Who knew teaching a kid to code for a week would have such a huge impact on their grades?
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Let's face it: Technology rules everything around us.

GIF via "Terminator 2."


Chances are that you're probably reading this article on your laptop while simultaneously watching a video about marine iguanas on your tablet and squeezing in a game of Angry Birds on your smartphone to boot ... right?

But despite our almost complete dependence on technology in daily life, why haven't we really integrated technology into our schools' curriculums?

It probably has to do with how tech education programs are expensive.

Just ask the teachers of Englewood in Chicago.

Image via iStock.

Once a sprawling metropolis that housed Chicago's second-largest shopping district, Englewood has seen its poverty levels rise to a staggering 42% — well above the 15% national average — during the last 15 years. With that, population numbers have decreased, crime rates have increased (Englewood currently ranks in the top 10 most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago), and the number of high school graduates has dropped off, according to the Chicago Tribune.

It's safe to say the teachers in this area would agree that expensive tech programs might seem like a luxury when most of their students don't have the basics.

It's not great.

But what if cities like Englewood could afford to teach technology in schools?


Image via Project Tech Teens/Facebook, used with permission.

After all, teaching technology skills to kids could lead to better, higher-paying jobs for them in the future, which has the potential to lower crime rates and build a stronger economy.

It's worth a try.

Founded by Scott Steward and Glenn Pereira in 2013, Project Tech Teens is trying just that.

The uniquely ambitious program is designed to harness the untapped potential of teenagers from underserved communities, teaching them the art (and science ... mostly science) of things like coding, computer science, and computer engineering.

How exactly do they plan on doing this? Through apps, obviously.

"The idea behind Tech Teens is that we can create stronger critical thinking skills and more engagement in schooling using mobile app development as the caveat," Steward told Upworthy.

"Kids are addicted to these devices. ... So we decided that we needed to create a pipeline of young people who were engaged in technology and could start studying engineering and maybe go to college."


Image via Project Tech Teens/Facebook, used with permission.

Project Tech Teens currently offers a variety of programs for students of all ages in a few cities.

In the past couple of years, Project Tech Teens has expanded to over 500 students in schools across St. Louis, Houston, and Detroit. The programs include a one-week residential summer Tech Boot Camp and a more focused, six-week Saturday Hackathon aimed at finding the Steve Jobs of tomorrow.

At these seminars, students are often broken into teams and assigned with the task of thinking up, building, and eventually pitching their apps to potential investors "Shark Tank"-style.


Thankfully, Kevin O'Leary is not actually included. GIF via "Shark Tank."

The results so far have been astounding.

Last year, Project Tech Teens students designed a Guess That Lyric app that challenges users' musical knowledge and a Food Is Life app that helps children learn food groups. Both of these apps and several more were presented as part of a joint program between Project Tech Teens and Teamwork Englewood and were met with incredible acclaim by local community members.

Plus, inside the schools themselves, members of Project Tech Teens are seeing their test scores rise an average of 40%.

"To have students go from this no-tech or low-tech delivery model, where we take this complex understanding of this foreign language and make it really, really digestible, it opens the door for all kinds of learning," Steward said. "Not only can students produce these really cool apps, but they're also coming in now and saying, 'Look at my grades.'"

This is the first step in linking the insanely profitable computer science industry to struggling schools.

Image via Scott Steward of Project Tech Teens, used with permission.

At just $140 for the initial course (which includes a free lunch each day, a free t-shirt, and, oh yeah, a free laptop among other things), Project Tech Teens is redefining "relevant education" in neighborhoods that arguably need this redefinition the most. In doing so, they're providing future leaders with the fundamentals to build a better world around them.

"We're trying to help students make better decisions, be stronger critical thinkers, see the connection between what they do and how it affects their life, and then see the possibilities," Steward said. "We want the students to say 'What if?' and see this as an opportunity to create sustainable, generational wealth for themselves and their families."

Programs like Project Tech Teens are an awesome example of inclusivity and forward-thinking.

They provide not only the short-term benefits of bringing kids off the street and providing them with a safe place to learn, but teach them a valuable skill that could benefit their communities years down the road. We need more of these.

Without the tech-savvy teens of today, who else will be able to lead us to victory in the inevitable cybernetic wars of tomorrow?

Certainly not this guy. GIF via "Terminator 2."

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.