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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.

[rebelmouse-image 19398269 dam="1" original_size="1000x667" caption="All images via the Lower Eastside Girls Club." expand=1]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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Family

Two sisters ask their stepmom to adopt them with sweet memory book

"We were already calling her mom because it felt so natural."

Gabriella Ruvolo/TikTok

Gabriella and Julianna Ruvolo asked their stepmom to adopt them in a touching video.

Sisters Gabriella and Julianna Ruvolo know that they're extremely lucky. Their stepmom Becky Ruvolo has been there for them for most of their lives and it's clear that they're grateful to her for it. On May 9, Gabriella posted a video to TikTok to share the very special way the young women honored their stepmom for Mother's Day.

In the short clip, you can see Becky flanked by the two girls, flipping through a book. On the video are the words "After 12 years… we finally asked our step-mom to adopt us." As Becky goes through the pages, you can see her becoming increasingly more emotional before she gets to the last page. By then, all three of the women are crying.

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