This 2-time U.S. poet laureate wants your help telling an amazing story.

Art can provide hope, community and a sense of purpose.

Illustration by Juana Medina via The Library of Congress

As the son of migrant farmers, Juan Felipe Herrera leaned on that hope as his family struggled to make a living. Constantly chasing the seasons through the unforgiving desert, scalding sun, and suffocating heat, the Herrera family found themselves living in trailers and tents more times than not. This life taught Herrera the value of hard work, and now he's made giving hope, community, and a sense of purpose through his words and his new job.  


Herrera is a second-term U.S. poet laureate and the first Latino to ever receive the honor.  

Photo by The Press-Enterprise via AP.

He has penned 30 books of poetry, novels, and collections. A small sampling of his highlights include "Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems," which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award. He's been recognized by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the (still-alive) National Endowment for the Arts.

And he wants your help.

Currently, he is writing an illustrated book with the help of all second- and third-graders around the country in order to promote literacy, creativity, and diversity in our all-of-a-sudden tenuous educational system.

Illustration by Juana Medina via Library of Congress.

"The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon" is an illustrated book Herrera is writing and artist Juana Medina is illustrating.

In his words: "Hello! I’m Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate. Welcome to 'The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon,' a bilingual, illustrated poem created with the help of artist Juana Medina ... and you. Teachers and librarians, get your second and third grade students 'neonized' and help us tell Catalina’s story to the world!"

What makes this such a special project is that direct input from grade-school children are shaping the story in real time. The first three chapters have come out, and the book has been crafted with help from kids from Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, and Massachusetts.

Illustration via Juana Medina via Library of Congress.

What happens next? That's up to you.

Each month, Herrera posts the book so far in visual and audio form and provides a prompt for the upcoming chapter. The February 2017 prompt reads, "Write an enchanted poem — with some Spanish words — that will change the fate of Catalina, her parents, and Tortilla."

Illustration vis Juana Medina via Library of Congress.

But why undertake a challenge like this? "It's always been about reaching as many people as possible, and putting writing on the table of as many families and schools as possible," Herrera told the Dallas Observer last year. "I write for different audiences which could be young adults, toddlers, adults, experimental poets or performance poets. I do all these things because I love writing and because I love people, and not just one group, but all groups."

The timing for fighting for literacy, creativity, and diversity couldn't be better.

With our educational system on an apparent collision course, people like Herrera are part of the solution and the optimism that we can rely on in these times. We don't know how this current administration and its appointees' stories will end, but we can dive into the fictional world of Catalina Neon and, with the help of our children, hopefully find a happy ending for her adventure.

If you're a second- or third-grader: Thank you for reading Upworthy! If you or someone you know would like to contribute to the next installment, submit your ideas here.

Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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