This educator didn't punish troublesome kids. She gave them a closet full of stuff.
True
First Book

This time last year, the top three most misbehaved boys at Equetta Jones’ elementary school were from the same family.

As assistant principal, it fell to Jones to figure out how to solve the problem. Other educators might prescribe detentions, suspensions, extra tutoring help, or even a doctor’s appointment to be evaluated for an attention-deficit issue. But Jones sensed that the problem ran deeper — and she had a solution.

“No child comes in every day and says 'I want to be angry. I want to hit you. I want to curse you out. I don’t want to learn,'” she says. “So it is our responsibility to find out why they’re verbalizing those things.”


Photo courtesy of Equetta Jones/Highlands Elementary School, used with permission.

Often, the problem is the same: Many kids are not having their basic health, shelter, and nutritional needs met. “The middle class, we forget about the fact that when we wake up every morning, we wake up with shelter,” Jones says.

Not all of her students have that luxury.

That’s why Jones’ school worked with an organization called First Book to install a “Care Closet” — a supply of basic essentials for kids in need.

First Book, which supplies books and educational tools for kids in low-income communities, started offering living essentials when they heard from teachers that they're just as important when it comes to helping kids do well in school.

With the Care Closet in place, Jones can give kids what they need and establish a sense of security so they can focus on school.

Photo courtesy of Equetta Jones/Highlands Elementary School, used with permission.

Her students are no longer worried about whether or not their basic needs are being met. "Their focus is now on coming in and being the best student they can be.”

The Care Closet project gives kids what they need to succeed. But they’re not handouts — they’re hand-ups.

Jones has a system in place to make sure the supplies make the greatest possible impact on the lives of the students.

Parents can come and ask for help, or if teachers notice that a child has an issue, they can discreetly let Jones know and she’ll take the child aside and get them what they need.

Photo courtesy of Equetta Jones/Highlands Elementary School, used with permission.

“I will give them the care package, let them go to the bathroom, clean themselves up, give them a fresh pair of clothes, fold up the dirty clothes, and then send them back home and call up the parents and let them know what I did,” she says. The whole process is discreet; Jones even bought department store-style shopping bags to keep their contents private.

Once the kids have what they need, that’s when the real work begins. When Jones calls children’s parents, there’s an understanding: Though the Care Closet doesn’t cost money, it doesn’t come for free.

“You need to give Ms. Jones back some time,” she says. Parents are asked to come into school and be engaged — either through volunteering or through coaching sessions that help the parents deal with some of the pressing problems in their families' lives.

“We feel that the information we’re giving is going to not only help them as a parent but also help the child within the classroom.

Photo courtesy of First Book, used with permission.

Jones’ method has already created big changes for some of the families at her school.

The three boys who were at the top of the disciplinary chart last year? They’re thriving now — thanks to Jones’ care closet intervention.

She found out that the boys’ mother was in an unhealthy relationship that was having a toxic effect on the whole family. “But she was afraid to leave because then the children wouldn’t have anything,” she says.

Photo courtesy of First Book, used with permission.

So Jones brought her in for a conversation.

"I connected her with some outside resources, gave her a scripted plan of what we expected of her,” she says. “And then we said, ‘Mom, follow through with us and we’ll do everything we can to support you.’” That was in September.

“Now it’s November, and Mom just recently moved into her own place,” Jones says. “She meets with me regularly for coaching sessions, we helped her write a resume, and she now has a job at one of our elementary schools.”

Now that their basic needs are being met, the three boys can concentrate on being successful kids. “They’re starting to smile,” she says. “They’re proud of who they’re becoming."

Photo courtesy of First Book, used with permission.

First Book continues to expand the Care Closet project across the country.

When kids have a caring presence like Jones and the resources they need, they have an opportunity to succeed.

“Unfortunately, if we don't catch those signs in advance, we’re faced with some of the situations that some of my older students are faced with,” she says. When their basic needs aren’t met, kids become desperate.

"It’s never, 'I plan to grow up and be this criminal,'" she says. "It’s 'I was faced with a situation and I found out this was a way for me to get things I couldn’t get.'"

That’s why Jones is so adamant about making sure her students have a solid foundation to further their education.

“All of their needs are being met here,” she says. And now that they have established that stability, “They know that their job is to go and learn.”

For more, take a look at how First Book's Care Closets are changing schools across the country:

Millions of children from low-income areas don’t have the tools needed to learn, placing them at a disadvantage that perpetuates poverty. First Book is a community that believes education is the way out of poverty for kids in need.

President Biden/Twitter, Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter

In a year when the U.S. saw the largest protest movement in history in support of Black lives, when people of color have experienced disproportionate outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic, and when Black voters showed up in droves to flip two Senate seats in Georgia, Joe Biden entered the White House with a mandate to address the issue of racial equity in a meaningful way.

Not that it took any of those things to make racial issues in America real. White supremacy has undergirded laws, policies, and practices throughout our nation's history, and the ongoing impacts of that history are seen and felt widely by various racial and ethnic groups in America in various ways.

Today, President Biden spoke to these issues in straightforward language before signing four executive actions that aim to:

- promote fair housing policies to redress historical racial discrimination in federal housing and lending

- address criminal justice, starting by ending federal contracts with for-profit prisons

- strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Native American tribes and Alaskan natives

- combat xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less
via TikTok

Menstrual taboos are as old as time and found across cultures. They've been used to separate women from men physically — menstrual huts are still a thing — and socially, by creating the perception that a natural bodily function is a sign of weakness.

Even in today's world women are deemed unfit for positions of power because some men actually believe they won't be able to handle stressful situations while mensurating.

"Menstruation is an opening for attack: a mark of shame, a sign of weakness, an argument to keep women out of positions of power,' Colin Schultz writes in Popular Science.

Keep Reading Show less