There are so many challenges in the world, especially for children and teenagers facing new challenges today. Unified Caring Association (UCA) has many caring tools and resources to help parents and teens during these tough times. We recently got a note from our friends at HeartMath that there is an upcoming online event to help teenagers. We are brimming with excitement to share an awesome free telesummit gear towards helping teenagers.
The best opportunities and guidance for teens to succeed.
One core question that this summit is trying to answer is, “Why do some parents feel challenged in guiding their teens to success?” Today many teens face challenges such as pressures from school, bullying, body image, and social media. Unfortunately, these challenges can lead to issues such as anxiety or depression. Teenagers need caring tools to help build resiliency. With a good foundation in caring tools and techniques, teens can reach their highest potential, and have an easier time bouncing back from adversity. The goal for the Keen for Teens telesummit is tolearn how to best guide your teen to lead happy and healthy lives. A key speaker is HeartMaths’s Director of Education, Jeff Goelitz. He will be speaking on March 18, 2020. His goal is to share strategies to help teens deal with self‑management, stress, and how to prepare and cope with challenging events successfully.
Unified Caring Association (UCA) has scholarship opportunities for U.S. students each year. Each submission that arrives brings excitement and smiles. We are so happy to read about these caring students who share their ideas for a better world. Some of these essays share life stories that reflect how these caring ambassadors help bring more caring into the world. Recently, we began celebrating the various themes that surfaced in essays submitted by students across the U.S. Our first theme was equality. Next we want to thank and cheer those who wrote about social media and anti bullying. We are happy to share some of the essays. These essays have caring quotes that reflect the theme of social media and preventing bullying.
“My grandfather is an 80-year-old, Jewish, politically conservative man living in rural Maine who spends his time watching and reading the news. And because he is constantly consuming alarming news about murder and crime, he has become scared and closed-minded. It has made him into a person that makes judgments about people of color, is fearful of immigrants, and comments on the “inner cities crumbling into poverty and crime.”
I live over 2,000 miles away in an urban neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. In my daily life, I am surrounded by people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, immigration status and perspectives—but with the same frightening news. The contrast between my grandfather’s views and mine has made me recognize the impact that sensationalized media has on its viewers. If I could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, I would change the way the media represents people and current events.
Sensationalized media makes the world seem dangerous by disproportionately portraying negative and violent events more often than positive news. When we are bombarded with that kind of information, it closes our minds and makes us fearful of each other. It is easy to get wrapped up in sensationalized information from the news. When we see more violence than kind acts, we begin to think the world is more aggressive than caring. We become isolated and fearful of people different than us, causing us to become less empathetic, less compassionate, and less caring.
I believe that if the news, as well as other media like Facebook and Twitter, showed a less sensationalized, more accurate view of people and world events, we would become more caring and compassionate towards one another. External forces pull us apart, but they can also bring us together. I would change media reporting to report crime with simple facts, not opinion or hyped up information. I would make it so media talked about crime in a proportional rate to the actual rate of crime. We see more bad than good on the media, but there is more good than bad in real life. I would also want to add a segment to all news channels of positive news about people each day. I know that many news channels have something like this, but it is often irrelevant or uninteresting. Finally, I would want to make social media a less divisive platform by creating pages for open conversation and positive news.
People work tirelessly all over the world to make powerful, progressive, and positive change. I want to create media that includes information about people from Korea to Sudan to Mexico working hard to positively impact communities. I believe that if the news had these new elements, people would be more curious about each other, open towards one another and more hopeful about humanity in general. People could connect over similarities, not just differences. Sensationalized news creates division and fear, but approaching media differently could have the opposite effect. To make the world a more caring place, I would create media that brings us together, portrays the good side of humanity as well as the areas that need improvement. News can become a powerful tool to make the world a more caring place.”
“To make the world a more caring place, the first thing that I would change is disabling the “anonymous” feature on news sites, web forums, and social media. Anonymity is a dangerous game to play because it makes people immediately more ruthless, which then leads to a toxic online environment. Forcing people to put their names on their posts would immediately change the quality of material that was getting posted.
With the continuation of advancements in technology, paper news sources are almost totally obsolete. As a result of this advancement, websites are getting saturated with comments, many of which are tactless and inconsiderate. This effect is amplified by the rise of “anonymous” commenters – it’s as if by taking someone’s identity out of the public eye, they are given permission to tear down others since nobody can tear them down in return. Reading the comments on a news site is like watching vultures circle and subsequently attack an innocent animal. As soon as somebody sees a comment they disagree with, their claws are out and they have no shame in tearing somebody else down.
Social media does nothing but exacerbate this effect. In allowing the public to share their opinions without having to put a name to what they say, platforms are allowing some true colors to shine, which, in a lot of cases, is not a good thing. Racist, homophobic, and bigoted opinions are running rampant over the media. Cyberbullying is on the rise and, as a result of that, suicide. When people are given the opportunity to be anonymous, sometimes good things can happen. But when so many opinions are swirling around, it’s hard to not get sucked in or take things personally.
By removing the publics’ ability to be anonymous, we would force everybody to own up to their opinions and have them face consequences for the things they say that impact other peoples’ lives. Free speech is important, but not so much that it can destroy somebody to the point that they take their own life. Anonymity is toxic. The public can have opinions, but if they choose to share it, their name should forever be stamped on it. The world needs to see people for who they are, not what they post. In-person interactions are never going to be the same as an interaction in the comments section of a YouTube video, so why wouldn’t we change the parameters of the comments section to reflect how people would interact in real life? Human contact is fundamental to our health, but if we are constantly ripped apart on social media because somebody decided to go anonymous, where is that contact that we needed?
Making the world a more caring place requires a lot more changes than this one. But I think that disabling online anonymity would be a start, because it would change the interactions that happen on the Internet, which is where a lot of us spend a good chunk of our time. Society can be good, but we have to make the change that allows them to do good and be seen.”
“My legs took small strides as I walked towards the lunch table. As I scanned the large cafeteria, I couldn’t help but notice the people already sitting down. Every one of them were on their phones. It wasn’t like there was no one for them to talk to. Their friends were sitting right in front of them, but there was no communication. What has the world come to? There are people that could provide the same entertainment, company, and joy, as their phone but instead, everyone chooses to divert all of their attention to a small rectangular device. If I could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, I would have people put their phones down and experience the world by interacting with others.
The average teenager spends about 9 hours a day online. Phones and social media have taken over societal bodies as if everyone is now under its trance. The first thing some do is wake up and check their phones. Everyone is guilty of this, even myself. Instead of going straight to our phones, we should make an effort to go straight to our parents and say the simple phrase “good morning.” Talking and spending time with family and friends would ensure family connections to become greater and friendships to become stronger. In one of my personal experiences, dedicating time to see my grandpa has been more important than ever. He has been restricted to his bed for about 10 months now, and with school, there is little time during the weekdays and sometimes weekends for me to see him. My mom has resorted to FaceTime, but the physical connection becomes absent. When I do get to see him, I try remaining off of my cell phone to treasure the time around him. Spending time with him made me realize that family bonding is important, and with the use of cell phones, this restricts the development of a strong bond. Talking to them, or just the holding of hands, is a symbol of care that we just can’t achieve over technology.
Looking at the world through phones is extremely different from a set of eyes. Instead of being fixated on a screen for hours on end, we can make meaningful impacts on others’ lives. Take for example, volunteering at a food bank. We can meet new people and experience the feeling of giving and making a difference in someone’s life. Personally, when I first entered the food bank, I didn’t expect to be impacted or make much of a difference. I was only there to complete the volunteer hours needed, but after going through the motions of what the workers do for a living, I loved the feeling of being able to help distribute essential needs to families in need. Seeing the dozens of families outside waiting for their weekly grocery earnings, I realized how blind I’ve been to the situations in our world that I didn’t experience or see personally. With the constant use of technology, people no longer see what surrounds them.
Putting our phones down allows us to experience the world. Our phones are like our barriers to interacting with others in a meaningful way. Breaking down this barrier is tough but essential for a more caring world.”
These amazing students bring joy and kindness to the world! We are happy and proud to be able to help support them and their continuing education. We have more themes than social media and anti bullying. Other themes that we will be blogging about are awareness and empathy. We look forward to sharing more themes and essays with our caring community. Thank you to all of our scholarship applicants, you truly are caring ambassadors!
Unified Caring Association (UCA) offers scholarship opportunities throughout the year. Each scholarship essay submission that comes to us during our contests fills us with joy. There are so many caring students who share their ideas for a better world. Or how they have helped others in the past, even sharing their life stories. These stories have shaped them into caring ambassadors that go out into communities and spread kindness to all they meet. There seem to always be themes that pop up when we read the essays submitted. One strong theme that we found is that of equality. Below are some pearls of wisdom and caring essays that reflect the theme of equality.
Jennifer Watt has a fantastic pearl of wisdom. Equality between others is not just one part of creating a more caring world. Sometimes equality isn’t the only thing. She goes beyond equality to promote helping others who are struggling.
“If I could change the world to make it a more caring place, I would change how everyone, especially children are educated about diversity. I believe that if we started educating kids at a younger age about accepting diversity, and continue to educate them through the rest of their lives, we could make people more comfortable with themselves, as well as others and change a lot of the problems people suffer with now, especially bullying. I know that this would not end all problems in the world, but I also know that children are our future and if they were raised to believe that there is nothing wrong with being different, they would be less likely to be uncomfortable with differences. They would also be more accepting of themselves and know that it is okay if they are different.
I know how important this is. I was born with a birth defect called symbrachydactyly, which means that I have three fingers on my left hand. Ever since I was little I have always loved my hand. In preschool, I showed it off for show and tell because I thought it was so cool. At that time in my life, I didn’t really care about other people’s comments or how they treated me, but as I have grown older it has become a little harder to brush them off. However, I was raised with the knowledge that I look different, but I am still beautiful. That knowledge has helped me remain confident in myself throughout my entire life.
I think giving people more education and allowing them to become more comfortable with diversity would really change how we see each other. That is the best way I have found to get people comfortable around my hand is by educating them about it but at the same time making them more comfortable. Whenever people notice and ask me what happened to my hand I usually make up an exaggerated story. Something so unbelievable that they, usually, realize that I’m joking. Then they relax and become visibly more comfortable. After that, we can talk pretty freely, and they feel comfortable asking me questions. That’s what I want for the world, for people to feel comfortable to discuss and accept someone else’s differences.
When we accept each other’s differences we can make a major impact on the world. We become kinder and more understanding. With this attitude, we could end bullying because no difference would be seen as bad. Everyone would be accepting and there would be no need to make fun of someone because they were different, because in the end everyone is different and thus we would accept each other.
I believe that educating others about diversity would impact how we see ourselves and our differences and could help increase our self-esteem. It could also impact how we treat other people when they are different from us. We could also stop bullying. If we learn to accept other people’s differences we could change the world and make it a more caring place.”
“If I could change one thing to make the world a more caring place, I would choose to make our society more accepting. This would allow us to have more open minds, leading us to be more caring individuals, and thus making the world a more caring place.
During my Junior year in high school, my school experienced an issue with a group of students yelling insensitive, racist, and homophobic slanders at our opponents during a… basketball game. A local newspaper wrote articles about the incident, and it led us to a discussion about our schools’ character and tolerance of others. As a community, we responded to the situation by focusing on healing and encouraging tolerance, notably for people that may be different than us. As a part of my school’s Athletic Leadership Council, I worked with the Dean of Discipline/Vice Principal and the Athletic Director to help remedy those students’ actions. The school administration reprimanded the students, taught us about acceptance, and encouraged many discussions, but most importantly, they showed us another point of view besides our own. My school handled the event very well, but this experience also opened my eyes to a much bigger issue: a lack of acceptance for differences. And this lack of acceptance does not only exist in small bubbles like my high school – it is very prominent across the United States, and even throughout the world.
People tend to fixate on and criticize what separates them. Because of this, they often get caught up in those differences and cannot recognize that arguing about such differences creates a more hostile world. For example, in today’s political climate, differences between political parties prevent people from having an open mind, especially regarding controversial topics like gun control, abortion rights, and the climate crisis. Two people from opposite ends of the political spectrum will not try to empathize with the other’s perspective, which can lead to rude, ignorant, and obscene misunderstandings of those differences. And, often times, people will immediately seek to label those around them as “ally” or “enemy,” further creating an uncaring world in which people are divided. Rather than seeing differences as an impossible obstacle to overcome, we should praise, accept, and celebrate our differences, because differences are what makes us all unique and drives the world forward.
Teaching acceptance would help foster a more caring world. In order to do this, we must first encourage empathy. If we do not take a moment to step back and consider another point of view, we will not be able to understand (and therefore accept) someone for who they are. Parents, teachers, and other role models can encourage empathy by teaching children from a young age the importance of listening to and caring for another person’s feelings. Although empathy can become harder to practice as children grow up and life becomes more complicated, they will have a solid empathetic foundation that they can always refer back to. And, as a result, these empathetic, accepting adults can help to teach the next generation the same caring nature, continuing to make the world a more caring place in doing so.
Teaching one another about our differences and having empathy for each other would help ensure that there will be less misunderstandings and less negative feelings towards each other. Having these empathetic learning experiences – not arguments – is the first step to creating acceptance, and an even bigger step to creating a more caring world.”
What an amazing group of students! We are happy and proud to be able to help support them and their continuing education. Equality is just one theme these caring students wrote about. There are many other themes other than equality that we will be blogging about, such as stopping bullying and empathy. We look forward to sharing more with our caring community. Thank you to all of our scholarship applicants, you truly are caring ambassadors!
Each day, sometimes twice a day, children line up at the school cafeteria. They eagerly chat about which meal they are going to order; the burger, french toast, or fruit salad all sound good! Once they get to the cashier, the mood quickly changes. It becomes embarrassment and horror as they are labeled with debt when the register flashed with a negative balance. To add to this, the meal that excites them is taken away. It is replaced with a simple sandwich made from two pieces of white bread and a slice of American cheese. This bullying happens more often than not, and is a little known issue in the United States. Without a doubt this bullying due to lack of funding is unacceptable, and breaks our hearts at Unified Caring Association (UCA). We would like to raise awareness about this form of bullying.
What is school lunch debt shaming?
“Lunch Shaming” refers to identifying and placing a stigma on a student who does not have money to buy a school meal. This is often referring to children in K-12th grade, who get their breakfast or lunch at school. “While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) narrowly applies this overt identification to students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, in practice legal lunch shaming occurs against students whose family income exceeds free or reduced lunch eligibility thresholds.” (American Bar Association) Lunch debt shaming’s purpose is to embarrass a student and subsequently their parent(s) so that the debt is paid quickly, making it so that the school has less financial burden. Both students who do not qualify for free school meals through the National School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program but qualify for reduced-price school meals $0.30/day (breakfast) and $0.40/day (lunch) or those that do not qualify for subsidised meal programs can accrue lunch debt.
It comes in many forms…
Think about the memes where people take pictures of their pets with signs shaming them for what they did wong, such as chewing up all the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Or, like this one below:
Now apply this tactic to an elementary school kid. Their hand now has a stamp stating “Not Enough Money.” Less funny? We would agree.
Other stories that can be found in the news include throwing the child’s meal away after it had been served if they cannot pay. It appears that some schools even offer different meals to the children who have school lunch debt, such as PBJ’s instead of the hot meal. Or, there have been reports of schools barring the kids with lunch debt from participating in afterschool activities. Or threatening the kids with other actions such as placing them in foster care. These unacceptable actions vary because there is no set baselines for unpaid meal fees in the meal programs’ policies for the school districts by The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How can we solve it?
There are so many ways that we can help solve the issue of school lunch debt. Jeffery Lew gives a great summary on how we can be more proactive in the short and long term in eliminating lunch debt shaming. Lew suggests being active in raising funds through crowdfunding, such as Go Fund Me, to help those in immediate need. Other ways are by the schools notifying the parents of the student meal accounts. This can be done by paper notifications sent home with the kids, or by email. Some schools can even set up automatic notifications to the parents’ mobile devices.
Overall, Lew sums it up when he comments how kids and debt should not be in the same sentence. And bullying children to get a message to the parents is unacceptable. With a supportive, inclusive, and caring community we can help remove lunch shaming debt from schools, we can further focus on growing caring children.