This program is turning struggling students into leaders by having them teach.

Reading out loud is terrifying for many students.

I’ll never forget the heart palpitations I had in grade school while counting the students and realizing I'd have to read in front of them soon.

Reading to myself was great. But transferring school districts early in my education left me with little understanding of how phonics worked. The fear of struggling to sound out (and even spell) words aloud became the source of my academic nightmares.


Even as an adult, phonics still terrifies me.

And my harrowing experience with reading is all too common. The most recent data on American students reveal that 65% of fourth graders and 64% of eighth-grade students are less than proficient readers, so likely they're dealing with the same struggles I did.

It's a big part of why Reach — a nonprofit in Washington D.C. — is helping high school students become better readers by teaching elementary school students how to read.

Through it’s after-school tutoring program, older D.C. students are given the chance to engage with younger students by helping them with reading and other classwork assignments.

Amazingly, many of the tutors read at a fourth to six-grade level when they enter the program — but by the end, a lot end up like De’Asia who's now an AP student, a published author, tutor, and an aspiring journalist.

Reach’s founder Mark Hecker, a former social worker, began the organization in 2009. He believes that the program it unique because it gives youth, especially youth of color, the chance to be seen as valuable community assets.

"We trust teens to be responsible for things that they care about. And often, that makes education real in a way that the classroom doesn't always," Hecker told NPR.

Allowing these students to serve in such an important role provides an opportunity to rise to the challenge. It’s a sharp contrast to the traditional “dumb it down” curriculum resources that are given to struggling students.

Many participants, like graduating senior Mikala Tardy, stay in the program throughout high school because it had such a positive effect on them.

In general, American students are severely behind when it comes to reading proficiency. Programs like Reach’s that allow them to grow while teaching are invaluable.

With two-thirds of D.C. students below the reading level they should be at when they start high school, they test even lower than the national public-school average.

Reach believes that the responsibility associated with being a role model is a motivator to improve literacy. And, of course, allowing tutors to serve in a mentor-like capacity leads to positive outcomes for the students they tutor, as well. The program highlights the importance of a strength-based approach to solving problems. The staff also fervently believes that every student is capable of growth, and that level of support is a vital part of their success.

Currently, the program has 200 students who have helped 200 other students across 17 sites. During their sessions, both student teacher and student mutually benefit from what Reach considers the five core literacy principles: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.

The results speak for themselves — recently, Reach received the 2015 Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation.

But Reach does much more than helps students boost their reading scores — it fosters relationships that change their lives forever.

In addition to the tutoring, Reach offers summer leadership academy, college prep resources, and even gives teens the chance to be published authors through a partnership with Shout Mouse Press.

As our Department of Education threatens to cut billions of dollars in funding from public schools, programs like Reach remind us that at-risk youth, particularly students of color, need these resources to overcome the structures that have put them at a disadvantage.

But more importantly, Reach highlights the strength and potential in each student. It not only shows the public that struggling students can succeed given the right tools, it's also letting those same students know they have what it takes to achieve anything they put their minds to.

You can read more about Reach’s educational efforts on their website

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture