What do at-risk teens do with $1,000? Turns out they help each other.
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State Farm

When Heather Campbell-Lieberman first applied to teach at Lakota East High School in Ohio, she had one request:

She needed the school to let her students give away a thousand dollars.

In her previous teaching position, Campbell-Lieberman had incorporated the values of Magnified Giving into her curriculum. The Ohio-based organization inspires and engages students around philanthropy by offering them a $1,000 grant to give away to the charity of their choice. Alumni of the program have even gone on to work in the Ohio State House.


But each school only gets one grant per year, which means the students have to work together to decide the best way to spend it. That's where the education part comes in.

Butler County, Ohio, where Lakota East High School is located. Photo by S&Mj Adventures.

The celebrated stories of student philanthropy typically come from private schools and honor roll programs. But the students at Lakota East don't fit into those categories.

Cambell-Lieberman was hired to teach a course called English & Connections, which she describes as a kind of applied hybrid of life skills and writing, reading, and storytelling that caters to at-risk students — those who come from low-income or undersupported families or who struggle with disabilities or other marginalized identities. (Other Magnified Giving programs have engaged students with autism as well.)

"Many of the population in my classes are students who are typically served by nonprofits, so it's a whole different mindset for them to get in a place to be on the giving end," she explains. "You get to kind of turn it around and say 'You have something to give,' whether that's your time, your talent, or your treasure."

Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

Magnified Giving allows Campbell-Lieberman's students to apply lessons from English and life skills in one project.

Each student in Campbell-Lieberman's three class sections spends four months working on a research paper about a charity of their choice. Then they pitch their case in a class presentation. In order to succeed, students need to explore things like overhead costs, operating budgets, volunteer arrangements, and more: Where is this money going, and what's it being used for?

Students vote on the best presentation in each class, and representatives from the three winning organizations are then invited to an assembly to speak directly to the students and explain why, exactly, their charity deserves the funds.

"Whether or not their agency is selected by the classes, the students are informing their peers about the power and impact of that agency. So they take a lot away from that opportunity," Campbell-Lieberman says. "It's something personal they can research and ultimately have an impact on."

A student activity involving empathy for people with disabilities. Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

The most remarkable part? The students almost always end up picking projects that have directly helped their fellow students.

A lot of Campbell-Lieberman's students spend their time at the local teen community center, and technically, they could put that thousand dollars toward a renovated basketball court or a cutting-edge computer lab for everyone to enjoy — you know, something fun and enjoyable and still technically nonprofit.

But that's not what happens, Campbell-Lieberman says. "Almost always, the students have ultimately selected a charity that one of the students has benefitted from."

She lists a cascade of examples: a student who pitched a homeless shelter at the local Ronald McDonald House, without telling the class they had lived there themselves; cancer charities that bonded the class through shared tragedy; mental health care initiatives; and this past year, a nearby support center for victims of domestic violence.

Campbell-Lieberman goes on to explain that, "The at-risk population sometimes has more experience with these things, and so it's a highly personal connection for them, and a huge shift to be able to give back to agencies that have impacted their lives in a significant way."

Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

The takeaway is clear: Teens really do care about their communities. They just need a chance to make an impact.

That's why, after eight years of success with Magnified Giving, Campbell-Lieberman is stepping out of the classroom and into the role of a teaching coach, helping other educators launch these kinds of interdisciplinary philanthropy curriculums in their own schools and communities.

"I think the real issue in creating new philanthropists is for people to understand that everyone can contribute to the betterment of their community and their society, and you don't have to be wealthy and you don't have to have money in your pocket to make that happen," she says.

"The more we can do that and connect with kids who would not volunteer for the philanthropy club, would not be in national honor society, the more difference we can make."

Interested in Magnified Giving? Learn more (or consider making a donation).

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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