Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's A Trick: Singapore Teens Give Up Halloween To Study For Exams

By Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan
Junior Reporter
SINGAPORE – Every year on October 31, it’s normal for American teenagers to visit a Halloween party dressed in an eerily looking frock or make rounds in their neighborhood, collecting candies worth a fortune.
But in Singapore – a country where the lifestyle and culture is heavily influenced by America – youth rarely celebrate this American festival.
The need to excel in national examinations has forced numerous youths to ditch Halloween parties in favour of their mathematics textbook.
The school year in Singapore commences in January and in October, the close of the school year is marked by end-of-year examinations for most students and national examinations for all graduating primary, secondary and junior college students.
These tests determine if an individual will be promoted to the next grade or is admitted into a prestigious course for their tertiary, or university, education.
In Singapore's highly competitive academic arena, only exceptional results can guarantee a place in a coveted course. Most students are willing to neglect Halloween celebrations to prepare for excelling in the examinations so that they will be able to pursue their dream.
Given that Singapore was literally transformed in 50 years from an overgrown slum into a cosmopolitan metropolis, some parents – who lived under different circumstances than their kids – have never known about Halloween.
Like any other night party, some parents in Singapore view Halloween with great suspicion. They fear their children might partake in illicit activities or might have their safety compromised.
"Some parents fear for the safety of their kids and restrict their timings of which they are allowed out," said Rachannaa Velayudhum, a student who is 16.
“There was one time when I went to a friend's house for Halloween,” Velayudhum added. “However, like my friends' parents, my mother – who was concerned about my well-being – ordered me to be home by 8 p.m. The party practically ended by 7 p.m.”

Despite that most youth in Singapore are unable to celebrate Halloween night, their sacrifice is often compensated by memorable post-examination activities organised by their schools, families and friends. Those camps, outings and workshops help to make up for the fun we missed on Halloween.
***
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Will Azkaban Become A Giant Pumpkin? Anticipating The New Harry Potter Story

By Olga Gutan
Junior Reporter
HONG KONG – It's the end of October, which means that Christmas and New Year are coming, for those who celebrate them. It also means Halloween, trick-or-treat and costumes that make characters come alive.
Another thing that will come alive this Halloween is the Harry Potter story!
Author J.K. Rowling decided to make Harry Potter fans happy and publish another short story related to the magical world of wizards and witches, after the one published in July 2014 was a success.
That 1,500-word story from this past summer was presented as an item in the Daily Prophet by gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter.
It's an absolute delight for those of us who devoured the Harry Potter books in one breath.
Rowling created a crossword puzzle which, when solved correctly, would reveal a scrambled word that would tell the readers the subject of the new writing. The letters obviously form the word Azkaban, which, in the books, was the wizards' prison. Azkaban inspired fear in everyone, as it was guarded by the Dementors, creatures that would suck one's soul and leave that person ultimately empty.
What could the next story possibly be about? Will it be related in any way to the previous story about Dolores Umbridge? How will it be related to Azkaban? Will Azkaban still be as we knew it from the books and movies or will Rowling present it to us in an entirely new way?
As for now, I can only make possible interpretations and assumptions.
I can say that it will possibly be about Harry and his friends being incarcerated in Azkaban, as well as I can say that Azkaban will possibly be used as a school, because Hogwarts was destroyed by all the magical animals it hosts in its walls and pipes.
I could speculate that Azkaban was transformed into a giant pumpkin, because the Harry Potter world also celebrates Halloween and all sorts of paranormal activity (well, as paranormal as something can be in the non-muggles' world) and it may as well be believed – until the story is published tomorrow and the real plot is revealed.
Stay excited. There are only a few hours left!
***
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween? Meh. It's Just Another Day

By Lauren Pope
Junior Reporter
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom – October 31st has never been a particularly exciting day of the year for me. I have never regarded Halloween as much more than the last day of October.
Maybe this is because I didn’t grow up annually celebrating Halloween, but this holiday never really held any appeal for me.
I can recall attending a Halloween party once, when I was about seven, but aside from that,  all the dressing up and decorating – even trick-or-treating – has been lost on me.
If I were still a young child, I do believe that Halloween would be a bigger deal to me. When I was younger, people didn’t participate as much as they do now. In recent years, love for the ghoulish occasion has grown substantially.
I personally have no problems with Halloween. It’s the perfect opportunity to dress up, get yourself some free sweets and have a bit of harmless fun with your friends. However, my friends have never been the type to host Halloween gatherings, so each year as October 31st passes by I have felt no need to differ from my everyday life.
As a teenager, I consider myself beyond the appropriate age for trick-or-treating, but I know many young people my age have no intention of quitting the activity anytime soon.
Taking a trip to the local cinema – instead of going door to door – to view the latest horror flick is probably what most teenagers are expected to do.
Although it is highly unlikely that I would see an elaborate ‘scary’ scene whilst walking past a neighbor’s house, around this time of the year there is no shortage of Halloween-related items in shops and supermarkets.
Perhaps Halloween is a bigger deal than I give it credit for – maybe my blasé attitude towards it all is what’s stopping me from joining in with all the fun.

***
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diverse Forum Wrestles With How To Fix America's "Broken" Political System

Max Turgeon / youthjournalism.org

Speakers at The Connecticut Forum earlier this month. Karl Rove, who is speaking, is shown on the large screen.

By Max Turgeon
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Presenting panelists of different political views, The Connecticut Forum recently provided an interesting exchange of ideas about what ails America’s political system and how to fix it.
The program, “Debating our Broken Political System,” featured columnist Charles Blow of The New York Times, award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Karl Rove, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.
It was a brilliant evening, with many theories and ideas thrown around by these experts. Almost all topics were covered.
WNPR radio host John Dankosky, did an excellent job as moderator, treating everyone fairly and keeping things moving. He asked tough, yet fair questions.
Though all three panelists agreed that the political system was broken, Rove also said the system mostly works. If people think it is broken, Rove said, they should get involved.
I found those to be wise words from Rove, the person on the panel I was most familiar with.
Rove said getting dirty money out of politics will solve a lot of problems. He went on to explain how we need more transparency in campaign donations.
Goodwin, who was in between the conservative Rove, and Blow, a liberal, played her role in the middle very well. Goodwin said most of the problems in our government are caused by miscommunications, mainly between Democrats and Republicans.
She said the system is broken because there is a lack of communication in government by the two major parties.
That could not be more true.
Blow has a very liberal approach to fixing the system, yet he had more than his fair share of good ideas.
Blow said Republicans have caused many issues by instituting voter ID laws, which, as you might guess, upset Rove.
Goodwin said she agreed with Rove, but that we should still be aware of minority voting rights.
I think voter ID laws have helped fight voter fraud, but we need to be careful they don’t discourage citizens from voting.
Rove brought up a good point in asking why citizens don’t have federal IDs. We have state-issued drivers’ licenses, but no standard federal ID, like many other countries.
Goodwin talked about how we have to get our youth involved, a subject I am very sensitive to as a 15-year-old.
She said she hoped that the youth in the audience could lead the effort to get big money out of politics.
Blow talked about how society discourages youth from getting involved. He says kids look at school with unhappiness, a sentiment I can confirm.
Blow said it isn’t that young people don’t care, just that they don’t believe the adults.
Rove commented on how the Common Core educational standards are hurting our schools, something I agree with.
The line of the night though, was when Blow said that people are more interested in ammunition than information.
Negative campaign ads are a prime example of Blow’s statement. Most of these ads lack facts, and are only personal attacks on their opponents, which just hurts our system. He added that there is a lack of trust and respect between fellow politicians.
Blow said he thought the campaign season should be shortened, but the panel couldn’t come up with a solution that would do it.
I learned a lot from all three individuals as they each had something different to offer. Although Rove received his fair share of boos here in blue state Connecticut, they were all great sports.
As a country, we are better off for having tough discussions like these. It is the only way to improve our broken – yes broken – political system.
An important theme that echoed throughout the evening was that youth need to get involved and lead the charge toward making our government work better.
Teachers could make a difference here by encouraging students to get involved in the political system, not ignore it because of its flaws.
Young people are the future leaders of this country and the nation is better off if they are informed from an early age.
Americans want to see their country succeed. That’s something Democrats and Republicans can surely agree on.

*** 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Friday, October 17, 2014

Malala Represents All Who Fight Injustice

By Nadia Rogovsky
Junior Reporter
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai – a Pakistani activist for education – is an inspiration to people all over the world.
I like to think that Malala does not only stand in representation of the women of Pakistan, she also stands in representation of all the women who are fighting or have ever fought against discrimination and injustice.
As a 15-year-old girl, the fact that a girl just two years older than me can make such a difference is astonishing. She is just as inspirational as other characters such as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the American Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks, the German Jewish diarist Anne Frank and many others.
I'm sure Malala will be remembered many years from now.
I had never seen Malala’s face until a few weeks ago. I had heard of her, but never seen her. When her picture appeared on the cover of a local newspaper, I couldn't help but smile.
Malala Yousafzai, in a photo posted on the Malala Fund Facebook page.
She holds so much power and determination in her gaze that it just blows you away. She is so beautiful and strong – who she is, is what gives her such beauty. 
But I also remind myself that she is not the only one suffering.
To save Malala, we, as citizens of the world, have to save every single human being whose rights are being violated.
The French, in their declaration of human rights, wrote, "Every single member of the society must have their rights respected as to be a society respectful of human rights."
The world cannot simply ignore the bad things happening. We must let go of our selfishness and begin to fight for human rights.
In an interview with Glamour magazine after surviving an assassination attempt by Taliban terrorists, Malala discussed how she dealt with fears that she could be targeted.
She said she told herself, "Malala, you must be brave. You must not be afraid of anyone. You are only trying to get an education – you are not committing a crime.”
So be it. Be brave and stand up for those whose voices have been taken.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

 *** 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cuban Youth Share Their Dreams And A Desire To Know More About The World

Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
A bus station in Havana, Cuba.

By Maria Luiza Lago
Reporter
HAVANA, Cuba – Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to have your TV channels controlled, to have limited or no access to computers or the internet, or not to be free to speak your mind in public.
I wanted to know what that was like, so on a trip to Cuba, I interviewed some young people around Havana about their lives and dreams.
I met 15-year-old Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño at the beach in a small town near Havana called Varadero.
She told me that the Internet exists in Cuba, but it’s very expensive, so not a lot of people have access to it.
Maria Luiza Lago / 
youthjournalism.org
Aylem Isabel Obrégon Bolaño
plays the laúd, a type of guitar,
and wants to be successful
with her music.
She has never left Cuba, Bolaño said, and was in Varadero to celebrate her birthday. She plays an instrument called the Laúd, which is a plectrum-plucked chordophone from Spain, similar to a guitar.
Bolaño studies in Havana at the Escuela Nacional de Arte, a national arts school and said she dreams of being successful with her music.
At the bus station in Havana, I met a lot of young people.
I found 16-year-old Roberto Mantilla, who is taking college preparatory classes. He told me he wants to be a doctor.
Maria Luiza Lago/
youthjournalism.org
Roberto Mantilla
wants to be a doctor.
Mantilla likes to go the beach with his friends to practice sports and doesn’t intend to leave Cuba. He said he didn’t have a clue of what he wanted in the future, and was a little bit shy to speak.
Antonio Viscoy, 18, was even more timid when I tried to interview him. He kept looking at my notebook, which contained my prepared questions. He just answered “yes” or “no” to most of them, in a low voice.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Antonio Viscoy said he didn't
have any dreams but expects 
to be happy.
Viscoy is at university studying to be a Spanish teacher. He said he thinks it is good to be a Cuban teenager, but didn’t specify why.
He feels he has everything he needs here in Cuba, Viscoy said. I tried to ask him why, but he just said, “Because I think so.”
Viscoy expects to be a happy man in the future. When I asked about his dreams, he said he didn’t have one.
The next person I spoke with was a 13 year-old boy, Jimmy Curos Vinent. He studies at Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba – the national ballet school in Cuba – and is in 7th grade.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Jimmy Curos Vinent, 13, wants
to be a professional dancer.
Vinent dances classic ballet and since he was eight years old, has dreamed of being a professional dancer, just like the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who has won dozens of awards in his career.
He has good opportunities for the future, Vinent said. He said his school helps him not just to learn, but to be a better person, to get to know other cultures and their stories.
Alejandro Sevile, 23, was the first person to tell me that is “a little hard” to be a Cuban teenager. He said he misses freedom.
Sevile used to study mechanic engineering, but he quit to work as a bartender.  He was a little shy and on his way to work when we spoke.
When I asked Sevile if he had any dreams, he hesitated for a moment. He said he had many, but the one he revealed to me was his desire to know other countries.
One of the young people I met, 19-year-old Iracema, wouldn’t tell me her last name.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Alejandro Sevile wants to learn
about other countries.
She’s finished with her studies, Iracema said, and works in an Identification Institution, similar to a notary’s office.
She said she likes being a Cuban teenager, that she feels really safe.
But Iracema pointed out that Cuban schools should have more computers, especially in chemistry and physics classes. When she was a student, she said, writing by hand was the only option.
As for Iracema’s dreams, she said she wants to travel around the world, mostly to Europe.
As I spoke with these Cuban youth, I realized most of them were shy, and I felt that most of them were afraid of answering my questions.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Iracema, who wouldn't give her
last name, wants to travel
around the world, especially
to Europe.

None of them had left their country, but they said they didn’t feel isolated. They don’t want to move away from Cuba, they said, but they do want to travel and know the world a little bit better.
I wondered how they could say that they’re not missing anything in Cuba since they haven’t ever left the country or enjoyed some other liberties that young people in other places have.
It’s hard to miss something you don’t know about or have, and even more difficult for them to understand how young people live in other countries.
While these young people seem isolated to me, I think they’ll achieve their dreams, if they work hard. What I don’t know if they’ll ever know freedom like I do.
*** 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Visiting Cuba: A Step Back In Time

Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Cars from the 1950s and 1960s are a common sight in Havana, Cuba.

By Maria Luiza Lago
Reporter
Youth Journalism International
HAVANA, Cuba – When I first arrived in Havana, Cuba, I had a cultural shock – it seemed like I took a plane in 2014 and landed in 1950.
Havana has cars from the ‘50s and old telephones and houses, though some are still in good shape.  Stores have no computers to administer the sales – most of the stores I visited wrote receipts by hand. Wi-fi signals are rare. When I could get one, like at the hotel where I stayed, it was very expensive.
At first I wondered how people lived in such a manner and how they got used to it. But I realized that most Cubans are happy. I saw none of them complaining or being crusty with me or other tourists.

Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Cubans waiting for a bus.

At the same time, I saw lots of mothers with their children and other people asking for money, caramel or anything we had.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
The airport gift shop selection
of souvenirs.
When we gave new things to them, they were very grateful and excited about it. Kids were astonished to get a small amount of bubblegum, chocolate, notebooks or erasers, which I saw being sold in the airport as souvenirs.
It wasn’t only the kids, but adults, too. My dad gave a man some old t-shirts and he hugged my father tightly, saying “thank you very much!”
The same happened every time we gave new things to other Cubans, a surprised and very grateful reaction.


Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Tourists meeting Cubans on the street sometimes give them small gifts. The people often are happy to get them and occasionally ask for something specific, but others were not interested in receiving anything at all.

But not everyone accepted our gifts. Some of the kids, and even some teenagers I spoke to, didn’t want anything from us.
Cubans are very welcoming with tourists, always smiling and trying to help with whatever we needed. This was not only people who worked in the hotel, but regular citizens on the street, too.
I realized the comfort we had at our hotel wasn’t the same for Cubans in their homes. I only had to step out of the hotel to see that. There’s no luxury – everything is very humble. 
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
These Cuban homes are in bad shape.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
Some Cuban homes, like these, are in good repair.

I also didn’t see many Cubans staying in hotels, most of the people were foreign tourists.
Maria Luiza Lago / youthjournalism.org
The hotel Meliã Habana offers luxuries most
Cubans don't have.
When Cubans ride in cars, they have a lot of company. Vehicles are full of people and it’s rare to see a car with only one person. Gasoline is really expensive, and most of the people can’t afford it, so they embrace the chance to ride all at once.
It’s not the same for tourists. There’s a taxi for one person, which is a waste when you see a car packed with six or seven people in it.
All these contradictions made me think about how Cubans see tourists and wonder whether behind their helpful and friendly smiles, they wonder a little why visitors to their country have privileges that they don’t.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Missing Nigerian Girls Not Forgotten; Students Renew Calls For Their Rescue

Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Nigerian girls hold signs with 179 to remember the 179 days the kidnapped girls from Chibok have been held by terrorists who abducted them in April. These children attended a talk with former Nigerian Education Minister Obiageli Ezekwesilieze at in Ibadan.
By Festus Iyorah
Reporter
IBADAN, Oyo State, Nigeria – Though the visibility of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign has declined, girls here haven’t forgotten nearly hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists last April.
“I feel sad that girls like us are still missing and I want government to fight with Boko Haram and bring back our girls,” said 10-year-old Oluwatofunmi Oluwashina, a student at All Saints College in Ibadan.

Fourteen-year-old Esther Adeyemo, who also attends All Saints College, said she tries to imagine what it must be like for the kidnapped girls, stolen by Boko Haram Islamic extremists in a night raid on their boarding school in Borno, a state in northeastern Nigeria.

Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Oluwatofunmi Oluwashina
“I feel very sorry for them,” said Adeyemo. “Sometimes I look myself being in that situation in pains, missing out with my friends, family and I realize that they are going through pains and they are experiencing what they should not experience in their early stage of life.”
Several of the girls interviewed put the burden on the Nigerian government to find and rescue the kidnapped girls.
Adeyemo said the government should stop playing politics with the girls’ lives and save them.
All Saints College student Anjolaoluwa Akinbola, 14, said the government officials should work toward finding the girls because if it were their daughter, they would find a way.
Festus Iyorah /
 youthjournalism.org
Esther Adeyemo
“I feel very sad that the girls are not yet back after 179 days,” said Akinbola, adding that their parents “must have been waiting for them to come back, but it’s sad that they are not yet back.”
But Jesuloluwa Akintobi, 17, who is studying political science at Osun State University, did not blame the government.
“We should not only cast blame on people, we should blame ourselves first because most of us are nonchalant about the missing of these girls,” said Akintobi. “It’s unthinkable that people have forgotten them, even the campaign on social media have reduced.”
Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Anjolaoluwa Akinbola
She added that Nigerians and people around the globe should help reignite the campaign. When the government officials feel the heat of the campaign, Akintobi said, they will tackle the issue seriously.
Still, Akintobi is frustrated that the girls remain missing.
“It’s unimaginable that the girls left their homes with hope and expectations that they will return to their parent before they were kidnapped by those deadly criminals,” Akintobi said. “They have been exposed to different crisis 179 days ago especially their personal hygiene. You know that girls needs to clean themselves daily – how are they coping? Do the criminals take care of the girls? These are the crisis they are subjected to and I pray that they will come back safely.”
Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Obiageli Ezekwesilieze
The four girls attended a presentation Friday by Obiageli Ezekwesilieze, the former Nigerian Education Minister.
In her remarks, Ezekwesilieze called on individuals and groups alike to speak as one voice to bring back the abducted Chibok girls taken hostage by 179 days earlier. Since then, more than 50 of the girls have escaped to safety but the rest remain missing.
“For the past six months, 219 girls have been held hostage by brutal killers and these girls have been voiceless because they come from a poor segment of the society,” Ezekwesilieze said, “and that’s the reason why you and I need to give them a voice and bring back our girls now and alive.”
Ezekwesilieze, who is also the former vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division, said the Chibok girls are a symbol of society – whether it cares or doesn’t about the freedom and fundamental human rights of the captive girls.
Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu
The government, Ezekwesilieze said the government should make the pivotal decisions that will bring the girls back.
The global outrage over the kidnapping spurred a massive social media campaign using the hashtag BringBackOurGirls.  
But in Nigeria, the campaign has dwindled over time as people seem less concerned about the girls’ disappearance.
Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, coordinator for BringBackOurGirls in Ibadan, said the campaign is not dead.
“We have our members in Lagos and Abuja who are the ones taking care of the 57 girls who escaped from their abductors,” said Anyanwu-Akeredolu, adding that while it is awful that some people are not part of the campaign, they’re not giving up and won’t until the girls are back, alive and safe.

*** 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support this nonprofit at