This man is a role model for incarcerated kids. Why? He used to be one of them.
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For kids who have grown up in low-income neighborhoods, it can be hard to see a way out.

Seeing the adults around them stuck in the same cycle of poverty, a lot of kids find it hard to believe that there’s any opportunity for them to be different — to be the ones who make it out and carve out a different way of life. The American Dream seems too elusive. Like it doesn’t apply to them.

Robert Clark was one of these kids.

After losing his mother at a young age, Robert turned to the wrong people for guidance. That, paired with the limited resources in his neighborhood, meant that he found himself going down a path that would almost guarantee continual incarceration. Or death.


Robert Clark. All images via Starbucks. Used with permission.

When he was released from prison at 21, he'd had enough. He wanted out of the life he was living. He cut ties with the people he’d been hanging around and tried to carve out a new life for himself. But it wasn’t until he ran into an old friend that he found direction. This friend told him about YouthBuild.

Check it out:

YouthBuild provides troubled youth a path to success with a program that gives back to the community by building affordable housing and offering continued education. A Starbucks original series.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, September 26, 2016

YouthBuild is a program that helps low-income kids, like Robert, who have dropped out of school to pursue their GED.

When they’re not studying, they’re building housing for the homeless and low-income families in their own neighborhoods.

"We discover that there is an enormous range of talent that is being locked out of society," said Dorothy Stoneman, founder of the program. "But if the young people are given an opportunity they will seize it."

It’s a two-fold approach. The kids working on bettering themselves while doing something for people who are, in many ways, worse off than they are or in circumstances they’ve experienced. It shows them the path forward while giving them the chance to help others move forward, too.

YouthBuild offers hope.  It offers structure. It offers expectations. And the kids rise to the occasion.

Today, Robert is the first YouthBuild graduate to found and lead a YouthBuild program.

He has a passion for helping others to see their way out of the lifestyle he once lived. He knows these kids. He gets them. And he’s committed to helping them.

Because he was once one of them.

"The early months of the YouthBuild program was a magical experience for me," said Robert. "It introduced me to a voice that I didn’t know I had. It was the greatest lesson for me about the power of love, opportunity, and expectation ... they expected that I would be something. And they loved me until I learned to love myself.”

YouthBuild is definitely about learning and building, but equally importantly, it's about community.

The kids who are served by the program need people to talk to who understand where they’ve been and can show them a new path forward. Someone to believe in them in order to see and believe in better for themselves. Someone to give them hope.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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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.