+
More

Can violence be prevented with kindness and compassion? This teacher says it's a start.

True
L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

Kaitlin Roig-Debellis had never felt more terrified than she did on December 14, 2012.

All photos courtesy of L'Oreal Paris.

At 9:30 a.m., she was leading her first-grade class in their morning meeting at Sandy Hook Elementary  when she heard gunshots. "There was not a moment of pause or hesitation," says Roig-Debellis. "I knew it was a weapon and I knew it was coming into our school."


Roig-Debellis herded all of her students into the classroom's minuscule bathroom.  She used a storage cabinet to barricade the door.  She recalls worrying that not all of the children would fit, and that she wouldn't be able to save all of the children that had been entrusted to her care.

"I felt absolutely helpless," she says.

Thankfully, Roig-Debellis's class was rescued by a SWAT team 45 minutes later. While she and her students were physically unharmed, many others at Sandy Hook were that day, and the event completely changed the teacher's outlook on life. It robbed her of the person she'd been before the tragedy.

"My sense of safety and security were gone," she says.

When she looked in the mirror in the weeks and months following the shooting, she couldn't find the intensely independent person she'd been. She'd become afraid of everything.

"I realized that wasn't a way to live," she says.

As an educator, Roig-Debellis knew what she had to do. In order to help herself and her students heal, she had to turn tragedy into a teachable moment.

After the shooting, people all around the world began sending the students and teachers of Sandy Hook letters and presents to show their support and offer condolences.  

The gifts, Roig-Debellis remembers, were an inspiration. They helped her realize how many people cared and how important it was to foster connections — not just in her own community but with the rest of the world.

Roig-Debellis is a staunch supporter of stricter gun laws, but she also recognizes that policy is only part of preventing violence. She believes that kindness and compassion are also essential to help ensure safety in schools and beyond. And she knows that helping kids understand that they're part of a global community is an important part of making that a reality.

So, a year after Sandy Hook, Roig-Debellis launched Classes4Classes — a non-profit that's bringing social-emotional learning to the forefront of the primary school curriculum.

Classes4Classes is a social network that allows classrooms all around the country to connect with each other and show off the work they've been doing — giving students a chance to see how students across the country are both like them and different.

More importantly, the network allows classrooms to support each other by giving gifts that improve students' ability to learn. Teachers post what they need on the site and other classrooms help raise awareness in order to inspire donors to help fund these gifts. Then, the class receiving the gifts pays it forward (or 4ward in Classes4Classes parlance) by raising awareness and funds for another school in need. The lesson? That we're all stronger together and kindness is a bond that's not easily broken.

"We try to inspire and encourage children that kindness is the right choice," Roig-Debellis says. "What you put out you get back."

For Roig-Debellis the success of her non-profit is a clear sign that she has to keep pushing forward, spreading her message of kindness and compassion throughout the world.

Since the site went live, Classes4Classes has helped raise thousands of dollars for schools nationwide. Roig-Debellis, who heads the organization, has also had great success. She's written a book, is a popular speaker and had been named a L'Oreal Paris Woman of Worth for her bravery and transformative work. The prestigious honor has been awarded to 10 women annually since 2005 who've demonstrated both a fierce passion and dedication to their community.

For the educator, though, what's most important is the impact she's had on children. Making the world a kinder, safer, more connected place is what gave her her life back. Teaching kids that they're worth it every single day is what keeps her going.  

"What happened on that day was so full of hate and, in my opinion, so full of loneliness," she says. "For me, connecting kids to care about one another is the greatest thing I can do."

To learn more about Kaitlin Roig-Debellis and Classes4Classes, check out the video below.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

Keep ReadingShow less

A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

Keep ReadingShow less

Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

Keep ReadingShow less