December 31, 2013

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: L.A. Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year

Happy New Year! What an amazing whirlwind it has been for us here at Go Inspire Go this year. How exciting is it that we've been getting more story ideas, producing more and creating more inspiring stories that spark action!

Every year, instead of making resolutions, I prefer to do two simple things.

First, count my blessings. It may be easier to write them down so you can physically see them. When you do this, you then realize how abundant your life is, no matter the circumstances.

Here's my list:

1. Most importantly my breath: We all have this to be thankful for
2. Connections to people new and old - this is what we all need to be happy
3. Health, started Crossfit and feeling fit inside and out
4. Community, all of my 90+ volunteers who spend countless hours to bring you this content, my heart is full! Thank you.
5. Simple everyday things: food, shelter, my comfy bed, warm laundry fresh out of the dryer, the faith that I am experiencing exactly what I'm supposed to be going through and am in the perfect place in my life (even though there are challenges, pain and growth) and loved ones who care for me, cry with me and laugh with me. (OK, that's more than five -- but there are so many things to be grateful for!)

I dare you to make a list and check it twice mid-year to see what has blossomed.

Second, time to take action and do one kind thing for someone else!

We all can do one thing TODAY to make someone else's life better. Yes, YOU have the power to make a difference both big and small.

Last year, my Go Inspire Go team and I had a crazy idea that has manifested ten-fold. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our second hero to you.

This New Year, please count your blessings and do one kind act. Here's a story that will motivate and inspire you!

Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year 

Who: Tony Tolbert, UCLA Lecturer & Attorney
What: Offered Homeless Woman and her four children home for one year
Where: Los Angeles
Why: Inspired by Tony's Father and Family in Atlanta

The Catalyst

Many people we know do not believe or know how they can make a difference. "I don't have time" or "I don't have money” are common statements.

It’s refreshing to meet people who seek ways to make a difference. People like Tony Tolbert, a UCLA lecturer and attorney in Los Angeles. Tony read an article that inspired him to think, "What can I do?" and decided to loan his house to a homeless family for one year.

Tony says the seed of generosity was planted early on by his late father, James Tolbert, who always welcomed people (who weren't friends) to stay in their home. "I don't remember a time when there wasn't someone in need, staying in our home."  Tony says the story of Kevin and Hannah Salwen of Atlanta sparked action. The Salwens sold their 6,500 square foot house, downsized to a house half its size, and donated more than $800,000 from the proceeds. They wrote a book and named their project "The Power of Half."

“It struck a chord, a visceral emotion," Tony explained. He posed the same challenge to himself that we ask at the end of all of our Go Inspire Go videos and blogs: "What can YOU do?"

Tony's response will inspire you to ask yourself this question and take action.

 The Act

Tony decided to give his home - no strings attached, to someone in need for a dollar a month. At age 51, Tony moved back with his mom and gave up his home to a homeless woman and her four children for a full year. "I thought he was out of his right mind," Tony's mom Marie said emphatically.

The lucky recipient, Felicia Dukes, a single mother of four, couldn't believe that a stranger could be so generous. Her youngest daughter was one when they were living on the streets. Dukes explained that she fell behind on her bills when she gave birth to her daughter. She turned to Alexandria House, a transitional shelter, but her eldest son, Kima, was unable to live with them because of an age limit. Tony felt Felicia and her family were a great fit because they could live together in his home.

He offered the fully furnished three-bedroom, two-bath home in southwest Los Angeles. “Let this be home for a year," Tony said. "It’s yours do what you want, decorate it, enjoy your space.”

Tony says this experiment in generosity taught him many life lessons. See how Tony’s gesture taught him and Felicia the real meaning of "home."

The Ripples

Stories of giving are infectious and so are the ripple effects. Both Tony and Felicia grew personally and spiritually from this experience. We are excited that Felicia is ready mentally and fiscally to move forward. When people heard about Tony's kind act, they also asked themselves, “What can I do?”

Here are just a few ripples that continue to billow out:
- Felicia and her family have moved out of Tony's home are now living in an apartment on their own.
- Personal performance coach Orlando Bishop with Align Performance voluntarily meets with Felicia to help her identify and achieve her personal and professional goals.
- A dentist learned about this story and donates dental services to Felicia and her family.
- Charysse Tia Harper, with Xplore the World, was inspired to create a documentary on Tony's story. Her crew followed Dukes and her family around for a year.

 Tony says he will give his home to another homeless family in 2014. He hopes his story will inspire you too. “Most of us want to contribute to something beyond ourselves. Sometimes it requires a reminder that the way we treat people and what we do in the world actually matters,” Tony said.

He hopes even more people will be inspired to give what they can this new year.

"You don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference." Tony explained. "We all have something to give to make a contribution to someone else's life. What we do does matter."

Yes, YOU matter. YOU can make a difference. The first step is doing something. All big ripples start from a single action. What can YOU do in 2014 to better the world? We hope this story hit home in your heart. We want to hear about it in the comments section.

Meanwhile, we leave you with this quote from the late Nelson Mandela: "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

What can YOU do?!

Take Action
1. Learn more about Alexandria House and support its great work in helping women and children move from a transitional shelter into permanent housing.
2. Consider what you can contribute (time, skills, resources) that might make a difference in someone else's life.
3. Give or share something (little or big) with someone today.

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For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
Join us & Go Inspire Go…

December 20, 2013

Community Heroes Adopt a Family Holiday Initiative

By Kala Shah

As a mother of three, I try my best to maintain perspective around the holidays and not lose track of what they’re really all about. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the year-end hustle and bustle — last-minute gift buying, parties, parking hassles, travel logistics and yes, inevitably STRESS.

I feel so fortunate to have the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes club to remind me to be present and keep focused on the important stuff — gratitude for family, friends and taking care of those who need a hand. I started the club at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif., back in the fall of 2012 along with Toan Lam of Go Inspire Go to provide a platform for kids in my community to foster compassion and act to give back locally. Oh my, what a wonderful ride it’s been ever since!

For our holiday initiative, we teamed up with Adopt a Family of Marin, a great local organization that helps stabilize struggling families in Marin County, Calif., going through difficult circumstances. AAF provides essential safety-net services to these families — short-term financial assistance for housing, food vouchers, counseling. Around the holidays, they match families with those in the community who want to help ease their burden.

Santa's minivan ready to deliver to Adopt a Family. (Photo by Kala Shah)
The Community Heroes kids were so excited to adopt two families: the Abundants and the Angelics (names changed). Dulce Abundant wears many hats. As a hard-working mom of a 3-year-old daughter, Bella Danielle, she holds down a full-time job AND is a full-time student. Needless to say, the Abundants live on a very tight budget. Dulce is making her way toward a brighter future, waiting for the day she graduates and is able to provide a better life for her daughter.

Abrenna Angelic, mom to energetic twin 2-year old boys (bless her heart, I remember those days!), recently lost her job and is waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in. She had no idea how she was going to pay her rent, much less get winter coats for herself or her sons. Being accepted into AAF’s holiday program has given Abrenna hope that she’ll make it through this rough period in her life and even have a merry Christmas with her boys.

The Community Heroes kids really want to know these families’ stories and understand what they’re experiencing. They care so much! We’ve talked about how these are real people, living in our very own town, and how we can all go through tough times and need a hand. My heart swelled when one of the kids said with conviction, “That could be ME. It could be any of us.” Yes, this forum is working! It’s not about us and them. We’re ALL human beings who need to look out for each other — especially when times are tough.

Coach Chad and the Community Hero elves hard at work. (Photo by Kala Shah)
I shared the Abundants’ and Angelics’ wish lists with the school community and WOW!!! What an overwhelming response! Every time I checked the collection bin, it was filled to the brim with everything from household essentials like detergent, lotion and pots and pans to warm and fuzzy coats, hats and mittens, new clothes for the moms and some great toys for the three little toddlers. Way to open your hearts and your wallets, Sun Valley families! You have shown once again what an amazingly generous and kind-hearted community in which I am blessed to live.

The day of our end-of-semester party, the kids burst into the multi-purpose room, so ready to wrap presents and make cards for these families!. Many didn’t even want to eat lunch (I made them do so, anyway). The Ho-Ho-Ho paper and bows were soon flying — such a happy buzz in the air! Our awesome principal Julie Harris walked in, took a deep breath and summed it up. “WOW, this is amazing!” she said.

More kids than ever before showed up — at least 70 kids gave up their lunchtime to be a part of this happy celebration. We talked again about these families and how lucky we are to be able to help and how we will continue to help others throughout the year. Thanks to the great parents who showed up to pitch in as well as our beloved physical education coach Chad, we had all these presents wrapped and ready to deliver in our Santa minivan!

Happily, the Abundant and Angelic families will have gifts under their Christmas trees! (Photo by Kala Shah)
The Community Heroes club has been going gangbusters for a year and a half now. We’re getting bigger and gaining traction as more kids participate and more parents help out. I’m thrilled and honored to report that we’ve just received a LinkedIn for Good Social Innovation grant to replicate and scale the Community Heroes program! Watch out world, very soon our Community Heroes are gonna be making the world a much better place near YOU!

This stuff is contagious, I tell ya! It’s clear there’s a hunger these young kids have to give back. Just imagine the impact these kids will be making by the time they’re in high school. I’m so proud to be able to shepherd these wonderful students and to grow along with them. I can’t wait for all the great things to come in the new year. Happy Holidays and many blessings to you and yours!

Interested in starting your own Community Heroes club? --Stay tuned for a curriculum and tool kit to get one started in your school! Thanks again, LinkedIn for Social Good! --Check out these videos for inspiration about the power kids have to start movements in their communities: Matthew Kaplan and the Be O.N.E Anti-Bullying Project and 5-year-old Phoebe Russell’s super-sized canned food drive.

November 19, 2013

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: The Be ONE Project

What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. Thank you to everyone who supported and blessed this project. If you're interested in being part of our mission to uncover everyday heroes, reach out: -- we'd love to hear from you.

The Be ONE Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan
What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools
Where: Phoenix
Why: It's cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

When Matthew Kaplan's kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. "One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken," Matthew said. "He started to withdraw and wasn't himself anymore."

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like "you suck". What made things worse -- he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible," Josh said. "I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be ONE (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that "the damage" is done by that age. "It's been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school -- that's when they're figuring out their sense of self," Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. "What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. "What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be ONE Project is a "positive peer pressure" program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There's joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: "When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____."

“The Be ONE” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and "Be One" to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action -- you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples (Updated Oct. 2015):

  • Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program. The Be ONE Project is now being piloted at a local high school, where 20 high school students are being trained to be Be ONE Presenters.

  • Awarded a 2014 Peace First Prize, a two-year, $25,000 fellowship that recognizes youth peacemakers.

  • A commercial about Be ONE has been on the Disney Channel as part of their Make Your Mark Campaign.

  • Radio Disney Music Awards presented The Be ONE Project with an award in 2014 as Radio Disney's Friends for Change Teen Hero.

  • Invited to the 2014 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader Summit, a week-long workshop in New York City whose participants are selected based on their extraordinary work on humanitarian issues

  • 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipient, given to Jewish teens who demonstrate exceptional leadership

  • Featured as part of a promotion for the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

  • True Hero Grantee, which awards grants to community service projects

  • Matthew is currently a student at Duke University. He was awarded the Robertson Scholarship: a full ride scholarship that includes tuition, room and board and three summer experiences and a semester abroad. Robertson Scholars are chosen based on their leadership and the commitment to social change. Matthew is also working to bring The Be ONE Project to North Carolina schools.

    Nothing brings me more joy than inspiring people to be better and do better. Spreading compassion and action is the biggest reward for me and all the heroes I meet. I spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

    "If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it and delete it and say something nice." -Sam, 14, 8th grader

    "A group of 6th graders that didn't go through the program, they're like the popular kids, now they're bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways." -Kayla, 11, 6th grader

    "I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new friends this way." -Anonymous

    Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

    - For more info. on ripples: The Be One Projects Awards and Recognition Page

    What can YOU do?!

    Take Action:

    1. Support The Be ONE Project
    2. Be the ONE to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school:
    3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

    # # #

    For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

    Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
    Join us & Go Inspire Go…
  • November 14, 2013

    50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey

    What started out as a crazy idea is about to become a reality. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our first hero to you next week. But read on, and we'll give you a sneak peek.

    The seed of this journey was planted five years ago with a gut feeling. You know, that nagging feeling that you should've, would've or could've done something to solve a problem that you’ve observed in your community?

    While reporting for a San Francisco TV news station, that pang continuously nudged me and I responded by creating stories that inspired people to action. The idea was so audacious, ambitious and effervescent.

    Change is scary. How would I pay bills, bridge the professional gap in my resume and explain to others?

    Fast forward five years later… I made the leap and started Go Inspire Go, which keeps growing and going.

    We've produced more than 60 videos, more than 90 people or "GIGSTERS" globally have contributed to sharing stories of heroes and impact. Through our life-changing stories of viewers who discovered their power to help those we've featured. Collectively, my team and I have spent countless volunteer hours researching, coding, designing graphics and producing more than $1 million dollars worth of story content.

    There's a lot more work to do.

    After many conversations with family, friends and mentors, I saw patterns and created an algorithm: find everyday heroes, spend time to get to know them, tell their stories in an authentic way and leverage social media to inspire action (there are action items at the end of all of our blogs and videos).

    Earlier this year, my team and I had an organic idea to take Go Inspire Go to the next level: leverage the power of the people through crowdsource funding to produce and highlight more stories. Our goal: to uncover 50 heroes in 50 states, where we shine a spotlight on everyday heroes. Our 50/50 campaign will spotlight an inspirational symbol of inspiration, kindness and generosity.

    The target was to raise $25,000 to create the first batch of stories. Thanks to you and our fabulous team and volunteers (about 45 people), we raised $35,000.

    I'm overwhelmed and humbled as I count the miracles and blessings that continue to unfold: the story ideas you send to us, the people that show up to volunteer just when we need them, and the energy you’re sending our way.

    Through Twitter we met Alissa Hauser with The Pollination Project (TPP), an innovative organization that gives seed grants -- $1,000 to individual change-makers every day of the year. Yup, every day! We just had to join forces to hook up our first hero. Oh the power of 140 characters!

    What's the story? Well, you’ll have to wait and see, hear and feel all the details. We launch on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Here's a tease: It involves a teenager, peer pressure for good, anti-bullying and the battle against teenage social media mayhem.

    This story will change lives. It will save lives. It will also inspire some fun and compassion.

    This journey could be summed up in two of my favorite quotes:

    "Once you know, you can't pretend you don't." - Oprah

    I know that there are everyday heroes out there who need a little boost. Likewise, viewers like you need a nudge to discover your inner superhero so you can take action. Go Inspire Go bridges the gap by entertaining, empowering and inspiring action.

    "Oh the places you'll go…" - Dr. Seuss

    So what are you waiting for? There are too many heroes to ignore. Won’t you join us now? You’ll somehow discover how. Hit share if you care, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment won’t you dare?!

    Now that you know… Wontcha join us? Go Inspire Go…

    October 19, 2013

    The Power to Change Lives by Sharing Your Life Story

    That's me 2-yo (#12) digging for gold!
    Everybody has a story. And oh boy did they come out this week.

    It's a bit ironic that the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership team asked me to come speak at their Summit in Atlanta, Georgia to more than 500 outstanding high school students and past Coca-Cola Scholars about storytelling (and about my story, how I started my non-profit Go Inspire Go, and how to discover YOUR story and tell it in an impactful way) because my own story had a sordid start.

    Growing up, I never thought my story mattered. My parents had a bustling construction business in Saigon, Vietnam, but just after the fall of Saigon in the late 1970s, my parents left everything behind to bring me, my two sisters, brother and other family members to America with the hope that we would one day achieve "The American Dream."

    With four dollars in their pockets and a wealth of hopes and wide-eyed dreams, we ended up in an undesirable south Sacramento neighborhood. Our first home was the epitome of a humble abode. All 10 of us crammed into a trailer in a trailer park. When I tell people this story, they gasp. On the contrary, "We were so happy!" my mom says in her broken English with a smile. "You have chance for education and freedom."

    That said, I was flummoxed when I got so much backlash from my parents when I told them I wanted to study journalism. I didn't feel free the freedom to express my love for reading, writing and telling stories.

    Insert mom's broken English voice in my head: "Be doctor, lawyer, engineer. You make good money." That was my parents' wish for me. I chose option No. 4 -- failure in their eyes. Against their behest, I became a journalist.

    I would read everything I could get my hands on. I remember reading the back of a shampoo bottle in my best broadcaster's voice as the droplets of water beat against my back in the shower. "Rinse, lather, repeat."

    In elementary school, I won a reading contest -- the prize, a lunch date with Judy Blume, my favorite author. I devoured every single children's book I could borrow from the library and read them aloud, pretending that I was the characters -- each one of them had a unique voice created by my imagination. Books were my passport out of the daily realities of life.

    I didn't think my story, my voice or I mattered until college. (See video below for the validation and inspiration to pursue my passion.)

    Me speaking at the Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit

    Back to my talk at the leadership summit… my session quickly filled up so I was asked to give the same presentation twice. I later found out that more people wanted to attend the talks, however each session was booked!

    I conducted an exercise on how to discover your passion (or at least start to find that spark). The goal of this talk was to reach inside their hearts and minds, tap them and say, “I see you. Your story matters. Sharing is caring. Then, be brave enough to share it to the world in a streamlined, interesting and memorable way.”

    Thanks to my volunteer Barbara Grandvoinet, who shot and edited this video of the presentation for those of you who missed it:

    My goal and intention for this talk was threefold -- to serve the audience by:

    1. Awakening their passion
    2. Inspiring them to discover their power (and eventually use it to help others)
    3. Empowering them to be vulnerable and courageous enough to tell their story.

    Like me, many people don't think their story mattered at all. You matter. Yes, YOU!

    Gettin' real. Amazing dialogue. Stories start pouring out. Get the tissues.

    I could feel the audiences' energy and through their facial expressions and body language, I was sure they felt mine. It was like seeing many lightbulbs illuminating brighter within the audience. I will never forget the effervescent vibes in the air --  the courage, strength and hope from the stories people shared with me in the hotel lobby, during breakfast and on the bus lifted me.

    One woman told me, "Thank you for sharing your story. It made me realize how important it is to share my story." I asked her what her takeaway was from the talk. She said it was the part where I encouraged them to "be vulnerable" and be brave -- share your story. She told me she used to have a brain tumor but didn't tell many people.

    She continued telling me why she kept tight-lipped and why she now feels empowered to share her story with others. I felt the liberation as she continued telling me her story, each word spoken with more confidence. I asked her if I was the first stranger she told her story to. She said, "Yes," smiling and proud. We hugged. With a sense of her newfound courage, she said, "Thank you for inspiring me to share my story. I will always remember your words and stories for the rest of my life."

    At breakfast the next morning, a young Hmong woman approached me. She was a bit timid and very soft-spoken. "Thank you for telling your story," she told me, wiping away a tear behind her black-rimmed eyeglasses. "I really connected with your story about hiding your passion. I've been running away from my community for as long as I can remember."

    She explained that she is proud of her culture, but believes that many people she's met in her culture/community don’t share the same sense of pride. "My people hate on each other. I want to help, but I don't know why I keep running away. I want to find a way to help them."

    I was touched that she shared her story with me and was brave enough to admit that she didn't have all the answers. I realized that she too had an "ah-ha!" moment. I was honored that I was the first person to whom she admitted her shame and confusion. I told her that telling her story was a start to this journey. She was on her way.

    What's YOUR story? We want to know! Share in the comments section.

    Every single Coca-Cola Scholar I met was dynamic in his or her own unique way. All of them seemed to share the spirit of service, education and community.

    While en route to the closing night dinner at the Coca-Cola Museum, I met a young lady from central California who was bummed that she didn't get to attend one of my sessions. I recapped some highlights of the talk and she shared her story about her love for telling other people's stories. I didn't realize the impact that I had on her. The next morning, I awoke to an email:

    "Meeting you on the bus was the most incredible privilege I had this weekend. Your words ministered hope and faith in my life and set the tone for a great night. Thank you for taking the time."

    This weekend was #epic! I realized that through the audience's stories, my story mattered more than I could even fathom.

    I felt lifted by the words you all shared.

    Please share YOUR story below.


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    October 3, 2013

    Calling ALL Heroes! Are You Our Thanksgiving Hero?

    Bravery and courage come from not dwelling on what there is to fear.

    Had I known what I know today or had a glimpse into how my life has unfolded, I would have been scared of change — afraid to step up to my calling.

    My dream was to be a TV reporter in a large market, report/host a show on PBS (that's what sparked my imagination and how I learned to speak English) and the end goal… to teach at the university level.

    Little did I know, my goals would be fast-tracked and met before age 30. After eight years of reporting the news, I gave it all up and through a series of “mistakes” led me to a unique career path.

    When I started Go Inspire Go five years ago, I was disillusioned by my TV news reporting job and took a huge leap of faith and quit what I thought was my dream job. I wanted to use my power of storytelling and connecting people to inspire others to discover and use their power to help others.

    I am humbled that one by one, an amazing global team of more than 80 volunteers has joined our movement… and the impact has rippled out from the U.S. and beyond the pond.

    This past summer, Go Inspire Go successfully launched its 50/50 campaign to profile 50 everyday heroes in 50 states and we are scouring America to uncover a real life hero in your state.

    We're inviting you to join us on this next leg of our journey, to uncover 50 inspiring heroes in 50 states.

    Along the way, we found The Pollination Project on Twitter. We just knew we had to cross-pollinate the amazing energy – so we joined forces to kick off our 50/50 journey to hook up a deserving everyday street-corner style hero with a supersized grant and shower him/her with lots of social media love. #WonderTwinOrgsActivate

    We plan to unveil the first hero this Thanksgiving holiday so we need your help!

    That’s what the true spirit of Thanksgiving is all about. We are looking for an everyday hero (or group of heroes) whose social change work is rooted in gratitude, generosity and love.

    We're excited to announce that our friends at The Pollination Project have stepped up and will give a $1,000 grant to our first Hero. The Pollination Project has had a banner first year of funding a grant each day to individual social change-makers.

    Will that hero be YOU? Will it be someone you know? HELP! Here's what we're looking for … apply now… time is running out.

    Are you our Thanksgiving Hero?

    50/50 Hero perks:
    • A $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project to use for your social change project
    • A local and national media push to promote your grant
    • A three to five minute video that highlights the person or organization and their project. This video can be used for future grant applications or promotion on your website for crowdfunding campaigns and other creative uses
    • Widespread video distribution via The Pollination Project and Go Inspire Go's blogs and social media platforms
    • Home page placement on The Pollination Project's and Go Inspire Go's websites.

    We look forward to meeting you and/or your hero, sharing your story and inspiring other heroes to use their power to uplift you and your cause. We are grateful for you! #ThankYou

    Take action:
    1. Learn more & Apply here
    2. Share your story
    3. Get your friends and supporters involved: Email, tweet, Facebook away. Remember to use #SeedTheChange and #gig5050

    Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

    September 10, 2013

    GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: Inspiring All Girls to Be Strong, Smart & Bold

    Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

    GIG SOCIAL GOOD SPOTLIGHT: Girl's Inc. of Alameda County - Inspiring All Girls to be Strong, Smart & Bold

    Compiled by Koshi Sandrasagra

    What is Girls Incorporated (Girls Inc.)?
    Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire all girls to be strong (through healthy living), smart (through education) and bold (through independence). Founded in 1958, Girls Inc. offers academic enrichment activities, skill-building programs and counseling services to girls and their families.

    Girls Inc. of Alameda County provides year-round academic achievement and skills-building programs, as well as counseling services to more than 7,500 girls and families.

    Photos courtesy of Girls Inc.

    What’s the inspiration behind the organization?
    Girls Inc. believes that generations are transformed when girls are equipped with knowledge, information and confidence. Girls ages 5-18 are engaged in a continuum of award-winning programs, developing the essential skills and tools they need for college, career and life success.

    How does it work?
    The process: Girls Inc. begins with teaching the foundations of literacy and they support girls developmentally with each milestone along the way. This includes focus on academic achievement, positive risk taking, health and fitness, advocacy, leadership and more. The organization is unique in that they focus on serving the whole girl and her family as well, by providing on-site mental health counseling among all of the other programs offered. Their nationally-developed programs are the result of studies conducted by the Girls Incorporated National Resource Center – the largest and most comprehensive research center on girls in the country.

    Spotlight on Major Accomplishments (to name just a few!):
  • 100 percent of Girls Inc. seniors graduate from high school (compared to less than 60 percent of their peers) and in the last five years, 98.2 percent of seniors have enrolled in college (most of whom are the first in their families to do so).

  • More than 1,500 girls across the country have participated in technology and literacy curricula initially developed by Girls Inc. of Alameda County.

  • Named by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the 13 programs that “will improve the lives of girls and women around the world.”

  • Received the United Nation’s East Bay’s 6th Annual Global Citizen Award

  • Personal Victories:
  • In Spring 2012, Arooj Haq, who was an active participant in Girls Inc. programs from early elementary school though high school graduation, was inducted into Alameda County’s Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in public health and advocating for human rights. In Girls Inc. Arooj, at 17, promoted nutrition, smart choices and healthy relationships to her high school peers, and helped run her school's annual blood drive. The daughter of two Pakistani immigrants, Arooj has long aspired to be a nurse. A recent trip to the Middle East caused her to expand her aspirations, however. Her goal now is to one day open a charity helping women in her parents' native country. As a young Muslim woman, Arooj has had some negative experiences due to others' ignorance and stereotyping. The experiences only bolster her determination to be a positive role model and to redefine cultural assumptions. She now attends U.C. Santa Barbara!

  • Two Eureka! Teen Achievement Program high school participants were invited to the 2012 White House Science Fair based on their solar bus design and met President Barack Obama.

  • The New Girls Inc. Simpson Center for Girls
    Girls Inc. of Alameda County has unveiled new headquarters to become the region’s first and only resource center for girls. The new center is located at 510 16th St in Downtown Oakland, and will effectively allow Girls Inc. to respond to the increasing demand for their critical programs.

    The genius of the design for the center is not just that it revitalizes a historic building, but that it began with Girls Inc. participants!

    Girls from the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program met with Berkeley-based Anne Phillips Architecture and spearheaded the project – getting regular project updates, providing design input and ideas to create a green, sustainable facility and making key decisions on efficient fixtures and design.

    The end result is a flexible design concept that will support expanded programs and services, including:

  • Learning and education – Expanded space for high school girls to build skills in leadership, advocacy and peer education.

  • Physical and mental health – a vibrant health and wellness center and teaching kitchen, with a focus on cooking, nutrition, a yoga center and the Pathways Center for counseling.

  • Academic Achievement and Enrichment – Early learning, tutoring, college prep and career guidance, a library, study areas and Internet cafĂ©.

  • Take Action:
    In the media era where young women are bombarded with conflicting messages and values (think The Notorious B.I.G. singing about “Nasty Girl” and reality TV stars and pop idols making sex tapes to get famous) – there is a very real need to give young women a sense of pride, self-worth and purpose. Girls Inc. is providing a very real service in communities that need it; giving young girls the building blocks to create their futures, rather than having a future thrust upon them through poverty and a lack of education or opportunity.

    Get involved by joining the Girls Inc. strong, smart & bold campaign and help them change the world: one girl, one family, one community at a time.

    Become a volunteer, join our Girls Inc. Friends & Family and donate, become a Women of Impact member or partner with Girls Inc.!

    There are so many opportunities to help us change the world, one girl at a time. Get involved!

    September 6, 2013

    Work of Art: School Kids' Petition Sparks Recycling Programs by Marker Manufacturers

    If you’re part of the “Boomer,” “Gen X” or “Millennial” generations, take note of “Gen Z,” or the “Net Generation,” and the youth already making their mark.

    A recently released “Cassandra Tween Report” states Gen Z kids are a “generation of self-starters, multi-thinkers and pioneers, who will want to carve their own individual paths to success."

    The oldest Gen Z-ers are about 13-years-old and characterized as being tech savvy, constantly plugged in, connected through social media and empowered by their access to information, which I believe equates to being mini-influencers.

    I wanted to highlight some shining examples of such “self-starters” at Sun Valley Elementary School in Marin County, Calif., where one student asked, “Where do we recycle our Crayola markers when they dry out?”

    As 11-year-old Nando Castellar drew a factory polluting the air and water, he explained that he colored the water a faded blue because “it’s not as blue as it used to be. It’s getting darker and then the sun is not as yellow as it used to be. It’s kind of like messing up the earth,” he said in a sad voice.

    “I’ve thrown away about a hundred markers and I just want them to recycle them because it’s getting to our landfills - it’s creating landfills and it’s getting into our oceans and it’s killing the animals.”

    Land Wilson, a parent volunteer of Sun Valley Elementary School's "Kids Who Care" program did some research and couldn’t find an answer to the Crayola conundrum.

    They wrote a letter to Crayola urging them to recycle their markers. Crayola sent a letter praising them for their enthusiasm, but didn't offer a solution.

    To rally support, the students created an online petition that quickly generated more than 90,000 signatures.

    Dixon Ticonderoga, an art and office supply company (and Crayola competitor) heard about the online petition. The public support inspired them to create a recycling program where schools can send Prang Markers postage-free back to the company’s headquarters in Florida for recycling.

    Check out Go Inspire Go's inspiring video and discover how these mini-change makers got these big companies to take a greener approach to how they do business.

    A year after the Sun Valley Elementary School Gen Z-er’s initial plea, Crayola decided to launch their ColorCycle program. Crayola says they will be transformed into clean-burning fuel.

    Students from K-12 in schools in North America and Canada can send the markers back to the Pennsylvania-based company. So far, more than 120 schools have signed up for the program.

    Congratulations to the students of Sun Valley Elementary School for making their “mark” and coloring outside of the lines!

    August 28, 2013

    How NOT to Apologize for Living YOUR Life

    Happiness has been a theme in my life lately and a topic of conversation in most of my friends, family and co-workers circles.

    This inspired me to start a Go Inspire Go (GIG) blog series about happiness. GIG’s passion is helping you discover your power and then inspiring you to use it to help others. Finding your power starts with evaluating what makes you happy.

    The collection of blogs will be written by me and other guest bloggers. Our latest installment is written by Andrew Sundling, a jack of many trades. He's a self-proclaimed bartender, pastry chef, street-food gastrnome, farmer and artist. Let me also add "LLTTF" (Living Life to The Fullest) expert -- that's my take on this inspiring young man.

    Whether you're starting out in your career or in a rut after a long run in your profession, this is a fresh take on what personal and professional happiness is truly all about. My hope is that is gets you thinking, sharing and creates a shift in you -- and why you do the things you do. Is it for money, pride or passion?

    Special thanks to dear friend, Yasmine Farazian for introducing me to Andrew. His post was originally a Facebook update that garnered a lot of attention. I shared it with friends and some wept. I was moved and wanted to spread the happiness and inspiration.

    If you missed the first installment check it out: Finding Your Happy Self. The second installment was written by Kathy Chow, the executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association. Please spread the happiness by adding a comment and sharing with your loved ones. -Toan

    Photos Courtesy of: Andrew Sundling
    Andrew at the British Learning Academy
    teaching international students how to cook.
    I've had some remarkable life experiences over the past several years. It would be easy for me to say that it happened on its own accord, but I don’t think that’s true. I think I asked for it. I've worked for international startups in Silicon Valley. I’ve been a gardener in some of the U.S.'s and U.K.’s most prestigious garden institutions, have degrees from two of the top universities in the world and have had the privilege of communicating across a number of fascinating industries. In London, I explored the fascinating world of street food, helping small businesses grow while serving thousands of hungry, interesting people. I’ve taught choux pastry classes, helped run workshops on systems thinking and food, taught design thinking, creative confidence and business to Italian students and worked as a farmer in rural Sicily.

    Most of these jobs didn't pay me thousands of pounds. In fact, I worked in Sicily for six months for free. I’m not rich. I don’t come from money. There are no trust funds waiting for me. I’m also not averse to money or getting paid fairly. I want to make a living just like everyone else. The only difference is I’m interested in an alternative kind of value, a different kind of exchange -- one that's based on exploration, discovery, storytelling, sharing, generosity and kindness. My hope is that if I start with that, if I start with the idea of giving and connecting who I am with what makes me happy and the ways in which others can share in that happiness, then every other part of my life will reconnect and flow.

    When I explain to people what I've been doing for the last couple of years, I usually get the same questions and responses (not always...).

    "Wow, this is great, so what are you going to do with all of these skills?" or "Don't you want a good job" and the comment "Ah, so you've been having a lot of fun?" as if to say, "You haven't really been 'working,'" or "Surely companies like to see a bit of continuity on your can't do this forever," and my personal favorite, "At some point you need to get a 'real' job, right because who will take care of you when you’re old, you have a responsibility?”

    Brewing a batch of compost tea on the farm in Regaleali, Sicily.

    Because having fun and "working" and living ones OWN life clearly aren't synonymous. And obviously, learning to grow food, painting, teaching, serving other human beings, connecting, listening, problem solving and learning the true meaning of empathy aren't "real" transferable skills. They aren’t characteristic of a "responsible" life if they aren't part of some larger "career plan," some end goal.

    Having and making "plans" are great. In fact, it's pretty important if you want to get anything done. But it’s important to remember that plans come in all shapes and sizes. And no one plan is the same as another.

    Now when people ask me questions (usually out of benign curiosity) I tell them this as kindly as possible:

    -That I've learned more about myself, design, business, culture, language, service, storytelling and what it means to be a human being by having a cornucopia of jobs (even if they didn't pay much or at all) than I ever would have by working in an office, in a cubicle, or at a desk for 8-10 hours per day, where the only meaningful conversations I have are through IM. There's nothing wrong with this, by the way. IM is a wonderful tool! I speak to my grandmother on IM all of the time. She’s a very cool lady. Most of my friends have great jobs in all sorts of stimulating industries that require them to be at a desk. I don't think less of them or think they've done anything wrong. That's simply not how my life has unfolded. In fact they are the ones who inspire me!

    -I've stopped apologizing for my CV. It reads a little bit like Robert Downey Jr's early acting career (minus the drugs and rehab) and I don't care. It's my timeline, it's my life and I LOVE IT! Violence and abuse aside, nobody should feel like they have to apologize for the life they have. Cherish it. Every piece of it.

    -I'm a curious person. As the Psychology Today article "What Happy People Do Differently" described, I "accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser." The unknown is very scary, but I thrive in ambiguous environments. I am a master at improvisation. I grow relationships. I create something out of nothing. That's what I'm good at.

    -What am I going to do with all of this? I’m not sure. However, at this very moment, I'm DOING it! Right now. I'm LIVING the best way I can and will continue to do so.

    -When am I going to get a "real" job? When am I going to start being "responsible?" There's nothing "REAL" about anything haha it's all made up. Even the late pioneer Steve Jobs gave into this notion early on in his pursuit of happiness. As for responsibility? Well, I don’t see how adopting some distorted version of the American Dream is being any more responsible then what I’m doing now. I don’t own a home, but I also don’t own an $800,000+ mortgage, or an unfavorable car payment each month, or a credit card statement that keeps building interest while I struggle to pay the minimum payment. Most Americans live month-to-month, even those who have well-paid positions. If this is being “responsible” then I want nothing of it! Paying down my student loan is enough for me.

    What we have is a responsibility to ourselves to live, to give and share our time and energy to this planet and to the 7 billion other human beings who live here (the animals too!). That's our job. That’s OUR collective responsibility, and it's a good one.

    -While living with unknowns can be stressful at times, I am deeply satisfied with how my life has unfolded. I don't look for happiness -- happiness exists as a result of doing things that have MADE ME HAPPY. I'm free and so are you.

    What's my plan? To share my life and my art. I am moved by a piece of lecture by English philosopher Alan Watts “What would you do if money were no object?”
    “What do you desire? What makes you itch? ... What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much.”
    So be a plumber, a dish washer, a chef, painter, writer, a banker, a lawyer, doctor, engineer, creative designer, artist, teacher, environmentalist, entrepreneur, whatever. It doesn't matter. Do and make things that MAKE YOU HAPPY. Allow yourself to be happy with what you have and what you can give. SHARE your life. Be inspired and inspire others.

    Andrew helping with garden tour in the Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily.

    Andrew is a tree-hugging California native who in 2010 moved to London to pursue a Masters degree in Environmental Technology & Business. Since graduating in 2011, Andrew's life has unfolded in ways that challenge his perception of what a traditional career path looks like by embarking on adventures that have turned him into a bartender, pastry chef, street-food gastronome, farmer and artist. He doesn't earn thousands of dollars. Most of the art he makes he gives away as gifts to people he meets, paying it forward where ever he can. Andrew's mission is pretty simple:

    "Be grateful, connect with as many people as possible and live to share the one great life we've been given. Happiness is a choice."

    * How has this blog post inspired you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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    August 11, 2013

    How a Jar of Happiness Can Get You Out of a Pickle

    Happiness has been a theme in my life lately and a topic of conversation in most of my friends, family and co-workers circles.

    This inspired me to start a Go Inspire Go (GIG) blog series about happiness. GIG’s passion is helping you discover your power and then inspiring you to use it to help others. Finding your power starts with evaluating what makes you happy.

    The collection of blogs will be written by me and other guest bloggers. If you missed the first installment check it out: Finding Your Happy Self. The second installment blog is written by Kathy Chow, the Executive Director of the Asian American Journalists Association. And please spread the happiness by adding a comment and sharing with your loved ones.   -Toan

    Kathy Chow
    I turned 40 in August 2012. Like many, I did a lot of introspective soul searching. What have I accomplished? What regrets did I have? Why haven’t I won the lottery?

    After a quick life assessment, I concluded that I am living a blessed life, but I needed to focus more on the positive, happy moments and marinate in the joy of that feeling and less on the negative things that consume me.

    I don’t want negative energy, people or experiences to rent space in my head anymore. Our lives are driven by deadlines filled with stress from the job, family dramas and the daily grind. What would happen if we made a conscious shift to be driven by purpose and passion, or for a year to be consciously happy? To be open to the idea that good things are meant for us all?

    Accordingly, in December 2012, I invited three good friends to a holiday dinner. At the end of the meal, I distributed a gift to each of my friends. I handed out an empty mason jar and declared to those at the table, “This is our happiness jar!”

    As each of my dear friends sat and wondered if I had drunk too much wine, I began to explain the purpose of this gift.

    My wish for those who sat the table and for my next 40 years of life was very simple. Be happy.

    “The goal for 2013 is to fill the jar with notes of happiness,” I said. “Every simple joy that makes you laugh or make you want to relive in your head over and over again, write it down and put it in the jar.

    Happiness Jar. Courtesy: Kathy Chow
    “In December of 2013, when we reconvene for another holiday dinner, as a group we will bring our jars and share some of the happy moments we have had in the year. And as the year progresses, and if you notice that your jar isn’t filling up with notes, it’s a good reminder that you need more happiness.”

    How often when we have a cycle of good moments entering our lives do we start to get that little voice in the back of our head, “This isn’t going to last”? Why can’t we just live in the thought that this was meant for us? Why should we feel guilty or more importantly, doubt that happiness was meant to be flourishing in our lives?

    My jar is filling with simple notes and items: A Safeway supermarket receipt where I got killer savings after using my coupons; a compliment during a date, and movie receipts that bring memories of spending time with friends I love. My hope is that your jar will overflow by the end of the year.

    Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy.

    -Kathy Chow

    Kathy Chow is the Executive Director of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). Prior to becoming the Executive Director for AAJA, Kathy was the Director of Hands On Sacramento, a volunteer action center that provides volunteer opportunities in three counties. She often is requested to speak and consult with companies on multicultural marketing, building and engaging a diverse workforce, and how to develop your personal brand. Kathy is certified by the Newspaper Association of America as a Diversity Facilitator, and has served on the advisory council for the National Corporate Volunteer Council and the National Hands On Schools Council for Hands On Network & Points of Light Institute.

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    August 2, 2013

    Finding Your Happy Self

    Happiness has been a theme in my life lately and a topic of conversation in most of my friends, family and co-workers circles.

    The search for happiness doesn't discriminate. At first, I thought it was a common topic for us thirty-somethings as we learn more about ourselves and move forward with our careers and family lives, but the topic transcended many conversations across generations.

    This inspired me to start a Go Inspire Go (GIG) blog series about happiness. GIG’s passion is helping you discover your power and then inspiring you to use it to help others. Finding your power starts with evaluating what makes you happy.

    The collection of blogs will be written by me and other guest bloggers.

    Happiness isn't far away - Crissy Field/San Francisco, CA

    In addition to the question, "What's the meaning of life?" I believe an equally significant question is, "What makes me happy?"

    My life is similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you choose the ending. Each choice leads to different chapters, adventures and endings.

    So many personal choices.

    As a student at the University of San Francisco, I remember thinking I would be happy if I received a journalism scholarship through the Asian American Journalists Association.


    Then I thought about the next thing that would bring me happiness… a TV job.

    Got that covered.

    I shadowed a TV reporter at the local CBS affiliate in San Francisco during her last week on the job. She was moving to another state and leaving the business. I remember thinking, "You're in a Top 10 TV market and you want to leave? I will stay here forever."

    Oh naive Toan. This was too much for me to wrap around my then 19-year-old head.

    Being a TV reporter in a large market fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. I started in Wausau, Wis., then I headed south to Midland, Texas, and then west to Fresno, Calif.. Then… drum roll please… I made it to San Francisco!

    I was thrilled to start reporting at a local station in San Francisco. That feeling of elation quickly turned into one of the biggest lows in my life. Reporting on bad news all the time made me miserable. Once I "arrived" I wanted to leave.

    My professional goal was to tell hard-hitting, thoughtful stories that pull at your heartstrings and inspire you to help. To many people, I "made it." But why did I feel so empty? Why was I still unhappy? Why was I searching for that “I made it” feeling? Those stories made me feel like little Santiago in Paulo Coehlo’s "The Alchemist," a novel about an Andalusian boy in search of a worldly treasure.

    In retrospect, I realize some of the happiest moments were in the experiences, in the "doing": bonding with my fellow co-workers Laurie Lemanski and Jason Lanning at "The Mint," a local breakfast place in Wausau, Wis. I remember intense workouts with Jessica Garate at the local YMCA and running through downtown Midland, Texas. I laugh when conversations replay in my head about how one day we will be in a bigger city reporting under much bigger skylines. I remember thinking that I would be happy when I make it back as a reporter in a bigger city, closer to my family."

    Through many conversations I found the answer!

    The truth is, happiness is right in front of you. We shouldn't seek happiness. Instead, we should do things that make us happy.

    Here are 10 things that make me happy.

    1. Family: From seeing the dysfunction to the "I got your back" actions. We do an annual cousin camping trip every year that is fit for a reality TV series. Read: city kids pretending to rough it while consuming delicious gourmet meals #hilarious

    2. Friends: From dinner parties to impromptu walks around my neighborhood to random do nothing but lounge, drink tea and nosh during lazy days.

    3. Conversation: Conversation is food for the soul. The connection is priceless.

    4. Eating home-cooked meals and discovering restaurants. Yum!

    5. Flowers: Organic, living things in the home make me feel connected and alive. It grounds me. Like my good spirit sister, Terrie Crowley once shared, "If anyone thinks they're so powerful, make the flower grow out of the ground!"

    6. Teaching: I learn so much. The ripples of inspiration are endless. Seeing students reach their potential and learning from them moves me beyond words.

    7. Clean sheets: Need I say more? The smell. The touch. The serenity.

    8. Working out: Stretching, walking, running, Yoga, Crossfit - moving my body and testing my physical limits.

    9. Being in nature: My reminder to breathe deeply, be present and grateful for everything in my life.

    10. Witnessing people being inspired to help others: Go Inspire Go! Thanks to my amazing volunteers/team.

    GIG Team Jumping for Joy at GIG Social Media Photo Walk

    I think there is a Santiago in all of us. Some of us travel in search for happiness. For others, it’s hinged upon whether they get that job, marry that perfect partner or live in the big house.

    What I know through many experiences and conversations is that happiness is in the doing, not searching for a made-up, artificial feeling that we think that will fulfill us. The worldly treasures are inside us (our breath, our health, or clear mind) and around us (family, friends and those little moments that make us laugh and smile). Happiness is a state of mind.

    What makes you happy now? What are you going to do that makes you happy? Leave a quick comment. It will make me happy to see that you were inspired by this post. :)

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    June 26, 2013

    Four Go Inspire Go Heroes Fighting for Equality (VIDEOS)

    What a historic time for equality in America. On Wednesday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court made two significant rulings in the ongoing journey for equal rights for same-sex couples. In a landmark decision, the country’s highest court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8.

    Now that DOMA was declared unconstitutional, same-sex couples who are legally married in their respective states will soon receive federal protections and benefits, such as Social Security, health insurance and retirement savings.

    The Supreme Court also dismissed an appeal over Proposition 8 in California, which will allow couples to legally get married without legal bias or discrimination in the Golden State.

    Pause to celebrate equality and everyone who has been a part of the change we’re experiencing as a nation.

    Personally and professionally, we all have the power to do something – big or small – about the inequity we see every day.

    San Francisco's Castro District, June 26, 2013

    Here are four heroes Go Inspire Go is saluting to mark the momentous occasion:

    Vincent Pompei, “Vinnie,” is someone I am proud to call a childhood friend. He is on the forefront of the fight for equality, working passionately and tirelessly to make schools a safer place for faculty, staff and students.

    For the past four years, Vinnie, an educator and activist has organized the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership conference (CESCal), aimed at creating a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.

    His list of accomplishments are admirable. He was named a Classroom Superhero from the National Education Association. He was named one of the Forty Under 40 by The Advocate magazine and was honored by Equality California, the largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization in California working to secure full equality and acceptance for LGBT people.

    I recently had the honor of attending the CESCal conference, where I was able to witness his amazing work passion, inspiring energy and impact he’s had on students, colleagues and strangers.

    One of the most important lessons I learned from Vinnie is that no matter your sexual orientation, what you say or don’t say is equally as important.

    If you hear a student in your classroom say, “That’s gay,” and you don’t make that a teachable moment – other students will think it’s OK to use derogatory statements against gays.

    A huge congratulations to Vinnie as he was just named Director of Adolescent Well-Being Programs for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

    Dr. Ron Holt is another GIG hero we've featured. He's a San Francisco psychiatrist on a crusade to inspire equality around the world through educating about the biology of sexuality and spreading his message of authenticity.

    I met Ron after University of San Francisco Magazine profiled Go Inspire Go. Both Ron and I are fellow Dons. He sent me an email detailing how he was inspired by my passion around Go Inspire Go. We had lunch and became soul brothers on a mission to inspire compassion. This video is authentic and life-changing:

    After we highlighted Ron's story, he told us he was deeply touched by the authenticity of how we told his story. He told us our video saved lives of LGBT youth (who anonymously reached out to him after they saw this video to tell him that he inspired them to be at peace with their truth). The video also helped him get into the spotlight with more speaking engagements and got him invited to the White House!

    Hopefully non-judgmental societal bias will soon follow with the help from high profile Hollywood couples.

    I recently met and interviewed actor and gay rights activist George Takei, who is known for playing Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek.

    George is full of calming energy, wit and wisdom. He is passionate about Japanese-American internment education and the message of equality for all.

    “I felt I needed to speak out and let people know it’s OK to be who you are,” Takei said in his deep, commanding voice. “I wanted it to be in an authentic voice.”

    When I told George about Go Inspire Go’s GIG Spark (Lessons on Compassion), he was on board.

    George’s message: be true to who you are and treat others as you’d like to be treated.

    When Ellen publicly came out, her mom quickly became a visible ally to the LGBT community.

    Betty DeGeneres has been a strong PFLAG mom for more than 15 years and is the spokeswoman for the Care with Pride campaign, an initiative to educate and raise visibility on issues related to bullying.

    “Clearly, what inspired me to be a strong advocate for safe, welcoming schools for all students - especially LGBT students - was my daughter's coming out. We should do anything and everything to rid the world of these negatives,” Betty said.

    When I told her that I was there to do a Go Inspire Go video on Vinnie's admirable quest to inspire safe and inclusive schools, she seemed genuinely interested and wanted to know more about GIG. She was on the GIG bandwagon and wanted to share this GIG Spark message to parents and guardians who are blessed with an LGBT child:

    You can see where Ellen got her kind spirit.

    While we still have a lot of work to do for equality for all LGBT individuals – Same-sex marriages are legal in only 12 states -- America, I am proud of you.

    San Francisco City Hall illuminated

    The lowest common denominator of all this equality battle is simple — we all want love, to be loved and to freely love.

    What are you doing to inspire equality? We want to know. Share in the comments section. We may just share on Go Inspire Go's social media channels.

    Take Action:
    1. Feeling alone and isolated? Go to or call their toll-free & confidential lifeline: 866-488-7386
    2. Be a visible and vocal LGBT ally and resource for young people.
    3. Get involved! Information on National LGBT resources: Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, The Trevor Project, GLSEN, and GSA Network.

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