This town is tackling education, nutrition, and crime by growing fruits and veggies.
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Can you imagine fighting crime with fruits and vegetables?

Not with some sort of make-believe banana gun. I'm talking about the real thing here! It sounds a little out there, but believe it or not, the tactic worked for one particular Texas town.

And that's not the only thing that changed.


Over on the East Side of San Antonio, one nonprofit has been re-energizing the community with a back-to-basics approach: gardening.

Stephen Lucke started Gardopia Gardens while attending the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) as a way to educate his peers on the relationship between nutrition and poverty. He felt the best way to address those issues was through a community garden where everyone could get involved and grow amazing produce together.

Image via Gardopia Gardens, used with permission.

Today, the project that started out on a college campus has evolved into something much bigger. They now have their own location as well as gardens in five schools and one community center.

This is especially important when you consider the alarming produce situation in the area.

Image via Gardopia Gardens/YouTube.

"A large population lives in what we call ‘food deserts,’ and these are areas where healthy, fresh food, particularly produce, is unavailable," Jeff Crane, associate dean at the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at UIW, explains on their YouTube channel.

"So people in those communities are highly dependent on very salty, sugar-laden, high-fat processed food and, frankly, often don’t have access to a grocery store at all. So community gardening is a way to address that issue."

By providing an alternative, Gardopia Gardens can help instill the values of wellness that contribute to a more balanced lifestyle.

Even better, Gardopia Gardens has had a positive effect on one of the highest crime areas in San Antonio.

The intersection of Nolan and New Braunfels has a bit of a dangerous reputation. So Gardopia Gardens set up shop there and helped change that. In the three years since the first seed was planted, crime within a four-block radius dropped over 50%.

Lucke explains: "The reason that we're at that location is we’re doing CPTED, which is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and we partnered with the San Antonio Housing Authority and the Byrne Grant that they received from the Department of Justice to help reduce crime in the area."

Image via Gardopia Gardens, used with permission.

Essentially, by providing a beautiful oasis in a once-downtrodden part of town, they've made a significant dent in the crime rate. The theory of CPTED says you can influence a particular location by making changes to its design. The goal is to simply to reduce fear and improve the quality of life in the surrounding community.

Local resident Sabrina Garza told the San Antonio Express-News, "I would have never, ever taken my kids anywhere on the East Side to play [before], but now there’s that space and I feel safe."

The garden is also looking to the future by providing knowledge for today’s youth.

Image via Gardopia Gardens, used with permission.

"I came to understand that the garden could be interdisciplinary when it comes to academics," says Lucke. "You can teach English, reading, science, math. You can teach any subject and do it kinesthetically so that students can be hands-on learners and hopefully help them retain the information longer."

Take math, for example, a subject you wouldn't necessarily associate with gardening. Lucke explains: "A lot of times students can’t understand the concept of volume or why you use exponents when you’re putting in the units. But I help them understand that if I’m going to purchase soil, I need to know how many cubic yards or cubic feet of soil I need to order."

The best part is the students aren't missing a beat. Lucke makes sure to supplement what they're learning in class with his lessons in the garden so they all work hand in hand. Everything is based on the pacing guide of the school they're working at.

But the most important lesson that the garden is teaching might just be compassion.

After all, gardening can be done by almost anyone. But in this instance, it has the ability to empower a community and break down stereotypes.

"Gardening — not only is it interdisciplinary and intergenerational, but it’s also community-building," says Lucke. "When it’s in the garden, it’s nondiscriminatory. It’s an equalizer. Everybody is getting their hands dirty!"

Image via Gardopia Gardens, used with permission.

Despite their incredible success, they know there’s still work to be done.

Like the very plants they help grow, their community initiative needs constant care and attention if it’s going to blossom to its fullest potential. Yes, they have a lot of the basics in place. But their plans for the future would really take Gardopia Gardens to the next level: a full-on community center complete with a juice bar, outdoor gym, Wi-Fi, the works!

So if you're interested in supporting their awesome cause, they could use a little help moving toward their goals.

Whatever happens, no doubt the seeds of change have already been planted.

Image via Gardopia Gardens, used with permission.

Just imagine what the world would look like if more of these sprouted in our communities!

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."