Yesterday, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz had what was probably one of the best days of her life.

The daughter of undocumented immigrants eagerly broke past security as Pope Francis rode by and was rewarded with a hug from the global religious leader. In that touching moment, she handed him a handwritten letter that outlined her plea for immigration reform.


Photo by Esra Kaymak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The heartwarming story of the little girl with a determined spirit and an important message made international news.

It was fitting lead-up to the pope's agenda today, which many thought would be far less warm and fuzzy: giving a historic speech to Congress.

In his speech this morning, Pope Francis covered a variety of issues, from climate change and poverty to the death penalty and, yes, immigration. If you listened closely throughout, you'd have heard quite a few things that are sure to have made little Sophie proud.

This one's for you, Sophie. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Here are five lines from Sophie's letter, paired with lines from the pope's speech to Congress, that make me wonder if the bold little girl had a hand in writing it:

Sophie: "I want to tell you that my heart is sad,"

Pope Francis: “I also want to dialogue with those young people who … face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults."

The pope began his remarks by listing the groups of people who were a priority for him to speak with and think of during his trip to the U.S.

High on that list were young people. He could have just addressed them in a generic, cliche way, as most people do when they speak of children, calling them "the future" or "hope for tomorrow." Instead, he made note of how many children are suffering the consequences of decisions made by adults.

He was speaking, of course, of the children whose hearts, like Sophie's, are sad.

Sophie: "I have a right to be happy."

Pope Francis: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Sound familiar? The pope quoted this line from the Declaration of Independence for a reason: a reminder to Congress that we have the unalienable right to pursue happiness here, the land of the American Dream. Sophie knows it too. What would happen if elected officials kept that in mind?

Sophie: "All immigrants just like my dad help feed this country."

Pope Francis: “I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day's work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and — one step at a time — to build a better life for their families. ... These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. "

The pope wasn't speaking exclusively about immigrants here, but he made clear that he was talking to the hardworking people in this country who aren't just taking care of themselves and their families.

He was talking to the many people who are taking care of our entire nation through their work and their concern for others.

And it sounds like Sophie's dad might be in that group.

Sophie: "They deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to live with respect."

Pope Francis: “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics."

Sophie sounded very clear on this point, and so did the pope: Everyone deserves basic human dignity.

But Pope Francis took it one step further and reminded Congress that their #1 priority should be to protect it. He not only believes that Sophie's parents and all humans deserve dignity — he's making clear whose job it is to ensure that they get it.

In other words, "I got you, Sophie."

Sophie: "My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color."

Pope Francis: "We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good."

Unity, solidarity, and oneness were repeated themes throughout the pope's remarks. He called politics an "expression of our compelling need to live as one" and spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work in the civil rights movement as one of four Americans who exemplified the type of leadership and moral courage we are desperately in need of today.

On this front, little Sophie employed some boldness that the pope (who notably made no reference to race, racial discord, or discrimination) did not. But maybe her edits on his draft got cut for time?



Pope Francis' speech and Sophie's letter are both wonderful reads, so make sure to check them out in their entirety.

While the 5-year-old may not have actually helped write the pope's remarks, it's clear that her letter yesterday went straight to his heart because today, in speaking to Congress and boldly encouraging them to help the vulnerable, welcome the stranger, and protect the American Dream, the pope did exactly what Sophie asked.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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This guy would have a hard time saying "french fry." Tragic.

Processed food gets a bad rap. But without it, we might have never been able to even say the word “food.” Or “friendly,” or “fun” or “velociraptor” for that matter. Why is that?

“F’s” and “v’s” belong to a group of sounds known as labiodentals. They happen when you raise your bottom lip to touch your top teeth and are used in more than half of today’s human language. But science suggests we didn’t always have this linguistic ability.

As hunter gatherers, our ancestors ate a diet that was minimally processed and required more effort to chew. As a result, by adolescence their teeth would develop what’s called an edge-to-edge bite, where the jaw is elongated so that both the bottom and top teeth are completely flush with one another.

Cue the Neolithic period, where widespread agriculture meant more soft foods like stew and bread and less laborious chewing. Over time, the slight overbite that most people are born with stayed preserved, because chewing was less of an arduous process.
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via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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