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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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

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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.

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A vintage post-card collector on Flickr who goes by the username Post Man has kindly allowed us to share his wonderful collection of vintage postcards and erotica from the turn of the century. This album is full of exquisite photographs from around the world of a variety of people dressed in beautiful clothing in exotic settings. In an era well before the internet, these photographs would be one of the only ways you could could see how people in other countries looked and dressed.

Take a look at PostMan's gallery of over 90 vintage postcards on Flickr.

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via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

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