These girls are using their love of science to bridge international borders.
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XQ

Every day, hundreds of kids in Mexico wake up extra early to cross the border and attend school in the U.S.

It's an unusual commute with border traffic, security checks, and metal detectors all before your first class, but parents jump at the opportunity to have their kids educated in the United States. And for the most part, the schools are happy to have them.

The border in El Paso, Texas. All images via XQ Super School Project.


It's no secret that many of these kids face serious disadvantages in school. There are language barriers and discrimination to deal with on top of the fact that many of the children come from impoverished communities.

Additionally, the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico threatens to tear some of these communities in half and leave kids further behind.

El Paso, Texas, is a city that shares a deep relationship with its twin city — Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

The teachers in El Paso welcome Mexican students as their own and recognize that giving them the best education possible isn't just the right thing to do, it's essential to building a better world.

"It's really important for people to understand that Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, we are one community," says Liza Montelongo, executive director of the El Paso STEM Foundation. "Yes, we have a river that divides us, and yes, we are two countries, but ultimately if we are depriving one part of our community, then we are doing a disservice to all of us."

To help bring their community together, one school in El Paso decided to form a group that takes aim at another issue.  

Women entering careers in science, technology, engineering, and math face a multitude of barriers. There are large systemic biases like the gender pay gap as well as smaller, more personal impediments.

For example, young girls who do well in STEM classes are often teased, and their potential interest in the subjects isn't cultivated as much as it might be for a young boy.

That's where the "Chicas" come in.

XQ Rethink High School: El Paso

They may live in different countries, but they tackle science projects together as classmates.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Chicas are a badass group of girls who are bridging international borders with their love for science.

They work together building robots, programing computers, and cultivating their love for STEM.

"As girls get older, sometimes it's not cool to be smart," Montelongo says. "So our goal is to try and say, you know what, it's OK to be a nerd."

Not only are the Chicas helping to close the gender gap in STEM, they're creating leaders in a marginalized community.

People in STEM are the leaders and innovators of the future. They're the ones who can use their talents and out-of-the-box thinking to solve the biggest problems facing the world — and research shows that when STEM fields are diversified, they produce better ideas.

For the twin cities of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, the Chicas provide an opportunity to come together and celebrate a common passion.

"It doesn't matter if you live on the north side of the river or you live on the south side," Montelongo says. "We need to be able to give them some type of opportunity to be able to have their dream."

It's a simple idea — bringing marginalized students together to celebrate science — but anyone who loves STEM knows that simple ideas can change the world.

Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."