+
upworthy
More

What happens after you lose a child? For this woman, her pain became her purpose.

True
Old Navy Cozy Socks

When Athena White lost her only child, the grief nearly consumed her.

The void left after her son’s passing was, at first, one filled with anger. "He was 25," she explains. "My son was my life. I was a lost soul."

Athena might have felt lost, but she also soon found kindness where she least expected it: at work. Her coworkers at Old Navy, recognizing her pain, quickly stepped in to support her.


"They could’ve easily said, 'I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, here’s some flowers,'" she says. Instead of empty condolences, they showed up in a big way. "They said, 'How much time do you need? What can we do?'"

And it wasn’t just the compassion of those around her that made an impact. It was their belief in Athena herself — in particular, their belief that she had a story worth telling.

Athena White in an Old Navy store. All images provided by Gap Inc.

It was that belief that led Athena’s district manager to offer her an opportunity that would change her life.

He saw her not as a lost soul, but as someone with real potential for leadership. That’s when he connected Athena to This Way Ahead, Old Navy's internship program that would allow her to transform her pain into purpose.

"I didn’t know at the time, but it’s definitely turned my life around, being part of [This Way Ahead]."

This Way Ahead is a paid internship program for young adults that offers career and skills training programs by partnering with nonprofits and connecting young adults with mentors like Athena.After 10 weeks, interns walk away with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace and, most importantly, the connection and care to realize their own self-worth.

It’s that connection that Athena says helped her cope with her grief.

"They’re looking for someone to listen to them; they’re looking for direction, someone that’s just there," she explains. "I lost my son, but I gained so many young adults in my life ... it makes me feel whole. It fills a void."

It’s a tradition of giving back, Athena says, that began with her mother and her son. "My mom was the biggest cheerleader I ever had," she says. And her son, too, had the biggest heart of anyone she knew.

"It’s grown into something bigger than myself," she explains. Mentoring youth helps her carry on the loving legacy left behind by her mother and son and, in turn, allows every youth she inspires to go on and make an impact too.

Athena White with former This Way Ahead intern, and now Old Navy Associate, Yazmeen Owens.

"My mission, in turn, is how do I pay it forward? How do I give back?"

For Athena, giving back isn’t just about giving these youth an internship. It’s about creating a connection that allows them to thrive.

"We’ve all made mistakes," she shares. She sees her role as one where she not only offers skills in the workplace, but gives the genuine support and care that many of the youth lack.

"Sometimes, these young kids, they don’t have the support. [They need] to know that there’s somebody that truly cares."

One intern that Athena remembers started out in the program as shy and withdrawn. At first, Athena wondered if she even wanted to be there.

"She wasn’t open to trusting," Athena explains. "I kept insisting, in my mind, there was something more to this young lady. My mission was to open her eyes and open her heart."

And with time, the two formed a special bond.

"She just started to warm up," Athena recalls. "Every time she’d see me, her eyes would just light up." And not only did she complete the program — she now works with Athena at Old Navy and is returning to school. "She’s a whole different person now," Athena raves.

And stories like hers aren’t uncommon — 74% of graduates from the This Way Ahead program receive job offers upon completion, with a retention rate twice that of their peers.

Yazmeen Owens and Athena White.

For youth in the program, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, This Way Ahead offers one opportunity that can transform the rest of their lives.

It’s an opportunity that Athena is honored to be a part of. "They were [all] seeking something more than a job," she explains.

For some, what they seek is real support and connection. For others, like one memorable alumni from Oakland, they’re looking for a shot at a brighter, better future.

"He had never been outside of Oakland," Athena shares. "Now he’s in college in Indiana. Whatever it takes, he’s going to be a doctor. He [just needed] to get out of the neighborhood."

And that's why, Athena says, programming like this needs direct support. "We have to keep the program alive," she explains.

And with the right support, not only will the program survive — it can thrive. Old Navy is in the process of expanding the program through a donation campaign on Black Friday 2017; for every $1 cozy sock purchased, Old Navy will match it with a donation to Boys & Girls Clubs, up to $1 million. These donations will expand their offerings to create more career opportunities for youth.

For a customer, it might seem like a small gesture. But it adds up. And for Athena and the youth she mentors, those small gestures mean a continued impact well into the future.

Thanks to the support she received in her darkest hour, Athena is now an unstoppable force for good in the lives of countless youth.

"Every year, I want more kids," she laughs.

When asked what she’s learned from her experiences as a mentor, she recalls the impact that one person can have on others. "Take a moment, give somebody your time, listen to somebody," she shares.

"You never know what you’re offering; you never know what someone is going to take from that conversation. Be mindful that people are listening, they are watching. You can change somebody’s life."

And for the kids mentored by Athena, with futures now brimming with possibility, there’s no greater lesson than that.

Education

12 books that people say are life-changing reads

Some books have the power to change how we see ourselves, the world, and each other.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Books are powerful.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Things new parents think they need but don't.

There's nothing like preparing for a new baby. The excitement and anticipation take hold and before you know what's happening, your baby registry is five pages long full of things you've probably never heard of. I've been there before, and now, four kids later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are tons of things you actually don't need. It's easy to get carried away when everything is so tiny and cute, especially 'cause marketing around baby stuff is bananas. The following offers some alternative items to the ones you'll likely only use a limited number of times before practicality takes over.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Terrified, emaciated dog comes to life as volunteer sits with him for human connection

He tries making himself so small in the kennel until he realizes he's safe.

Terrified dog transforms after human sits with him.

There's something about dogs that makes people just want to cuddle them. They have some of the sweetest faces with big curious eyes that make them almost look cartoonish at times. But not all dogs get humans that want to snuggle up with them on cold nights; some dogs are neglected or abandoned. That's where animal shelters come in, and they work diligently to take care of any medical needs and find these animals loving homes.

Volunteers are essential to animal shelters running effectively to fill in the gaps employees may not have time for. Rocky Kanaka has been volunteering to sit with dogs to provide comfort. Recently he uploaded a video of an extremely emaciated Vizsla mix that was doing his best to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the kennel.

Kanaka immediately wanted to help him adjust so he would feel comfortable enough to eat and eventually get adopted. The dog appeared scared of his new location and had actually rubbed his nose raw from anxiety, but everything changed when Kanaka came along.

Keep ReadingShow less
Internet

Man breaks down how living in an all-inclusive resort is cheaper than his average apartment

"I just might find myself on a beach somewhere sucking down cocktails and WHAT OF IT."

Representative Image from Canva

Are resorts the new retirement homes?

Don’t know if you heard, but the cost of living is pretty high these days. Prices for groceries, restaurants, gas, and other necessary items just to, you know, live in the world, reaching an all time high is already making what used to be a decent wage barely enough to get by.

And let’s not forget the biggest financial whammy of all: rent prices. According to Zillow, the average rent price in the US was $1,958 ( recorded in January 2024). That a whopping 29.4% price jump since pre-pandemic times. And of course, that not even taking larger, more expensive cities into account.


It’s enough to make you wonder: “Is it actually cheaper to just live in an all-inclusive resort at this point?”
Keep ReadingShow less
Family

People kept telling me to watch 'Bluey.' I still was not prepared.

Some adults say it's healing their inner child, but there's something in the popular Australian kids' show for everyone.

"Bluey" is popular with all ages, despite being aimed at kids.

I have a confession to make. I'm 48 years old, my youngest child is in high school and I can't stop watching "Bluey."

For the uninitiated, "Bluey" is a kids' cartoon from Australia aimed at 5 to 7-year-olds. It's been nearly a decade since my household has seen that demographic, so when people kept telling me I should watch "Bluey," my reaction was basically, "Yeah, I've already done my kiddie show time, thankyouverymuch."

Then my almost-15-year-old started watching it just to see what the fuss was about. And as I started tuning in, I saw why people love it so much. I figured it was going to be a wholesome show with some good lessons for kids, and it is.

But it's also laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

Video shows 80 years of subtle sexism in 2 minutes

Subtle, persistent sexism over a lifetime is like water torture.

via HuffPo

Condescending sexism is persistently cliché.

Subtle, condescending sexist remarks such as "When are you going to have children?" and "You'd be so pretty, if you tried" are heard by women on a daily basis. Like water torture, what's subtle and persistent can become debilitating over a lifetime.

Making things more difficult is the contradicting nature of many sexist clichés that women are subjected to starting in childhood, such as "Is that all you're going to eat?" and "You eat a lot for a girl." Then there are the big-time, nuclear bomb sexist remarks such as "Don't be a slut" and "What were you wearing that night?" that are still shockingly common as well.

Keep ReadingShow less