When her Army unit was called to fight, this woman refused — and blazed a new trail.

When Aimee Allison was 14, her mother took her to see civil rights leader Jesse Jackson speak — and something changed in her.

Growing up black and biracial in a predominantly white community, Allison regularly experienced incidents of racism. And while she worked hard in school and wanted to someday attend college, it was hard to imagine herself as a leader. After all, she hadn't seen anyone in government who looked like her.

But listening to Jackson changed her whole idea of what her future could entail.


"It was the first time I heard an articulation of what was possible in our country's future by coming together across race," she says.

Image courtesy of Aimee Allison.

The experience inspired Allison to dream big: She wanted to become the first black female secretary of state. She dove into extracurricular activities to set herself up for success, and with each new challenge, she excelled. On her high school's speech and debate team, she did so well that she went on to compete at the national level. Eventually, she ran for student body president, and she won.

Then, when she was 17, she met a recruiter who convinced her that joining the Army Reserves and serving her country would bring her closer to achieving her dreams.

So she signed up and began her training — but it wasn't at all what she expected.

Image via Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller.

"I didn't start out as a person who wanted to pick up a gun," she explains.

The once passionate debater and leader quickly found the environment at odds with who she was. "In military training, there's two main things that you're taught," she says. "You follow orders, and you do not speak up."

So when her unit was called to fight in the first Gulf War, Allison felt the need to finally speak up. She didn't actually believe in going to war and knew her calling was elsewhere.

Image via Upworthy.

"There's an easy choice, which is to follow orders and say nothing," she says. "But my conscience, which is another way to say my heart, would not let me do it."

So instead of going to fight, she became a conscientious objector, which allowed her to be honorably discharged from the military so she was no longer expected to serve. It was a tough move to make, especially because her military training had told her not to question her orders. But she knew it was the right decision.

"Becoming a conscientious objector was my call to serving the country, to serving humanity," she says.

Image via Upworthy.

She learned in that moment that she had the ability to stand up for what she believes in.

"All of my work since my time as a teenager in the military has been to follow my heart, to do the thing that's right, and to be as courageous as I can," she says. "That's how I found who I was, and that's how I have been organizing my life ever since," she says.  

Remembering how powerful an experience it had been to see Jesse Jackson speak, she realized that she, too, could use her voice to engage her community in the political process.

Image via Upworthy.

Women of color are 20% of the U.S. population and yet only 4% of elected officials. And that's why Allison is speaking out to make sure people of color get more representation.

She's the president of Democracy in Color, an organization that mobilizes black and brown voters and supports progressive candidates of color in order to diversify the government.

Allison also hosts the Democracy in Color podcast, writes articles on women of color in government, and uses social media to engage potential voters in the issues that affect the lives of people of color.

While it's taken a lot of courage for her to follow her heart, Allison's journey is an important reminder that the right path is not always the easiest to take. Now, as a fierce advocate for her community, she's showing others that when the path is unclear, it's time to blaze a new trail.

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.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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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."