Saturday, August 20, 2016

My hometown: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Mona Jawad /
The view from the intersection of Curtis and Matthis streets on the outskirts of Champaign-Urbana. The scene is a familiar sight to the people of Champaign-Urbana. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

By Mona Jawad
Junior Reporter
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Illinois, U.S.A. – A long, quiet car ride through the winding country roads at sunset, the bustle of college students downtown, and the warm smiles on a vendor’s face at the farmer’s market all come to mind when I think of my hometown.
Though the two cities are technically separate, Champaign and Urbana are right next to each other, making it hard to tell the difference between them.
Our area is referred to as C-U more often than not, and the people from each town commonly intermix in schools, special events, and everyday life. In a way, it can be thought of as two neighbors who became so close that they adopted one another as family.
It’s hard for me to think of a time, even in the colder seasons, where there isn’t something to love about the place.
Though at first glance Champaign-Urbana may seem a bit small for any real excitement, it holds just enough activity to satisfy almost any interest.
Mona Jawad /
An intersection in the downtown of Champaign, where the town holds festivals.
The cheers and roar of the crowd within the Assembly Hall in Champaign can be heard for miles away during sports games, and the marching bands at Memorial Stadium let everyone know when it’s football season.
These two arenas also host shows, concerts, and circuses during other times of the year.
Mona Jawad /
Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Similarly, music lovers and art enthusiasts alike have a beautiful place to experience passionate works at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts, where famous people – including cellist Yo Yo Ma – will sometimes come to visit and amaze their audiences.
The Virginia Theater in Champaign, located on the other side of the downtown, is another traditional place to watch both movies and plays.
Mona Jawad /
The Virginia Theater in Champaign.
The downtown area holds a large cluster of small restaurants, businesses, and even Walnut Street Tea Co., a quaint little shop that seems to take you to another time when you step inside.
At night, the lights strung across the buildings are always a sight to see.
There are parades and several different festivals on special days. This fall is the Flannel Fest in Champaign, and later this month, we’ll flash our rural side at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.
The Sweetcorn Festival attracts more than 50,000 people, according to its website, all crowding around for exciting games, stands, music, and of course, an entire team devoted to preparing free sweet corn for everyone to enjoy.
My favorite places in Champaign-Urbana, however, are the numerous parks strewn throughout the towns. Many families, alongside with ours, have warm memories of growing up around the playgrounds and scenic walks that are dotted along the landscape.
Mona Jawad /
The view from a bridge crossing a pond in the University of Illinois Arboretum. It's a beautiful place to take in a breath of fresh air.
Municipal parks constantly have events like 5Ks, marathons, and classes going on within them, and in the more nature-centric parts, it is common to find a group out on a birdwatching walk or volunteering to help keep everything running.
Mona Jawad /
The brightly painted Children's Garden is part of the Idea Garden.
One of the most popular parks is the Idea Garden in Urbana. It’s a spacious expanse inside the University of Illinois Arboretum. It includes a sensory garden filled with brilliantly bright flowers, and a place that takes Japanese cultural learning to a new level by immersing visitors in traditions such as a tea ceremony.
The main garden itself is set up by a group from the University of Illinois, and is built to delight visitors of all ages. Labels are placed next to just about every species of plant there to satisfy the curiosity of those wandering within it.
Mona Jawad /
A side view of the Idea Garden in full bloom.
The University of Illinois itself, in Urbana, is our pride and joy, and what many will half-jokingly say is the reason a great majority of our population resides here. The Quad is often the center of activity for the students, and the streets surrounding it are so flooded with campus dwellers during the school year that parking spots become a rare commodity.
Mona Jawad /
The University of Illinois Quad on a slow day. Typically it is the center of student activity.
I couldn’t think of a hometown that I would rather have grown up in. Whether it be to stay or to pass through, Champaign-Urbana welcomes all and is a perfect place to relax and explore.
Mona Jawad /
A panoramic view of the ponds and hills on the edge of the Arboretum.
Hometowns all over the world are as interesting and unique as the people who love them. YJI students are encouraged to examine the place they call home and let readers in on some of its charms. You can help keep students writing with your tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Loving the new Harry Potter play - from East to West, from Pakistan to the U.S.

Madeleine Deisen /
A bookstore in Marietta, Georgia promotes the new Harry Potter play.
By Madeleine Deisen and Arooj Khalid
Contains no major plot spoilers
ATLANTA, Georgia, U.S.A. and LAHORE, Pakistan – Since the release of the last Harry Potter book, avid fans have been yearning for more about the magical world and its characters, who feel more real than fictional to many Potterheads.
And since author J.K. Rowling announced the release of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the latest addition to the Harry Potter series – that desire only grew.
On July 31st, Harry Potter’s and Rowling’s birthdays, Cursed Child was finally released, to the delight of the Muggle world.
At the midnight book release at Barnes and Noble store in Atlanta, Georgia, Harry Potter fans of all ages united to receive their copies as soon as possible.
In Pakistan, the new release spurred long lines and even themed cupcakes for the excited crowds.
Even though the play is an extension of the Harry Potter books, readers expecting a similar style of writing will be disappointed.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play, not a book. As such, the rich, descriptive narrative of the original series isn’t part of the story.
One of the best parts of the play is the friendship between Albus, Harry’s son, and Scorpius, Draco’s son.
Their unlikely friendship starts on their first day at Hogwarts on the Hogwarts Express. After the train arrives at Hogwarts, they both are sorted into Slytherin House. We fast forward through their first three years, and most of the play takes place during their fourth year at the magical school.
Throughout the play, the two boys are tirelessly dedicated to each other, especially because they both face bullies while at Hogwarts. It is difficult for Albus to find friends because he is sorted into Slytherin House, and since he is Harry Potter’s son, this creates even more gossip about him.
Albus grows to feel miserable at Hogwarts, in contrast the happiness Harry found there, which puts a strain on their relationship, because neither of them can understand the other’s opinion about the wizarding school.
Scorpius also faces bullies at Hogwarts because there are terrible rumors that he is Voldemort’s son. However, the two boys find solace from their unhappiness in their friendship. They are honest, but caring. They overcome the greatest of obstacles to their friendship and to the wizarding world.
Even though they are certainly flawed and nearly destroy Harry’s legacy, they realize, fix, and learn from their mistakes, and come out of it closer friends and better people.
It was interesting to see familiar characters in a new, fuller light. After watching Harry, Hermoine, Ron, Ginny and Draco grow up together as children into teenagers and then adults, we see them balancing their jobs with their family relationships.
Harry is no longer an almost-flawless hero. He struggles and often fails to be a good father to Albus, which is heartbreaking to read, but also adds to the humanity of the play.
There is also a glimpse of Draco’s gentler side in his love for his son. The friendship of Harry’s and Draco’s sons even united the two former rivals for the safety of their children.
The characters are not always black and white; there are conflicts between right and wrong inside each of them, and the right intentions often led to decidedly wrong consequences.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may disappoint some fans because of the differences from the original series, the play format, and the changes in beloved characters. Still, it was a treat to return to the magical world of Harry Potter and be immersed in its stories once again, and Rowling’s latest certainly left her fans wanting even more.
Covering Harry Potter since our first report in April, 2000.
You can help keep the magic alive for muggles and wizards alike by giving some galleons today to Youth Journalism International. Thank you!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Listen up! YJI's first podcast is online now

For the first time, Youth Journalism International offers a podcast of one of its students reading her story.
You can hear Ruth Onyirimba read her first-person account of going with friends to protest at a recent Donald Trump rally in Connecticut.
Let us know what you think!

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Connecticut teen's view: Trump in trouble, but still deserves Republican support
Max Turgeon, right, with his friend Mike Strong, who graduated this year from Newington High School in Connecticut.
By Max Turgeon
Junior Reporter
NEWINGTON, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Let’s face it, it’s been a tough few weeks for Donald Trump. After a fantastic convention – where Trump showed he could be professional and stick to policy – he received a sizeable bump in the polls.
But his spat with Khizr Khan, the father of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan who was killed serving in Iraq, received endless attention, which hurt him.
Then last week at a campaign event, Trump called on Second Amendment voters to do something about his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. To me, it was clearly a call to action for Second Amendment voters to vote against Clinton, but within hours, Clinton supporters were claiming Trump had called for her assassination. The sad part is that a lot of people, voters specifically, are buying that spin.
After this series of events, Trump finds himself in large holes in many swing states. Some polls coming out as early as the end of last week show Trump down as much as 10 points in Florida, a state he had a solid lead in a few weeks ago.
Despite all of this, Trump still has a chance.
Trump supporters such as Newt Gingrich and Dr. Ben Carson have articulated the simple reason for this: Trump may make a handful of gaffes, but for every Trump flub, Clinton has a scandal or impropriety she has been part of.
Whether it is unanswered questions about Benghazi, or not being able to manage more than one email, there are serious questions about whether Clinton can handle the duties of the presidency. Trump needs to focus on that, not outside noise.
When we get to debate time, Trump will question Clinton like she has never been questioned before regarding her scandals, whether they are legitimate or only political.
Besides her interview with Chris Wallace last week on Fox News, Clinton has not had a real in-depth or tough interview during this campaign.
Another reason to count Trump out is the formation of the Together for America organization made up of prominent Republicans supporting Clinton. Members of this organization, however, such as former United Nations Ambassador John Negroponte, are unknown by casual political followers and represent the establishment Trump is fighting anyway.
If certain Republicans are endorsing Clinton because of Trump’s gaffes, when will Democrats begin endorsing Trump due to Clinton’s scandals?
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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Was it really full of hate? She went to see a Donald Trump rally for herself.

Ruth Onyirimba /
Ruth Onyirimba posted this on her Snapchat account from the Donald Trump rally in Fairfield, Conn. Saturday night.
By Ruth Onyirimba
Junior Reporter
FAIRFIELD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – I’ve watched footage of Donald Trump rallies, appalled at the treatment of protesters. As a black American, I never thought I would be one of them.
Then a friend invited me to join him and a few others to protest when the Republican candidate held a rally in our state. I had a big decision on my hands.
Under the impression that these rallies were hostile towards non-white Americans, I was immediately intimidated.
First I worried. Then my fears turned into genuine questions. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that my curiosity could not be satiated secondhand.
I had to experience this rally for myself.
Soon we were on our way. I sat solemnly as the lighthearted banter filled the car.
Although there were others in the car, I felt like I was alone with my thoughts. Do I even know enough about politics to be here? Will someone try to hit me? What if Trump supporters are as racist as they seem on television?
I looked down at the protest signs to try to distract myself. One read “Ballots Not Bullets,” and another read “Guns Are For Losers.”
Their messages were in response to a recent comment Trump made: "Hillary wants to abolish… the Second Amendment. By the way… if she gets to pick her judges, [there’s] nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
I read the signs over and over again. Then I hid them. We knew that if rally organizers saw our signs, we wouldn’t be allowed inside.
We arrived hours in advance, but cars were already parked everywhere. There were no open parking spots in sight, and we ended up parking streets away from the campus of Sacred Heart University, which hosted the rally in a recreation center there.
The engine stopped and the car doors opened. We were on our way.
Ruth Onyirimba /
A Snapchat photo posted upon
arrival in Fairfield.
Even from two blocks away, the tension was beginning to build.
The comments started flying upon our arrival in Fairfield. One man rolled down his window as we were leaving the car and asked, “Are you all here for the Trump rally?”
As we walked, another man rolled down his window, looked at me and said, “Don’t forget to chant ‘Lock her up!’”
The pattern continued as more drivers rolled down their windows to shoot intimidating glares or obscenities our way. Would my friends have been treated this way had I not been here?
On the way, vendors were selling buttons, shirts and the infamous red baseball cap bearing the phrase, “Make America Great Again.” One vendor attracted buyers by yelling, “Hillary is the devil! Support Donald Trump!”
On our way to the campus, we crossed paths with a group of protestors who were standing outside the arena. They held signs and chanted, “Love Trumps Hate!” as the attendees walked in.
As we grew near, I grew more conscious of the unapologetic stares I was receiving.  The pointed fingers, the snickering and the whispers intimidated me as we approached the rally.
Ruth Onyirimba /
Protest sign outside the rally.
I soon realized that the vast majority of the hundreds of Trump supporters were white.
I am not.
The only two women I saw that looked like me were walking the opposite way. This wasn’t what I’d call a good sign.
Although the demographics of the event did not surprise me, the threat of danger began to set in. I’d already seen videos of Trump supporters harassing protestors before, some of whom looked like me.
I knew that Trump encouraged violence towards people who so much as thought differently, and there was a very slim chance that I would be an exception.
Ruth Onyirimba /
Protest sign outside the rally.
We got in. The four of us passed through the metal detectors and into the arena. We were far from the front, but surrounded by crowds of people who were excited to see the Republican nominee.
I did my best to stay out of harm’s way. Being even five feet away from our little group made me feel naked, exceedingly vulnerable to my surroundings.
I soon acquainted myself with the notion that even the color of my skin was a political statement. It was protesting far before our mouths did.
Ruth Onyirimba /
Protest sign outside the rally.
As I looked around the room, I saw many supporters staring back at me. Some grimaced and scowled while others grasped their chins in concern, eyes locked on my bag.
Two women nearby were mocking the protesters, thinking I wasn’t paying attention. When they noticed I was, they shifted their focus to me and lowered their voices.
Others marveled at my presence at the event with wide eyes. One man even came up to my friends and me and asked, “You aren’t protesters, are you?”
Several chants and cheers broke out throughout the stadium in anticipation. “We want Trump!” “Lock her up!” and “USA!” could be heard far before Trump approached the podium.
I overheard conversations about the perceived aggressiveness of the protesters who stood outside, the excitement of hearing Donald Trump’s speech and, most commonly, the scalding heat.
After about 45 minutes, I heard through the murmurs: “… the next President of the United States…” and a monstrous, ground-shaking ovation broke out across the room.
“It’s my honor,” Trump said to his supporters. “I’ve always loved this part of the world.”
Ruth Onyirimba at
the Trump rally.
According to Trump, a Make A Wish request from a teen warranted his arrival to the state of Connecticut yesterday.  In regards to the young man who made this request, Trump said, “Now that’s a problem because he’s really, really smart – but in this case, maybe he could have done better.”
My stomach turned.
Trump reused lines from old speeches. He said he’d build a wall. The crowd cheered.
He asked, “Who’s gonna pay for it?” The crowd responded, “Mexico!” He said “Crooked Hillary.” They booed.
The rally had turned into a politicized game of Marco Polo before my eyes. It was as if all the members memorized the lyrics to a duet that I had only heard on television.
Trump continued to speak for a few more minutes when my friend told me to get out the signs. Adrenaline began flowing through my bloodstream. My hands began to shake.
Ruth Onyirimba /
Protest sign outside the rally.
I bent down as if to tie my shoe, but instead I rolled up my pant legs on my black skinny jeans, one by one, and unwrapped the signs from around my calves. I passed them up to the two guys with me, slowly rose to my feet and turned on my cellphone camera.
They looked at one another, turned to face the crowd and lifted the signs above their heads.
At first, the people surrounding us backed up slowly. Soon, one man approached my friend and started yelling at him and the other guy.
I kept my camera on.
Soon, a man approached the other woman in our group and attempted to grab her phone from her hand, calling her a "dirty Jew."
A man looked at me and remarked sarcastically, “Yeah, Trump rallies are so violent,” completely ignorant of what had just happened to my friend a few feet away from him.
Men yelled profanities at all four of us from every direction. My body began to tremble in the midst of the calamity.
Confusion, terror and anger overwhelmed me.
As soon as I thought everything was dying down, I heard the infamous words: “Get ‘em outta here.”
The Fairfield police approached my friend, grabbed him by his arms and proceeded to drag him out of the arena. As I recorded the scene, I felt hands on my back pushing me towards the exit as well.
On our way back to the car, we came across a large sign which read, “Diversity = White Genocide.” Fear and anger struck me as the others urged me to just keep walking.
In retrospect, it was frightening to see my friend being whisked away. It was frightening being surrounded by people who supported a man who encouraged violence. It was frightening not knowing what those people were willing to do to me and my friends.
But I learned something important: Some things are exactly what they seem on television.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
Outside the Donald Trump rally in Fairfield, Connecticut Saturday night, four white men stood with this banner saying, "DIVERSITY" = WHITE GENOCIDE.
Editor’s note: Ruth Onyirimba attended the rally with her friend Kiernan Majerus-Collins, a senior correspondent for YJI, and two non-journalists. Majerus-Collins protested Trump not as a YJI student but as a citizen.
Students don't pay anything to participate in YJI.
 Their work is supported by heroic donors 
who give to this non-profit organization. 
You can be one and make a real difference! Thank you.

Indonesia youth forum to tackle global issues

By Linus Okechukwu and Festus Iyorah
NSUKKA, Enugu State, Nigeria – The Youth Time International Movement is organizing a forum for young people to come together to seek solutions to the most common issues around the globe.
The Youth Time Global Forum will take place November 24 to 26 in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, “where sustainability is more than ever at the heart of the discussion,” an announcement on the organization’s website said.
With the theme, "The Interdependence Between Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship - Creating a sustainable environment for social development," forum organizers are hoping attract more than 150 participants. 
Information posted on the website said: “Young people that are looking for inspiration and people that have innovative ideas on how to tackle these issues are brought together in this event, to come to a winning solution for change, for the benefit of a more sustainable development of the world.” 
The focus of the forum, the website said, is “realizing sustainable development in ever-changing global markets. This forum will provide an interactive platform for young social innovators to openly communicate, share ideas and experiences with their peers from different cultural backgrounds and regions around the globe.”
The organizers hope to offer participants the chance to connect, engage and network with experts to find solutions to global problems.
Be part of the solution! Your tax-deductible gift to YJI
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

'Spotlight' editor Marty Baron: careful, hard work makes a great news reporter
At The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas, conference co-founder George Getschow, left, talks Pulitzer Prizes with Marty Baron, who led The Boston Globe during the paper's investigation into the child sex abuse scandal inside the Catholic church. Those stories, which won the paper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003, led to the acclaimed 2015 movie Spotlight. 

By Garret Reich and Mugdha Gurram
GRAPEVINE, Texas, U.S.A. – A great reporter isn’t someone who knows everything, but someone filled with determination and meticulous attention to detail, said 11-time Pulitzer Prize winner Marty Baron.
Baron, now the editor of The Washington Post, is featured in the 2015 film Spotlight about The Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic church cover up of child molestation by priests.
Baron was editor of the Globe during the Spotlight team’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the child sex abuse scandal. He spoke about the experience to an audience of journalists in July at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference outside of Dallas.
The sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002, after the Spotlight team team – the paper's group of investigative reporters – discovered discovered that there had been rampant sexual abuse of teenage boys in Boston by priests.
As the Spotlight investigation continued, the team of reporters noticed a steadily growing pattern of priests being relocated after cases of abuse – a pattern that expanded beyond Boston into other U.S. cities.
“We were able to document that the serial sexual abuse was known by the top tier of the Archdiocese,” Baron said.
But to release such a story would make an enemy of the Catholic church and could mean facing backlash from Boston’s many devout Catholics.
“The risk to us and the risk to the institution was tremendous,” Baron said.
To prepare his team for uncovering the scandal, Baron emphasized the need to make sure all of the stories were well documented.
“I didn’t want the church to seize any of the story to discredit it,” he said.
Some of the hardest challenges in doing the story, Baron said, were “issues of securing documents” as well as “identifying the patterns within the church.”
Reporters spent many long hours researching records documenting priest reassignments to other parishes and the reasons given to excuse these movements.
Despite these challenges, Baron says that he has no regrets about doing the story.
It’s the job of journalists to expose such injustices, according to Baron.
“Every time I do these kind of pieces, I get emails thanking us for what we do,” said Baron.
YJI reporters Mugdha Gurram, left, and Garret Reich, center, interview Marty Baron, editor of The Washington Post at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas.
Not long after the publication of the first piece, other victims began calling in to the Globe to share their own stories of abuse.
Before the piece was published, Baron visited Cardinal Bernard Law, the presiding church official in the region.
Reporters sought a response to the allegations from church officials, but the church representative refused to comment.
“We gave every opportunity to the church to tell their story,” Baron said, but they didn’t even “want to hear our questions.”
Baron was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the stories from the Spotlight team, saying that people wanted to share in the tragedy.
“They didn’t feel betrayed by The Boston Globe, they felt betrayed by the Archdiocese and the Cardinal, which they should have,” Baron said.
The scandal created a mess for the Catholic church that it found difficult to sort out. Besides winning a Pulitzer for the work, Baron said that the investigation itself was very rewarding.
“This work is our soul,” said Baron. “It’s the core of who we are. We will lose people if we don’t do this kind of work.”
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Monday, August 8, 2016

Cheering in Rio for Brazil's women's soccer

Mariana Prince Cardoso /
The women's football teams from China and South Africa faced off Sunday at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

By Mariana Prince Cardoso
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Huge queues at the entrance gates – possibly from organizational failures – seemed to diminish the crowd at the Olympic women’s football match between China and South Africa on Saturday night.
Only a small audience saw China claim its 2-0 victory at Olympic stadium Joao Havenlange, locally known as Engenhão. China dominated from the beginning of the game and scored goals after 46' (45' + 1') of the first half and 87' of the second half.
For the second game of the round, between Brazil and Sweden at 10 p.m, everyone had come to watch the classification of the Brazilian team.
With two goals from captain Marta Vieira da Silva Veiga, two goals from Beatriz Zaneratto and one from Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva – the top scorer of Olympic football (men and women) – Brazil played beautifully and easily won the selection 5-1 over Sweden.
Sweden’s goal came in the second half, at 89.’
Veiga – named the best women’s football player five times by FIFA – is – beloved in Brazil and known here simply as “Marta.”
Almost all of the crowd supported the Brazilian team. Cries of "Brazil," "I am Brazilian with pride, with love" and the name of the players echoed in the stadium.
In addition to supporting the Brazilian women’s team, the crowd also had to tease the men's team. At various times the stadium joined to scream that "Marta is better than Neymar," referring to Neymar Jr., who wears number 10 on the men's national team. Though they’ve played two games, the Brazilian men have yet to score a point.
At the end of the match, though, Brazilian fans gave a standing ovation to the players of both teams and remained in the stadium to celebrate their favorite athletes.

Mariana Prince Cardoso /
Video from the women's football match between Brazil and Sweden Sunday at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

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