Easterseals works to provide support to citizens with various disabilities. Their work contributes to a growing mission to ensure that all Americans enjoy accessible spaces and the same freedoms and respect. You can support Easterseals here.

4. Planned Parenthood

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive health services, such as mammograms, birth control, and reproductive and sexual health care, to millions of women around the world. Recently, the organization has been under increased attack from the far right and Christian extremists. In spite of threats from the current administration to decrease funding and growing discrimination, citizens and celebrities have banded together to keep the vital organization flourishing and able to provide health care and services. You can support Planned Parenthood here.

5. Lambda Legal

Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

LGBTQ Americans certainly weren't mentioned in text when the Founding Fathers were imagining what a free nation for all would look like. Lambda Legal has spent years fighting for equal rights and safer environments for LGBTQ people and queer expression. But, in light of recent rollbacks to policy in place to protect queer citizens, that work is really just beginning.

Lambda Legal communications director Jonathan Adams writes, "We have seen in their continued attacks on heath care an issue of grave concern to millions of Americans today. We the people — all of us — must stand together at this time to protect our shared rights and freedoms." Adams highlights how the current administration is "actively working to divide us by attacking children, immigrants, people of color, trans and queer individuals, Muslims, and other groups they seek to marginalize. Their continued focus on polarizing us is taking a toll on the fundamentals of this great nation, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Lambda Legal's efforts to fight for queer citizens is more important than ever, and it is near the truth of our county's declared ideology. You can support Lambda Legal here.

6. Everytown for Gun Safety

Photo courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety. Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas.

Founded in 2014, Everytown for Gun Safety combined two orgs — Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — with a shared goal for comprehensive gun safety laws. "In order for all Americans to feel and be free, it's imperative that we feel safe to be who we are in our communities — whether that's in a place of worship, at a concert or at school or a college campus," wrote Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.

Watts continued, "We must do everything in our power  to make our communities safer and that means doing more to protect marginalized communities from gun violence. ... The fight for gun violence prevention is also a fight for equality." You can support Everytown for Gun Safety here.

The promise of America — that freedom and justice exists for all — is a beautiful example of how democracy should work. But that promise can become meaningless if we fail to ensure that those freedoms extend to everyone for a safe and equitable society. These six organizations — and many more — are doing the work to make sure that the sentiments our country was founded on extend to all citizens.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

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That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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