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First Book

Last year, librarian Rajeeni Galloway met a student that others had already deemed a lost cause.

This student's record was riddled with suspensions, and her grades had suffered so much that she could no longer keep up. She was failing.

Galloway knew all too well what was at risk if the student didn’t get help. She decided to step in.


Luckily, Galloway specializes in helping struggling kids, not just with their current classes, but also to identify and fill in the gaps from their earlier education. "Those early skills are so integral," she says. They can also be much harder to teach kids later in life.

Through intense work and mentoring, the student started to improve. Before long, she began to excel.

"Now she’s on the honor roll," Galloway says. In fact, she’ll be graduating this year — a full year ahead of schedule.

Galloway works hard to get her kids the resources they need to succeed. Photo courtesy of Rajeeni Galloway, used with permission.

This student was lucky. Many others don’t have access to this kind of help and support.

And, unlike Galloway’s students, their futures can be a lot bleaker.

Without the proper help, students’ educational struggles continue. They start to fail classes. Their frustrations build and they begin to act out. They get into trouble both in and out of school.

Ultimately, many kids who struggle drop out — and it only gets worse from there. Once a student fails academically, it often leads to failures throughout the rest of their life.

High school dropouts are three and a half times more likely to be arrested and eight times more likely to get jailed than people who get their degree. Young women who drop out of high school are nine times more likely to be or become single mothers. Dropouts are also more likely to end up on some sort of government assistance.

Galloway leads a class in the library. Photo by Washington Teacher's Union.

How do we prevent high school dropouts? Teach kids to read.

Early literacy in particular is important in keeping kids engaged in school through graduation, Galloway says.

That’s because kids who struggle with reading will struggle with concepts in every other subject, and by the time they’ve reached high school, their academic struggles have become a compound problem: one that started with reading but has now branched out to include every subject they encounter.

But with more than half of U.S. public school students coming from low-income families, many kids don’t have access to the tools they need in order to learn how to read in the first place.

Vast "book deserts," or low-income communities without bookstores or libraries, can mean that kids have literally no way to get their hands on a book — much less one that’s the right reading level for them. In some families, parents are too busy working to keep food on the table to read to their kids at night. Low-income kids simply don’t have what they need to start reading early.

Galloway's students love to read. Photo courtesy of Rajeeni Galloway, used with permission.

That’s why Galloway’s district works with First Book to make sure that kids are supported throughout their literacy journey.

To combat book deserts, First Book provides brand new books and resources at low or no cost to educators serving kids in need, so that income is never the reason a child doesn't have access to books.

Galloway’s school also provides resources for parents to provide academic nurturing at home. "We have parent workshops where parents come in, especially in elementary school, and we show parents different strategies to support students at home," she says.

In addition, First Book reports significant progress in increasing kids' interest in reading by making sure they provide not just any books, but books that are diverse and relevant, that speak to kids of all ages, and that help kids see the positivity reading can bring into their lives. When children can read, they can tap into their potential — no matter their circumstances.

Increasing access to books could be the first step to solving a lot of our nation’s most pressing social problems.

Most kids who don’t learn to read come from low-income backgrounds, and, as Galloway’s teaching experience shows, those who never learn to read are at risk of remaining stuck in that cycle of poverty.

By increasing access to books and reading resources at a young age, organizations like First Book could be helping solve not just the literacy issue, but also issues like income inequality, incarceration, welfare dependency, and more, which are deeply connected to early literacy and education.

So next time you see a kid with a book, know that it’s not just for fun. Sometimes, it’s for survival.

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.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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Connections Academy

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

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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.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

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Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

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