These girls are achieving things they never thought they could thanks to this NYC club.
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Maybelline New York Beauty & Beyond

Manhattan’s Lower East Side today doesn’t look anything like it did just a few decades ago.

The '60s and '70s were an especially chaotic time with residents leaving in droves. Disinvestment in the area was devastating for the community — an impact that would be felt for decades.

Many of the social services agencies that the community relied on also began shutting their doors not long after the mass exodus. This meant that the Lower East Side — specifically the eastern edges of the community, which still has some of the highest rates of poverty in the city — was struggling.


Some agencies did manage to stay open over the years. Among them was the Boys Club of New York (which had two different facilities); it offered a safe haven for boys, especially those hit hardest by the economic crises of the time. But local girls were left without a support system.

All images via the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

“There were no services in the neighborhood ... [and] no spaces for girls to attend after school,” explains Valerie Polanco, senior development partner at the girls club.

In 1996, a group of mothers, activists, and artists decided to do something about it.

First, they filled a shopping cart with art supplies and started pushing it around the neighborhood.

Without a center of their own and having only a miniscule budget, volunteers ran programs out of schools, church basements, community rooms, and other borrowed spaces — their cart filled with supplies in tow.

From there, they moved into a physical center in 2013, which they named the Lower Eastside Girls Club. It gave girls the services and space — including after-school programs, career and educational services, and wellness activities — they so badly needed.

Today, the Lower Eastside Girls Club offers over 50 programs a week to middle-school and high-school girls, including STEM programs. They also have a planetarium and an art studio.

“We want to give girls the tools now so that when they leave here they have a sense of the direction that they want to go in,” Polanco explains.

In addition to educational programs, the club offers field trips and mentorship opportunities, including from companies like Maybelline, to help girls get on the path to the careers of their dreams.

Many of the girls served by the club grew up in the shelter system, came from immigrant families, or have lived in poverty. These are girls who so often slip through the cracks. However, with access to tools like those available at the club, they can imagine a brighter future.

The club also offers a safe space that many of the girls wouldn't have otherwise.

“If you’re in the shelter system, you don’t know where you’re going to end up or where you’re going to be next year,” Polanco says.

“[The club] is consistency in their lives. If they move somewhere else, we’re always going to be here, and we’re always going to be a place they can come back to.”

The impact is undeniable. Girls who joined the club have gone on to do incredible things.

One girl, Aicha — whose family emigrated from Guinea — filmed her own documentary in which she highlights the seriousness of female genital mutilation in her country of origin. And another girl, Amerique, has taken an interest in music production and is now a part of the club's new record label, having recently released a song written by an 11-year-old girl.

These are just a few examples of the extraordinary things girls can do when given the resources and mentorship they need.

“We want this to be a space for them to grow, a place for them to dream, and a place for them to reach their full potential,” Polanco says.

It’s not easy being a teenage girl today. But for girls facing the most difficult of circumstances, a safe, nurturing space can change the course of their lives.

It takes a village to push back against a culture that conditions girls to believe they aren’t good enough. But with places like the Lower Eastside Girls Club offering resources and mentorship, many more girls will have what they need to make their dreams a reality.

For working class and immigrant communities on the Lower East Side, where girls once had nowhere to go, that safe space can be the difference between being trapped in the cycle of poverty or escaping it.

When they’re given a real chance to achieve their dreams, their futures are limitless. Whether they want to be a documentary filmmaker, a scientist, a chef, or an artist, the Lower Eastside Girls Club can offer them that first step in the right direction.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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